Booty Call | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Booty Call

Since it was season, Emily and I hoped that Thursday night on Fort Lauderdale Beach would be hopping, but it just turned out to be lame. Beginning at an empty McSorley's, we moved to the Elbo Room, where we were scared off by a flock of dangerous predators who gave us the hawk eye from their perches along the railing.

"It looks like Asshole City," Em said, offering a separate-but-equal evaluation of the place from the safety of the street corner. So we walked the strip to Beach Place, rejecting our other options for reasons that ranged from a sensory assault (the sounds of karaoke and the lingering scent of vomit) to sensory deprivation (plain ol' nothing going on). We'd almost given up and headed inland when Emily spotted a skull-and-crossbones sign announcing a pirate bar just down the alley. Between my love for alleys and her love for the Jolly Roger (the bag over her shoulder and the vanity plate on her car both sported the image), we couldn't resist.

"Remember: First you pillage, then you burn!" said Bill, the chef at the Pirate Republic, providing a primer on being a seafaring, swashbuckling scallywag. Lucky him: His work uniform included a T-shirt that declared, "Pillaging, Drinking, Flogging, Wenching: Just another day on the job."

It sure beat most people's job descriptions, though I doubted his was a career with a dental plan. Whoever heard of a pirate with a perfect set of ivories anyway? The captain of the kitchen and the wench behind the bar were both smiling more than most with full benefits — probably because their perks were more gratifying.

Our serving wench, Parya (her name PAR-ya pronounced with two syllables as opposed to the three in MaRYa), had a ready laugh and defied convention. She flitted through the bar's small space (more of a dent than a hole in the wall) with her three long ponytails (one on each side and one in back) swinging as she attended to the patrons and set up a unique configuration of shots on the only table in the room.

"Something's going on here," my friend Emily observed, nodding toward seven lowball glasses filled with beer and topped with two chopstick halves crossing each other on their rims. Where the sticks crossed, X marked the spot for a shot of sake to perch precariously over each brew. The Republic called it a "Walk the Plank."

"One, two, three, and then bang," Parya said, bringing down her fist on the word bang to demonstrate that this shot required us to shiver the table's timbers before drinking.

I could follow those orders. As long as the shots were free, I doubted any would mutiny. On the count of three, everyone's fists hit the table, the shots of sake plunked into the glasses, and we tossed the drinks into our gullets. The sake was sunk.

"Aarrrrr!" the crew growled. And the rest of us growled with them, initiated into the hearty pirate merriment.

"Gotta love a pirate bar that serves sake," the fellow to my left, who introduced himself as Chris, said appreciatively.

And so far, I did.

Especially at the moment. After a long day being flogged at the day job, I was happy to walk the plank here with the mates. Soon, a paunchy fellow with a beard swaggered in and ordered a grog.

My question "What's grog?" incited a history lesson in pirate rations — adding water to rum made more of it, and adding lime prevented scurvy, I was told. In fact, most of his conversation was educational in its intent, though later I learned that the rum/water mixture was actually done to cleanse bad water rather than stretch the rum rations.

"You know the term sea shanty comes from the French 'chanter,'" Jay informed me, sharing another bit of esoterica that he'd picked up as a professional opera singer. I swigged my beer and lime (for the flavor, not the scurvy) and began reading the bumper stickers (on sale with other pirate paraphernalia at the neighboring store) and Sharpie-d graffiti that covered the walls with a treasure-trove of pirate nonsense like "To a merry life and a short one! That's my motto! — Captain Crak."

"Opera singers, if they have balls, sometimes sing pirate songs," Jay interjected a few minutes later. (I guess the castrati missed out on the fun in more ways than one!) "A good opera will affect you like Sex in the City, if it's done right," he said. "The Marriage of Figaro was an 18th-century bedroom farce."

It was clear the dude wasn't a local, since he was wearing tube socks pulled up to his calves with his Converse sneakers. I said as much. He confessed he was on vacation from New York.

"You hiding from the Mob?" I joked, wide-eyed in disbelief as he set his sneaker on the bar, pulled off a sock, then replaced and retied the shoe and repeated the process.

"No, I'm not hiding from anything. I'm in a process of self-discovery," he replied as he stuffed his socks into his pockets.

The comment launched the tale of an adventure that took him across the nation as he traced his roots. I guess everyone's treasure map is a little different. His had brought him to this joint. Which brought me to my next question.

"Why's this place called the Pirate Republic?" I asked Chef Bill.

"Because it's a sovereign nation, baby girl," he shot back with a wicked smile.

Right now, it was a nation with a whopping population of seven, who were about to elect to do another beer-and-sake, which Parya had set up while we were flapping our gums.

"Are [the temptation to substitute Aaaarrrr is almost overwhelming when you're in the Republic, and you're encouraged not to resist the urge] these shots always on the house?" I asked.

"Nope, they're on him," Parya said, motioning to the buttoned-up guy at the end of the bar.

Our benefactor introduced himself as Michael, whose tale included finding his fortune in yacht sales before becoming a polo pony man. Surf, then turf. The man knew how to keep his life in the right order.

And how to buy friends.He'd even shared his crab cakes with Em, which I suspected had something to do with her New Year's resolution, "More cleavage!"

It was a resolution she'd accomplished this evening in a little black dress with a plunging neckline. The fuchsia of the demitasse bra kept peeking out and winking at us as she moved. A chest of pirate treasure!

Soon, Emily and Michael began playing the little swinging-a-ring-on-a-string game, and my friend kept winning by landing the tethered O on the pirate's hook embedded on the fencing across the alley.

"Yup, you're a hooker," I laughed, and she along with me.

"I was a professional ring-toss thrower before I was a computer network consultant," Chris joked with a professional dead pan on his mug.

"Where's my grog, you saucy wench!?" Bill bellowed later from behind an eight-foot pirate statue as he wheeled it in from the sidewalk outside.

"Looks like the diet worked," Chris quipped about the pirate's skeletal form.

Soon, perhaps in tribute to our bartender, whose combination of levity and earthiness reminded me of a tribal Tinkerbell, the stereo began playing the Pixies. As she swabbed the decks and Bill battened down the hatches, we finished our drinks awash in a joy that only such surf-punk can inspire.

"The owner of this place is the real deal. He sailed all around the world," Parya proclaimed, and then, apropos of nothing that I could discern, she yelled a few feet to her coworker, "Shut the fuck up!"

Bill put his hands on his knees, bent over, and made a request: "I like to be spanked when you talk to me like that," and his coworker gave him a few gentle wacks on his poop deck.

And that's how it goes at the Pirate Republic: You drink some grog, you walk the plank, you tell some jokes (or write them on the wall), and growl Aaaarrrr until you're satisfied. If you're lucky, you may even get a saucy wench or salty dog interested in your booty.