season on the open seas
"Did you make the phone call?" Desdemona asked me.
"What did he say?"
"He loved it. Now, hurry ... we have to go get dressed."
"Oh," she crowed, "this is just like Mardi Gras."
I laughed. "Ya, cher!"
We gathered with the rest of the crewe at high noon on the upper deck, gathering around the 12-volt blender for ceremonial margaritas made with our own key limes. For luck, we dashed the glasses against the boards, and although the plastic chalices bounced and rolled away undamaged, we felt it was the thought that counted.
Then we piled into the wagons of our glory train -- designated drivers behind the wheel, ferrying fearless pirates off to do battle for truth, justice, and the parrotthead way.
Even in a town that is accustomed to strange sights, the odd caravan that wended its way down Fleming Street in Key West turned heads. A battered old Ford Econoline van with the back windows papered in bumper stickers and a Star Wars license plate holder that framed the legend 4CBWTHU led a motley crewe of other vehicles -- an old Karman Ghia, an older VW bus, a Chevy Suburban named Babe the Blue Ox, a Jeep Roadster with dented fenders, were followed by other well-used cars as well as newer cars, almost a dozen in all, sporting Jolly Rogers flying from radio antennas and draped in rear windows.
Reaching our destination, we broke up in search of parking, taking any open space that wasn't marked with a handicapped sign. Yellow lines and fire hydrants meant nothing to us ... we were desperadoes, rebels fighting to defend our homeland. As a radical gesture of defiance, even those who managed to find legal spots declined to feed the meters. We had parrotthead lawyers, toy guns, and folding money, and nothing could stand in our way.
Local eyes grew even wider as we piled out onto the sidewalk. Our mens were bedecked in bandanas, sashes and Captain Morgan coats, striped tees and tattered leggings, boots and sandals and flipflops. The wimminfolk wore bright skirts and low-cut, off-the-shoulder wenchwear. We were prepared to use any advantage necessary in our assault on Jimmy Buffett's legal fortress. Our disparate backgrounds didn't seem to matter; somehow, we all knew exactly how to dress effectively for a rumble.
We swarmed into the bright pink stucco building on Fleming like pirate boarders over an enemy dreadnaught's gunwales. We were quiet, we were calm, but we looked a force to be reckoned with.
The office staff glanced up, unfazed. They lived in Key West and worked for Jimmy Buffett, and they had seen damn near every crazy thing there was to see in either hemisphere come through their front door. The receptionist merely rolled her eyes, heaved a sigh and hit a well-worn button on her telephone console. After a moment, a large man whose flowered shirt looked much more mellow than his face, emerged from the back office area to face us. "Something I can do for you folks?" he inquired, in a voice that indicated we'd interrupted his lunch.
"We're here to see Mr. Buffett," Desdemona said. "Oh, and his legal staff."
"Everybody needs to see Jimmy," replied the goon. "Do you have an appointment?"
"Actually, we do," I said smugly.
Several pairs of eyebrows arched in unison, but the receptionist hit another button on her console, then whispered behind her hand into her headset. We waited confidently, inspecting the family and phamily photos, tour posters, and other plaques and artifacts on the walls of the office. Gardner and I inspected the office plants with critical eyes but found them well-cared for; I was just about to ask the receptionist for a cutting of the unusual sanseveria in the corner window when we heard footsteps approaching.
It was Buffett's legal crewe, looking like lawyers even in their casual office dress. They were whispering and elbowing each other, and looking nervously behind them, like a bunch of schoolboys who knew they were in trouble.
Moments later, Jimmy Buffett himself appeared, grinning from ear to ear. To Des' and my delight, the mustache had been completely restored. We grinned right back at him.
"Hey, you guys," he greeted us all. "Glad you could come. Fellows," he said, turning to the nervous group behind him, "these are the Key West Foreign Legionnaires. I think you owe them an apology."
"We take no prisoners," said Dawn firmly. She and FastMovingAngel stepped forward to face the Margaritaville 10, who promptly and in unison took two steps back. The rest of us backed up our legal team with mutineering sounds of agreement. "And anyway, you guys never even officially served us ...simply tried, in your own unsubtle fashion, to bully us into going away. But being as how we don't want to cause Jimmy any bad press..." FastMovingAngel whipped out a set of papers and handed them to Buffett, who accepted them with a bow, as Dawn continued, "... if you'll just agree to these terms, we'll drop the whole thing and all go on with our lives."
Buffett unfolded a handful of Hammerhill leaves laser-imprinted with our bargain for the sharks' surrender. Smiling, he read aloud.
"Wye, of tthe Key West Foreign Legion, as founded and bekwythed by the esttatte of tthe Drede Pyratte Bubba Robertts, do offyre to Jimmy Buffett membershippe in the Boatthouse, Byche and Barre, wythe his owne bungalowe for phamily and phriends, and bertthe for hys vessels, even if tthey be winged or wytthe gasoline engyne, whenevyre hye damme well please to visitt, as long as hye leavetth us the Hylle alone tthe restt oph tthye ttyme."
All our signatures were affixed ... the more dramatic among us still wore bandaids on our index fingers as badges of honor testifying our sincerity, after signing in blood. Buffett handed the papers to his staff.
"Gentlemen, I suggest we accept."
"We accept," they said promptly.
"Done and done," said Jimmy swiftly. "Now, you guys have some paperwork to do. A lot of paperwork ... I'd like the contracts in calligraphy. Crewe, let's go around the corner to Margaritaville. Lunch is on me ... if any of you feel that eating there means succumbing to my hype and allowing yourselves to be exploited in order to feed my evil commercial empire, we can send out. I'm still buyin'."
We all had a great time, even those who chose to order out. The contracts were signed later that same day, and we all piled back into our vehicles to return to Key Lime Key and prepare for the victory celebration of our War of Peaceful Coexistance.
"I play the stereo loud when I'm away from the maddening crowd...."
The next evening, the sound of 'keets playing croquet by tiki torchlight on the great lawn mingled with the laughter of the older Legionnaires partying on the upper deck, which along with the Common Room was rocking with celebratory parrottheads. Others of the crewe phlocked on and around the Conch Queen and La Vie Dansant, both tied to our cypress pilings and festively bedecked in small white lights. Bob and Jollymon were enjoying the party from the center of Gilligan's Lagoon. All seemed right with our world. Well, almost everything.
Des and I wiggled our toes in the dark water and listened to the steel drums.
"To absent friends." I lifted my glass to Des. "To Subboy, and Viperwoman, and Alan D. May they show up again one day to join us."
"To absent friends," Des nodded.
"And to all of us -- the speechmakers and the wiseacres, the flamers and the peacemakers, the newbies and the lurkers ... because 'if it suddenly ended tomorrow, we could somehow adjust to the fall' because we now have this place. Even if it only lasts in our memories and our imaginations."
We spilled the last of our glasses into the salty water.
I want to be there...,
~ Only the Beginning ~