For holiday breaks in high school and throughout college, I worked at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in an open-air straw market in Adventure Land. Guests flowed through the market after riding on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride and, at one time, the area also included a “Photo Deck” where guests could dress up in pirate outfits and have their photos taken aboard a faux ship’s deck.
The theme music from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me” – played on a loop all day long as I worked in the market and I am quite sure it was the background music in my dreams for a number of years. Anyone who’s ever been to the park can probably sing along to at least the chorus…”Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me….” But what is it about pirates and why is there such an endearing enchantment with them? “The Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, starring Johnny Depp, and its host of marketing products that include everything from video games to pirate costumes have earned millions.
The lyrics to the theme song that we so gaily sing along to spell out in black and white exactly what pirating is all about, “…We pillage and plunder, we rifle and loot. We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot…We’re rascals and scoundrels, we’re villains and knaves. We’re devils and black sheep, we’re really bad eggs…We’re beggars and blighters and ne’er do-well cads, Aye, but we’re loved by our mommies and dads….” Even as it spells out the immorality of a pirate’s life, it’s a gay song that sticks in your head and invites you to at least sing along to its chorus of ”Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me!”
But what is the mystic of pirates that make them so appealing? Unless you’re a common criminal, you can’t really relate to their chosen profession and hold it up as something you’d like to emulate. Most parents try to instill a sense of morality in their children and therefore shun anything that is remotely akin to the profession of pirating. Yet each year, millions of parents throw pirate-themed birthday parties for kids, especially little boys. And, to this day, there are modern-day pirates that raise fear among sailors and shipmen throughout the world.
Again I ask, what is the appeal of pirates? Is it the lifestyle of getting to do what you want, when you want, to take what you want, and not having to worry about a thing? Or is it the traveling of the high seas and sailing into countless ports throughout the Caribbean with its warm, gentle breezes and inviting turquoise-blue waters? Or could it be that you don’t have to worry about matching or ironed clothes or even what your hair or teeth look like? Or is it the drinking and carousing with nary a worry of morals?
Most pirates possessed amazing gold jewelry and experienced what seems like an endless party of drinking and carousing. They also attracted saucy wenches – women with fiery attitudes and lose morals that hung around taverns and bars, seaside towns, or wherever pirates generally frequented. We all know that the wenches certainly added to the party in more ways than one.
One of Jimmy Buffett’s most popular songs – “A Pirate Looks at Forty” – also romanticizes pirates: “…Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late. The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder. I’m an over forty victim of fate. Arriving too late, arriving too late….” Attend one of his concerts and you’ll hear everyone loudly singing along to this song with some concert goers even dressed as pirates.
My boyfriend Don and I recently attended the Gasparilla Invasion in Tampa. It’s an annual re-enactment of Tampa’s historic pirate invasion, the Gasparilla Flotilla, that celebrates the takeover of Tampa by the legendary pirate Jose Gaspar and his band of marauding Bucanneers. The story is that Gaspar captains the Jose Gasparilla, the world’s only fully rigged pirate ship, as it magically sails into the bay to takeover the city. A multitude of pleasure crafts intent on defending the city boldly sail forth to meet the ship. But quickly seeing the error of their ways, they join forces with the Captain and his Krewe’s flotilla. The colorful Gasparilla Flotilla then makes its way across the bay.
The Jose Gasparilla teeming from bow to stern and capstan to crow’s nest with swashbuckling pirates is a spectacular sight to behold. When the ship docks at the Tampa Convention Center, the Tampa mayor surrenders the Key to the City. With the key in possession, the jolly pirates launch a month of various victory celebrations including several Parades of Pirates throughout the city streets.
Hundreds of thousands of people, many dressed up in pirate costumes, gather along Tampa Bay to see the spectacular invasion complete with blasting cannons and sword-yielding pirates. The parades feature multitudes of pirates and wenches throwing “booty” in the form of beads and such off the parade floats. The parade became so raucous that a separate children’s parade is presented as well.
“Cap’n Donny Two-Swords” (aka Don) and I had loads of fun as we hailed other pirates and immersed ourselves in the pirate spirit and frivolity of the event. We amused ourselves by speaking popular pirate lingo to each other including, “Ahoy Matey!,” “Shivey me timbers,” “You scallywag,” “You’ll be a walking the plank,” and our favorite, “Aaaarrrrrgggghhhh!”
To this day the “Pirates of The Caribbean” is still my all-time favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom. And every once in a while, for no particular reason, I find myself singing “Yo Ho, Yo Ho a Pirate’s Life for me”…it’s a sentiment that I hum as I allow my mind to wander to the mystic of pirates that sailed the Caribbean seas.