This is my column from the Greenville News this week.  Avast, and enjoy!

I have a theory about ‘touristy’ businesses at the beach.  I believe that their owners are descended directly from the pirates who used to haunt the Carolina coast.  I believe, firmly, that there was once a meeting held, at the end of the golden age of piracy, where all the weary, gun-powder burned, limbless, eye-patch wearing, tattooed, pierced, parrot-wielding pirates sat down and discussed the future.

‘Arrr, methinks the future looks grim for piracy in these parts.  Just last week they hung old Bad Bob from Barbados.  He stopped in Charleston to see his podiatrist, and they had him, dead to rights.  I fear I may be next.  But what’s a man to do for a living?’  So said weary Captain Lawrence the Lobster; named for the odd prosthesis on his right arm.

Fierce but tiny Sam the Shrimp chimed in:  ‘Aye, and frankly, me rheumatism is acting up, what with these fearsome hurricanes.  And I’d like a little time to work some crosswords, don’t you know, before I walk the plank angelic.’

‘Well, you’re a sorry lot,’ coughed the bold but tuberculous Mad Hacking Harold…so named for his disease, rather than his skill with steel.  ‘I ain’t exactly in any shape to start building an honest business, or takin’ up the theater.  Cough, Cough.’

‘Arr,’ they said wistfully and collectively.  Until finally, Lawrence the Lobster said, in a fit of rare genius (considering his lifetime intake of rum), ‘why don’t we…open a seafood restaurant and tourist shop?’

‘What do you mean?’  Asked Sam the Shrimp.  ‘Poison them tourists and take their gold?  Or kidnap the women and children and sell ‘em in Havanna?’  He fairly bounced with excitement.

‘Are ye mad?’ asked the Captain.  ‘Have ye ever traveled with screaming children and angry women?  And as for killing them, I think we’ll hang even faster for that…what with all the DNA technology coming in the future.  Besides which, these Carolina folk always pack pistols, so a hazardous business it would be!’

‘Boss, I see where’ your goin’ and I likes it,’ coughed Hacking Harold, seeing where his bread might be buttered.  ‘We’ll sell them trinkets, to be sure, and oils for their skin.  We’ll make shark-tooth necklaces and sell our old planks for riding in the surf.  We’ll tattoo and pierce them, and make beach towels that look like the Jolly Roger!  And we’ll charge exorbitant rates for small plates of food for the kiddies! And mark up the liquor all around!’  At this, his fellow scalawags looked up, surprised at both his business sense and his use of the word exorbitant.

And they reached out to one another, tearful for the end of an era of butchery and theft, but hopeful for the filthy lucre of traveling families in mini-vans.  They shook hands, and stumpy, prosthetic limbs, and an idea was born.  ‘Lobster Larry’s Shrimp Galleon.’  The rest was history.  Hacking Harold knocked off that night from an unfortunate confluence of consumption and some undercooked shellfish.

I know it’s true, because we were at the beach last week, at a seafood restaurant.  Elijah ordered a kid’s meal, which consisted of three pieces of shrimp on a plate of fries, causing him, thriftiest of my brood, to look up in economic, and gastronomic, dismay.  ‘Three shrimp, papa?’  I had to agree.  Until, across the floor, looking warily from side-to-side, came an individual who was clearly an owner of the business, and who looked for all the world as if he had descended from the evil, but savvy, Lawrence the Lobster.  ‘Ah, piracy!  That makes more sense!’  I said to myself.

But you know what?  I said it with a smile.  If you take your entire extended clan to the coast, you’re going to pay a premium.  Heck, I’m a doctor.  What can I say about the cost of anything?  Even pirates have to make a living, as do their descendents.  We paid more than normal for ice-cream, more than normal for meals and admissions, and certainly got a little stiffed on wake-boards.  Fortunately, with 23 family members in our rented beach-house, we had the good sense to cook most of our own meals.

I only wish the old buccaneers could have lived to see it all; the businesses, the restaurants, the overpriced but irresistible entertainment, the shamelessly effective marketing directed at children and retirees.

I’m glad their financial descendents are at the beach, draining our credit cards with the flourish of old.  It may be a fleecing when we go, but it’s always a good time.  Arr.

0 0 votes
Article Rating