“Pieces o’ Eight” was our banner for 2016 – our 8th official year o’ NOLA Pyrate Week – and what an adventure it was! New mates, new places, new monkeys…and finally connecting in person with some mates after many years! Our jolly crew was accompanied by our Master Gunner Weston ‘Irish’ Hurd (ye may catch him aboard the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler on the Chalmette tour) and our Ship’s Mate Copper Otter (who’s fingers are always busy making something wonderful & shiny) on her first adventure into the Gulf States!
We’ve mentioned many times that this is not a “festival”, but a “gathering” o’ like minded folks (Pyrates and otherwise) in Louisiana featuring Volunteering, Education, Culture and passing a good time with good mates! While this started out in central New Orleans, it has now spread far and wide to include neighbourhoods across Orleans Parish, Bayous in Terrebonne & Barataria, the Prairies of Evangeline & St. Landry Parishes…and various locations in between!
First a loud THANK YE to these fine folk, without whom we’d never manage so much: Ms. Polly Watts (Owner, The Avenue Pub, New Orleans), Capt. Wendy Wilson Billiot (The Bayou Woman, Wetland Tours & more in Bayou Dularge), Ms. Valerie Cahill (Owner, Hotel Cazan, Mamou), Thais Solano and Tony Seville (Owners, Pirates Alley Café), Mayor Tim Kerner and Ms. Yvette, his P.A. (Town of Jean Lafitte), Lara Arceneaux (Teacher, Fisher Middle-High, Jean Lafitte & Writer, Times-Picayune) and Scott & Erika Blake (Owner, Yordreem Creations, Brazil, IN).
This year we we’re introduced to the hospitality and Creole/Cajun culture in the Prairie region o’ west Louisiana – with many thanks to Ms. Valerie Cahill for making the introductions and lodging us comfortably in the Hotel Cazan (where Ms. Diane & Ms. Mariah looked after us). Don’t mistake Prairie for dry…the region has been home to crops & livestock for decades; Cattle, Sheep, Cotton and Sugar Cane…and now Rice fields that double as Crawfish Farms!
It was certainly wet this year – we were meant to be travelling to The Rose Marie Spiritual Retreat in Ragley (founded and run by our mate Reneé), but there was so much rain at one time that not only were her roads flooded out, but the Interstate was closed from about Lake Charles to the Texas border! We were meant to both visit and participate in a Memorial for our mutual mate, Joseph ‘The Frog Prince’ Zaba who left this plane just last year…it seems, however, that he was with us all along…our last night in Louisiana (at the Hotel Cazan in Mamou), we went out back o’ the Hotel to honour the spirits and “put some tobacco down”, and as we returned through the back door, we were greeted by a small, green, amphibious visitor!
While in “da Prairie”, we volunteered our time for many things – and were heartily welcomed everywhere we went!
- A visit the “Château des Amis” Seniors residence in Ville Platte – speaking about Pyrate and Prairie history (both our stories and theirs) – Mr. Landie Thompson (Service Coordinator, Château des Amis) looked after us well.
- We were invited to speak about Pyrate history and encouraged the youth to be more involved in their Community at both Ville Platte High & Mamou High Schools.
- Ms. Camille took us to two o’ the most wonderful places ye can lead a Buccaneer – Teet’s Food Store and Paul’s Meat Market – both Family businesses are home to all manner o’ Boucanée; Cracklins, Boudin, Ponce, just about every locally caught or farmed meat smoked to perfection!
- A lovely lunch with Ms. Val, Ms. Camille and the Ladies o’ the Chamber & Tourism board at the newly opened Allons Manger in the old Ville Platte Bank. Chef Ronnie Arnaud was very accommodating and the food was excellent!
- We were invited by Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine to a ‘meet & greet’ at The Louisiana Swamp Pop Museum (Ville Platte). Ms. Janie & Ms. Nancy detailed a great musical history!
- We dropped in to visit the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, Ranger Ms. Angelle Bedard & Ranger Jarod Scott invited us to join them and volunteer with the kids program next day – making bread pudding in recycled tins!
- We hunted down litter for Keep Evangeline Beautiful, while Ms. Phoebe took photos for the paper.
- We chatted to Mr. Paul Marx, founder o’ KBON 101.1 FM radio (Eunice) and Mr. Mark Layne at KVPI 92.5 FM (Ville Platte).
- A grand tour & tasting at Bayou Teche Brewery with out mate Louis Michot (who also happens to be a fine Cajun Musician with Lost Bayou Ramblers)
- Early morning excitement with live Cajun music at world famous Fred’s Lounge – broadcast live on KVPI FM with Annona Balfa
- We helped Jamie, Jill, Valle & the crew o’ Every Paw Animal Rescue – the only Animal Rescue in all Evangeline Parish – raise funds, awareness (and get some puppies adopted!) at the lovely Mamou Walking Park. These young Ladies & their crew are doing an incredible job with a seemingly insurmountable task. They have rescued dozens o’ animals (including a Horse) and are still scrambling to keep up. Keeping in mind the Ladies all have other careers & families to look after, they are making an admirable go o’ it. We had a lovely day in the Mamou Walking Park with a great group o’ Puppies (and a disguised box o’ kittens – all collected by one person to foster) and many neighbours visited. Some funds were raised, donation o’ Dog collars & leashes from some mates in New Orleans and we even managed to get some Dogs adopted out – a successful day all around!
- We journeyed to Washington (Louisiana) to search for treasures at one o’ the largest Antique Markets in the State (a converted High School…and an annual outdoor fair added on).
- Much wonderful, local food was eaten! The staff at Ruby’s Restaurant & Courtyard in Eunice are as wonderful as the food, Tee-Mamou’s best kept secret is David & Lori’s Kitchen – great “fast food” with take-out, drive-through, or eat-in! Myran’s Maison De Manger in Arnaudville is also great – and has a deck out back on Bayou Teche!
- A Rummage sale with our mates, followed by lunch overlooking the Bayou and a visit to the Art Gallery at NuNu collective (and the rescue o’ a lad from La Belle Province avec du vrai café)
We made many new mates including Mayor Ricky Fontenot (Mamou), Mayor Jennifer Vidrine (Ville Platte), Ms. Camille Lafleur Fontenot (Exec. Dir. Ville Platte Chamber & Tourism), Ms. Valle Soileau (Rotary & EPAR), Ms. Phoebe & Mr. Norris Fontenot (Country Lane Studio Photography, Mamou), Winky & Chicken, Pétanque Champ Al Guarisco, ‘That Irish Guy’ (Tony Davoren, Musician & Founder Celtic Bayou Festival), Tom Foolery Oudoors (Tom Helbig, riding from San Diego, CA to Key West, FL)…and so many more!
Of course we connected with many ol’ mates, Ashlee & Louis Michot (and their lads, Julian & Tee-Louis), The Whiskey Bay Rovers, Mike & Denise Herbert dit Milan (and Denise’s lad, C.J.), Jennifer Raven, Milton Murphy, Amzie Adams, Joann & John Malinski, Joanne Prewitt & her Dad “The Commodore”…and all the rest o’ ye – we know who ye are (and where to find ye most days)!
We mentioned “new Monkeys” above…and aye, we parleyed with the Monkey Captain himself, Joro, and his jolly crew at the Jolly Roger Roasting Company – and they went above and beyond to sponsor us and provide a shipment o’ some o’ the best roasted Coffee Beans in the world! The Coffee was used to raise funds for Keep Terrebonne Beautiful and for other benevolent purposes along the way. If ye’ve never had coffee made from freshly roasted beans, ye’ve never really had coffee. If ye like a great cup o’ Coffee, ye need to parley to these lads…ask for Andrew (Joro is usually off searching for more treasure). Not just Pyrate Approved™, but MONKEY Approved!
We joined the Staff & Students at Fisher Middle-High in Jean Lafitte once again for “Pyrate History Day” as we presented true tales o’ Laffite, his crew and their exploits, as well as a general History o’ Pyrates. Many questions answered and knowledge shared! We visited Mayor Tim Kerner’s ‘inner sanctum’ where he shared more family and local history – and then brought us to the extremely unique Pyrate Museum (not to be confused with the new Lafitte’s Barataria Museum) where Ms. Claudette welcomed us and introduced us to the most amazing collection o’ animated Pyrate Puppets on earth! The story o’ Jean Laffite and his adventures in the War o’ 1812, animated with large, vintage, handmade marionettes that Mayor Tim rescued from the Pontalba Building in New Orleans many years ago. We also visited the grounds o’ the old Fisher Plantation, aka Fisher Cemetery…aka JEan Laffite’s “Temple” where goods were bought & sold along the Bayou. The middle o’ this spot is a large shell-midden – a Native burial mound pre-dating both the Pyrates and the Plantation. The Cemetery covers much o’ the grounds and nature has enveloped the “temple”. Mayor Tim has ancestors buired atop the mound; the small wrought-iron fence surrounding their burial site is all but swallowed up by vines and other natural growth. Finally, we drove past the salvage/shipyard where last we saw Blackbeard’s ship from the POTC movies…all that remains is the Bowsprit, with the giant skeleton conspicuously missing…but rumour has it, it may resurface in Jean Lafitte!
“Dags?!? Oh ye mean DOGS. Yeah, I like Dags!”Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
We visited the fine folks at Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans for another evening volunteer Dog Walk…with another wonderful group o’ Dogs looking for new homes. The degree o’ effort the Volunteers & Staff at VRC put in on a daily basis is astounding…literally hundreds o’ Dogs have been rescued in and around New Orleans and Louisiana – and many have found homes, but the work never ends! There are many Dogs to care for, feed, WALK, heal (physically & emotionally)…if ye can lend a hand in any way, give them a shout.
Meanwhile…in Houma…we had a beautiful sunny day for our 4th Pyrate Day in Houma, at the Downtown Marina, supporting Keep Terrebonne Beautiful (Thanks to Ms. Callie & Ms. Brenda helped to wrangle the necessary bits needed to use the park); the folks from KTB raised some additional funds while feeding everyone.. The Whiskey Bay Rovers entertained with Seas Chanteys & shenanigans, our ol’ mate, Mr. C.J. from the Regional Military Museum took folks for rides in a WWII Landing Craft, Artisans from The United Houma Nation brought many traditional crafts and medicines, Ms. Rocky & her Assistant (from Anelas Yoga & Wellness Center, Houma) were providing therapeutic chair Massage and our marvelous Merchants had treasures for young and old alike.
O’ course, while staying at the beautiful Camp Dularge, we enjoy a respite from the busy schedule and the city – and a wonderful Wetland Tour with our mate, Capt. Wendy Wilson Billiot – The Bayou Woman!
Another new adventure came about with the help o’ our mate Katy Ray – the talented mind behind Confetti Park Kids (who ye may recall, we shot some video footage with last year…more on that later). We hailed our good mates Ol’ Chumbucket & Mad Sally and sailed across the river to Old Algiers Library (properly, The Cita Dennis Hubbell Library o’ NOPL) to regale a cotillion o’ Kiddies (and Parents in tow) with Pyratical tales, salty jokes and even a song from Ol’ Chumbucket himself! What a great Library…the old kind where ye can inhale the books and find all manner o’ adventure. Ms. Seale made us most welcome and her’s Dad’s spirit was certainly there along with us – approving o’ the day! Afterward, we visited the actual Confetti Park and joined the kiddies & their Moms for a bit o’ fun.
Our dear mate, Maman Miriam (of the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple) suffered a great loss when the building that has housed her shop & Temple for 25 years, caught fire. Fortnately, no one was hurt and most o’ the damage was caused by water from the swift and effective work o’ the N.O. Fire Department. Despite all efforts, the building became unsound, structurally and the monumental task o’ packing up 25 years o’ Altars, Offerings, Prayers, Books, Apothecary and memories began. When we visited Miriam at the location, she was sporting a brave countenance – and had been seeing clients who required guidance above and beyond her own troubles. A celebration and fundraiser was held the following week and was extremely well attended, with folks coming in from all corners o’ the globe. It turned out that all the positive energy was a success – a new location was found the same day we originally visited – mere block away from the old location!
For a change o’ scenery, we journeyed across the lake (Pontchartrain) to the quaint village o’ Abita Springs. A delicious lunch at the Abita Brew Pub (great food, great Ale, great service), a walk down the nature trail, a visit to the Abita Mystery House (aka UCM Museum)…and a short drive to Covington for an education in Alligator Management at Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery.
While in New Orleans we also watched the two big annual Easter Parades (Copper Otter managed to almost catch her weight in booty), chatted with Ryne Hancock on Crescent City Radio (at Loyola University), enjoyed many fine meals, visited Chalmette Battlefield & Cemetery…and many more adventures. Special thank ye again to our hosts at Pirates Alley Café & Olde Absinthe House – Thais Solano & Tony Seville – who have supported us heartily from the beginning and always manage a fine welcome o’ snacks, drinks and some well soaked Rum/Bourbon Cake!