John Baur imagines a world in which 6.2 billion salty dogs, lusty wenches, junior mateys and lil’ lasses turn to each other and, in a spirit of harmony and adventure, cry, “Avast, you slimy bilge rat, let’s splice the main brace with grog!”
And, perhaps later, when romance is in the air, “Prepare to be boarded.”
It’s a simple dream, really. Perhaps today is that day, even if UCSB has, in the words of Chancellor Henry Yang’s office, “no official plans.”
Today is the eighth annual International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Well, technically, the first seven years consisted almost entirely of four or five grown men telephoning each other, shouting “Aarrr!” into the receiver and hanging up, but for the last year it has been solidly international. It’s the creation of two guys in Albany, Oregon: Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers and John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur, a 1978 UCSB alumnus. On June 6, 1995, Summers and Baur were playing racquetball at their local WMCA[[YMCA?]] when, perhaps, one of them pulled some unspecified and presumably personal muscle and bellowed out, “Aarrr!”
“We’ve told the story often enough that we believe it’s true and it might even be true,” Baur said. “Anyway we didn’t want to sully the memory of D-Day so we needed another date to pick for the holiday. Mark was recently divorced and Sept. 19 was his ex-wife’s birthday and the date was kinda latched on his brain and not doing anything so we used that.”
The holiday, such as it was, was kept alive by Baur and Summer’s mutual friend, Brian Rhodes, who reminded them it existed. As far as Summer’s ex-wife was concerned, it didn’t exist until 2002, when Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy sent an e-mail to Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and toilet critic Dave Barry and he wrote a column. Then the woman whose birthday is now forever linked with piratical prattling called Baur.
“At first she was a little cool, but when I assured her we weren’t being mean – well, yeah, we were being smart asses because that’s what we are, but when I assured her we weren’t being mean, she got into the spirit of it,” Baur said. “And as she hung up she said, ‘Just let Mark know that I’ve never been so proud to be his ex-wife.’ ”
Radio show hosts and sports writers were the first to embrace the holiday and Baur and Summers were interviewed about eight times for the 2002 festivities. This year, though, “is huge,” Baur said. “This is almost scary big.”
Their website, www.talklikeapirate.com, has received more than four million hits since Sept. 1, which is a lot, Baur said, “even though I’m not a math guy.” For the record, that’s 9,259 hits per hour, 154 hits per minute or 2.5 hits per second. They’ve gotten e-mails from a Boy Scout troop in Sweden (planning a pirate camping trip), a school in the Ivory Coast, an English language school in Switzerland, and disc jockeys from Texas to Taiwan. College students have embraced it across the nation.
And yet, Baur’s alma mate has no official celebrations planned for this, the only known holiday invented by a Gaucho. The Chancellor’s office didn’t know about it and said it had nothing scheduled. A casual survey of administrators, staffers, professors and students who could be found on campus on a sunny afternoon revealed that virtually no one knew that there even is a Talk Like a Pirate Day.
“I don’t think we have any formal plans,” Hate Incident Response Coordinator Brandon Brod said. “I’d almost say I’m certain we have no formal plans.”
To be fair, most people were embraced[[no were?]] the holiday when told of it. Brod said he would brush up on his piratical lingo by watching “The Simpsons” episodes featuring the old sea captain. Associate Dean of Students Carolyn Buford said that perhaps in the future the university could organize an eye patch distribution walk similar to its condom distribution walk. Both were willing to don an eye patch and growl out piratisms for photographs.
Assistant Vice Chancellor Paul Desruisseaux declined, citing “philosophical reasons” and a recent brush with jury duty.
Of those found on campus, the only person who knew of Talk Like a Pirate Day was a man with fish tattoos, Associate Research Biologist Milton Love.
“I plan on cutting off one of my legs and putting on a peg leg,” Love said. “Also, because I have tattoos, I plan on letting people kiss the tattoos for a dime. All of the money will go to research, of course. We don’t have to tell people where the tattoos are first.”
“I talk like a pirate around the house all the time and my wife tells me to shut up. Not that she tells me that just when I talk like a pirate. That’s just our relationship,” Love said. “I go around saying witty and clever things all the time and she tells me to shut up,” Love said. “You need that. If Stalin had someone to tell him to shut up – ‘What? You want to kill all the kulaks in the Ukraine? Shut up.’ – It never would have happened.”
Baur credits his wife, Tori, with encouraging Summers and him to get around to writing the website, selling such things as t-shirts and the now-defunct “Pirate Booty” panties. More recently, she encouraged the mates to write a Talk Like a Pirate Day book, which has yet to be picked up by a publishing house but has attracted a literary agent.
“We certainly didn’t get into this to get rich and so far we’re succeeding,” Baur said. “I’d say it’s probably at the point where it’s covered what’s been spent on the website and will actually let us continue to do this. No one’s gotten rich off this. … I know I’ve matured because I used to want to be rich and famous, now I just want to be rich.”
Baur has been married to Tori for the last 14 years and has a “yours-mine-and-ours family: six kids, three girls and three boys,” like “the damn ‘Brady Bunch.’ ”
“She particularly likes Talk Like a Pirate Day because it means you have to call her ‘Me Proud Beauty,’ ” Baur said.
While most pirates have a past obscured by the murky waters of time, the tale of Ol’ Chumbucket is fairly straightforward.
Now 48, Baur graduated from UCSB in 1978 with a political science degree. While at UCSB, he worked a variety of jobs at the Daily Nexus, including copy editor – “basically I was the office smart ass and I’ve tried to live up to that ever since,” Baur said. During his tenure at the paper, Baur also gathered a four- or five-foot stack of North Korean propaganda mailed to the paper and became the founder and curator of the Kim Il Sung Memorial Library, “though he wasn’t technically dead yet.”
After graduation, Baur spent 23 years working at a series of small newspapers. Two years ago, he left the news business and he is now a science writer for Oregon Sea Grant, a research center at Oregon State University.
And, of course, there’s the perverse international fame of Talk Like a Pirate Day. Baur says he and Summers are enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, but that Dave Barry – “our close, personal friend Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry” – has warned them they could be in for as many as 20 minutes.
“The minute it stops being fun, we’ll stop doing it” Baur said. “If this is as good as it gets, this has been a great ride and we’ll have stories to bore people with for years. But it’s still fun and so we’re going to be talking like pirates all day because it’s a fun thing to do.
“”First of all, let’s be clear. Pirates were bad guys. We’re talking about talking like a pirate, not acting like a pirate,” Baur said. “But there is an image, a sort of swaggering, swashbuckling, unapologetic image of what we call ‘pirattitude’ that we kind of celebrate and the world has gotten so serious and so somber and sometimes scary and always a little gray that people are just looking for an excuse or a reason or someone’s approval to be silly.”
As for his and Cap’n Slappy’s plans for Talk Like a Pirate Day, Baur says they’ll be taking the day off work and giving radio interviews from 4 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. After that, they plan to go down to a local brew house which has named it’s Octoberfest beer “Aarrrtoberfest” in their honor. After that, it’s off to still more bars, where Ol’ Chumbucket says he plans on consuming a lot of Dead Guy Ale.
“You could say we’ll be spending a good portion of Talk Like a Pirate Day drinking like pirates.”