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Saturday, July 31, 2004 - Page updated at 06:32 P.M.
The guys behind Talk Like a Pirate Day have a new book and are Seafair celebs
By Jack Broom
Avast, scurvy landlubbers, do ye know:
The name of pirate Blackbeard's ship?
What substance pirates put on a ship's deck before a battle?
What important day is celebrated on Sept. 19?
If ye answered Queen Anne's Revenge, sand (for soaking up blood) and Talk Like a Pirate Day, you've either got a bit of pirate in your crossbones or you've already sneaked a peek at a new book, "Well Blow Me Down: The Guy's Guide to Talking Like a Pirate."
The $10.95, 116-page paperback is the latest accomplishment of two Albany, Ore., guys who parlayed a simple silly notion into an event drawing international attention.
The authors, Mark "Cap'n Slappy" Summers and John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur, are in Seattle this week, signing copies of their book and causing general mayhem as guests of Seattle's own salty buccaneers, the Seafair Pirates.
Tuesday evening, in full pirate regalia, Summers and Baur invaded the Northlake Tavern in the company of a dozen Seafair pirates. Tomorrow, they'll be signing books at Pirates Plunder on the waterfront. And Saturday they'll be aboard "The Duck" for the Seafair Torchlight Parade.
Pretty heady stuff, says Summers, for a kid raised in Rainier Beach and who went to a high school (Seattle Baptist, class of '81) that doesn't even exist anymore.
A bit of pirate history is in order here:
Soon they were both tossing out pirate-flavored remarks, such as "Now watch as I fire a broadside straight into your yardarm."
The discourse proved so fun they decided there should be one day a year on which all human beings would talk like pirates. Ergo, Talk Like a Pirate Day.
They chose Sept. 19, birthday of Summers' ex-wife. "The day was stuck in his head, and he wasn't doing anything with it anymore," the book explains.
The occasion remained pretty much a private joke until 2002, when they wrote to syndicated columnist Dave Barry, who plugged it in print, noting, "Every now and then, some visionary individuals come along with a concept that is so original and so revolutionary that your immediate reaction is: 'Those individuals should be on medication.' "
The rest is history. They've been interviewed on CNN, the BBC, National Public Radio, Radio Ireland, an English-language station in Geneva, Switzerland, and U.S. stations from coast to coast. Their Web site has received T-shirt orders from Africa, fan mail from Australia and e-mail from American soldiers in Iraq.
In his "other" life, Summers is an elementary-school social worker. Baur was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Oregon and California for 23 years, and was a science writer for Oregon Sea Grant at Oregon State University until his grant expired in February. "I'm a victim of the Bush economy," he says.
Between the last Talk Like a Pirate Day and the end of the year, the two made $6,000 in profit from the sale of T-shirts and other paraphernalia from their Web site, www.talklikeapirate.com.
Despite all that attention, they couldn't get a publisher to bite on their book. "We had an agent who tried like hell to sell it, and we had editors tell us it's drop-dead funny but it didn't fit their list," said Baur. So the pair ponied up $10,000 of their own booty for 5,000 copies, and they're lugging boxes of them around on a do-it-yourself book tour that has already taken them to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
No one will accuse this tome of being great literature. But where else are you going to find mix-and-match lists of pirate terms that allow you to generate such impressive epithets as: "Stow that bilge, ye kelp-eating sea dog," or "Dance the hempen jig, ye chantey-singing freebooter."
And it has a happy ending, which we won't reveal, except to say it has something to do with winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Summers said a second book is already in the works, to be titled, "Shape Up Or Ship Out: The Pirate Guys' All-In-One Guide to Fixing Everything That's Wrong With You and Matey, There's a Lot Wrong With You." He plans to draw on his experiences in the mental-health profession, which he expects to be drummed out of when the book appears.
"We might add another eight or nine words to the title," said Baur.
In all of the penetrating interviews they've granted, Summers said the two have been stumped only once, when a radio interviewer asked what is their "final goal" in all this pirate stuff.
"We're guys," said Summers. "We don't think in goals."
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or email@example.com
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