Photo Essay by: David Johanson Vasquez
Some of you know I enjoy photographing examples of diverse and alternative lifestyles, so fortune smiled on me when destiny presented an unusual treasure.
On a summer’s eve one June, I journeyed to Central California and explored some northern cities of the San Francisco Bay Area. Sonoma County, with its savory wine country, was one of our day-trip destinations. However, we diverted the plan just north of Walnut Creek, which pointed us in another direction; as we heard tale of a pirate festival being hosted in the port city of Vallejo, on the Bay north of San Francisco.
Amazingly, after getting a little lost entering Vallejo, luck was with us as we found parking next to the park where the festivities were in full progress. The sound of canons being fired in volleys led us to this unlikely gathering. Yes, just as you can imagine, hundreds of swashbuckling, pistol-packing pirates, consuming liberal amounts of distilled spirits were all there. A pious lot the buccaneers were not, and much to our relief, they were still courteous enough and not too threatening to non-pirates, as our group had not come prepared with a single eye-patch or parrot among us.
Most pirate women in attendance prefer the name “wenches” (from the Old English word – wencel,) gave me a new understanding of the term “pirate booty.” Many of these fair maidens used 18 century style clothing, which compressed and contorted the female anatomy in the shapeliest way. My better-half informed me I would definitely be in need of an eye-patch if my camera remained focused on their attributes for too long.
The word pirate is such a varied term; it goes back to ancient times of the Phoenicians, when marauders from the sea plagued the Greeks and Romans. References to pirates are found in just about every culture from China and India to the Vikings in Scandinavia. So it was only natural that this gathering of pirates in Northern California would include buccaneers of every size, shape, culture, color and time period, which could be imagined. Even postmodern pirates equipped with cell phones, digital cameras and Mp3 players were all present – socializing and exchanging salutations.
What more can I say about an unexpected adventure experienced within a unique atmosphere other than what I saw? It was one of those rare surreal events that make you ponder – did I really experience that and what century are we living in again?
Here’s to wishing you a summer of smooth sailing.