Dermott Bottoms Is Blacktip Island’s First Private Eye

dermott-pi

Dermott Bottoms has opened a private investigative service on Blacktip Island, the first of its kind on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives)

Blacktip Islanders seeking help with unsolved crimes and hard-to-find information have a new champion as of Wednesday, when long-time resident Dermott Bottoms received his private investigator’s license from the Caribbean Association of Research Professionals.

“Lots of happenings on Blacktip Island, not all of ‘em good,” Bottoms said. “What people need is someone unofficial to help when the police won’t.

“Grew up dreaming of being an inquiry agent, see,” Bottoms said. “‘Dermott Bottoms, P.I.,’ y’know? And I’m out and about anyway, hearing things and seeing things. Thought to myself, ‘all right, then, why not mix business and pleasure?’”

Many residents welcomed the new investigative service.

“This’ll keep Dermott occupied, and I don’t suppose he can do too much damage,” said retiree Frank Maples. “Of course, it’s hard to go undercover or disguise yourself when you’re 6’6” and 300 pounds. And blind drunk by noon.

“Cyber surveillance could be his wheelhouse,” Maples said. “If he can learn how to switch on a computer. Last week he strapped on a hidden camera, but got the ‘on’ and ‘off’ reversed and ended up with video of himself in the Eagle Ray Cove toilet. The clients weren’t happy.”

Other locals were more skeptical.

“We need a PI on Blacktip?” the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “There’s the Ballyhoo happy hour for information, and a policeman for crimes. All this does is get Dermott’s talking like Humphrey Bogart. It was funny at first, but now it’s just annoying.”

Others concurred.

“The last thing this island needs is another dick, private or otherwise,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “It’s creepy, him following me around, peeking my the windows at night. After I hired him to find my bike.

“He should get his nose punched, sticking it in other peoples’ business,” Diesel said. “Only he’s, well, Dermott, and no one’s that suicidal.”

Island authorities downplayed the gumshoe’s impact.

“As long as Dermott’s not driving a moving vehicle, I don’t care,” said Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette. “I’m not sure he’ll get many cases, anyway. He found a lost bike, but the island’s only a mile wide.

“True, I’ve arrested him once for trespassing. And twice for stalking,” Marquette said. “But the next morning I just turn him loose after he sleeps it off.

Bottoms admits he’s still learning the finer points of his new profession.

“One big case already, but that dame, she played me, y’know,” he said. “Shoulda seen it coming, that double-, triple-cross. But I’m a sucker for a big brunette. Won’t happen again, though. Not often, anyway.

“I’m not Sam Spade, but I am Blacktip,” Bottoms said. “My motto’s: ‘Dermott gets to the bottom of everything.’ And if people don’t have money, they can pay in beer.”

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Blacktip Island Cullers Will Hunt Human ‘Lionfish’ Saturday

mock-lionfish

Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm, in a semi-closed circuit rebreather, practices swimming away as fast as he can Thursday in a warm up for Saturday’s Sons and Daughters of the Reef Mock Lionfish Hunt on Blacktip Island’s west coast. (photo courtesy of Peter Southwood)

In response to animal rights protests, Blacktip Island’s Sons and Daughters of the Reef hunt club will substitute a local divemaster for a lionfish in their inaugural Mock Lionfish Cull for charity Saturday afternoon on the island’s west side.

“More and more clubs worldwide are doing these mock hunts,” said S&DR Master-of-Fish Gage Hoase. “The prey, usually a fox, is replaced with a human, and the hunters still get a great chase.

“This cull’ll keep the fish huggers happy and draw good press,” Hoase said. “Plus, truth be told, we’re running out of lionfish on Blacktip. People are spearing and eating so many of them.”

Club officers selected the local divemaster with the most customer complaints during the past year as the Designated Lionfish.

“We’re sticking Lee Helm in a lionfish suit and dropping him on the reef,” S&DR Huntsperson-at-Arms Alison Diesel said. “We’ll give him five minutes, then turn the cullers loose with their spears.

“It’s nowhere near as harsh as it sounds,” Diesel added. “Lee’ll have a rebreather, so bubbles won’t give him away. And a Kevlar suit that’ll turn just about any spear point. Or so we’re told.”

Local fish rights activists say the switch to human prey, while not a perfect solution, is a step in the right direction.

“If the Designated Lionfish is human, and sort-of volunteers, we have no problem with that,” Society for Providing Lionfish-Appropriate Training president Palometa Fischer said. “Ideally, though, they’d jab him with real lionfish spines to make him really feel persecuted.”

Lionfish stand-in Lee Helm expressed reservations.

“There’s no ‘volunteer’ to it,” Helm said. “They just held me down and jammed that bloody costume on me. Someone – Marina, I’ll wager – even speared my neck ‘by accident.’

“The only choice I have is to jump in on my own, properly weighted, or be tossed in with 40 pounds duct-taped to me,” Helm said. “These people are out for blood.”

Hunt club members say the vote for Helm was unanimous.

“Lee’s an obnoxious little git that pisses off everyone, staff and guests alike,” said culler Marina DeLow. “We’re all looking forward for the chance to prang him good, point-blank.”

Other echoed the sentiment.

“If the suit doesn’t stop a spear or two, well, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy,” said culler Casey Piper. “You can’t spear Lee enough, really.”

Hunt organizers expect a record 35-40 cullers to participate.

“There’re members with real grudges against Lee,” Hoase said. “We’ve warned everyone not to aim for exposed skin, but you never know what’ll happen in the heat of the hunt. We’ll have the nurse standing by. And lots of bandages.

“On the up side, we’ve never had a turnout this big,” Hoase said. “We may make Lee our permanent Designated Lionfish. Probably best to put it to a vote, though.”

Proceeds from the hunt go to the Coral Reef Protection Fund.

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Horror Films Boost Blacktip Island Blood Drive Numbers

blood-drive

The Blacktip Island medical clinic hopes this year’s Horror Fest Blood Drive will result in more donations that last year’s record-breaking inaugural horror-themed drive. (photo courtesy of NMCSD)

The Blacktip Island medical clinic will sponsor its second annual Horror Fest Blood Drive Friday to replenish the island’s emergency blood supply, depleted during the busy holiday season.

“The horror shtick started as a joke last year,” island nurse Marissa Sanguine said. “We’d had zero eligible donors three years in a row. Most locals had too high a blood alcohol content to donate, and the sober ones were too scared of needles.

“We thought, ‘the turnout couldn’t get any worse, so let’s have a laugh,’” Sanguine said. “Then as soon as we said we’d be showing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we had people lined up out the door, begging to give blood. Something about slasher movies gets people in the spirit.”

The clinic will show a peer-reviewed selection of classic horror films on multiple screens in the waiting room while donors give blood in the treatment area.

This year’s curated horror movies include:

  • Nosferatu
  • Evil Dead
  • Psycho
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Dracula (1931 version)
  • Aliens
  • Braindead

“It’s wonderful how Marissa attracts donors by making the donation process so fun,” said island doctor Azul Tang. “She dresses like a vampire, and even sends costumed volunteers to the island’s resorts to drum up donors.”

Some locals, though, say the themed blood drive is inappropriate.

“It’s ghoulish, focusing on gore when they should be touting how blood donations save lives,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “It cheapens the process and, long term, does more harm than good. You really think that crap doesn’t scare people away?”

Drive organizers were unswayed.

“It’s near impossible to find anyone sober enough to give blood on this island, much less willing to let you stick a needle in their arm,” Sanguine said. “Our donations last year were through the roof, and we aim to break into double digits this time around. If ‘ghoulish’ gets us a few more pints of blood, then ‘ghoulish’ it is.”

Local businesses are also supporting the drive.

“It’s a community effort,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “The Sand Spit’s serving half-price bloody Mary’s to anyone wearing an ‘I Donated Blood’ sticker, and the Tale Spin’s serving fresh steak tartar for lunch and dinner.”

Island residents agree the new approach is a winner.

“Vampire blood drive’s a lot of fun, you know, even if you can’t drink the night before,” handyman Dermott Bottoms said. “Help the island, see a free movie, then get drunk for cheap the next two, three nights. And make some pocket change selling ‘I Donated’ stickers.”

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Boobiers Return The Sport Of Kings To Blacktip Island

booby-hunting

A red-footed booby waits for the command to hunt from a Blacktip Island Boobying Society boobier at Eagle Ray Cove resort Thursday. (photo courtesy of Charles J. Sharp)

A group of boobiers – Blacktip Island history buffs who have revived the traditional art of hunting with booby birds – will demonstrate their skills Saturday afternoon at Eagle Ray Cove resort to celebrate the nearly 400 years since the Caribbean Island’s discovery.

“Its our cultural heritage, Blacktip’s sport of kings” said Sula Beakins, president of the Blacktip Island Boobying Society. “It started as a lark by a member of the island’s Society for Creative Anachronism, and took off from there.

“The boobies can be tough to train,” Beakins said. “But they already go after fish, so it’s really just a matter of tweaking their instincts.”

Expert opinion on the sport’s historical accuracy is mixed.

“Our records indicate the first governors of Blacktip Island trained the native boobies to chase down fish, much like falcons were trained to hunt in the Old World,” island historian Smithson Altschul said.

“Of course, those records are in Middle English, so the translation may be a bit off,” Altschul added. “But, oh, the sight of a booby taking a blackfin mid-flight, it sends chills down your spine!”

Boobiers emphasize the sport’s ties to falconry.

“As with falcons, we start training our boobies when they’re young,” Beakins said. “As soon as they lose their baby down, really, and can fly reasonably well.

“It takes about a year to fully train them,” Beakins said. “We get them going after snapper at first, then work up to grouper and small mahi.”

Standard booby gear consists of bark-covered gauntlets for the boobies to perch on, as well as GPS trackers so hunters can find them.

“We all wear raincoats and goggles, too,” Beakins added. “Those birds poop up a storm, usually when you least expect it.”

The highlight of Saturday’s demonstration will be the competition between the island’s red-footed boobies and brown boobies from nearby Tiperon Island.

“It’s the great argument in the boobying community – which booby is the best hunter,” boobying aficionado Gage Hoase said. “Most serious boobiers see that as a false dichotomy, though.

“It’s a speed vs. agility thing,” Hoase said. “Like a pitting a peregrine versus a gyrfalcon. The brown boobies are better at mackerelly fish, the red-footed are best with tuna family.”

The boobying is not without critics.

“It’s inhumane, capturing wild birds, torturing them until they chase down fish, then taking the fish from them,” said Blacktip’s People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett. “And then there’s all the safety mishaps boobiers cover up. It’s a dirty, dirty sport.”

Booby enthusiasts insist they’re sensitive to those concerns.

“We’re not running around grabbing wild boobies willy-nilly,” Beakins said. “The first boobies we trained were injured chicks that wouldn’t have survived in the wild. And from that pair, we’ve started a captive breeding program. No wild boobies have ever been harmed or molested.

“Safety-wise, sure, there was an incident where a booby stooped on a small child with fish-shaped barrettes in her hair,” Beakins said. “That was unfortunate, but the booby was only following its instincts. And it let her go, eventually, which speaks to the excellence of our training. It’s a blood sport. You have to expect the occasional bloody nose.”

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Blacktip Island Volunteers Mold Fruitcakes Into Coral Nursery

fruitcake-reef

Blacktip Island residents are encouraged to drop off unwanted holiday fruitcakes at collection bins across the Caribbean island. Volunteers will mold the cakes into elkhorn and staghorn coral skeletons for the island’s new coral nursery. (photo courtesy of Stu Spivack)

Blacktip Island’s unwanted holiday fruitcakes will get new life in a program that repurposes them as frames for a coral nursery offshore from Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort. Volunteer scuba divers will install the first fruitcakes Saturday morning, under the direction of Marine Park personnel.

“The Jawfish Reef area’s taken a beating from loose supply barges, dump runoff and whatnot,” Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’d talked about building an artificial reef there, but we didn’t have the material, the money or the manpower.

“Then the Blacktip Underwater Modelers asked for a permit to turn all those nasty fruitcakes into an underwater sculpture garden, and everything just dropped into place,” Valve said.

Island officials say the plan solves multiple problems.

“Fruitcakes have been stacking up on Blacktip for years,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “No one actually eats those things. Except little Shelly Bottoms, but she eats drywall, too. And smoked oysters.

“We used to have a fruitcake-flinging contest, where people built catapults to see who could launch one the farthest,” Cobia said. “But that was causing too much damage, and endangering the thrill seekers who’d try to catch them. This way, we’re getting rid of the cakes and helping the environment, too.”

Some environmentalists worry a fruitcake reef may do more harm than good.

“The dump won’t take them because they’re classified as biohazards,” said local activist Harry Pickett. “They’re indestructible. People in war zones use them to stop bullets. Who knows what’s going to leach out of them and onto the reef?

“Secondly, what happens if reef fish develop a taste for them?” Pickett said. “No only would we lose coral, we’d also have a bunch of dead fish. Or diabetic fish, at the very least.”

Local scientists, though, are optimistic about the plan.

“We haven’t identified any ingredients that are too toxic,” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine science professor Goby Graysby said. “And in our studies, no fish would go near them. Not even the yellowtail snappers. No, those cakes are durable enough to give coral polyps a good, solid anchor to take root on.

“The island needs green initiatives like this,” Graysby said. “Literally green, with some of those older cakes that’ve been passed down untouched for generations.”

Marine Parks has placed fruitcake collection bins at the Heritage House, at all island resorts, and also placed a fruitcake dumpster at Diddley’s Landing public pier.

“Hopefully this’ll work and spread to other islands,” Valve said. “With luck, we could have more coral and rid the world of fruitcakes within a few years. Now wouldn’t that make for a merry Christmas?”

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Erotica Reading Fest Returns To Blacktip Island

holiday-erotica

Entries in this year’s Blacktip Island Holiday Erotica Reading Festival are checked for appropriateness before being admitted to the festival’s reading schedule. (photo courtesy of Doris Blenny)

The Blacktip Island Heritage House will host the third annual Holiday Erotica Reading Festival Saturday evening, with proceeds going to the Blacktip Island Adult Literacy Council.

“Some people just aren’t Christmas people,” festival organizer Kay Valve said. “It started as a support group of sorts: a few of us with the holiday blues got together, one of us had a steamy romance and decided to read a passage out loud and, well, peoples’ spirits perked right up.

“Word got out, and next year, no one had a room big enough to hold all the participants,” Valve said. “That’s when the Heritage House volunteered to host.”

Any original work of steamy romance or erotica is welcome, so long as it’s not degrading or exploitative, festival organizers said.

“The works do need to have literary merit,” Heritage House curator Doris Blenny said, “Blatant pornography is not allowed. And we’re open to all genres, so long as it’s themed to one of the season’s holidays, be that Christmas, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Kwanza, New Year, Mōdraniht or what have you.

“We look for work that aspires to high art,” Blenny said. “Or as close to high art as we can get on Blacktip. Last year we had everything from mysteries to magical realism to science fiction.”

The festival is gaining popularity among island residents.

“These public readings do keep you hot on a warm tropical night,” said Elena Havens, last year’s runner up. “I had holiday cheer running up and down my spine last time when Lee Helm, with his beautiful speaking voice, read his, ‘Up The Chimney He Rose’ on stage.”

Festival winners are chosen by the audience and receive the coveted Coral Yule Log trophy.

“Last season, Peachy Bottoms’ reading ‘Mrs. Santa and the Christmas Surprise’ about blew everyone away,” said attendee Antonio Fletcher. “When Peachy started out, ‘Muffin was a lusty elf . . .’ we knew we were hearing something special.

“Nativity sets, mistletoe, dreidels, dashikis, they’ve all featured prominently in recent readings,” Valve said. “It’s all about the delivery, the emotion you put into your voice.”

However, not all Blacktip residents are happy with the festival.

“Shouting perverted stories across a crowd at Christmas is just wrong,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Christmas’s a time for classic literature. Dickens. Evelyn Waugh. Anaïs Nin. And children’s books. Those little books of cute sayings you put on the back of your toilet, too.”

Valve dismissed such criticism.

“This is uplifting holiday fun for the whole community,” she said. “And nothing fills our literacy classes quite like tales of yuletide ribaldry.”

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Blacktip Island Holiday Light Display Gets New Life

(Editor’s note: After overindulgence at the Blacktip Times newsroom Christmas party, the entire news staff has been jailed and was unable to complete the coverage of the Blacktip Island Holiday Erotica Readings by press time. In the spirit of the season, the Blacktip Times is republishing a story that brought the community together for Christmas in 2013.)
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Blacktip Island’s holiday lights shine bright again at Diddley’s Landing public pier after a compromise among the small Caribbean island’s religious factions. (photo courtesy of Jerrod Ephesians)

Blacktip Island’s religious factions have put aside their quarrels in time to resurrect the community’s traditional holiday light display.

“We’ve been working on a compromise for months, but the devil’s been in the details,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, head of the island’s Interfaith Committee.

The display historically has been a source of friction among the Caribbean island’s diverse religious groups. Formerly referred to as Christmas lights, the name was changed in hopes of avoiding a repeat of 2012’s holiday riots, Ephesians said.

“Last year the Raëlians set the tree on fire the second night it was up,” Ephesians said. “When the Catholic Defense League retaliated, things went to hell right quick.

“This year, in the spirit of ecumenical good will, we’ve done away with the physical tree completely. But we all agreed the lights by themselves were quite lovely, so we kept those.”

In the absence of a tree, the light strands have been suspended from a small remote-controlled helicopter, donated by island scuba operators, at Diddley’s Landing public pier.

“We’ll light one strand at a time, an additional strand each night, during Hanukkah, after which people will be free to view them as non-denominational Christmas lights,” Ephesians said.

The display will also serve as site of the Winter Solstice celebration December 21 and Kwanzaa December 26 through January 1.

“Atheists are welcome to view the lights however they see fit, or to ignore them altogether,” Ephesians said.

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