Blacktip Island Motorist Gets Award For Turn Signal Use

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A screen grab from Blacktip Island resident Cori Anders’ cell-phone video showing James Connlee’s activated turn signal Wednesday evening. Conlee was awarded the Tiperon Islands Safety Commendation Medal for his action. (photo courtesy of Cori Anders)

A longtime Blacktip Island resident was awarded the Tiperon Islands Safety Commendation Medal Wednesday after it was confirmed he was the first island motorist to use a turn signal.

“I was gobsmacked,” said witness Cori Anders, who videoed the incident with her cell phone. “It happened right in front of Sandy Bottoms. A dozen of us were there. No one had ever seen anything like it on Blacktip. It took a moment to sink in.

“James Conlee had to wait for a big Skerritt Construction truck to pass by before he turned into the car park for happy hour,” Anders said. “I suppose he got bored and reckoned he’d fiddle with the signal lever. He apologized afterwards.”

Authorities awarded the medal to send a positive reinforcement to the community.

“We want to encourage this kind of thing on the part of all residents,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Especially with the increasing number of cars on the island and the busy spring tourist season approaching.”

Many on the small Caribbean island were stunned by Conlee’s action.

“All island cars have turn indicators, but no one uses them,” resident Payne Hanover said. “There’s two roads and a half-dozen parking lots. Why bother?

“Sometimes people hit their indicator out of habit, but the wiring’s usually toast, or they have burned out bulbs. The store doesn’t even carry replacements. There’s no market for them. James got caught up in the perfect storm of flipping a switch and having it actually work.”

Some residents see the award as a slippery slope.

“What do we need with turn signals?” B.C. Flote said. “Since day one, folks’ve made unannounced turns whenever they wanted, and no harm done. Now, people start using turn signals, the next thing you know, Rafe’ll be handing out seatbelt fines and speeding tickets. It’s another sign this island’s getting too crowded.”

Conlee said he didn’t deserve the commendation.

“Not right, like I’m a hero or anything,” he said. “Just did what anyone would’ve done if they’d been in that situation after drinking all day. Blame it on the rum, you know?”

After the award ceremony, Conlee was fined for not registering the 1987 Toyota Corolla since 2013. The vehicle failed a subsequent safety inspection for roadworthiness and was towed to the island’s landfill.

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Ground Eel Population Explosion Terrorizes Blacktip Island

ground eels

A Blacktip Island ground eel crawls past a game camera in a Blacktip Island mahogany grove Thursday evening. A sudden uptick in eel numbers has the Caribbean island’s tourism industry concerned about their impact on hotel bookings. (photo courtesy of Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce)

A surge in the Blacktip Island ground eel population has island residents on edge and guests panicking this week, causing local businesses to scramble for ways to combat the creatures.

“Ground eels are incredibly rare. We know little about them,” said Goby Graysby, marine biology chairman at Tiperon University-Blacktip. “They’re akin to aquatic morays, but adapted to breath air. This is the first time there’s been a population explosion like this, and we have no idea what caused it.

“The problem is, they’re slimy, they’re smelly and they get into everything. And now there’s a ton of them,” Graysby said. “They’re like hagfish on steroids and can wiggle under doors, down vents and up toilets. They’re normally a solitary species, but in numbers this large, apparently, they can be problematic.”

Island hoteliers say the creatures are wreaking havoc among tourists.

“The eels love sunscreen. And hair gel,” said Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort manager Kay Valve. “They gobble the stuff up and look for more. Most locals don’t use that crap, so for us it’s not so bad. Resort guests, though, they can’t sleep or eat or even sit by the pool and read.

“God help you if you have sunscreen on you,” Valve said. “Yesterday a swarm of eels got on one of our docked dive boats and gnawed everyone raw. We have guests cancelling left and right. And the sunburns have been horrific.”

Departing visitors at the island’s airstrip agreed.

“We expected mosquitos and flies and ants and scorpions, but these eels threw us one hell of a curveball,” said Eagle Ray Cove guest Harry Blenny. “They wormed into our room last night and ate everything in my Dopp kit. And what they did to my wife’s hair while she was sleeping! We had to shave it all off. We’re leaving and never coming back!”

Some locals say the problem is a decline in the eels’ natural predator.

“The mersquatch usually keeps them in check,” said longtime resident Molly Miller. “What we need is a second mersquatch. Or a livelier one.”

The Chamber of Commerce has declared an island-wide state of emergency.

“We put a bounty out on the suckers,” Mayor Jack Cobia said. “Problem is, they’re damned hard to catch, or kill, because they’re so slimy. And nocturnal.

“We got teams in headlamps hunting them with sticks and machetes and golf clubs, but those eels’re damned savvy,” Cobia said. “Shine a light on them, they slither off right quick, leave you clubbing slime trails.”

Island scientists, meanwhile, hope to capture some of the elusive creatures for study.

“We keep setting traps, but the eels can get out of about anything,” Graysby said. “And the few we have caught slip out of any container we put them in. Mason jar with holes punched in it for air? They’ll screw the top off from the inside – they generate that much torque.”

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Hungry Land Crabs Ruin Blacktip Island New Year’s Festivities

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A land crab explodes at Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort’s outdoor bar Sunday evening. The crabs ruined the Blacktip Island New Year’s fireworks extravaganza when they ate the Caribbean island’s store of pyrotechnics. (photo courtesy of Marina DeLow)

Blacktip Island residents and visitors celebrated New Year’s Eve without a firework display Sunday night after it was discovered land crabs had destroyed the stored pyrotechnics days earlier, officials said.

“We went to get the mortars and launch tubes and whatnot from the shed and found nothing but shredded cardboard tubes,” Blacktip Island Commission for the Holidays chair Jay Valve said. “All the powder inside the tubes was gone.

“We thought it was maybe kids, but kids’d have just shot everything off, not destroyed them,” Valve said. “Some people blamed PETA, thinking they’d done it to protect household pets. Turns out, it was stranger than that.”

Officials did not discover the true culprit until later that night.

“We were still scratching our heads about it, then James Conlee flicked a cigarette butt at a crab on the bar deck and, BOOM!, red and blue starbursts shot everywhere,” BICH safety officer Marlin Bleu said.

“It was like a box of Roman candles exploded,” Bleu said. “Knocked a half-dozen guests off their bar stools. I’m not sure they realized it, though.”

Scientists say negative wildlife interactions with the island’s human residents is rare, but not unheard of.

“We’ve had iguanas knock out power island-wide,” Tiperon University-Blacktip wildlife management professor Christina Mojarra said. “We’ve had the mersquatch pee in all the cisterns. But we’ve never seen anything like this.

“Land crabs will eat anything – rotted food, soap, ant bait – all without any ill effects,” Mojarra said. “I wouldn’t have thought they would find explosives tasty, but if they can eat fertilizer, I guess anything’s possible.”

Authorities have warned residents to keep open flames away from the island’s crabs until the explosives can metabolize out of them.

“There’s no telling how long it’ll take before the crabs are non-explosive,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We’re working with biologists to estimate a safety window, but it’s all trial-and-error guesswork at this point.

“You can tell which crabs ate fireworks because their shells kind of glow at night,” Marquette said. “Like the northern lights, but with legs and claws. We hope the colors will fade as the explosives wear off.”

Many residents put a positive spin on the events.

“The crabs may have been a New Year’s Grinch, but we had a good time anyway,” resident Ginger Bass said. “The kiddos chased the smaller crabs around with sparklers to set them off. Some shrubbery around the resort got scorched, but it created a festive mood. And little Shelly Bottoms’ eyebrows should grow back just fine.”

Others were happy crabs had eaten explosives.

“Gives them a nice flavor,” resident Dermott Bottoms said. “Gotta steam them slow, and handle the meat gentle, but it makes a fine extra-spicy crabmeat salad. Gonna miss them when they’re gone.”

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US Requests Extradition Of Fake Blacktip Island ‘Ambassador’

fake ambassador

United States authorities have requested the extradition of longtime resident Payne Hanover after the US State Department discovered Hanover was claiming to be the US ambassador to Blacktip Island.

The self-proclaimed United States ambassador to Blacktip Island is fighting extradition this week after United States officials requested the Tiperon Island government remand him to US authorities.

“Bunch of tight-asses who can’t take a joke,” longtime Blacktip Island resident Payne Hanover said. “Sure, I have a big State Department seal over my front door, but no one with any sense took it seriously.

“It was in good fun,” Hanover said. “We’d be sitting around drinking, discussing world events, and someone’d say, ‘Hey, why don’t you put in a good word for us with Uncle Sam,’ I’d agree, then we’d forget about it by the morning.”

Some on the small Caribbean island were angry at the news.

“I always negotiated with Payne in good faith and he burned me,” said island mayor Jack Cobia. “This explains why I never made any headway with the US. I thought Payne just didn’t have the kind of diplomatic stroke he said he did.

“It puts me over a barrel, what with the promises I’ve made in the community based on his say-so,” Cobia said. “And I’m out hundreds of dollars for all those US visitors visas. I’d love to chuck the rat-bastard on the first plane to Miami.”

Legal professionals say the case is not so cut and dried.

“To start with, there’s no extradition treaty between the United States and the Tiperon Islands,” said Ferris Skerritt, of the Skerritt and Skulkin legal firm. “And even if there were, no laws were broken. It’s not illegal to call yourself an ambassador.

“The State Department knew about Payne, but didn’t care,” Skerritt said. “What got their feathers ruffled was he sent in a joke request for Blacktip Embassy funding. Some low-level flunky rubber-stamped it and feces hit the props. But it wasn’t like Payne cashed the check or anything.”

Local law enforcement say they won’t honor the request.

“Payne hasn’t violated any Tiperon laws,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Jack tries to ship him off island, Jack’ll wind up in jail himself.”

Many locals were upset by the developments.

“Payne’s had that seal up forever. We took it as classic Royal Payne exaggeration,” said resident Clete Horn. “Hell, before he was the US ambassador he was the ambassador from Ohinkey, with flowing robes and everything.”

Others were more concerned with practical implications.

“Payne throws blow-out parties with dignitaries and celebrities all the time,” resident Jerrod Ephesians said. “Now, with the diplomatic budgeting season on us, him getting busted means no gala embassy fêtes this year,” Ephesians said. “That’s a bummer. They really gave an air of civilization to the island.”

Hanover, meanwhile, remained defiant.

“Just because I’m not technically the ambassador’s no reason for me to close the consulate,” he said. “I’m still hosting the New Year’s Eve bash. Rafe Marquette’s the guest of honor.”

Hanover would not comment on allegations of suspicious activities in his bank accounts.

The US State Department would neither confirm nor deny the allegations.

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Undersea ‘Christmas Carol’ Brightens Blacktip Island Holiday Season

underwater xmas carol

The cast of the underwater ‘Christmas Carol’ run through the final scene at Bob Cratchit’s house during the dress rehearsal Wednesday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Mahdian)

Dive staff from Blacktip Island scuba resorts have joined forces to stage an underwater version of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol in the shallows off the Diddley’s Landing public pier. The play will be performed twice daily through Christmas Eve.

“We wanted a fresh take on an old classic,” artistic director Cori Anders said. “The dialogue’s 100% scuba signals, with some new ones we got from the local Mime Divers Association.

“Each actor gives surprising nuance to the hand signs – is that ‘eel’ sign fast, slow, over-the-top, understated? Small inflections carry a ton of weight,” Anders said. “After the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come leaves, Scrooge’s desperate out of air sign had the crew in tears.”

The cast includes:

  • Elena Havens as Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Gage Hoase as Bob Cratchit
  • Marina DeLow as the Ghost of Christmas Past
  • Alison Diesel as the Ghost of Christmas Present
  • Wendy Beaufort as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come
  • Hugh Calloway as Tiny Tim
  • Lee Helm as the Christmas Turkey
  • Finn Kiick as Old Fezziwig

“We didn’t really need the Old Fezziwig character, but it’s just fun to say and lightened the rehearsals,” Anders said.

The underwater venue allows for creative staging.

“Scrooge clomps across the sand in lead boots, while neutrally-buoyant ghosts float over and around him,” said Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens. “And when the inevitable sting ray cruises past, it gives an ethereal quality to the performance.

“The audience is on scuba and can view the play from any angle, so long as they don’t interfere with the actors,” Havens said. “And we have morning and afternoon shows to give all divers a chance to see it.”

Some of the staging had to be curtailed for safety’s sake.

“We tried a night dive version, but the audience got mixed in with the actors and it turned into a real Charlie Foxtrot,” said cast member Gage Hoase. “Things blew up when the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come scared the bejesus out of a couple from Cincinnati. They bolted to the surface. But, man, did they tip well at the end of the week.”

The play is not without its critics.

“You have to be 10 years old to scuba dive, which means the younger kiddos can’t see it,” local parent Ginger Bass said. “And the sign language is a mostly gibberish. I mean, I know the story and I had a hard time following along. I think they make it up as they go along, and there were some rude gestures mixed in that are definitely not scuba signals.”

Performances are at 10:30 and 2:45 daily. Proceeds of the play go to The Blacktip Island Widows and Orphans Fund, minus expenses and incidentals.

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Painful Holiday Musical Scenes Highlight Blacktip Island Extravaganza

Excruciating musicals

The cast of this year’s Most Excruciating Holiday Musicals perform during their dress rehearsal Thursday evening at the Blacktip Island Heritage House. (photo courtesy of the University of Utah)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will perform its annual selection of cringe-worthy excerpts from a dozen Christmas musicals Saturday and Sunday evenings to raise money for local charities.

“Most people spend the holiday season watching one agonizing musical after another, often barely recuperating from one before the next starts,” said Doris Blenny, BICP’s creative director. “The point of this show is to tear off the Band-Aid, so to speak, and get the worst of it over with in less than an hour.

“After this, even if you want to watch holiday musicals, that urge will be burned out of your system,” Blenny said. “We think of it as holiday cauterization. Our aim is to get everyone through the agonizing parts of the holidays as quickly as we can.”

The event owes much of its appeal to the quality of the local singers.

“None of these people can sing a note, but that’s the point,” resident Jay Valve said. “Last year, Cori brought the house down with ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You,’ because she sang so off-key. You’ll remember, she was the one who voiced the airplane engines and the machine guns in Tora ! Tora! Tora!

This year’s performance will honor several classic holiday films.

“We’ll be paying homage to White Christmas, partly to take advantage of the talent we have this year,” Blenny said. “Antonio does a great Bing Crosby. Not the singing, mind you, but the body language. And Dermott does a surprisingly good Rosemary Clooney. We tried him in a Vera-Ellen dance routine, but he broke too much furniture.

“We’re also spicing things up with a Meet Me In St. Louis number,” Blenny added. ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ will feature Alison Diesel’s interpretation of little Margaret O’Brien’s snowman-bashing scene. Those in the first three rows are advised to wear eye protection for Christmas light shards, and motorcycle helmets in case Alison loses her grip on the baseball bat.”

Blenny’s warning was not necessary for some.

“I always wear ear protectors and earplugs at this gig,” resident Val Schrader said. “Payne Hanover and Catalina Luxfer’s screeching that date rape song from Elf about did me in back in 2007. The muffs and plugs don’t totally block the sound, but they take the edge off.”

Audience members are asked to wear ugly Christmas sweaters. Proceeds from the event to go Blacktip Island Meals on Wheels and the Retired Seaman’s Association.

**

Ask Dermott:

Yo, Dermott,

With everyone so tense about sexual harassment these days, the company Christmas party is going to be a minefield, what with the booze, the mistletoe and coworkers hanging out under the mistletoe – intentionally or not. Help me out here. Why’s it called ‘mistletoe?’ – Who in Whoville

Who,

‘Mistletoe’ is Old English for ‘kick to the crotch.’

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Tension High For Blacktip Island’s ‘Son Of A Bee’ Spell-Off

Adult spelling bee

An artist’s rendering of the 2016 Son of a Bee spelling contest, when crowd favorite Payne Hanover defeated Lee Helm in the final round. (illustration courtesy of Thomas Eakins)

Blacktip Island’s 17th annual ‘Son of a Bee’ spelling bee is slated for this weekend at the Last Ballyhoo bar. The two-day event, sponsored by the Blacktip Adult Literacy Learning Society, will feature the island’s premier competitive spellers going head-to-head in double elimination rounds.

“It started years ago as a dare at the Ballyhoo,” BALLS president Doris Blenny said. “Someone bet an inebriated Dermott Bottoms he couldn’t spell ‘cat.’ Then they spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a’ while the crowd cheered. Dermott was so drunk he lost the bet, but other patrons started challenging each other to spell words as a gauge of how sauced they were.

“It proved so popular, the Ballyhoo made the spell-off a standard event the first weekend in December,” Blenny said. “BALLS stepped in with sponsorship, gave it a snazzy name and it took off from there.

“The Ballyhoo requires all contestants to consume one drink per 30 minutes, so we instituted a double-elimination format to level the playing field,” Blenny added. “In the later rounds alcohol can become an impediment. Or, for some, a performance enhancer.”

Perennial favorites are Jerrod Ephesians, Finn Kiick and reigning Son of a Bee champion Payne Hanover.

“I’ve been practicing buzzed spelling for months to find that sweet spot where I’m toasted but can still spell,” Hanover said. “It’s easy to have that one drink too many and fall over the cliff.

“The strategy’s in knowing your opponent’s alcohol tolerance,” Hanover added. “Against a lightweight, sometimes if you hem and haw before spelling each word, the booze’ll win the round for you. But if you draw Antonio, you’re screwed. He gets better the more he drinks.”

The judges’ subjectivity often plays a key role in the competition.

“Last year Lee Helm may have spelled ‘perspicacity’ correctly in the final, but he slurred so badly two of the three judges scored him wrong,” judge Helen Maples said. “It cost him the match.”

Sponsors are hoping for a controversy-free Bee this year.

“Two years ago, Finn had to give up the title after we found out he bribed Peachy Bottoms for the vocabulary words beforehand,” Blenny said. “The year before that, there was no winner because all finalists had passed out before the final round.”

Bee officials say they’ve also beefed up security for this year’s event.

“It’s a two-day drinking event on a small island, Things can get physical,” Last Ballyhoo owner Marlin Bleu said. “Sometimes onlookers takes sides and quite the brouhaha breaks out.”

Proceeds from the event go to BALLS and the Last Ballyhoo repair fund.

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