Sunday, July 25, 2021
Precipitation – None
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Precipitation – None
The Blacktip Island Poetry Society’s annual poetry festival this weekend, featuring the work of American Transcendentalist poet Walt Whitman, has sparked criticism among the small Caribbean island’s population.
“We wanted to feature a famous poet whose work is accessible,” BIPS president Edwin Chub said. “We’re trying to get out of the stale Dereck Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Wendy Guerra rut, and you don’t get more reader-friendly than Whitman. Plus, his poetry speaks to our island reality, despite him never having been here.
“‘Leaves of Wrasse’ perfectly encapsulates our community. Blacktippers are Transcendentalists at heart, whether they know it or not,” Chub said. “And criticism of his work being obscene and graphic and sensual? That’s just a standard, barbaric-yawp-filled Friday night at the Ballyhoo. I truly don’t see what all the hullaballoo’s about.”
Critics, however, questioned the BIPS’ choice of poets.
“Walt Whitman has sweet eff-all to do with anything on Blacktip Island,” local poet Chrissy Graysby said. “We should be boosting local, Caribbean poets, not fluffing some dead, white American dude from 200 years ago. We’re telling folks to stay away, and having our own local-poets-only open mic night up at the Tailspinner Saturday.
“I mean, it’s not like there’s a shortage of talented Caribbean writers,” Graysby said. “Why not introduce Blacktippers to artists like Nancy Morejón or Mahadai Das, who speak directly to the island experience? This Whitman crap is just more Colonialism being shoved down our throats by a self-styled cultural elite.”
Event organizers defended their decision.
“The lit fest should get people excited about poetry,” BIPS member Ginger Bass said. “We need a big name to generate that excitement. Last year, for the Aimé Césaire Fest, you could have shot a cannon through the Heritage House and not hit anyone. And ‘O Captain, My Captain’? This island’s loaded with boat captains. What’s more Blacktip than that?
“The Heritage House has a first edition Leaves of Grass. Well, first Tiperon edition, anyway,” Bass said. “All this talk of boycotts and protests, it’s pure selfishness. And if the prudes have issues with his personal . . . proclivities, well, rumor and innuendo notwithstanding, he and his contemporaries were just good friends.”
Some in the island’s poetry community plan to physically oppose the festival.
“Edwin and them think they’re gonna have some plantation-era, smut readings in public, they’re gonna get some Blacktip post-Colonialism upside the head,” sonnetist Whitey Bottoms said. “And we’ll burn the stage down if they try to go through with that ‘Thong of Myself’ wet t-shirt contest. Or the ‘Urge and Urge and Urge’ poetry slam. We got torches primed, tar boiling and feathers ready.”
Authorities downplayed the chance of violence. “I’ve put all sides on notice that poetry-related mayhem won’t be tolerated,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Anyone caught committing violence during the festival will be locked in the jail cell and forced to listen to Ezra Pound’s Cantos, in its entirety,for the remainder of the weekend.”
Sunday, July 17, 2021
Precipitation – Not today
Blacktip Island’s Animal Racing Society Enthusiasts will conduct the small Caribbean island’s inaugural Vermin Derby Rat Races, featuring double-elimination heats, Saturday afternoon at the Last Ballyhoo bar to raise funds for the community’s pandemic relief fund, organizers said.
“Folks need a pick-me-up, and there’s people hurting because of all these COVID shut downs,” ARSE president Jay Valve said. “We decided to kill two birds with one stone and have a pest-themed fundraiser. It’ll put smiles on lots of faces, and raise some needed money, too.
“The island’s eat-up with rats and roaches, so we decided to make light of that,” Valve said. “We’ll have cockroach jockeys mounted on island rats running through mazes. We figured, if you can’t beat them, race them.”
Organizers said the rules are few, but strict.
“Jockeys can be attached to the mounts any way the racer sees fit, but rider and mount must cross the finish line together or be disqualified,” Wendy Beaufort said. “Rats will be placed in identical mazes, and maze doors will be opened simultaneously. Racers aren’t allowed to prod their rats, but we’ll have bits of rotting fish at the far end of each maze to coax them on.
“Most folks’re using super glue to keep their jockeys on, but a few are experimenting with duct tape, or even fly paper,” Beaufort said. “There’s no size or weight limit, so the smart racers’ll be gluing little roaches onto biggest rats they can catch. Each rat’ll be color coded and numbered, too.”
Strategies varied among racers.
“A lot of folks are grabbing rats from near the dump, but those things’re slow and dumb,” Bill Fische said. “Me, I trapped one of those nasty, big-ass rats from down on the south end. They’re tricky to catch, and to hold still while you attach the jockey, but it’ll pay off on the race course. You just have to double up on your leather gloves.”
Early favorites include:
Island authorities have cautioned against betting on the races.
“All wagers are illegal and will not be tolerated,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Plaguebringer may be a tempting bet at 4:1, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be severe consequences for anyone else betting on her.”
Spectators’ opinions were divided.
“Folks come here to escape the rat race. Now they created one,” Herring Frye said. “Kinda defeats the purpose, if you ask me. And they’re running it at the Ballyhoo ‘cause last time ARSE tried something like this at the Heritage House, the rats got loose and chased people all over creation. It was beautiful to watch. From a distance.”
Metallic-painted rat traps will be awarded for first, second and third place. Proceeds will go to the Blacktip Island COVID Relief Fund.
All rats and roaches will be humanely euthanized at the end of racing, despite the protests of the island chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Sunday, July 11, 2021
Precipitation – Not a chance
Twelve members of a scuba diving club dedicated to nude diving, making their second trip to Blacktip Island, were arrested Thursday afternoon after completing the afternoon dive completely unclothed, island authorities said.
“These are repeat offenders, scofflaws who thumbed their noses at the law,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Warned them last time. Warned them in advance this time. But they wanted to set the record for number of naked folks on one dive and did it anyway. Now they’re in jail. Fully clothed. And’ll be deported in the morning.
“This island, and the Tiperons, aren’t that kind of place,” Marquette said. “Personally, if I could have ignored the transgressions, I would’ve. But we had multiple complaints, including from the dive operator. That forced my hand.”
The dive operator involved said the club’s actions negatively affected their business.
“Most of these folks, well, let’s just say no one wants to see anything they had to show,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “We had several guests vomit. And not from the waves. Other guests couldn’t eat lunch, or dinner, afterwards.
“Why is it the people who do this crap are the last ones anybody wants to see naked?” Latner said. “No one asked them to strip down. Frankly, we begged them not to. It permanently scarred some kids.”
Club members say they were unfairly targeted.
“We paid for the charter. We have a right to dive any way we want,” club president Willy Moone said. “People don’t like it, they don’t have to look. The cops’re violating our diving rights. And illegally deporting us. TripAdvisor’s getting some nasty reviews because of this.
“Nude diving’s the most natural thing in the world,” Moone said. “Except for the tank and regulator and computer. You don’t think Jacques Cousteau didn’t strip down for a skinny-dive now and then?”
Other members said nude scuba improves their diving skills.
“We’re better divers because of our nakedness,” Phil McKraken said. “You have to watch out for fire coral and hydroids—diving naked, you by-God learn buoyancy quick. We have special buoyancy and situational awareness classes. But if you pass, you can concentrate on just diving, without the distracting chafe of clothing.
Non-club divers disagreed.
“I really don’t see the attraction,” Wanda Goby said. “There’s groupers and moray eels and barracudas down there, just waiting to bite any dangling bits and bobs. There’s jellyfish, too. It’s just asking for trouble, if you ask me. Rafe did them a favor, arresting them like that.”
Blacktip Island authorities Wednesday announced select residents will be required to continue wearing COVID face masks and to maintain a six-foot distance from other residents, despite there being no active COVID cases on the small Caribbean island.
“It has nothing to do with health risks,” mayor Jack Cobia said. We just got used to some of our . . . less photogenic . . . folks being covered up when they were out and about. We called an Island Council meeting, open for public input, and the sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor. It’s been nice not seeing some people’s faces and we want to continue that.
“We whittled the list down as much as we could, trying to be fair to everybody,” Cobia said. “Council members took public opinion into account in making the list. It won’t make everybody happy, but overall it’ll make life more pleasant on this little rock.”
The move enjoyed broad community support.
“I’m not saying Dermott Bottoms is ill-favored, at least not to his face, but it was nice not seeing his mug for a year and a half,” Ernestine Bass said. “The mask also muffles his voice, so that and the distancing worked wonders for my nerves. They can say this isn’t health related, but it’s doing wonders for lots of people’s mental health.”
Some of those singled out protested the rule.
“Calling me butt-ugly is what they’re doing, you know,” James Conlee said. “Don’t see nobody making M’rina or Alison wear masks. I’m no more hideous than ‘Tonio, and he don’t have to wear one, either. Now I got a complex.
“And how they think they’re gonna enforce this? I know my rights,” Conlee said. “Got feelings, too, you know. Folks don’t want to hear me talk, just ask me to stop. That’ll be that. I’ll stop talking. Won’t say another word. Not-a-one. Not even a peep. I can be quiet like nobody’s business. I’ll bet.”
Island medical officials say the rule will have indirect health benefits.
“There’s therapeutic value to having certain people masked,” Dr. Azul Tang said. “It’ll lower residents’ stress, pulse and blood pressure. And masks plus social distancing will also cut down on bar fights. On Blacktip, that’s always been more of a threat, and an epidemic, than any virus.”
Others vowed to help enforce the rule.
“Having select residents masked and muzzled amounts to a public beautification project,” retired Royal Army Sgt. Maj. Beaugregory Damsil said. “I just wish they’d have approved my proposal for full-face masks and ball gags. And don’t you worry about enforcement—the constable and I will take great pleasure in that.”