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Theosophy Society Takes Over Blacktip Island Church

church repurposed

A stained-glass panel in the newly-renamed Blacktip Polyagnostic Sanctuary is a reminder of its former life as the Blacktip Island Interdenominational Church. (photo courtesy of Ernestine Bass)

Faced with declining attendance and increasing expenses, the Blacktip Island Interdenominational Church shuttered its doors Thursday and handed the keys to the Blacktip Island Theosophy Society, church leaders said, setting off a war of words in the small Caribbean island’s spiritual community.

“I hated to do it, but I couldn’t cover the electric bills or afford repairs,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said. “Congregation members either lost faith or were lured away by Our Lady of Blacktip. The church was the island’s heart and soul. Now it’s been sold off.

“The theosophists were the only ones who showed any interest, and that’s one hell of a coincidence,” Grunt said. “They’re in cahoots with that damned ecumenical council and pulled off a hostile takeover, pure and simple. They’ve always held a grudge against us. Both groups have.”

Ecumenical council members denied any hostility.

“We’re deeply committed to faith and enlightenment on Blacktip,” said the former-Rev. Jerrod Ephesians, Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council president. “But Pierre shot himself in the foot, repeatedly, by constantly preaching against the sins of drinking and smoking and carrying on. You’ve got to know your audience.

“His droning on and on and on in that monotone didn’t help, either,” Ephesians said. “The theosophy society had been looking for someplace permanent to meet for a while, so the council stepped in and helped make that happen. They’re already drawing bigger crowds than Pierre ever did.”

Theosophy society members hope to appeal to a broad swath of Blacktip residents.

“The building’s still a church, we’re just about seeking God through each individual’s direct, intuitive steps, not in some narrowly-defined sectarian tropes,” BITS president Ernestine Bass said. “We’ve renamed it the Blacktip Polyagnostic Sanctuary to emphasize that. And for our first meeting, the place was nearly full.”

Community members backed the change.

“It’s a lot more fun now that Reverend Grunt’s gone,” Ginger Bass said. “There’s less emphasis on sin and damnation and more on forgiveness and being happy. Plus, they’re OK with us bringing drinks in with us.”

The Rev. Grunt will continue to conduct itinerant services at various island locations.

“I’ll be preaching this Sunday at Diddley’s Landing public pier, weather permitting,” he said. “I’ll be doing baptisms right there on those concrete steps, too. There’s plenty on this island could use something like that. Communion’s out, though, after Dermott Bottoms got into the Communion wine last week. All the wine.”

Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral will continue to be open for any who prefer not to attend Rev. Grunt’s services or theosophy meetings.

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Tie-Dye Festival To Aid Blacktip Island’s Dying Reefs

tie-dying championship

A freshly tie-dyed shirt waits to be unbound Thursday afternoon in amateur dyer Wendy Beaufort’s workshop. Beaufort was practicing for this weekend’s Coral Reef Dye-Off craft competition to benefit the Caribbean island’s coral reefs. (photo courtesy of Johann H. Addicks)

Blacktip Island fabric artists will gather at the Blacktip Haven resort this weekend for the inaugural, two-day Coral Reef Dye-Off tie-dye competition to draw attention to the Caribbean island’s ailing coral reefs.

“Our coral’s nowhere near as healthy as it was ten years ago,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “Whether from warmer water, acidic seas, development runoff or a combination, our reefs and our livelihoods are taking a hit.

“This combination juried dying competition and craft show will help combat that,” Havens said. “The competition will draw attention to how hard the coral is fighting to survive, and the proceeds will go to reef preservation efforts. And the shirts, shorts and whatnot are guaranteed to be groovy.”

Some worried the event will do more harm than good.

“Making people aware of the coral’s plight is great, but what happens when all this dye hits the reef? Or the aquifer?” environmental watchdog Wade Soote said. “There’s no telling what the ash and urea that makes the colors bond to fabrics will do once they hit the water table.

“At the very least, there should be an environmental impact study before there’s dozens of people dumping who-knows-what down the drain,” Soote said. “Pretty colors are all well and good, but what if they wipe out the marine park? Elena should know better.”

Organizers say those concerns are unfounded.

“All the used dye will go into a big vat and be neutralized before it’s dumped,” local dyemaster Harry Blenny said. “Also, though store-bought dyes are allowed, we’re encouraging everyone to use all-natural, locally-produced dyes, or even to make their own.

“There’s an art just in making the dyes out of local ingredients,” Blenny said. “Booby poop gives a really bright green you can’t get with a commercial mix. And ground up land crab mixed with balsamic vinegar gives a unique, vivid red.”

Local dye artists are eager to test their techniques against each other.

“You’re never sure exactly how good you are until you go head-to-head against another dyer under time constraints,” Wendy Beaufort said. “There’s lots of unknowns, and the competition should get pretty intense. The non-stop Grateful Dead in the background’ll take some of the edge off that, but still.

“The real challenge will be choice of medium,” Beaufort said. “Most people are sticking with tried-and-true cotton, but a few of us are experimenting with silk. Elena made a whole separate category for that, since the technique’s so different.”

All dyed items will be sold on site, with the winner serving as auctioneer, Havens said.

“We’ll have an auction Sunday evening to raise as much money as we can,” she said. “Hopefully the cash will cover the cost of a new coral nursery. Or snacks for our volunteers.”

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Blacktip Islanders Rally To Strengthen Earth’s Magnetic Field

earth's magnetic field

Two Blacktip Island residents have asked other locals to bring refrigerator magnets to the Caribbean island’s Heritage House Friday in hopes of boosting the planet’s magnetic field. (photo courtesy of Dermott Bottoms)

Blacktip Island residents, concerned by reports the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, have organized a magnet-collection drive this Friday night at the island’s Heritage House in an attempt to strengthen the field.

“Magnetic field weakens too much, cosmic rays’ll get through and kill us all,” handyman Dermott Bottoms said. “We got to take action now, before it’s too late. We’re a small island, but we can do our part.

“We’re asking folks to bring any magnets they have to the Heritage House so we can concentrate all the magnetism in one spot,” Bottoms said. “The House’s in the center of the island, and there’s two power lines that cross there, so that’ll help, too.”

Other organizers stressed the need for community involvement.

“We were gonna order more magnets, but that’d create an imbalance someplace else, and cost money, so we’ll go with what we have,” James Conlee said. “There’s plenty of fridge magnets on the island, people just need to bring ‘em. And resort gift shops have a bunch they can loan out, too.

“Gonna string wires around the magnets and connect ‘em to a generator to give ‘em a boost, too,” Conlee said. “Sure, we’re low on the globe, but this’ll help build a base folks in more northern climes can build on to boost the magnetism up to the North Pole.”

Some in the community scoffed at the effort.

“Dermott’s switched from drinking rum to drinking booby pond water to come up with tis idea,” Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Refrigerator magnets have nothing to do with, and no effect on the Earth’s magnetic field. This is just another excuse for him and his buddies to drink and pass out. I’m stunned there’s so many people talking about participating in this nonsense.”

Many locals plan to attend, and donate, whether the plan works or not.

“It’s Blacktip. People get bored, and this is something different to do,” Alison Diesel said. “Doesn’t matter if it works or not. It’s something to do on a Friday evening. And if everyone else is there, it’d be way antisocial not to go.”

Others were optimistic.

“Listening to Dermott and James, then looking things up on the internet, if there’s a change this’ll work, we have to try,” Dusty Goby said. “We’ll all be wearing non-ferrous clothing and jewelry so it doesn’t detract from the effect. We’ll know if it’s working if we don’t see the aurora borealis.”

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White Smoke At Blacktip Island Dump Signals New Honorary Pope

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A plume of white smoke rising from the Blacktip Island landfill Thursday afternoon signaled the election of a new Honorary Island Pope, the Blacktip Ecumenical Council officials said. (photo courtesy of Jerrod Ephesians/BEC)

White smoke rising from the Blacktip Island landfill Thursday afternoon signaled the election of a new Honorary Island Pope for the small Caribbean island, Blacktip Ecumenical Council officials said.

“Honorary Island Pope started years ago, when there was white smoke at the dump on Easter,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, the council’s presiding officer. “Someone made a joke about a new pope and everyone had good luck for the next few months, so we kept it up. Who’s eligible changes daily depending on the combination of date, day, month, and year.

“Thursday, Elena Havens’ name was up,” Ephesians said. “There’s no real duties and really doesn’t take much of anyone’s time. Most people forget about it after a few weeks. But you get to wear the outfit on formal occasions, so that’s a perk.”

Outgoing Honorary Island Pope Jay Valve was happy to pass the mitre to Havens.

“A year and a half’s a long time to serve. It’s time to move on,” he said. “Elena’ll do fine, and’ll look great in the hat. There was a robe, too, but I’m not sure what I did with it.”

Havens was honored by the unexpected election.

“I’ll be encouraging religious inclusion, even among the island’s atheists,” she said. “Blacktippers tend to twist teachings, religious and otherwise, into whatever they want to hear, and I won’t stand in the way of that tradition.

Not all residents were happy with the announcement.

“The very concept is offensive, and the Ecumenical Council should know better,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “It’s blasphemous, making light of a two-thousand year old pillar of Christianity by handing some randomly-chosen layperson a hat made from a bar napkin.”

Havens downplayed Grunt’s concerns.

“The title’s really more sacrilegious than blasphemous. On Blacktip, that’s progress,” she said. “And the reef is my church. Anybody desecrates it, they’ll face the wrath of me. “That includes the Reverend and his out-of-season fishing and lobster poaching. I’ve smacked that fish-killer before, and I’ll do it again.”

Council officials noted not all island residents are eligible for the honorary papacy.

“Dermott Bottoms lost his eligibility permanently after a brief stint in office,” Ephesians said. “ The pope can’t be falling-down drunk every night. And urine is not Holy Water.”

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Blacktip Island ‘Rat Race’ Resort Bike Rally Celebrates Shutdown

resort bike race

Ill-tended, one-speed resort bicycles in the Blacktip Haven bike racks await riders for Blacktip Island’s annual Rat Race bicycle race around the small Caribbean island Saturday. (photo courtesy of Jessie Catahoula)

The 17th Annual Island Rat Race resort bicycle rally around Blacktip Island is slated for Saturday afternoon, starting at the Blacktip Haven resort, to mark the Caribbean island’s hotels and dive operators shutting down for the height of hurricane season.

“It started it as a joke, but it proved quite popular,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “We named it after a guest who came face-to-face with a big dumpster rat and bolted on a resort bike, yelling bloody murder. The guy ended up broken down and bug bit down by Spider Bight.

“Contestants have to ride rusty, one-speed loaner bikes, and have to finish with the bike, or most of it,” Havens said. “These bikes are so abused, most won’t make it all the way around the island. Pedals break. Chains fall off. Handlebars come loose. It’s great fun to watch.”

Race organizers pair riders and bikes randomly.

“Riders draw numbers from a hat, and the number corresponds to a slot in the Haven bike rack,” Blacktip Haven staffer Jessie Catahoula said. “The best riders can get total junk bikes, and vice versa. And no maintenance is done, or is even allowed, prior to the race.”

“Most years it’s a victory just to finish,” Catahoula said. “These bikes aren’t up to an unpaved, 18-mile loop. Plus, down the east coast, where there’s no one watching, racers get nasty—kicking other riders, shoving branches in their spokes, that sort of thing. That’s part of what makes it a sport.”

Participants say the race is not for the faint hearted.

“It’s more a survival challenge than a race,” Club Scuba Doo divemaster Finn Kiick said. “You’re fighting your bike and the other riders taking whacks at you and your bike. Back in the day you had to finish on a functioning bike, but that wasn’t realistic.

“Last year Gage Hoase won carrying his bike across his shoulders,” Kiick said. “Well, most of the bike. Enough of it for it to count. Chase cars trail the racers to collect all the trashed bikes and beat-to-hell riders.”

Emergency personnel are stretched thin preparing for the race.

“Everyone raves about how fun the Rat Race is, but I have to bring up the rear with a pick up full of medical supplies to tend all the injured contestants,” island nurse Marissa Blenny said. “I treat more people during this damn race than I do the rest of the year. Locals, tourists, they all bleed the same. Last year I ran out of bandages and splints.”

As ever, judges will be stationed at both island intersections to make sure no one takes a short cut across the island.

The winner receives a ‘King Rat’ t-shirt, a beer and free medical attention, if required.

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Blacktip Island Dump Opens Auto Parts Department

car parts at dump

Blacktip Island’s public health officials have created a salvage-friendly zone for trashed vehicles at the Caribbean island’s landfill. (photo courtesy of Stoney Macadam/DPH)

Blacktip Island’s Department of Public Health this week announced it has cleared a new area in the Caribbean island’s garbage dump dedicated to salvaging auto parts, DPH officials said.

“We used to stack junk vehicles any which way we could,” DPH chief Stoney Macadam said. “Folks were free to snag parts off them, but a lot of times you couldn’t get to you needed in the jumble.

“There was enough demand, so we’re lining up incoming junk cars to let folks access them easier,” Macadam said. “This helps people and gets junk out of the dump. It’s win-win, really.”

Local experts praised the move.

“Stoney’s done the island a favor with this,” government watchdog Wade Soote said. “The new parts section’s essentially a salvage yard. That makes reusing and recycling easy and benefits everyone.”

“And kudos for not charging a parts fee,” Soote said. “People already call the dump Home Depot. Now it’s Pep Boys, too. And still a bargain.”

Residents agreed.

“I been trying to find the right Jeep radiator cap for weeks,” Christa Goby said. “There was a Jeep there, but buried at the bottom of the pile. I couldn’t get at it. The parts store on Tiperon wanted a bloody fortune for a new cap. I’ve been biking to work.

“Now, with cars lined up all nice and neat, I grabbed the cap I needed just this morning,” Goby said. “My Jeep’s back in action for the first time in weeks.”

Some businesses objected to the move.

“People using second-hand parts instead of new ones creates a major auto safety situation,” Tiperon Auto Parts owner Harry Blenny said. “Vehicles with derelict parts won’t pass their annual inspection. I’ll bet. Cousin Quinn does the inspections over there, and he’ll be looking for that sort of thing. And Cousin Rosie in the legislature’s drafting a law against it.”

Other residents raised safety concerns about the new area.

“Getting cut by rusty metal’s always a hazard, but folks need to watch out for iguanas, too,” Ernestine Bass said. “They like to laze on the hot metal and can be damned territorial. Got one hell of a bite yesterday trying to pull an alternator.”

Still others praised the area’s unforeseen leisure opportunities.

“The dump’s always been a fun place to take the family, but now it’s educational, too,” Ginger Bass said. “We can take the kiddos there to teach them about engines and auto mechanics and how to work a stick shift.

“We’re packing a picnic lunch Saturday and’ll make a day of it,” Bass said. “The little ones are so excited.”

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Blacktip Island Divemasters To Stage Lizzie Borden Snorkeling Tribute

Lizzie Borden

Several of the hand axes that will be used in Saturday afternoon’s performance of Don’t Ax Me Again—The Lizzie Borden Story, an original two-act play by local divemaster Alison Diesel. (photo courtesy of Magnolia677)

Dive staff from all Blacktip Island’s resorts will don snorkel gear Saturday afternoon to perform Don’t Ax Me Again—The Lizzie Borden Story in the Eagle Ray Divers pool to raise money for a local charity.

“A hundred years later people are still debating what happened,” videographer Leigh Shore said. “There was a damn-near fight among dive staff at happy hour over who the actual ax murderer had been. Then a few days later, Alison Diesel’d written a two-act play about it. We all got together to stage the thing since the Community Players wouldn’t touch it.

“We’re performing it in the pool so as many people as possible could see it first hand,” Shore said. “The snorkeling gear will really engage the diving audience. We were going to do it on scuba, but this seemed less cliché. And it’s surprisingly easy to understand lines spoken through snorkels.”

The production posed several challenges for the actors.

“It’s totally a period piece, but there’s no 1890s gear on the island,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Each actor ended up making their own costume. It’s amazing what you can do with neoprene, and the fin de siècle touches on the masks and snorkels is awesome.

“It also took some practice swinging an ax convincingly in a crowed swimming pool without actually hurting anyone,” Diesel said. “The handle gets slippery. The first rehearsal I lost my grip, the ax went flying and broke four pool tiles. Rich Skerritt’s pretty hacked off about that.”

The performance will feature:

Alison Diesel as Lizzie Borden

Gage Hoase as Andrew Borden

Leigh Shore as Abigail Borden

Marina DeLow as John Morse

Booger Bottoms as Maggie Sullivan

Finn Kiick as Dr. Owen Seabury

Some in the community questioned the play’s appropriateness.

“The subject’s in bad taste, and the staging is inappropriate,” resident Frank Maples said. “Bad taste and inappropriate are de rigueur on Blacktip, but still, there’s a certain gravitas one would hope for. We’ll see if the actors convey that in the live performance.

“The big worry, though, is it may give locals crazy ideas,” Maples said. “That’s the last thing Blacktip needs. Though Alison assures me it is for a good cause.”

Diesel said the money raised will go to charity.

“All proceeds go to the Divemaster Retirement Fund, minus what we keep for expenses,” she said. “We’re also asking for donations to help pay for the broken pool tiles.”

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