Tag Archives: Tim W. Jackson

Christian-Pagan Brawl Forces Blacktip Island Easter Parade Underwater

UW Easter parade

Kay Valve of the Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council marks the route of Sunday’s underwater Easter parade on Jawfish Reef Thursday. Parade organizers hope staging the event underwater will reduce sectarian violence that has marred recent Easter parades. (photo courtesy of Rosie Blenny/BIEC)

The Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council announced Wednesday the Caribbean island’s annual Easter parade will take place underwater after sectarian violence marred last year’s parade along the island’s resort strip.

“Staging the parade underwater’s a Hail Mary, but it was that or cancel it completely,” BIEC chair, the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “There’ll be fewer people underwater, and it makes crowd control a whole lot easier.

“Last year’s fights between the Christians in the parade and the yahoos hijacking it for Ostara’s spring fertility festival blind sided us,” Ephesians said. “It started with insults, then thrown beer bottles, then an all-out melee the length of the parade route. We had to do something to preserve the event.”

Island authorities confirmed last year’s parade brawl set new records for damage.

“Vehicles were burned. Businesses were vandalized. The clinic was chock-a-block with injured participants from both sides,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “If Jerrod and his council hadn’t come up with this alternative, the parade was history.”

Organizers noted security measures will be in place for this year’s parade.

“We’ve tailored the event to maintain a high degree of safety while being as inclusive as possible,” BIEC sergeant-at-arms Kay Valve said. “Safety divers will keep the various factions separated and peaceful. And prevent drownings.

“Participants can be Christian, pagan or anything else,” Valve said. “They don’t even have to be religious. We do ask that everyone be sober, though. And anyone starting trouble will be immediately power-inflatored to the surface, regardless of religious affiliation.

Parade participants praised the changes.

“It will be lovely seeing everyone kitted out in their best wetsuits, BCs and masks,” Blacktip Island Junior League president Marcia Seagroves said. “And we’ve all gussied our neoprene hoods into the most wonderful bonnets. It’s different, certainly, but promises to have its own sort of dignity. Nevertheless, all League members will wear dive knives, just in case.”

Not all locals were pleased with the parade’s new format.

“It’s a mockery, celebrating Holy Week with an underwater game of follow-the-leader,” Father Poppy Bottoms of Our Lady Of Blacktip Cathedral said. “So’s Jerrod organizing it – he’s the one who set the spark to the tinder last year by running through the parade wearing nothing but a white bathrobe and yelling he was the archangel Gabriel.”

BIEC officials remained upbeat.

“We’ve encouraged underwater spectators to bring video cameras so we can stream the parade live to the BIEC website for non-divers,” Valve said. “There will also be prizes for best bonnet and most inappropriate wetsuit. And afterwards we’ll have a sea turtle egg hunt for the kiddos.”

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Tiperon University-Blacktip Offers Free Continuing Education Courses

TU con-ed

Wine making and adult literacy are two of the continuing education courses offered in Tiperon University-Blacktip’s new adult education program. (photo illustration by Clete Horn/BT staff)

In its continuing effort to serve the Blacktip Island community, Tiperon University-Blacktip officials announced Thursday the university will offer free adult education courses for island residents.

“We take a lot of heat for being hoity-toity ivory tower,” TU-B chancellor Donna Requin said. “This program’s aimed at showing TU-B is relevant to everyone. The university’s donating the space and our instructors are donating their time to make this happen. We’re not some elitist bastion. We’re here for the hoi polloi, too.

“We pulled out the stops to offer something for everyone,” Requin said. “We have courses in driftwood arranging, flotsam bottle collecting, basic literacy I and II, wine making, arithmancy and intro to psychological self-therapy.”

Many residents praised the new program.

“Anything that gives people something to do after work besides sitting around and drinking is great,” Rusty Goby said. “Theses courses are a great way to grow personally, regardless of your background.

“I covered the bases by signing up for wine making and self-therapy,” Goby said. “I figure if one doesn’t work out, the other one will.”

Not all residents agreed.

“Slap in the face is what it is,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Donna and them’re still looking down their noses at everybody. Saying I should better myself? That’s saying something’s wrong with me.

“They’re dissing us all, and I won’t stand for it,” Bottoms said. “Got half a mind to go to a class, then just sit there and not learn anything. Or teach my own class, maybe, in the parking lot. Or at the Ballyhoo.”

Some TU-B faculty also were critical of the new program.

“If by ‘donating time’ you mean ‘working extra hours without pay so the university doesn’t lose government funding and grant money,’ then sure,” archeology professor Catalina Luxfer said. “Put all the lipstick on it you want, this pig’s still just a revenue ploy. At the faculty’s expense. Like I know anything about collecting washed-up bottles.”

Others pointed out the program’s long-term benefits.

“You really can’t get more egalitarian than free university,” TU-B engineering chair and arithmancy instructor Sally Port said. “These are accredited university courses. They count toward a degree in Island Liberal Arts.

“It’s a plus for everyone,” Port said. “Whoever wants a class can have one, and the university can keep its doors open. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

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Self-Styled ‘Sand Flea’ Superhero Terrorizes Blacktip Island

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The Spider Bight beach, where the anonymous, self-styled Sand Flea claims he was bitten by mutant no-see-ums that gave him super powers. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Times staff)

Blacktip Island authorities this week are searching for a man dressed in an insect-themed costume-and-cape, claiming to be a super hero, who has bitten at least 13 island residents since last Friday evening.

“The guy’s got a yellow Jack LaLanne-style romper, a blue mask and cape and sort-of antennas,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “He sent out a half-page manifesto, calling himself the ‘Sand Flea.’ Says he got super powers from getting bit by mutant no-see-ums and is out to punish wrongdoers. Our guess is that’s where the biting comes in.”

“It’s not always a full-fledged chomp,” Marquette said. “Sometimes it’s just a little nip. But it’s assault, all the same. And he will be charged. As soon as we apprehend him. Or knock him out with bug spray.

Residents say the Sand Flea strikes without warning.

“I was at the Ballyhoo, arguing about my bar tab, when this whacko flew in through the window, bit my hand and flew out again,” Gage Hoase said. “I tore out after him, but he was gone.

“I had to have five stitches,” Hoase said. “If I find him, we’ll see how super he is. Rafe can arrest whatever’s left after I’m done.”

Island officials say the Sand Flea’s identity, abilities and motives are uncertain.

“Despite reports, there’s no indication this joker can fly,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “We tried to identify from dental records, but no one on Blacktip’s been to a dentist in ages, so that was a wash.

“It’s not clear what he considers ‘wrongdoing,’ either,” Cobia said. “So far he’s bit people for drunk driving, public cursing, loud music and peeing in the bushes behind the Tail Spinner. For all we know, it’s just someone with a fetish using any excuse.

The situation has many island residents on edge.

“There’s no telling when or where he’ll strike. Or why,” Ginger Bass said. “The clinic’s running out of antibiotics and sutures. What if he has rabies? Or worse?

“This could be the start of a real-life zombie apocalypse,” Bass said. “Are we gonna have people running around gnawing on each other? I’m keeping the kiddos inside, especially around sundown.”

Others laughed the matter off.

“It’s probably just Jerrod in yellow jammies, doing one of his provocative artsy things,” bartender Cori Anders said. “I mean, no one’s ever seen the two of them together, have they? And he hasn’t been bitten. Plus he’s always had that weird oral fixation.”

Jerrod Ephesians denied the accusation.

“You’ve never seen Dermott or Lee Helm or Cori in the same place as the Sand Flea, either. Let that sink in,” he said. “There’s lots of people on Blacktip without bite marks. And you can’t rule out self-inflicted bites as red herrings.”

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Blacktip Island Microbrewery Opens Its Taps

BI microbrewery

The newly-opened Bottoms Up Brewery unveiled its inaugural craft beer Thursday afternoon with a public tasting in the brewery courtyard. (photo courtesy of Poppy Bottoms)

Blacktip Island beer enthusiasts Thursday launched the Caribbean island’s first locally-produced beer, aiming to capitalize on the burgeoning micro-brewing trend, company founders said.

“Island visitors want local products, and this is about as local as it gets,” Bottoms Up Brewery brew master Poppy Bottoms said. “It’s Granddaddy’s recipe, the stuff he cooked up back when you couldn’t get beer here. We’re calling it Slap Ya Bottom Ale.

“Our brackish water gives it its unique taste,” Bottoms said. “If people’ll drink that IPA crap, they’ll love this. It makes your face pucker like nobody’s business. Makes your butt pucker, too.”

Bottoms Up Brewery staff were tight-lipped about the ale’s brewing process.

“All I can say is it’s a bottom-fermented spring ale made from coconut meat. And husks,” Bottoms Brewery president Peachy Bottoms said. “There’s no grain to speak of on Blacktip, so we didn’t have much choice there. As for the hops . . . Sure, let’s call them hops.”

Visitors who tasted the ale Thursday noted its intense flavor profile.

“It has a peaty, almost fishy nose, and there’s a real wang to that first sip,” Eagle Ray Cove guest Jenny Porgy said. “There’s a salty aftertaste, too, that’s perfect after a morning of diving. Or a night of drinking.”

Locals were positive as well.

“It tastes like being a kid,” James Conlee said. “The grown ups’d drink coconut hooch. Us little uns would drink this. Healthier than island water, you know. Got to get used to the taste, but once you’re hooked, you can’t get enough.”

Public health officials remained skeptical.

“We asked Peachy and them to hold off on releasing this stuff to the public until we could make sure it’s safe,” public health chief Herring Frye said. “We have no idea what’s in it or what, exactly, the production process is. All we know is its alcohol content’s up in the double digits. When we can get a steady reading.”

Island business leaders downplayed those concerns.

“Poppy and Peachy’re bringing jobs and income and tourists to Blacktip. Where’s the down side to that?” island chamber of commerce president Whitey Bottoms said. “And there’s no proof those three cases of temporary blindness are related to their beer.”

Brewery executives hope to expand their offerings in the near future.

“If Slap Ya Bottom proves popular, we’ll branch out with a Black Bottom stout and a Booby Pond hefeweizen. Well, sort of a hefeweizen,” Poppy Bottoms said. “They’ll all be available in bottles, cans and old pickle jar growlers. Tourists love that.”

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Blacktip Island Community Players To Stage Underwater ‘Reef of Dreams’

reef of dreams

Finn Kiick, as scuba-diving pioneer Émile Gagnan, swims above Sand Spit Reef Thursday during the dress rehearsal of The Blacktip Island Community Players spring play, Reef of Dreams. (photo courtesy of Mudasir Zainuddin)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will stage their annual spring play this Saturday and Sunday underwater near the Sand Spit bar to raise money for island charities.

Reef of Dreams is a tropical re-imagining of Field of Dreams,” director Doris Blenny said. “Lee Helm got a wild hair up his butt and rewrote the screenplay at the bar one night. We were dubious at first, but Lee was adamant.

“‘When the primal forces of nature tell you to do something, you do it,’ is how he put it,” Blenny said. “Lee’s take is a dive resort owner hears a voice and builds an underwater dive shop, hoping Émile Gagnan will pay him a visit.”

Actors will perform offshore at Sand Spit Reef using full-face masks and hydrophones.

“It’s set on a reef, and we had to have some way to speak our lines,” BICP member Alison Diesel said. “We schmoozed the manufacturer to donate the masks. They really add to the dramatic feel. ‘Ever hold a wet wetsuit to your face?’ just doesn’t have the same punch on the surface.

“The underwater speakers give a way-eerier feel to The Voice, too,” Diesel said. “The first time Elena whispered ‘Oui, he will come,’ it totally freaked us out.”

The play’s cast includes:

  • Lee Helm as Ray Kinsella
  • Alison Diesel as Annie Kinsella
  • Hugh Calloway as Jacques Cousteau
  • Finn Kiick as Émile Gagnan
  • Gage Hoase as Sir John Haldane
  • Elena Havens as The Voice

Helm stressed the BICP have gone to great lengths to keep the performance from seeming derivative.

“It captures the film’s spirit without copying its trappings,” he said. “It’s set on a reef, not in a cornfield. There’s no crops of any kind. Or ball-related sports. And in the end, it turns out the voice was talking about Sir John Haldane all along.

“There’s minimal props, so a lot of it’s open to interpretation,” Helm said. “All the acting’s in mid-water, too, so the stage doesn’t get all silted. And we recruited about 40 resort guests as extras to make a long line of dive lights at the end, all coming to the underwater shop.”

The performance will be transmitted to the Sand Spit and the Heritage House, where non-scuba divers can view the show for an additional fee.

“We’ll have five different camera angles, so no one misses any of the action,” Blenny said. “You can really see the tension build on all the actors’ faces when it looks like Ray will lose his resort.

“The show stopper’s when Gage asks, ‘is this heaven?’ and Lee says, ‘no, it’s Blacktip Island,’” she said. “In rehearsals, it brought the house down. Several performers nearly drowned.”

Proceeds from the performances will go to Blacktip Island Habitat for Humanity.

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New Record Set For Shortest-Held Drivers License on Blacktip Island

shortest-held license

Utility workers quickly restored a key Blacktip Island power pole damaged by Dermott Bottoms, who rammed into the pole less than a minute after having his drivers license re-instated. (photo courtesy of W. Carter)

Blacktip Island resident Dermott Bottoms Wednesday set a new record for shortest-held drivers license after losing his driving privileges less than a minute after having them re-instated, island officials said.

“Dermott walked out of the government office with his new license, got in his car and backed straight into a power pole,” public works director Stoney MacAdam said. “We didn’t have a timer going or anything, but judging by the time stamp on the computer, it was right at 37 seconds between getting the license and hitting the pole. The plastic license was still warm.

“Technically it took 42 minutes for Rafe Marquette to get there and officially seize the license,” MacAdam said. “Dermott beat James Conlee, the former record holder, by a good 31 hours. Either way, it’s not a record that’ll be broken anytime soon.”

Witnesses described a chaotic scene.

“Dermott was so excited not to have to bum rides anymore,” Catalina Luxfer said. “He jumped in the car, stomped on the gas and BLAM into the power pole. We all saw the look in his eyes and scattered to get out of his way. I think he was a surprised as anyone.”

Officials say the incident might have been overlooked if not for complicating factors.

“If Dermott had hit any other pole, then gone about his business, no one would have noticed,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Problem was, that particular pole was key to power to at store. And the bank. And the airfield. And internet island-wide. There were power and fiber optic lines everywhere.

“There’s the driving under the influence issue as well,” Marquette said. “Normally we could overlook that, but not this time. Dermott also became the first person on island to have his license revoked four times. He pulled off a traffic double-double.”

Bottoms contested the charges.

“I lost my touch, not driving for a year,” he said. “Needs to be a grace period to ease back into things. Not my fault my skills slipped. And folks can do without food and money and email for a little bit. Blacktippers, we’re resilient, you know.

“And I wasn’t under any influence,” he said. “Only had two shots of rum, to calm my nerves, before I got the license. Damage could’ve been worse.”

Officials rejected Bottoms’ request for a plaque commemorating his license loss.

“Celebrating Dermott’s dubious achievement would only make things worse,” Marquette said. “Next thing you know people would be out trying to break the record. Hell, Dermott would try to break his own record. And would probably succeed.”

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Underwater Sleep Gym Comes To Blacktip Island

sleep gym

Blacktip Haven scuba divers prepare to descend for a Dive-N-Nap session off Blacktip Island’s sheltered West coast Thursday. (photo courtesy of Jacek Lesniowski)

A Blacktip Island resort is capitalizing on the current sleep gym craze by starting an underwater napping program on the Caribbean island’s west coast sand flats this week.

“It’s a twist on the napercise fad everyone’s into, except it’s underwater,” Blacktip Haven owner Elena Havens said. “We’ve found it’s more calming, with fewer distractions, than the on-land napercise sessions we do. We’re calling it Dive-N-Nap.

“Big rubber bands keep the regulator in your mouth, and big weight belts keep you stuck to the sand,” Havens said. “There’s such a stigma attached to napping. Dive-N-Nap lets you say ‘I’m going diving’ and spares you the embarrassment of saying you’re napping.”

Participants say the sessions are more restful than regular napping.

“You feel like you’re really part of the ocean,” Dusty Blenny said. “Turtles wedge themselves under ledges to sleep all the time, so this is kind of the same thing. Instead of swimming around the reef for 45 minutes, you can lie down and have a bit of sleep.

“You get in whatever sleep position is comfortable, then they weight you down,” Blenny said. “There’s soothing music the whole time – yesterday was Miles Davis, today it was Enya – then bang a gong at the end of the session.”

Organizers countered worries the classes are unsafe or harm the environment.

“We’ve always got two dive staff in the water,” Blacktip Haven divemaster Booger Bottoms said. “Anything goes wrong, they’re there to help, Johnny on the spot. Usually to fetch pillows.

“And it’s in the sand off Diddley’s Landing, where the barge comes in,” Bottoms said. “Nothing lives there. We learned to schedule sessions for when the barge isn’t coming in after that first incident.”

Some on the island questioned the need for the activity.

“Why pay to sleep underwater when you can just nap at home or at work?” bartender Cori Anders said. “Or on your favorite dive site? It’s something different, and I’m gld Elena’s making money with it, but I don’t see it lasting.”

Havens brushed such concerns aside.

“Dive-N-Nap has a strong social draw,” Havens said. “Most participate to be part of something bigger than themselves. And our staff monitors everyone’s air use to make sure there are no nasty surprises.”

“It’s so much more relaxing than terrestrial napping,” Havens said. “That’s desperately needed on this island. People here are far too stressed.”

Dive-N-Nap staff cautioned the activity is not without its drawbacks.

“Most people need a thicker wetsuit, since you lose body heat more quickly when you’re just laying there,” Bottoms said. “The up side’s the shivering burns calories, so it’s great for weight loss.

“Divers are welcome to just chill without falling asleep, too,” Bottoms said. “The only complaint we’ve had is Dive-N-Nap doesn’t help with a hangover. Even on nitrox.”

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