(Among other places.)
I counted me coins, quit me job, and sailed off for Chicago - that land o' riches - to hang out with a bunch of cutthroats and brigands. (Well, this is from last year, but I liked it.)
Then, turning me ship to the uncharted waters (well, totally charted), I boarded - single-handed! - the Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum.
Among me spoils are a suitcase full of vendor literature and several fabulous meals.
Friendly ports for a starved and partched pirate:
Eleven City Diner
Lockwood Restaurant and Bar
I had lobster for the first time, sauteed in ginger with noodles, arrrg!
But seriously, mates...
After visiting the "Real Pirates" exhibition at the Field, I have a renewed respect for these men. Not that they were boy scouts - they were violent and often bloodthirsty to be sure, but this was a time when a man could be kidnapped and forced to serve on a ship, which offered miserable toil with little or no pay, mistreatment, even beatings, and starvation rations. Going "on the account," that is, joining the pirates, offered a man - any man, and in two cases, women - a leisurely distribution of work (because so many people joined up) and an equal share in the loot, as well as the freedom to sail the world, and drink a lot of rum.
Many pirates were black, escaped or liberated slaves (the pirates boarded many slave ships and converted them to pirate ships), or free men of color unable to ply an honest trade in a prejudiced world. Even a regular, free black seaman could at any time be kidnapped and sold into slavery whenever his ship was in port! Why not, then, join the pirates? Two pirate ships had an all-black crew. Any man, regardless of the color of his skin, could ascend to any position as long as he was qualified for it. Most pirates were in fact experienced sailors. African warriors were especially respected for their fighting skills and alarming presence.
Any pirate, black, white, or native american, was treated as an equal and respected for his skills and courage. This is what is meant by a "motley crew" - it was multicultural. The loyalty among shipmates was strong.
The pirates elected their captain, who had no real power except in battle. In an unjustly hierarchical world at the height of the slave trade, this was a democracy.
Pirates did not kidnap women and tie them to the mainmast - they considered women aboard their ships to be bad luck. Some raped, but most paid prostitutes while put in at a safe harbor. Whole towns came to depend on the economy of piracy to employ their blacksmiths, their innkeepers, their cobblers, and their ladies of the evening - and for protection from raiding ships (often with Her Majesty's blessing). Some, like the tragic pirate legend Sam Bellamy, who as captain of the former slave ship Whydah (which he boarded) is profiled in the exhibit, fell in love with a respectable lady and, being a poor sailor, turned pirate in order to make enough gold to impress her family.
They did not bury their treasure - they spent and gambled it.
They did not batter and burn ships unless the crew put up a struggle, because the pirates wanted the ships. Marauding pirates would fire a warning shot, after which most captains simply surrendered. Once the ship was boarded, some men were forced to go "on the account," but many crew members willingly joined the pirates.
The pirates, after capturing a ship, would ask the crew its opinion of its captain. If he had been a cruel man, he was flogged and even killed. (No walking the plank; they just tied you up and threw you overboard.) But if he had been a kind leader, he was spared and even given a little gold. The former captain of the Whydah was allowed by Bellamy to sail away on another ship with the men who chose to remain loyal to him.
The course of a pirate ship was voted upon by its crew. The crew would also collectively repair the ship after putting in at a safe harbor. To fool passing ships, the pirates would hide and pretend that their huge crew was smaller than it was; some of them even dressed as women. Many of them dressed as dandies, in clothes that they had looted or had won from their shipmates through gambling. Others preferred a simpler garb.
At first, pirates attacked the ships of enemy nations; later, pirates recognized no allegiance to their home nation or any other country. As such, the bounty on them was high, and justice was swift and merciless. They were often hung, but sometimes lashed to the side of the rising Thames until they slowly drowned.
After the end of the "Golden Age of Piracy," slavery would remain legal until 1865, around another 140 years.
Did pirate Sam Bellamy reunite with his true love? Did he finally impress her family with his piles of loot? Legend has it that after his successful raids he was on his way to Cape Cod to meet with her again. Most pirates came to an early, violent end. The only real buried pirate treasure are the ships that went down into the sea. The recovery of the wreck of the Whydah, 300 years after it sank (you'll have to find out on your own what happened to Sam and his friends) began in a library.
A shiver me shimmies to Learning to Ride in the Bluegrass
UPDATED: Scotius brought up Sir Francis Drake, one of those blessed by Her Majesty to go out and act like a pirate on Her Behalf. It reminded me of this charming song, from the only muppet movie that I can stand to watch (mostly because of that snarky knave, Tim Curry, who is a hawt scoundrel in this scene).