I’m excited—very excited—to welcome Stephen Bramucci to What Was on… From the very beginning, Steve has been one of the blog’s biggest fans. Anyone who has met Steve knows that he was born for this type of artful reflection and reply. Writer by trade, adventurer by spirit, Steve lives life with his arms and heart wide open.
Steve is a travel and food writer and the Life editor for Uproxx. He is also a much-loved storyteller. His latest creation is The Danger Gang and The Pirates of Borneo! I first had a peak at Ronald Zupan and his danger gang at a graduate school workshop. I was captivated at the get-go, laughing all the way. Like Steve, Ronald is a master of adventure—he just hasn’t had any real adventures yet. That is, not until Ronald’s parents are kidnapped, and Ronald sets out to rescue them from one of the world’s most ruthless pirates. The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! is now out in print and available for the delight of everyone.
Before you race to your nearest bookstore, however, you’ll want to hang around for a few minutes more. Steve is here from Laguna Beach, California, and he is going to tell us what was on Stephen Bramucci’s…
Desk: My desk is a wild trove of travel treasures. Note: No adult who sees said desk has ever been able to quite get past the chaos, but kids are absolutely fascinated. I have some of the old Malagasy currency, which is truly art, and a Nicaraguan nose flute. Polaroids are scattered about, and there’s a rock painted for me by Bolda Hunter, an Aboriginal Elder in Northern Australia. Bolda once took me out in the bush with no food, no water, and his seven kids. He wasn’t worried in the least — as he says: “country provides.”
The desk is huge and blanketed by shells and rocks and odd trinkets– enough so that if I’m writing and get stuck, I can pretty easily find something to kickstart the creative juices.
Favorite Pirate Ship: Equality. That’s something few people know about pirates: They were very egalitarian, even though the golden age of piracy overlapped with the peak of the transatlantic slave trade. There were black pirate captains and black quartermasters (the most important job on the ship — managing the whole crew). There were female pirates, like Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Gráinne O’Maly (who literally had a whole fleet roving the coast of Ireland). Homosexuality was accepted.
The pirate ship was a place where people lived in the moment and followed their (sometimes murderous) whims. They weren’t perfect, many were devilish, but they had no time for bigotry.
More than just the diversity, pirates actually implemented rules of fair representation and compensation. You want to know why our economy struggles? Look no further than the fact that U.S. CEO compensation doesn’t follow the classic pirate code: “The captain shall receive no more than two shares of a prize, compared to one share for the common sailor.” Captain William Kidd is a legendary figure for burying his treasure near New York and being a man of noble upbringing who turned to piracy (he was later tried and hanged), but he was actually a total failure as a freebooter.
Why? He tried to run his ship like the British Navy. That meant more control for the captain, less democracy, and a larger share of treasure. Guess what? His crew hated him. Among pirate historians, he’s a laughingstock: His crews were always in a state of mutiny and openly scorned his leadership. In one case, he was planning to steal another pirate’s ship, but instead his whole crew abandoned him to sail with their would-be target.
Lesson: Pirates valued equality and reciprocity. Be a pirate.
Surfboard: My favorite board is pretty much unrideable now: It was made to be the “Greenest Board on Earth” back in 2010 by Terry Martin. Terry was something of a father figure to me, having shaped all my boards (and more boards than any human ever). In the midst of the green revolution, we built a board together, using “biofoam” and pine-tree resin instead of polyurethane. Terry died a few years ago and I miss his friendship dearly.
His son, Josh, has recommended I donate the board to the surf museum, and I will soon… but for now, I have it hanging next to my desk.
Must Finish Today List: I’m currently working on edits for The Danger Gang and the Isle of Feral Beasts!, the sequel to my debut novel The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!. Meanwhile, I’m trying to promote the first book, and let me tell you: Book promotion in 2017 is its own sort of feral beast.
Also, I have a bookshelf to build. Always more books. Always more bookshelves.
Playlist: I’ve been listening to Lupe Fiasco’s “Old School Love” on repeat this weekend. It’s a sweet, delicate slice of nostalgia rap and I adore it. Related: “Family Matters” by my all-time fav: Chance the Rapper.
Also, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson’s cover of Bob Marley’s “High Tide or Low Tide” has mysteriously slipped back into my heavy rotation, ten years later. Turn’s out, after our time apart, it’s still one of the most achingly-beautiful songs ever.
Bookmarks Menu: I just checked and it seems that the most recent article I bookmarked for future reading is basically like a merging of all my literary and personal sweet spots: Why Literature’s Greatest Detectives Are All Obsessed With Food. If there were pirates, surfing, and hip hop in that headline, my brain would explode.
Dream Guest List: Hemingway and Twain, because Hemingway would be Hemingway and Twain would openly mock him. I would just love to hear Hemingway brag about some adventure, only to have Twain, the prankster, giggle over Papa’s posturing. Also, Malcolm X — who was quite obviously a brilliant sociological thinker, aside from his other accomplishments. Maya Angelou because she was deep, playful, solemn, and joy-filled all at once — in short, she embodied what Whitman meant when he spoke of containing multitudes. She belongs on currency.
Oh, and Whitman. Joan Didion. Margaret Mead. Neal Cassidy. The pirates Morgan and Roberts. I could ramble… My heaven would be throwing a dinner party for my heroes.
Catalog of Biggest Regrets: I think it’s absurd to “live without regrets” (though I savvy the idea behind the phrase). For me, “no regrets” is like “living without ever falling off a bike” — it means I’m not risking enough. I have regrets and I continually do my best to own them. Career-wise, I regret always having a backup plan when I was young. Because your backup plan becomes your front-up plan. I wish I’d just moved to LA and built a creative community in my early 20s. Instead, I taught — which I loved, but it slowed down my artistic pursuits.
I regret jumping off a cliff at age 30, exploding my knee into what the doctors called “bone dust.” I love cliff jumping; I still cliff jump; I just wish I’d checked the bottom.
The rest of my regrets are personal failings and… I’ll keep them personal for today.
TV Screen: I don’t own a TV, as such, but I consume plenty of media through my laptop. I’ve been binging The Office for the first time ever. As a episodic show, it always made me cringe too much to actually gain any pleasure from it.
Treated as a binge watch, however, I find it funny, full of heart, and deeply sympathetic.
Mind: Trying to figure out where and if “entertaining romps” have a home in our modern political/ sociological/ literary landscape. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure that my brand of comic-adventures can truly help the world in these troubled times. But, I started my book tour last week, so I’m visiting classrooms and talking to kids, sharing the power of stories and encouraging them to dream, love, accept, care, fight, and laugh.
That does feel important — like one small piece
Keep up to date with Stephen Bramucci by visiting him online at stephenbramucci.com and by following him on Instagram at @stevebram and Twitter at @stevebram. If you would like to order The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!, simply click below:
Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra
If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit sandranickel.com.
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Yay!!! Glad to see Steve here, Sandra! Yikes about that knee injury!!!
Only trying to keep up with you, Linda! 🙂 And I agree about the knee. I shiver just thinking about it.
I’m so glad you’re back with these wonderful interviews. And thank you for this insightful interview, Steve! Pirates do have a lot to teach us about social and economic organization today, and more contemporary examples would be the guerrilla movements of national liberation of the past century. (I recently researched one for my historical WIP, currently under revision where I incorporated some of that historical research.)
Thank you so much, Lyn!
Thanks! Loved this, Sandra and Steve!
Thank you, Sharon!