Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Guest Today is Will Matlack, Solstice Publishing Author, with a "Beef" About Captain Kidd's Treasure Map


I’d like to find Captain Kidd’s treasure. Really I would. Having a couple million dollars, or I guess it would be gold doubloons, could really make my life as a writer much easier. Not that I have a hard life, mind you, in fact I have a very wonderful life. I get to stay at home and write. Whole books, even. If I actually had a few million dollars’ worth of gold I wouldn’t move. I love my house. I wouldn’t buy big dogs because I love my two cats, and they would object. I wouldn’t do much of anything different except pour the big pile of gold in the middle of my garage and then sit on it and gloat. Yes, I would keep the garage door down so none of my neighbors could see me.
So, how do you find Captain Kidd’s treasure? According to some very credible historians whom I saw on TV the other night, the Captain had buried two treasures, one of which was found and the other of which is still missing. These guys knew what they were talking about. Once again they were on TV. You don’t get on TV if you don’t know what you are talking about. Well, sometimes you do. Actually, there are a lot of guys on TV who don’t know what they are talking about, but they mostly give relationship advice to desperate audience members or try to sell you stuff for your skin. But, anyway, these guys that I saw on a TV show that wasn’t giving relationship advice said the first thing to do is get an authentic treasure map.
This is actually the easy part. There are lots of authentic Captain Kidd treasure maps all over the Internet. Yes, I know they are all copies or reproductions of the actual map that was found in an old wooden box that CK used to own, but they’re just as good as the original. You can find the treasure following one of them because they are copies of the original one, which is probably in some museum somewhere, so you can check it out for yourself if you want.
I got one of these, and I’m not going to tell you how much I paid for it, but it was a reasonable amount considering it leads to a big pile of gold. However, once my map came in the mail, I found I had two basic problems with it. First, it shows all these little routes I have to take. You know what I’m talking about. “Start at a rock. Go ten paces to a stump. Turn to the west and go two hundred paces to a sink hole, and on and on.”
What I’m saying is that all that walking, and the turning and the pacing, and the stumps, and the sink holes. Oy. It’s too much. Just put a little X on the spot and give me two, just two, coordinates – something like “forty degrees to that little clump of rock to the north and thirty degrees to that cave to the south that looks like a guy yawning if the light is right.” You can find any spot on earth with just two coordinates like that. Just make sure that whatever you are pointing to has some sort of a chance to still be there two or three hundred years from when you made the map. That rules out sand dunes, trees, wadded up pieces of paper, feathers from some bird. Things like that. Okay?
Alright, now for my second beef about the Captain’s little map. It’s his penmanship. Oh, I know, back in the seventeenth century we were all totally into writing with the fancy curlicues, the loops, the obsessive underlining, but hey. Nobody can read that stuff. We certainly can’t read anything the Captain wrote because it wasn’t enough for him to just be fancy. He had to be illegible. On all his authentic maps that you can find on the Internet, not on one can you read the name of the island or its longitude and latitude. They’re just little squiggles. Like the Captain went spastic for a second just when he was writing down the TWO MOST IMPORTANT PIECES OF INFORMATION.
What a jerk.  So, we actually don’t know where the island is. The place where the Captain supposedly buried a bunch of gold. We only know it’s somewhere in the China Sea. That you can read on the map.
Some guy actually thought he had it figured out. The location of the island, that is. He found an island in the China Sea that looked just like the one our fearless Captain drew on the little scrap of paper which is the treasure map. Now bear in mind that the Captain’s drawing of the island makes it look a lot like a baked potato, so we don’t really know if the island looked like that at all. You know, given the Captain’s horrible penmanship.
So, anyway, this guy found an island in the China Sea that looked like a baked potato, and he decided to go there, follow all the little routes from stump to rock to…whatever. There was a big problem, though. Baked Potato Island was in Vietnamese territory, so the guy had to write the Vietnamese government for permission to visit the island and do a little digging. Well, it’ll probably come as no surprise to you that the government responded with a no. Specifically their note said something like, “No visiting, walking around or digging allowed on Baked Potato Island.”
This was not a guy who would take no for an answer, even from the very scary Vietnamese government. So, he got a little boat, recruited a gullible friend and went to Baked Potato Island anyway.
Okay, so now they’re on the forbidden island. They landed right around dark, took out their flashlights and had a good look at the map. They figured what with all the confusing routes the map was going to make them take that they should wait until morning, and there was the problem. If the map had just directed them to the spot without all the running around, they might have gone there, dug up the gold and been on their way before morning. As it turned out, they were awakened by very stern members of the Vietnamese army, and were taken to a jail somewhere instead of to the gold. And they didn’t even get breakfast.
So the Vietnamese kept them for a long, long time, making them stay in little prison cells with bugs and stuff, gave them bad food and asked them the same questions every day. Evidently the Vietnamese officials had never heard of a Captain Kidd, didn’t believe that there was gold buried on Baked Potato Island and were convinced that these two were on some sort of mission with the CIA.
The good news for them was that the guy’s companion had written a letter to his brother telling him where they were headed. After a long time the brother managed to get both of them released. They were scruffy looking, had long, bushy beards with lots of lice. No surprise that neither of them had plans to return to Baked Potato Island.
I’m sure as hell not planning to go there, I can assure you of that. Am I done with treasure hunting? Not completely. There’s a story going around that CK also buried gold somewhere on Long Island. And that’s in New York, a much more civilized place to look for treasure. Now, I just need to get me a map.
Contact Will at matlackpr@att.net
View his new novel,  Noir Town here.

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