Pirates With Croquet Mallets Are Cool
Rock ‘n’ Roll Croquet hits Monterey.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Croquet. It is a game that brings to mind proper gentleman and ladies in starched white dress on perfectly manicured lawns drinking Earl Grey tea. But, on a partly overcast Saturday afternoon at Monterey Bay Park in Monterey, there is another sort of person playing this golf-like game that was extremely popular in England during the late 1800s. These people—who are dressed in large boots, huge hoop earrings and clothing adorned with skulls and crossbones—are the last kind of people you would expect to see playing this genteel game. They are pirates.
Ahoy, welcome to Monterey’s very own Rock ‘n’ Roll Croquet, courtesy of Joe Wilder and his eye-patched roommate Drew Caldwell. Wilder—who has dark facial hair held together in small braids by small red strips of fabric—looks like a cross between Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean and Blackbeard. The seeds for Rock ‘n’ Roll Croquet were planted last year when Wilder bought an $80 Eddie Bauer Croquet Set at Target. After playing around 12 games last year, Wilder and Caldwell—who like many of their friends work as bomb technicians at the former Fort Ord—decided to do something a little different. The duo came up with the idea of croquet where players wear a different costume for each day of play and blare rock music to accompany the game.
Since then, the guys have pulled off two days of Rock ‘n’ Roll Croquet with croquet whites and Miami Vice themes. Unfortunately, due to very stormy weather on both occasions, the events were sparsely attended.
“The weather has really killed us the past two times,” Wilder says.
But, today, the sun starts to poke through the clouds, causing the croquet match to attract a record-setting six players. The dress ranges from pirate casual to civilian.
In the second match of the day, Wilder explains Rock ‘n’ Roll Croquet’s “homegrown rules” to me. Like regular croquet, players use mallets to hit softball-sized balls through wickets—small hoops stuck in the ground. While croquet.com says the winner of the match is the one who has accumulated the most points—from going through wickets over an allotted amount of time—this game has a different way of determining the champion. Wilder explains that after completing the course and driving a ball into a stake, the player’s ball becomes poison. When the poisoned ball hits another player’s ball, the poisoned ball remains on the course while the other ball is eliminated. In Rock ‘n’ Roll Croquet, the last ball standing wins.
As the current game progresses, almost everyone is halfway done with the course while Robin Usagani and I struggle to get through the first wicket.
“I can’t get through this,” Usagani says. “I don’t know why.”
From another wicket far closer to the finish, Wilder yells over to his friend, “you are so dead.”
Unlike most croquet fields, where the grass is cropped like a soldier’s crew cut, the grass is thick and bumpy at Monterey Bay Park. At times, moving the croquet ball around the course feels like trying to roll a marble on a shag carpet.
While four enthusiasts arrive—causing them to set up another course paralleling ours—Usagani and I struggle through the last wickets. Meanwhile, everyone but Usagani and I are poison. As the other players try to get rid of one another, the game’s boundary expands.
Somehow, a few minutes later, I am the only player left with Kyle Antonelis. While he attempts to knock me out of play with his poison ball, I struggle to hit my ball into the stake that will make me poison and put us on even ground. In a finale that could rival this year’s Super Bowl, Antonelis takes my ball out as I am just a couple feet from the stake.
While some of the players smoke cigarettes and roll their sleeves up to reveal their tattoos—this is Rock ‘n’ Roll Croquet, after all—Antonelis says he has a pirate joke to share. Barely able to start because he is laughing so hard, Antonelis tells the story of a man who sits at a bar and tells a fellow drinker about how depressed he is because he has a wooden eye. The man at the bar tells the man with the wooden eye not to worry because that lady over there has a wooden leg. The man with the wooden eye goes over to the woman and asks her for a dance. She replies, “Would I?” He gets angry and says, “forget about it, peg leg.”
After we laugh like pirates that have just pillaged a Spanish galleon, Wilder and the others discuss the theme for the next Rock ‘n’ Roll Croquet. Pretty much unanimously, the motley crew decides on something far different from today’s pirate motif: high school prom night.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Croquet takes place at Monterey Bay Park, located on Del Monte Avenue near Camino El Estero in Monterey, on Sunday at 1pm. visit groups.myspace.com/rocknrollcroquet.