|Witch Bath is our new favorite game that we learned in Belize.|
And your new favorite black metal band.
“Oh look who finally showed up?” Wende (pronounced Wendy) said from the bar when Tania and I arrived.
“She even cleaned her house for you,” her sister Denise said scolding us.
“Ah shit,” I said. “Sorry. Fuck.”
I felt horrible. I hate flaky people. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. It’s one of my better qualities, but I flaked out that day. We had made a date to play Wii with the sisters that afternoon, but Tania and I decided to take the long walk along the beach to the Coppola resort instead. Tania said she forgot about the Wii date. I didn’t forget about it, but I thought it was just drunk talk. “Ah, they won’t miss us,” I thought. Apparently they did miss us. And it wasn’t drunk talk. And they were pissed.
Wende and Denise are sisters, born in Canada, of Irish descent. They’ve owned the Pickled Parrot in Belize for over a decade. We wandered in our first night in Placencia and ended up staying til after closing. Not sure how or when the Wii came up, but we discovered that we all share a love of Wii bowling.
“Why would anyone go to a bowling alley ever again?”
“I know, right!”
“Real bowling is so stupid!”
So Tania and I were invited to their house the next day to enjoy a few frames of Wii bowling with them. “I’m going to kick your asses!” I boasted. But, as I said, we flaked. And we had to listen to their shit for the rest of the evening. Which we deserved.
We did, however, make two play dates with the sisters that first drunken night. The second one was the following day and involved, believe it or not, real bowling.
“There’s a bowling alley here?” I said. You have to remember that Belize is mostly jungle. “I gotta see this.”
|Wende on the left, Denise on the right, at their bar, The Pickled Parrot.|
“So are you actually going to come tomorrow?” Wende asked.
“Or are you going flake out again?” Denise asked.
They were really mad. I guess besides cleaning the house for our Wii play date, they even closed the bar down.
“Yeah,” I said emphatically. “Yeah. We’re coming. Shit, sorry.”
|Pickled Parrot's Pink Pussy.|
The next morning a small crew of Placencia locals gathered in front of the Pickled Parrot to take a bus eight miles north to the neighboring town of Maya Beach. The occasion was Brenda's birthday. Brenda is another Pickled Parrot local. Like Wende and Denise, she was cool. We had a fine time drinking rum punches with Brenda at the Pickled Parrot.
The idea of a bowling alley in Belize becomes even stranger when you take a bus to a bowling alley in Belize. A couple people in our group had, in fact, never been on a bus before. Probably because the bus, a very old school bus, only comes once a day. We got on in Placencia, which is the southern most tip of the peninsula and thus the beginning of the bus route, so the bus was empty at the start. That only lasted a few minutes. By the time we got to Maya Beach, eight miles and 30 minutes later, the thing was packed, standing room only. It seemed to stop every 20 feet and ten more people would get on. One girl that got on emerged from the jungle with a pizza. (Gratuitous grandpa joke: Must have been a pizza “hut” in the jungle somewhere?)
The first stop on Wende and Denise’s Maya Beach adventure was Mangos, a bar/restaurant that everyone said had the best food on the peninsula. They couldn’t stop talking about how good the chef was. It looked good. Tania and I weren’t really that hungry yet, so we just ordered a plate of nachos with grilled shrimp and enjoyed the view and our rum punch.
|Tania enjoying the view at Mangos. Below, not yo shrimp.|
The thing I will always remember about Mangos, though, was the ring game. Next to the bar, there was a silver ring on a fishing line attached to the ceiling. The ring was around a hook screwed into a post. Denise took the ring off the hook, took a few steps back, and began trying to swing the ring back onto the hook.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?” I yelled.
“It’s the ring game,” she said. “It’s a Belizean thing. You try and get the ring onto the hook.”
“LEMME TRY,” I yelled. I tend to yell when I get excited.
Get the ring on the hook. Looked simple enough. I swung the ring at the hook, and missed.
“What the fuck?” I said to the ring as I caught it on its return.
That was all it took, just one try. I was pissed, and I was hooked (no pun intended). I’ve been addicted to it ever since. I’ve been jonesing for a fix so bad since we’ve been home that I went down to the hardware store, bought the supplies, and built my own damn ring game in our backyard. We dubbed it “Belizean Horseshoes.” (Other names we considered were “Belizean Basketball,” you have to get the hoop around the “ball”; “Belizean Darts,” you have to hit the “dart” with the bulls eye; and “Belizean Wedding,” put the ring on the “finger.”) But, after a short search on the internet, I learned that it already has a name: it’s called either the Bimini Ring Game, or Ring The Bull.
|Tania never fist pumps, but she jocked out when she got the ring on the hook at Mangos.|
The ring game is popular at bars throughout the Bahamas, not just Belize, but nobody really knows where it came from. Some say it was introduced by pirates, but pirates (butt pirates?) seem to be the response to any question without an answer down there. Others like to say it was invented by Hemingway while he was fishing and drinking, drinking and fishing, sometimes just fishing, but most of the time just drinking. But it doesn’t matter what their story is because the game’s origins can purportedly be traced back to some ancient pub in England called “Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem.”
“Legend has it the game was brought back to England by Crusaders from Jerusalem,” says the site ringthebull.com. “This story appears to have come about primarily from the game being played in the most famous and oldest pub in England ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’ situated in the cliffs underneath Nottingham Castle. This pub is an old crusaders tavern dating back to the year 1189 AD.”
It’s a nice story, and I hope it is true, but ringthebull.com is a site run by some dude in Cincinatti. (Since the internet says I invented the word “bromance,” I don’t really believe anything on it anymore.) And even if anybody was alive in 1189 AD, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for the Jewish element in the story. “The Crusaders” makes the story sound very exciting and romantic (much like butt pirates), but—wait, they stole it from the Jews, what? Jews play games? I mean besides Dreidle?
In short, I don’t think it really has a name and you can call it whatever you want. So we’ve decided to call the ring game we learned in Belize “Witch Bath.”
|This really has nothing to do with anything other than I thought this might be a nice place for you, the reader, to pause and enjoy a wonderful painting of a lobster wearing sunglasses and enjoying a Belikin.|
The other night, we had a couple friends, Mark and Sharan, over for drinks, dinner, and to try out our new Belizean Horseshoe game (which was its name at the time). Mark also brought his two dogs, Randall and Collette, and a coworker from Connecticut named Carly. Dinner was delightful. Tania made braised beef short ribs with leek polenta and green beans (I would call them haricot verts, as is the fashion these days, but I’m not trying to sell them to you, and I’m not French). But Belizean Horseshoes was the highlight of the evening. As I had hoped, our guests were absolutely smitten with the stupid ring on a string.
“You’ll probably find me out here when the sun comes up, smoking cigarettes and still playing this thing,” Carly said.
It was in fact Carly who was the first person to get the ring on the hook in our backyard. I had performed fairly well on the one at Mangos bar, I had hooked the ring probably a dozen times, but after setting the one up in our backyard I couldn’t hook it once after a half hour of trying. Which made me wonder if I had miscalculated the distances. But then Carly arrived and made it on the hook in just a few minutes (a little too easily, I thought), and we were all shown that it wasn’t as impossible as it first seemed. Mark and Tania then both hooked it a couple times, and I went on to hook it a few more times. Sharan, on the other hand, has yet to experience the joy of landing the ring on the hook because she’s a total loser.
“I fucking hate this game,” Sharan said.
Amid the revelry of the evening, however, an unfortunate mishap soured our merriment. Mark’s dog, Collette, got hit by a skunk in our backyard.
“And Collette’s the smart one,” Mark said as he stood over Collette on our lawn wiping the froth from her lips and cleaning her bloody nose. She not only got the skunk’s vile spray straight in the face, but she got the skunk’s claws straight up her nose. “She has a problem with cats,” Mark explained.
Not to be outdone, Randall raced into the darkness of our backyard and found the wounded skunk himself and was similarly entertained by the animal’s noxious nether regions. While Collette was fine with her first misting, and sat quietly, albeit ashamed, on the patio for the rest of the night, Randall returned to the scene a half dozen more times and received the same result every time. He couldn’t get enough of it. We wondered if it was like heroin to him or something. “You throw up at first, and it burns your eyes, but after that the high is amazing!”
Beckett, as I’ve said before, hates squirrels. He calls them Devil Rats. And skunks, well, he refers to them as the Queens of the Devil Rats. I mentioned this in the backyard at some point, which might have been why Mark, using Randall’s voice, characterized the foul smelling weasel as a witch. “I thought it was a cat,” Randall whined, “but it turned into a FUCKING WITCH!”
Shortly thereafter the term “Witch Bath” was born. It’s what you get when you get hit by a skunk. As in, “Randall and Collette each took a witch bath the other night.”
“That’s a good name for a black metal band,” I said.
And thus the world famous “skunk metal” band Witch Bath was born.
“When do we start practicing?” Sharan asked excitedly.
“Practice?” I said. “Pfft! We don’t practice, we stink!” (That’s two grandpa jokes, if you’re keeping score.)
I further explained that the hard work was already done: we had a name, we had a logo, and we had a theme on which to hang our crappy metal music. Making the crappy metal music to go along with our logo is easy. Anybody can do that, even me and Mark. So all that is left to do is for Sharan and Tania to write some stupid lyrics about skunks, witches, baths, and witch baths. Of course costuming is a major issue for any metal band, but in our case that’s a no brainer also: we’ll all wear black witch’s habits that will be painted like a skunk. With bushy tails and pointy black hats, of course. At the moment I'm busy trying to figure out how to rig the tails so that we can lift them to expose an anus hose that will spray the audience—like Gwar—with skunk juice. Gwar skunk tails are far more important than practice.
|The only thing we need to practice is this fucking shit right here!|
A few days later, while pricing witch hats (they’re expensive!), I had a great idea, “We should just call the ring game, Witch Bath, too!” Mark has admitted having trouble pronouncing the “Belizean” part of Belizean Horseshoes, Bimini Ring Game just sounds stupid like Jenga, and Ring the Bull sounds either vaguely sexual or like a catchphrase on Sports Center. But if someone asked me if I wanted to learn how to play Witch Bath, I’d be like, “Fuck yeah!”
And thus Witch Bath, the ring game, was born. (You’d think we’re pro life with all the things being born in this story, but we’re not.)
The object of Witch Bath, then, is to get the noose (ring) around the witch’s neck (hook), so that you can drag her down to the river and drown her. The drowning, that’s the “bath” part. Or maybe the object is to get the wedding ring around the witch’s finger (the hook) so that you can marry her and sit in her Jacuzzi cauldron for all eternity? I don’t know. And I don’t care. Use your imagination. If Picasso can call this a guitar, I can call this game Witch Bath.