Another Escape To Margaritaville

About five months ago, the premier of Jimmy Buffett’s musical “Escape to Margaritaville” was on Broadway. The on stage performance opened in early March and ran until July 1. Being members of the “Parrothead Nation,” Sally and I have listened to many of the selections performed by cast members of the musical on our Sirius XM radios — tuned into Radio Margaritaville — much of the time we are travelling.

As many know, we enjoy Jimmy Buffett’s music and shows — so much so, we just came back from our twelfth Jimmy Buffett Concert this year returning to Burgettstown, Pa., where we took our first trip to Margaritaville back in 2008. The inauguration of this sailing journey was Sally’s retirement gift to me. Being close to home, we’ve returned to Burgettstown to experience six other Buffett shows (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016) before returning where it all started for us a few weeks ago. We’ve also seen the leader of the Coral Reefer Band in Virginia Beach, Va. (May 2014), Charlottesville, Va. (March 2018), Detroit, Mich. (July 2017), and Nashville, Tenn. (December 2017).

Some think we’re ridiculous in going to see the same performer year after year. What can I say? We love Buffett’s music. I used to love reading Shel Silverstein’s (ironically Buffett’s good friend) book, “Where the Sidewalk Ends” to my sixth graders, selecting specific poems from that book I thought were great lessons for my students. I find the same thing true of Jimmy Buffett, and Mac McAnally’s lyrics as being great words by which to live. The lyrics of many songs performed in the concerts, and the hundreds of songs on albums and compact discs, seem so relatable to everyone who listens and sings along with them, no matter what age of those who attend the concerts, listen to the radio, or download the songs on their phones, iPads, or computers, and that brings us to the concert.

The atmosphere at Buffett, like many other concerts of performers whose music is themed, involves dress. At a Buffett concert, you see Hawaiian shirts, tropical wear (Flamingo Suits have become popular of late), grass skirts, leis, beads and many different themed hats, including, parrot, cheeseburger, shark and flamingo hats.

In the parking lot before each outdoor concert in good weather, you’ll see cars with their window’s “window chalk” decorated with artwork of palm trees, shark heads, fins, margarita glasses, volcanos, cheeseburgers and which also include some of the tagline lyrics in some of Buffett’s more popular songs.

Also, in the parking lots you’ll see canopies, small inflatable swimming pools, grills, inflatable parrots and other tropical props, and you’ll enjoy the many different aromas of foods being grilled. You’ll also hear Buffett music blasting from car radios, boom boxes, iPad speakers and people singing along to those songs as a warmup for the two hours they’ll hear this music after entering the concert venue. You’ll see Corn Hole games going on as well.

And then there’s the people.You see people walking around talking to many other people they don’t even know, people inviting each other to come over and share snacks, or refreshment, people asking where other people are from, people asking how many Buffett concerts this makes for them, people of all shapes, sizes, color, I’m sure religions, and I’m also sure backgrounds, jobs, political affiliations and personal preferences.

During this time, you get to meet new people, some of them becoming friends with whom you keep in touch, maybe agreeing to meet each year to keep the party and friendship going, and look forward to preparing for each upcoming concert through texting, messaging, emailing, phone, or postal mail. We’ve brought friends from here with us with whom to share the Buffett Experience. Gina, Steven, Mary Jo (rest in peace MJ), Buzz, and my daughter Chasity, and her friend Richard, my son Jon and his fiance Erica, and Jon’s friends Kim and Jack. This year we found out that someone I had met through subbing, Kelli, and her husband John, were fans of Buffett, and they joined us this year, as we met up with friends, Amy, Dan, Jordan, and Bill from Ohio whom we met at the 2016 Burgettstown show. (We also hooked up with Amy and Dan at the July 2018 Detroit concert, a July 2018 Billy Joel concert, and the December 2018 Nashville concert.) This year, too, along with the new memberships of Kelli and John into our Parrothead Club, we met a couple of newlyweds, Ellen and Scooter, who we invited to share our group’s canopy, snacks, refreshment, dessert (Jello is always a popular Buffett concert dessert), laughter, conversation, fun, and friendship.

Our group of ten, in our normal world, range in ages from 65 (Yes, I’m the reigning senior of the group) to 26 (Jordan is the baby of the group), but, ironically, as Kelli mentioned and as we have seen so many times before, the biggest thing you don’t/won’t recognize in the parking lot, or venue, at any Jimmy Buffett concert, is age.

Concert goers at a Jimmy Buffett show all seem to be the same age. If you look around, people talk to people, not by age or gender, or anything other than their love for the music of Jimmy Buffett. If you look around, everyone is singing along with Jimmy and the Coral Reefers, not just the chronologically more seasoned persons in the crowd, but persons of all ages are singing, and that’s because at a Buffett concert everyone is the same age from their arrival to the parking lot until the time they all depart.

Upon observing all this, I began to think that maybe each one of us attending a Jimmy Buffett concert is, in our own way, and in our own mind, escaping to Margaritaville. The Broadway show may not still be on the big stage in the Big Apple, but it lives on at every concert venue where Jimmy Buffett performs. It’s so much fun sharing our escape, even if it’s only for a day or two, with many others, and that we can make lasting friendships with people of different ages, looks, ideas, preferences, who put those differences away when they enter the parking lot of the concert venue.

It’s too bad we all can’t look at the world and its people with the same attitude as we observe every time we experience a concert. We’ve met some great people, and cherish the times we’ve spent together. Maybe we can try and escape our worlds of looking at people by physical appearance, or political affiliation, or religious differences, or lifestyle choices, or sexual preferences, or even favorite colors, and shed our practices of intolerance, and start seeing people by their hearts and souls. I mean, why is it that we rid ourselves of these feelings only at events like this, but then we return to them when the event is over? Maybe we can all bring a little piece of our own “Margaritavilles” back home with us after we’ve escaped there for a bit.

Thanks Amy, Dan, Jordan, Bill, Kelli, John, Ellen, Scooter and especially Sally, for being my parrothead friends, and all of you I have met and talked to at the dozen Buffett shows we’ve attended over the years, and especially Jimmy, for making my escapes to Margaritaville memorable and enjoyable, but also for opening my eyes, allowing me to remember that we’re all the same in spite of our differences, and that it IS possible for all of us to put aside those differences and appreciate each other just as people. To all of you, in the spirit of Jimmy Buffett, “Fins Up,” everyone!