“It’s Been A Lovely Cruise”
Note: It took me some time to gather my thoughts before I could write this narrative, which is why it seems a little late. Hope you understand.
It’s no secret, I’m set in my ways. If I find something I like, I stick with it. When going to restaurants, I usually order something I’ve eaten there before if I liked it. As soon as I walk into two local taverns I frequent, many of the bartenders begin making my favorite libation as I’m entering. Often, my wardrobe is either outdated or hodge-podge combinations, but most of what I wear is adorned with a “C,” or the logo of my favorite baseball and/or football team, or my favorite performing artist. Many know my favorite sports teams, and over the past 16 years, many have discovered the identity of my favorite recording artist.
When I retired from teaching (’08), we became season ticket holders for the Cleveland Indians, now Guardians. That same year, Sally surprised me with tickets to our first Jimmy Buffett concert, which was definitely a culture shock, in a very positive way.
We had no idea what happened at a Buffett concert. We didn’t even drive to the concert. It was in Pittsburgh and Jon was working for our son-in-law there that summer, so we left our car at our hotel and Jon dropped us off and picked us up. The tailgating experience we witnessed was unbelievable. We vowed, we’d get back to another concert someday, and experience the five (sometimes plus) hours of pre-concert fun. We’ve now totaled 16 Buffett concerts, and have become pretty seasoned in what we do and how we do it.
What we witnessed that first concert was a different culture, filled with people dressed in Parrot/Flamingo themed clothing, Grass Skirts, Swimsuits, a plethora of cheeseburger, shark, parrot and flamingo headgear, cheeseburgers grilling, whirring margarita blenders, people sharing samples of favorite Jell-o flavors with friends they’d just met, but felt like they’d been friends forever. There were palm trees, inflatable pools, Mini-Bars, and much more. After seeing all that, but not being prepared for it, we knew we wanted to experience it, so we took mental notes and made sure we were ready to show up a second time to fit and join in. Not only did we do it again, we ended up doing it 16 times. Along the way, we discovered that a Jimmy Buffett concert was an experience where people went to party with friends they hadn’t met yet.
I say that because through the years and concerts, we made friends who’ve become very good Facebook Friends, and others have become such close friends we’ve shared other concerts, ballgames, and wine-tasting festivals with, despite the fact that we’re separated by hundreds of miles.
The culture we discovered wasn’t/isn’t what some call a cult, it was a culture, an experience of escape-ism, if just for a day, from all the negative things seen and heard in the media. It’s a celebrated gathering of literally thousands of people of all ages, who for one day, were all the same age, dressed in the theme of Jimmy Buffett’s music. It was a celebration of musical stories and poems written by Jimmy Buffett, songs of peace, tranquility, an appreciation of nature, and of each other, sprinkled with stories of partying, sailing, surfing, songs based on things he saw/experienced, and songs based on an ideal Xanadu which he created and named Margaritaville.
The real life Son of a Son of a Sailor told stories that had much deeper meanings than just what were lyrics he wrote and sang. In listening to, and singing along with thousands of times, songs like “He Went to Paris,” “Last Mango in Paris,” “Death of an Unpopular Poet,” “The Captain and the Kid,” “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On,” “Growing Older but Not Up,” “Oceans of Time” “Take Another Road,” “Come Monday,” “Coast of Carolina,” “Einstein Was a Surfer,” “Colour of the Sun,” “Barefoot Children in the Rain,” “It’s My Job,” “That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It,” “Semi-true Story,” ” Slow Lane,” “Slack Tide,” “One Particular Harbor,” “When the Coast is Clear,” “Book on the Shelf,” “Good Guys Win,” and “Bubbles Up,” naming just a tiny sampling, I’ve been able to not just hear words, but actually feel emotions, and/or learn life lessons, which emoted from Buffett’s musical stories.
In songs like “Jamaica Mistaica,” and “Earl’s Dead – Cadillac for Sale,” Jimmy took something that happened to him, and something he saw, and told about it in song. As a practicing Catholic, I found hints of my religious education in Jimmy’s, “Reggabilly Hill.” The partying songs, “Margaritaville,” “Five O’Clock Somewhere,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Gypsies in the Palace,” etc., give all who listen much needed pick-me-ups even if only for just few minutes at a time. And listening to Jimmy’s signature song, “A Pirate Looks at Forty” with eyes shut, you can still see, hear, and feel the peace, and serenity of the moment, that we all need periodically.
It’s difficult to fully explain the Parrothead Experience. As the saying goes, “You had to be there.” Those who’ve done it, get it. And though Jimmy’s now sailing and entertaining on island clouds above, the experience won’t end for us. I’ll still wear my Flamingo Suit and hat, Hawaiian Shirts, Buffett Tees, and Hush Puppies. My radio station will continue to be set on Radio Margaritaville. Sally will still wear her Buffett garb, she will continue cooking delicious Gumbo and Jambalaya, and Margaritas will always keep Jimmy Buffett in our hearts and our minds forever.
Rest in Peace, Jimmy! Though we’ve never set one foot on an ocean liner, we thank you for all you’ve brought to our lives, and convey to you, from the bottom of our hearts, “It’s Been a Lovely Cruise.”