June 24, 2024

I wasn’t raised in a cave. I knew of Margaritaville, it was a catchy tune that occasionally came on the radio when I was a kid, but that was the extent of my early Buffett exposure.

My next Buffett experience, in 1989, we’ll hold on, but I’m not entirely certain I’d connected that he was the Margaritaville guy.

May of 1990, I found myself at my first Air Force duty station. Hurlburt Field, Florida. I was slowly being drug into the beach lifestyle. Doc Johnson shirts were way too obvious as a casual ware choice, so I settled on a brand called Caribbean Soul. They had very beach-like statements worked into colorful artwork on the back. Only one was really considered direct, it started with “Why don’t we get drunk…”

One day we’re at a squadron morale event and one of the NCO’s strikes up a conversation with me. “So, you’re a Jimmy Buffett fan?”

“The Margaritaville guy? Why would you say that?”

“Your shirt… that’s a line from ‘A Pirate Looks at 40’ on the back.”

The next time I hit the BX, I exited with a copy of “Songs you Know By Heart”, and the journey was underway.

Around September, a little over a year later, the culture was going to get DRILLED in there… I was heading to Guam. Adding extra umph, the BX was carrying almost all of his early works on CD. Every couple of weeks I’d pick up a different one and throw it into “rotation” on my room stereo system. (Generally the only nice thing in ANY Airman’s dorm room.)

My buddy Vic, who introduced me to Metallica, Danzig, and Nirvana, found himself sucked into this divergent route as well.

I’d leave active duty not long after that, but Buffett was always nearby, when I found myself needing the calm of the sea, even if it was hundreds of miles away.

Rolling through a Waldenbooks one day (are those even a thing anymore?), I saw a copy of “Tales from Margaritaville”, and bought it. I read Take Another Road twice. The story of Tully Mars was nagging at me… I could hear a song, and didn’t know why.

That’s when we slide back to 1989, just before I joined the Air Force, I was doing afternoons at WELK-FM in Elkins, WV where we played the song “Take Another Road”… from Jimmy’s CD “Off to See the Lizard”, one that had never been offered at the BX and missing, until shortly after that kick to the head, from my library.

(And just to keep it real, I loved “Tales”, I’ve read it several times, but I found “Where is Joe Merchant?” to be weird and a tad self-serving. Never got around to “A Salty Piece of Land”.)

To cap all this off, I made it to three concerts, but will always regret I never made it to a forth.

I suspect my experience, maybe a little odder than most, is similar to many of yours. At some point his music struck a chord, diverting us, if only for a moment, to our calm place. A serenity tied to a fictional boat or piece of beach that becomes the light that brings us back to center.

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