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Apr. 23—When I was in my early teens, I would sometimes stay up all night listening to the radio. It was mostly just Top 40, but hey, Top 40 was a lot better in the mid-70s. I would fight sleep while listening to the Eagles or Bob Seger, and during those wee small hours, one would develop an intimate relation with the music, as it felt like the DJ was playing records that seemed to be intended for your ears only.
One of the songs I connected with that summer of 1977 was Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Now I was still a few years away from my first frozen concoction, but even at 13, I knew a life of beachfront leisure living pretty much beat all other options.
A few years later, some friends of mine and I saw Buffett at Purdue on a frigid February night during my sophomore year. We immediately set about a plan for a "bare boat" sailing trip from Lauderdale to the Bahamas. Since Al Gore had yet to invent the internet, I wrote to several charter boat outfits by hand, getting as far as putting together a provisions list. It was supposed to take eight hours each way, so we determined that the five of us would need 27 cases of Old Milwaukee and 14 lbs. of bacon.
Although promises were made and forms were partially filled out, come May, we retreated to our own nautical enclaves like Ft. Wayne, Kokomo or Cincinnati, only to return to Purdue that fall with the dream that maybe next year we would retrieve those 27 cases of beer waiting for us on that south Florida dock.
I did eventually get to sea on the back of an 80,000 ton aircraft carrier but let's just say there was a less than "Buffett-like" experience (although truth be known, he did fly on board once and play a show in our hanger bay).
Simply put, for middle class, college bound kids of my ilk who were ready to retire before even spending one minute in a macro-economics class, Buffett's music and lifestyle may have been a façade on the long journey to the middle, but it did keep the dream alive.
In the last 35 or 40 years I have listened to a lot of Jimmy Buffett's music, grilled shrimp and closed by eyes sitting on decks and porches all across the great Midwest, hoping that when I opened them I'd actually have my toes in the sand with the surf lapping around my ankles.
That has always been the allure of Jimmy Buffett (as a person and a concept) — keeping the dream alive. Anyone who has ever seen Buffett live knows that the lawyer, accountant to beach bum ratio is about 20,000 to 1. However for a couple of hours, everyone is just a few mental steps away from the Tiki bar. I do have my Buffett tickets for Deer Creek (it will always be Deer Creek to me) in July that were left over from last year's canceled show.
And now that the final snow is beyond us, I start the countdown to a week at the Gulf, where I will willingly overpay for shrimp from the Calabash, a condo with a foldout couch and pool filled with annoying Wisconsin accents talking about ice fishing. However, after 2020, even that sounds pretty inviting.
I have always appreciated how even on the coldest of days, I could always put on a Jimmy Buffett record, slide in a CD or cassette, or now tune in to Radio Margaritaville and keep the dream alive that my lost shaker of salt is just around the corner. I knew it at 13 and 45 years later I know it now.
So the countdown to summer is on, but I know that even if it still seems too far off, it's still 5 o'clock somewhere.