This past Tuesday, I drove into Tallahassee to deliver a car. It could not be delivered until the next day, so I decided that I needed to get a hotel room for the night to get a shower and to sleep in a soft bed instead of the back seat of the car. I had a free pass for a hotel I had been given by a friend, and thought that this would be a good time to use it. I had identified the location in downtown Tallahassee, not far from the state Capitol building.
Once I had checked in, I went down to the lobby. I was feeling kind of frisky, and wanted to find the bar and have a few drinks. I saw a lot of people walking around wearing Hawaiian shirts, and I asked a guy what was going on. He explained to me that Jimmy Buffett was playing that night, and people had come to town from all over for the show. I had discovered Jimmy Buffett in the last year, when I was driving a car with a broken stereo and had no choice but to listen to a Buffett CD over and over. Since then, he had become my second favorite singer, just behind George Strait. The fellow I was speaking to also told me that there would be a great party going on in the parking lot near the Civic Center. “Classic,” he said.
I got directions to the Civic Center and walked down to it. I walked into the parking lot, and was overwhelmed by what I saw. There were many people wearing caps with fins on top, as well as guys and gals wearing grass skirts and coconut bras. There was a general sense of good cheer and happiness. A rather drunk looking man came up to me and said, “No way, I had nothing to do with it.”
“With what?” I asked.
“Exactly,” he said, and patted me on the back before walking away. Then another guy threw his arm around my neck and pulled me along in a familiar way.
“Where are we going?” I wondered.
“Shots!” he said. “Shots. Shots. Shots.” As we neared his group of friends, standing by a RV, they began to shout in chorus with him. “Shots. Shots. Shots!” I was given a shot glass with tequila in it, and we all tossed them down our throats at the same time. “Buffett, yeah!” the man with his arm around me screamed. And I heard a Buffett song playing that I recognized coming from the RV. I spoke to the group for a few minutes, and then I moved on because there was so much to see here.
I saw a woman setting up a wading pool in the parking lot, as her boyfriend was shoveling sand from the back of his pickup truck onto the ground. When the woman set up an inflatable palm tree, it gave the appearance of a beach. Very clever. About twenty yards from there, I came across a guy who was playing SON OF A SON OF A SAILOR on his guitar, singing his heart out. Then I came upon a lawn chair where people would sit as they were served inverted margaritas. This involves the victim sitting in the chair, holding their head back, and getting tequila and margarita mix poured down their throat. I was pushed into the chair and found myself complying and gargling tequila. And I am really not much of a drinker.
I found that walking became a bit more challenging than usual. An inebriated woman came up and grabbed me and kissed me long and hard. French kiss, in fact. I was surprised but not at all unhappy, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen to me. “I love Jimmy Buffett,” she said. “You love Buffett?”
“You do, you do, you do. We both do. Doodle-doo-doo.” She kissed me again and then walked away, perhaps looking for another guy to kiss.
Each new car or RV I passed had their own stereo playing their own Buffett music. The sound was sort of confusing, but somehow pretty wonderful. I was getting caught up in the fun and frivolity of it all. Then I saw an amazing Tiki Bar that had been set up, with stools and party people having a grand time. I saw an empty stool and asked the bartender if I could sit there. “Of course you can. I insist that you do, if you don’t I’ll be offended.”
“Well we can’t have that,” I said as I sat.
“No we can’t have that, and we won’t have that. What we will have is a fresh batch of margaritas!” He flipped the switch on his blender, and the others at the Tiki Bar cheered. He turned the blender off and told me, “This is my mother’s blender, I always bring it to a party. It makes me very popular.”
“Shut up,” said the woman next to me.
“You shut up, honey,” he said to the woman.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you, too, cuddle-bunny.” Then he poured me a glass from the blender and said, “What’s your handle?”
“Bill, welcome to my Tiki Bar. I’m Harry, and the little filly next to you is my better half, Trixie.”
“Hello Bill,” she said.
“Hi Trixie.” I drank from my glass, and was amazed at just how good it was. “Hey Harry, this is really excellent.”
“I know Bill, I know. I have a gift with the blender.”
“He does, he really does,” agreed Trixie. “Who are you guys?” she asked the three men on the other side of her.
“We’ve got to go,” one of them told her. “Someone is smoking some good weed at the next RV over.”
"And two rows over they are grilling Cheeseburgers in Paradise!" said his companion.
“See ya later, guys,” Harry amiably called out as the three gents left the Tiki Bar.
“What’s your favorite Buffett song?” asked Trixie.
“I’m a new convert,” I told her. “I just discovered Buffett this past year. But I’d have to say the Pirate song.”
“A PIRATE LOOKS AT 40,” she said.
“Wait just a minute,” Harry said. “Have you ever seen Buffett in concert?”
“No, never,” I admitted.
“Never?” gasped Trixie.
Harry was very excited. “You are in for such a treat! Your very first Buffett concert? Boy, do I envy you. I still remember my first show.”
As I finished my margarita, Harry was quick to refill my glass. “I’m not going.”
Trixie was shocked. “Not going? That’s crazy talk, what do you mean?”
“I don’t have a ticket. I was told that the show sold out.”
“No,” shrieked Trixie. “This can’t be right. Harry, we gotta do something.”
“Calm down, sugar buns. We’ll think of something. Go see if you can find Captain Tony.”
“Right!” she yelled as she jumped out of her seat and ran off. As she ran I heard her sing "I went down to Captain Tony's, to get out of the heat!" I watched her serpentine as she ran, a bit unsteady but very determined.
“Bill, in all sincerity, you’ve never seen anything like a Buffett show. You can’t come all this way and miss out.”
“I don’t see what choice I have.” We talked some more. Actually, Harry did most of the talking sharing his past experiences at Buffett concerts. He had been to twenty shows, and seemed to enjoy each one he saw even more than the one before. I was on my third margarita when Trixie returned with Captain Tony. He was a salty old cuss, wearing a black T-shirt and a Skipper’s hat.
“I found him,” Trixie proudly proclaimed.
“Got a drink for me, Harry?” asked the Captain.
“You know I do.” Harry poured a fresh glass and handed it to the Captain. “You got any tickets for sale?”
“Of course, I got plenty. What do you need?”
“Captain Tony, this is Bill here. He’s never been to see a Jimmy Buffett show.”
The Captain looked shocked. “You gotta be kidding me? A virgin? Dear Lord in Heaven, we gotta do something about this. Who are you with, Bill?”
Trixie wrapped her arm in mine. “He’s with us.”
The Captain pulled out a pile of tickets and fanned them out like a deck of cards. “Let’s see. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you give me your tickets, Harry. I’ll swap you.”
Harry pulled out two tickets. “OK, but these are pretty decent tickets.”
The Captain shook his head. “These are better, you’re trading up. I’ve got three floor seats for you, a few rows from the stage.”
I pulled out my wallet. “How much do I owe you, Captain Tony?”
“Put your money away, this is on me. Call it Buffett karma. I’m giving you the gift of seeing the best damn show you’ve ever seen in your life. Welcome to Margaritaville!” We all raised our glasses and toasted Captain Tony and Jimmy Buffett. I expressed my gratitude continually to the Captain until he walked away.
We went inside and I saw a party going on. Huge beach balls were being batted around all over the Civic Center. And then the main event. When Buffett took the stage, the crowd went wild. I was so close I could almost touch him. Somehow, Harry and Trixie had managed to smuggle in more booze, so we drank throughout the show. And what a show it was! Jimmy Buffett is unique in that it is as if you are at a party and he just happens to be the guy who gets up and plays his guitar. He’s your buddy, he’s your pal. At one point, a girl pulled me into the aisle and wanted to dance with me. I did the best I could, although my coordination was a bit off.
I enjoyed all of his music more than ever. And when he did an encore and played A PIRATE LOOKS AT 40, I found myself rocking back and forth with my new found friends. I woke up the next day with a whopper of a headache, but it was worth it. It was an experience I will remember fondly for the rest of my life.