Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Jimmy Buffett is Gone

The memory of the first time I heard a Jimmy Buffett song is more than a bit hazy to be dependable. It’s more akin to a form or document that has been photocopied so many times the letters are barely readable and any illustrations are a fuzzy gray mess. I guess that’s a testament to life in general as the years come and go.

Even back in the ancient history of what I believe was the early 1970s Jimmy’s music was an introduction to the idea to not take life too seriously. Somehow though both of the songs I instantly associate with Buffett--Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise--were not released until the late 1970s. Somehow I have a clear memory of listening to Cheeseburger in Paradise while riding in my dad's GMC truck, a vehicle he junked in 1974. (I guess this is my own little piece of the Mandala Effect?)

Buffett’s influence on my life hit a high point in the 1990s with the release of several albums. Barometer Soup, Fruitcakes, and Banana Wind are my favorites although I would be hard pressed to name an album of his I didn’t like at all.

The biggest thing that drew me to Buffett was his stated rejection of the “in crowd.” Striking out on my own and going against the conventional wisdom of what the majority of folks think or do is the base of my personality. All things considered, that mindset has had its advantages and disadvantages.

Most of the time Jimmy reveled in going against the flow. During one concert he spent more than a few minutes explaining how he had never won any awards for his music but that didn’t matter with fans like Parrot Heads.

I knew Jimmy’s outsider nature was going to change the minute I saw the segment 60 Minutes did on him back in the 1990s. My in-laws, who despised the man because of the absolute worthless bum dating their daughter seemed to copy every aspect of his songs, changed their opinion on him after seeing that segment. While I understood Jimmy was never poor, the 60 Minutes segment made it abundantly clear his great-great grandchildren would never go without living off his wealth. Of course, my in-laws were at first shocked that the king of beach bums was actually rich and from then on didn’t talk trash about my music. They still didn't think much of me and actively tried to get their daughter to break up with me.

At some points Jimmy’s outsider and likable and easy going attitude caught the attention of aging baby-boomers looking to recapture something of their youth and of course, land developers who are usually one of the lowest forms of life. By the early twenty-first century the baby-boomers were finally sick of the rat race to which they had so faithful pursed but they did have enough money and time to try and copy Jimmy’s laid back, beach bum lifestyle.

The land developers got in on the act by building resorts, neighborhood subdivisions, and even retirement communities all under the Margaritaville banner. While initially fascinated by the idea of experiencing what advertisers described as a perpetual pool party where beer and boobs are plentiful the concept to me quickly turned sour. Not the beer and boobs part, but the astronomical buy in required to become part of the in-crowd, which was filled with financially mobile upper middle class types types and not the humble outsiders, goofballs, and hippy refugees.

So with Jimmy hanging out with billionaires and attending those mysterious Eyes Wide Shut-like gatherings I became somewhat ambivalent to the man. He had changed and so had I, part of me was saddened but by that time I was mature enough for it not to overly bother me. Kind of like the period in life when you find out Santa and the Easter Bunny are just your mom and dad pulling a fast one.

Still, when Jimmy passed I truthfully couldn’t grasp that he was gone. He was such an icon that even after I sort of left him behind because he sold out to The Man, it was like a piece of me was gone.

If you never lived in the coastal regions of the southeast up until the late 1980s you can never imagine the ramshackle and arrogantly shabby way most people lived. It was freewheeling and loose with little economic distinction between the people who lived there. It was fish fries, oyster roasts, music playing, and people having fun on the beach not thinking about their investments and whether or not they would renew the lease on their BMW or Lexus. Most of all during the old days their was an attitude of inclusiveness, anyone one could join the group as long as they liked the music and brought along some beer.

That was Jimmy Buffett in my mind, everyone was invited and no one was too poor or weird.

The coastal regions are now dominated by high priced subdivisions where the property taxes and insurance costs have forced most of the longtime locals to move inland. I have to also mention the fucking king-of-the-world attitudes many of the new residents have about their beachfront properties. Many of them somehow believe they own all the land from their actual property line down to the ocean itself. It’s not hard to find videos online of some asshole dude or screeching Karen threatening to call the police and rain down legal hellfire on the dirty peasants that dare to invade their property and spoil their view.

Maybe it’s not fair to lump Jimmy Buffett in with those changes but his venture into real estate developments aimed strictly at the privileged upper class still stinks like a dead fish left in the sun. Still I will miss the man and everything he gave me in the way of music, a couple of really good books, and the beach bum attitude of fun and no worries.

1 comment:

Marja said...

Sorry to hear about Jimmy. I have never heard of him and his songs but I am happy he has had a lasting impression on you