No other musician has influenced my life more than Jimmy Buffett. As such, I’m taking a break from travel blogging to reflect on and share a bit of his influence in my life. My parents and many in the extended family were all parrot heads. Even from an early age, Jimmy Buffett’s music was always in the air. Whether it was road-tripping to Florida for spring break, summer vacation, or sitting on the dock at the lake, there was a cheeseburger sitting in paradise just outside of Margaritaville. When Jimmy Buffett came on the radio, vacation was not far behind.
As I got older and listened more intently, I uniquely felt the lyrics and deeply understood his message. The songs from my childhood resonate differently today, and I wanted to share how his music still influences my life today.
Son of a Son of a Sailor
I don’t think I’m the son of the son of a sailor, but I know that I am a son of a sailor. My dad truly comes alive out on the water. He knows how to harness the power of the wind to lean the boat to an extreme angle and make it sail at a hasty clip. Growing up in a landlocked city, I never truly understood the muse of the ocean. I remember him telling me shortly before I moved to California that the ocean would get inside me and that there’s nothing like living next to the sea. After a few years of riding up and down the fantastic coastline we have here and enjoying San Francisco Bay, my 20-year-old self would concede that, yes, my father was right.
I distinctly remember leaving the south bay to head down the coast. It was a particularly windy day, and I remember turning the motorcycle into the wind on this highway flyover. It truly felt like I was sailing. At that moment, I remember owning that I, indeed, was the son of a sailor. My dad came alive on the open seas, and my adventure is on the open road – both of us pretty to the best and the worst of the elements out in the open.
I found a rendition of the song between Jimmy Buffett and Zach Brown – a country music artist who grew up close to my hometown and my heart. As a country music aficionado and true believer in storytelling, I find this duet truly compelling between two great artists.
On a very different wavelength, my roommates and I were listening to the song Fins. We were all in our 20s, had too much to drink, and had access to the Internet. As Jimmy Buffett sings:
“She came down from Cincinnati
It took her three days on a train
Looking for some peace and quiet
Hoped to see the sun again”
Twenty-three-year-old me didn’t believe that it took three days on the train. I knew she came down from Cincinnati and decided to look on the Amtrak website to see how long it takes to get from Cincinnati to Miami. It takes 2 1/2 days – not three. My roommates were convinced she wasn’t going to Miami; she was going to Key West, which does take three days on the train. I wasn’t budging – and nor were they. We laughed about it for years later (and now admit they were right, lol).
When the Coast is Clear
I’ve always loved quiet spaces. I’d rather go to a campsite with three stars that was relatively empty than one with four stars that was packed. As I’ve gotten older and off the school calendar, some of my favorite months to travel are March, April, and May, along with September or October and November outside of school holidays.
As a gay dude without kids, I love the freedom of traveling in the off-season. Each year before the pandemic, I would take a trip by myself to a beautiful place to reconnect with myself. As Buffet sings,
It’s been a long time
We hardly get to have these chats
That in itself’s a crime
So tell me all your troubles
I’ll surely tell you mine
We’ll laugh and smoke and cuss and joke
And have a glass of wine
That’s where it always happens
Same place every year
I come down and talk to me
When the coast is clear
He sings about the joy of being at ease with his own company. While I love riding with others, this trip was always a reset for me to connect with who I am and find that adventuring spirit to carry me forward in the next year.
A Pirate looks at 40
I remember listening to this song as a kid in the backseat of the car, thinking, “40 is so old,” never really owning the fact at some point, I would have the privilege of being 40. Somehow, it just snuck up on me. As a post-40-year-old man, I wonder if the simplicity of motorcycling will get lost in all of the “advancements,” much like the pirate being 200 years too late.
Don’t get me wrong, I love all the advancements with electric vehicles, driverless cars, and automatic navigation on one end of the spectrum. However, there is a joy in riding and maintaining a simple motorcycle. Pirsig wrote about it in the famous novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Recently, I had the opportunity to ride a Honda XR 650 L – a single-cylinder thumper with no windscreen that looked and felt like a big dirt bike. It looks, runs, and feels like the same bike that showed up in the 1980s. And it was a blast to ride!
So today, I raise my glass to an outstanding artist and profound storyteller who had a unique fingerprint on this writer’s view of the world. Thank you, Jimmy, and carry-on Parrotheads.