Neon sign with a parrot, palm trees, and the words in script Jimmy Buffet and the word in large capitals Margaritaville

Against my better judgment, in a couple of weeks I’ll be taking a trip up to Put-In-Bay with the family of one of my daughter’s friends. I say better judgment, because the last time I went there I ended up spending nine boring hours with some guy named Mitch, who owes me money. Ah yes, island culture. Boating culture. Buffet Culture.

When I was 18 I had a job bussing tables at a place up at Crosswoods called Cantina del Rio. On Fridays and Saturdays they would have live acoustic music at the bar. The acts differed, but it was always more or less the same set. The only real question was whether they would open or close with Margaritaville. 

In college one of my friends got free tickets to see some guy named Pat Dailey play at Promo West and I got dragged along. We knew nothing about the guy. This local college rock band opened up and played a song about being too stupid to effectively communicate in a relationship, or something equally insubstantial.* They had like nine guitar players, and there was this weird scene where this gigundus band tore down and was replaced by just one guy with an acoustic guitar.

It didn’t bother Dailey. He ambled straight up to the microphone and tossed out a bunch of songs best described as Margaritaville North. The same half-drunk twits babbling the virtues of the life semi-aquatic and fighting over crab legs, only now Mother Mother Ocean is Lake Erie and Key West is South Bass Island.  Flying fish are now walleye – you get the picture. As a strictly technical matter, Mr. Dailey did not cover any Jimmy Buffet Songs, and in fact has a song about how he doesn’t cover Jimmy Buffet songs. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.**

After a few minutes of Dailey, I turned around to go make a nuisance of myself at the bar and was astonished to be looking into the eyes of a packed house. Holy shit, this dude was killing it. Seems he plays up at Put-In-Bay in the summers and has parlayed this into a rabid Ohio fan base. Goodness. At one point he turned his ball cap backwards and did a little rap, bless his heart. The only time in my life I remember hearing five hundred people having mini-giggles at the same time.    

My mother has a timeshare at the Margaritaville Resort in Puerto Rico, and this winter I visited her there. It was unexpectedly upscale, although the shaker of salt was pretty undersized (after I found it, that is). Mom drove me around the whole goddamn island like the nutty Rick Steves disciple she is, but most of the guests were happy to buy the all-inclusive package and hang out at the ceramic tile cabana bar. Listening to some poor bastard slog his way through “Cheeseburger in Paradise” for the eight thousandth time, of course. 

I remember that fifteen years ago I was playing at the North Berg Tavern, which was this odd bar under the High Street Donatos’ Pizza. The bar had booked this guy named Swabby to open up for us, and he played all the Buffet. He also had enough chorus effect on his guitar to shame the Tabernacle Choir. We sound checked after he got off, and for some reason I asked the sound guy if there was anything else he wanted. Some frat guy in the crowd yelled “more Swabby!” Dick.

Chris Logsdon is still whoring that Buffet shit around town. Looks like he’s playing the Hollywood Casino these days. He must be making bank – shit, I’ll bet he has health insurance.

Come to think of it, Margaritaville might actually be a sad song. It’s mildly introspective, and the protagonist seems to be less of a temporarily unemployed pirate and more of a run-of-the-mill loser. A Caribbean Lodi, or a poor man’s Sloop John B. It’s certainly not a complete turd like Son of a Son of a Sailor or Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. Sure, Buffet jumped into a career of self-parody after it hit, but that isn’t the song’s fault.

But anyway, I’m going to Put-In-Pay. I’ll listen to steel drums with the polo shirt/khaki shorts dickheads drinking Bud Light. This is their cool and their fantasy, mundane drunken coastal adventures which land them in some unspecified (but likely not serious) trouble with the law. Maybe something to do with their homeowner’s association. They have golf stories, but they won’t tell them to me. 

Caveat emptor. 

*I try to not be too hard on local acts, but after twenty years it’s time to talk. I know who you are, and you know who you are, and that song was dreadful. 

** Hamlet, Act III, Scene II.  Often misquoted as “methinks thou doth protest too much.” 

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