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Friday, April 1, 2011

Jolly Mon Sing

          Anybody in this audience a Parrothead?  Is there anyone in this audience who isn't a Parrothead?  There's something about that music.  You might not hear your first Jimmy Buffett song until you're 55, but once you do, you're an instant fan.  Whether it's the all-in party lyrics of Cheeseburger in Paradise, the Latin rhythms of Desperation Samba, or the haunting strains of A Pirate looks at 40, you hear the song once, and it owns you.  Do you wonder what to call it?  I do sometimes.  It isn't rock, it isn't folk, it isn't country, it isn't strictly jazz, although radio stations specializing in all of those formats will claim him as their own, and play his music like they invented it.  You can hear the calypso, especially in the steel drum work, and a fine edge of reggae will tickle your ear if you listen for it, but it isn't any of those things.

          After listening for a good long time, what I think I hear is the siren call of leaving the rat race behind, and heading for the islands for a permanent vacation.  Heck yeah, leave your demanding boss, your freeloading brother-in-law (he's figured out how to do it, hasn't he?), your eternally complaining landlord, heck, even your nagging wife, if your luck's really out!  Like the man says,
     "Pack your bag and hit the trail,
      hoist your sail and wind up
      on some moonlit bay."
Oh yeah, ease out the back door, and head for the nearest tropical island paradise.

          Ah, but wait.  I once lived on a tropical island for seventeen of the longest months of my life, and I'm not entirely convinced that it's the right call for a city boy like myself.  See, I was born in Balboa Park.  To a San Diegan, that is the equivalent of a New Yorker saying that he was born in Central Park; you don't get any more San Diegan than that.  Consequently, I have spent the bulk of my adult life with every service, every product, every form of recreation and productive employment virtually within walking distance, and it was misery to give it up.
          So, what's the modern drill?  You buy your thousand dollar plane ticket, pack enough clothes and sundries to sustain an expedition up the Amazon, and head out for paradise, which in the current cultural climate, generally means Hawaii.  You're met at the airport by bored hula dancers who throw a lei (that was probably made in China) around your neck, and an air-conditioned cab whisks you off to your $500-a-night luxury hotel, whereupon you lie on the beach sipping pina coladas for two weeks, before you have to head back home to your slavin' job way before you're ready.  Of course everyone wants to call the boss from Waikiki and tell him to "kiss this!"  The problem is that two weeks isn't quite enough time to do everything...

          I was sentenced stationed on Guam from early 1967 to mid 1968.  I am given to understand that Guam is much like Hawaii these days, and the photos certainly bear that out.  In the mid 1960s, it was the home of the Chamorro natives, a proud and noble people, that had been taken over by the U. S. military during the course of World War II.  Here's a little-noted fact about the U. S. military: Once they go somewhere, they never leave!  There was very little there in the way of modern amenities, even for the military, who had taken over half of the island, the desirable half, leaving the Chamorros to divide up what was left.  The whole place looked much as it did the day after the last Japanese soldier had given up the fight; roads were paved with crushed coral, many businesses were still in Quonset huts, the native islanders had very little use for us, it was just unpleasant.  Like the unofficial anthem said around verse 46:
     "Guam is good, Guam is good,
      that's what the natives say,
      and we're mighty glad that they told us,
      'cause we'd never find out any other way!"

          I think the thing is that people go to a tropical tourist mecca, and everything is polished, and packaged, and put on display; there are shows to go to, outrigger canoe rides, frozen daiquiris served from a bamboo bar you can swim up to and order.  Everyone is bending over to cater to the vacationer's every whim, and it seems like this is the way that God meant his children to live.  Ah, but go to an island where the people just live, and things are a little different.  Guam had beautiful beaches, stimulating jungle hikes, breathtaking vistas, and yet living there wasn't for sissies.  Talk to me about mailing in your resignation about three months in, when you've memorized the positions of individual rocks on your favorite beach, and given names to the hermit crabs that swarm for a handout every time you sit down there.  Once you've made a few hikes, you'll become a big fan of reading (if you can find any current books in the local library)!

          Now, it is certainly not my intention to disparage any Chamorros here.  I came to love the islanders, and have great respect for their stoic strength in the face of what had been done to their home, but island life isn't for me.  It's fine, I guess, if you have a big bank account to draw from, and never have to turn a hand to get anything you want, but it's a tough place to make a living.  You're a fisherman, or a tiny-scale farmer, or a craftsman who can make something someone else needs.  And the latest gadget, the latest fad, the latest fashion, music, movies and TV, all seem to get there last.  My advice: if you think island life is in your blood, book three months at a non-tourist destination, and see how it goes.  As for me, I'll sit on my patio with my lemon-ice tea, listen to Jimmy Buffett sing songs about a life that doesn't exist, and hop in my dinged-up pickup for a short trip to Wal-Mart for anything that strikes my fancy!

          Meet Me in Margaritaville (pictured above); it's a great album if you haven't met the maestro yet.  38 quintessential songs on two CDs.  You'll look back in a year and say it was the best music you ever bought.

Til next time, live well, and be safe!
- Jack


  1. Those people that just click the "funny," "interesting," or "cool" boxes but don't leave comments are lazy! Or employed I guess, ha ha.

    You left out the best part of modern traveling. You get a free groping at the airport. Good times.... :0/

    I can imagine that island life could be great (based on Jimmy's awesome songs) but I don't think I would like it either. Too hot and humid for me.

    P.S. I hate this keyboard.....the computer itself is very nice, but the keyboard is making me nuts.

  2. For some reason I cant leave a chat so I'll try it here. I wish I had a simple life that would have let enjoy an island, sipping margaritas and eatin around a barbaque evry day. I guess I like his music because it is nice to dream. I too could not live on an island without all the things I habe now. I battle within myself to do what I need and should be doing vs what I want to be doing which is ps3. being ripped out aaaaahahhhhhhhh......

  3. It's all about balance and harmony. Do what you have to do, but reserve some reasonable time for your own interests, and don't allow anyone or anything to take it from you, or tell you that because they aren't interested, it has no value. Win by not contesting...

  4. Count me in as one of the Parrotheads. I was on Oahu (working for Uncle Sam) in the 80s. Loved it for a while, but even as modern as Oahu is, I was a little rock happy after 6 months. The desert dweller in me was craving to drive STRAIGHT for more than 4 hours, not in that perpetual left hand turn around the island. Okinawa is another "garden spot" that I have been sent to recently that I can say I would NOT enjoy being sentenced to for an extended period of time.
    The island life that JB sings of is mythical indeed. Fun to comtemplate, dream of telling the "boss" to cram it and bail, but that is just a pipe dream for those that have not won the lottery.

  5. Welcome to the asylum, Patrick! For those who haven't had the pleasure, Patrick is my oldest and dearest friend. He is traveled and worldly, discourses intelligently on a wide range of subjects, and I always have an "I am not worthy" moment when he gets behind one of my endeavors. Like this one.

    It's good to see that I'm not alone in left field in my opinions on island life. If an island is not your "natural habitat" by birth, I would suggest that you take a hard, realistic look at living in a strictly enforced area of 10-20 square miles before you quit your job and use your severence pay to buy a one-way ticket; it ain't all it's cracked up to be.

    One of Patrick's many areas of interest is wargaming with naval miniatures. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I would suggest a visit to The Irish Navy (linked on this site). He's really worth getting to know, regardless of what window you initially crawl in through!