Guilty Pleasure

In the past two weeks Israel has bombed Gaza to smithereens, leaving more than 2000 Gazans dead, more than 10,000 wounded, and the territory a pile of rubble. Further north the Russians and their rebel Ukrainian thugs managed to shoot down a commercial airliner over eastern Ukraine and occupy the divided country. ISIL (or ISIS, if you prefer) is dangerously close to dynamiting Mosul Dam and releasing a 60-foot wall of water all the way to Baghdad, and thousands of people in the US continue to die every year from gunshot wounds while cowardly, intimidated State legislatures sit on their hands and refuse to enact reasonable rules to govern the sale of guns.

Chaos, violence, and outright evil threatens our very survival and these threats are real.  Good people around the world are struggling to find solutions, but if I let world news determine my psychic state I’d be mainlining Zoloft. I don’t know what it is, but there seems to be something in the human spirit that helps us resist nihilism and darker solutions unless our chemistry gets out of balance. We somehow manage to develop personal strategies to help us cope with bad news and support a cautious optimism. The strategies that sustain me turn on music, books and exercise, but if there is one that dominates it’s got to be music.

Jack's Guitars

I love it. I like to see it performed live. I like to listen to it. I even like to play it. It can be classical, opera, pop, folk, country, blues or Broadway show tunes. I like it all, but truth to tell there is a dark corner of the genre that is my secret. Lurking in that dark corner is my –


“guilty pleasure”  (Wikipedia)

“Something, such as a movie, television program, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard: everybody has a guilty pleasure—the average disaster movie falls into the ‘guilty pleasure’ category, so do soap operas, Big Macs, Dancing With The Stars, and ironed sheets … “


Mine is Jimmy Buffett – the music, the lyrics, the lifestyle, the Margaritaville bars and even the novels (yes, three novels). I’ve been listening, laughing and singing along since 1973 when I heard his 3rd album (vinyl, of course) White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. I’ve worn out vinyl, 8 track, cassette and CD versions of his catalog, and last week I ordered a boxed, four CD, set of songs called Bars, Beaches, Boats, and Ballads. What can I do? All of these songs are deeply imprinted on my lifetime playlist. Cheeseburger in Paradise. I can’t help it.

I saw him first in Miami in 1982 and again last year in Seattle. Both were sellouts and 30 years later and 30 years grayer the audience was still having just as much fun. In recent years the cult has grown (larger and grayer). I haven’t bought into the whole Parrothead shtick, but I’m sure there are Green Bay fans who are devoted but still haven’t crossed the line into being Cheeseheads. I simply like the lyrics, the melodies, and the attitude – yes, “Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same.”

Jimmy time two

Wikipedia describes his music as “island escapism,” but like Billy Collins’ poetry there is depth in the seemingly simple words of his songs. I’m particularly drawn to songs like He Went To Paris, the last verse of which is:

Now he lives in the islands
Fishes the pilings
And drinks his green label each day
Writing his memoirs
Losin’ his hearin’
But he don’t care what most people
Through eighty-six years of perpetual motion
If he likes you he’ll smile, and he’ll say,
“Jimmy, some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic
But I had a good life all of the way.”

Jimmy has definitely had a good life but he’s shared its joys with his followers and the world. He’s been married to the same woman for almost 40 years and their three children travel with the band when they’re not working or in school because they want their children to see the world and become global in their outlook. He has a great self-deprecating sense of humor, a thirst for adventure, and an appreciation for others who seek it. When he got his first big paycheck he asked the record company to cut two checks. He gave one to the accountant and bought a sailboat with the other. He named it Euphoria and it’s part of the balanced life he advocates. I think his current boat is Euphoria II or III, and along the way he added a seaplane to take him to other more distant harbors.

By my calculation he’s released upwards of 40 albums, written 3 novels, and created 2 restaurant chains – Margaritaville Bar and Café and Cheeseburger in Paradise. He’s a hard working guy who hasn’t lost sight of how fortunate he is or how much joy he can deliver to a world sorely in need of more fun – not frivolous, farcical fun, but good-time, foot-stomping, sing-along, endorphin-releasing fun. It’s definitely middlebrow and I own it.

This is a capsule-sized version of the philosophy I find so engaging:

You can sing along with Jimmy and follow along with the words below.

I went down to Captain Tony’s to get out of the heat
When I heard a voice call out to me, “Son, come have a seat”
I had to search my memory as I looked into those eyes
Our lives change like the weather but a legend never dies

He said, “I ate the last mango in Paris
Took the last plane out of Saigon
Took the first fast boat to China
And Jimmy, there’s still so much to be done.

I had a third world girl in Buzios

With a pistol in each hand
She always kept me covered
As we moved from land to land

I had a damn good run on Wall Street
With my high fashion model wife
I woke up dry beneath the African sky
Just me and my Swiss army knife

I ate the last mango in Paris
Took the last plane out of Saigon
I took the first fast boat to China
And Jimmy, there’s still so much to be done

We shot the breeze for hours
As the sun fell from the sky
And like the sun he disappeared
Before my very eyes

It was somewhere past dark-thirty
As we went back to the head
I read upon the dingy wall
The words the old man said

He said, “I ate the last mango in Paris
Took the last plane out of Saigon
I took the first fast boat to China
And Jimmy, there’s still so much to be done”

I ate the last mango in Paris
Took the last plane out of Saigon
I took the first fast boat to China
And Jimmy, there’s still so much to be done

That’s why we wander and follow La Vie Dansante

Last Mango in Paris from the studio album of the same name released in 1985.

Adventure, romance, travel, experience, nostalgia, and shared wisdom.  It’s my guilty pleasure and I’m happy to share it


PS: This post is dedicated to Doug and Diana who, in 1981, survived four weeks in the back of a VW camper traveling north of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia, buying reindeer souvenirs from Lapps in a Toyota van, staying up all night with a bunch of Swedes in a campground on Midsummer, and listening to Jimmy Buffett cassettes with dual Walkman headsets as we rolled along. It’s all part of life’s rich pageant as my friend Darryl might say.


  1. Jack, I share the pleasure without guilt. There are lots of people who make me want to write and he’s one of them. If I could sing, perhaps that too.

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