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  • Writer's pictureMike Murphey

Gifts From Jimmy Buffet

Like so many other people, Jimmy Buffet’s music had a significant influence on my life. I found much of it relatable, including a song called Somewhere Over China, about a man who wins a $100,000 lottery, drops everything, a goes on an adventure.

“… never stopped to think of taxes, he was gone before they knew,

with a flair for old romantics, to the Orient he flew…

Early in our relationship Nancy and I stumbled upon a similar windfall. It didn’t last, but it taught us some important lessons, and steered our lives onto a different course. And among many other things, it allowed us to learn the magic of a sailboat.

In the second book of my Physics, Lust and Greed series, I introduced one of my favorite characters, an elderly gentleman named Cecil, who was very much inspired by Jimmy Buffet.

Here is a brief excerpt:

“And the margin service . . .” Marta probed gently.

“Didn’t last much beyond another year and a half. And I don’t mind admitting to you that for a while there I was lost. You have to understand, until then my whole life had been the margin service. The only distraction I allowed was baseball, and even at that I only listened to the games on the radio. Then, in the wink of an eye, everything was gone.”

Marta could hear the bitterness.

“Those damn computers grabbed my business by the shoulders and shook the snot out of it.”

“So, what happened?”

“Sean Brody, that same fellow who wrote the magazine article. I told you I sponsored his baseball team? Well, he gave me a present that Christmas. A Jimmy Buffet album. And just from sheer boredom, one day, I put it on this old portable record player I had. And the first song I heard was A Pirate Looks at Forty. Do you know it?”

Marta shrugged and nodded. Growing up in the Islands, she was familiar with Jimmy Buffet.

Cecil paused and enjoyed the sunlight reflecting off a veil of clouds below them, then turned back to her. “Well, you know the line that goes, ‘ . . . my occupational hazard being, my occupation’s just not around . . .’? That got my attention, dontchaknow, so I listened to the rest of it. And right there and then I realized, even during the best of times, the margin service was a world cast in shades of gray. The world this Buffett fella sang about, though, my goodness. It was bright blues and reds and yellows, rich teals and deep purples.

“That very day, I closed my savings account, put the building up for sale, and took the Greyhound to Miami. I hitch-hiked all the way down to the Keys and bought a sailboat—my old thirty-seven-foot ketch-rigged Tayana. The yacht broker tried to sell me something newer, something faster. I told him I didn’t plan on bein’ in a hurry. I changed the boat’s name from Dreamcatcher to Somewhere Over China. Then I headed to the Caribbean, and never regretted it for a minute.”

“You just dropped everything and left when you heard a Jimmy Buffet album?” Marta asked with a tiny bit of envy. Practically every step of Marta’s life had been calculated. She was a foreigner to spontaneity.

“Yep. Of course, everything had pretty much already dropped me. I’d lived a fairly focused and limited life to that point, and I guess I just sorta went overboard, dontchaknow.”

Marta glanced past Cecil and down on mid-America spread below them.

“I went to a Jimmy Buffet concert just before I entered the GRC program,” she said. “The experience was . . . strange. The people were strange . . .”

“What about the music?”

“I liked the music. It made me . . . I don’t know . . . happy, I guess. Of course, it reminded me of home, the good parts of home.”

“He’s doing his hundredth birthday concert on St. Bart’s this December. I’m gonna’ sail over. You should go with me. Jimmy forgets the words more than he used to, but them Coral Reefers still put on a good show.”

Thanks, Jimmy. I wish you would’ve made it to that hundredth birthday concert. I think the whole world does.

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