Why Jimmy Buffett is Bad for America

I was admiring the very nice resort in Orlando, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Resort when a realization of profound significance dawned on me, everything I was looking at was pure evil and anti-American. What Buffett had done with his beach bum do as little as possible in life drunk on Margaritas was a tremendous contributor to much of the below the line thinking that has mired many Americans into a perpetual state of desiring to be on vacation rather than being passionate about their work and the efforts it takes to move mountains sometimes to accomplish great things in life. I don’t blame Jimmy Buffett for discovering a sentiment in America that caught on with his popular songs about wasting away in Margaritaville, it’s people’s own damn fault, to quote his franchise building song which isn’t that old. The song itself was released in 1977 but it has grown to build a fan base of so-called “Parrot Heads” since which has grown into quite a phenomenon giving Buffett great success. He often does multiple sold out concerts every summer in my home town of Cincinnati and certainly has a special relationship with the Queen City. But I would argue that none of it is good in relation to the philosophy of a nation and the people who populate it.

My relationship with Jimmy Buffett fans has never been a good one. We come from opposite places in the universe. It first became distinguishable to me in the early 1990s while I was a waiter at Frisch’s on Fields Ertle Road just north of Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time I was working three jobs, my waiter job at Frisch’s was the one where I made most of my money that I lived off of and I hustled hard to get as much in tips per night as I could to cover my life needs. My other jobs were working an investment deal me and a few other people were trying to get off the ground that involved many interesting, and important people in City Hall within Cincinnati, and the other was a janitorial job cleaning a local business office complex during third shift. I was in my early twenties and was working very hard, harder than most people would ever want to. But it was by choice, I wanted to do a lot, life was hard and had given me some very bad cards yet I was determined to turn them around. So I worked a lot, didn’t sleep much, and hustled to get through every day.

I learned at Frisch’s to identify different types of people quickly. I could tell what type of tables would pay the best tips and which ones weren’t worth the effort. For instance, there was a smoking section at Frisch’s back then and sometimes I’d be assigned to it. Well, I hated working there because the tips were much less, smokers tended to hold on to their dollar bills to fund their cigarette habits so you ended up working much harder for less money, which didn’t make sense to me. I always liked the nice families of Mason and Deerfield Township who came in with a husband, wife and two kids. They tipped well if you worked hard because they were functioning from a value system that matched my efforts. Its hard work raising kids. It’s hard work to keep a marriage together. It’s hard work to be so busy that treating the family to a night out at Frisch’s is considered a real treasure, so their experience with me came out well, and they tipped better than the average customer. It was those people who I always tried to have at my tables.

Jimmy Buffett was in town and I had a party of six at a big round top who were going to the Buffett concert down I-71 at Riverbend, a popular outdoor venue in Cincinnati. They were already intoxicated slightly when they arrived and looked to be endeavoring to become more so later that evening. For many unsaid reasons we just didn’t like each other. I treated them the way I treated all customers, which was very good. I made good money with my tips so I was doing something right but these six people, three couples dressed in typical “Parrot Head” attire, loose shirt, shorts from J.C. Penney and flip-flops decided they disliked me from the moment they sat down, and I didn’t like them either. Things started off well enough, but as I took their order and they made jokes about not expecting me to work too hard and how it was going to be great to “hang loose” during the concert and maybe smoke some dope our relationship quickly disintegrated. My reaction to their statements was not what they expected, they thought they were a bunch of middleagers who were being cool in front of a young person, but what they were saying was as far from my daily thoughts as a person could get, and they could tell. I tried to hide my disdain for them, but it wasn’t working. They ran me for about an hour getting them lots of stupid little things like extra catchup, and salt even though they already had plenty and when it came time to leave they left me four pennies for a tip intended to be an open insult. As they got to their car outside in their parking lot they lit up a marijuana cigarette and were giving me the finger as they saw me starting to clear their table and noticing the tip. One guy grabbed his crotch and motioned me to come outside to fight, which much to his surprise I did. The moment I opened the front door to come outside he quickly got into the car and off their drove to their concert hoping to avoid a confrontation they started. It was then that I realized that Jimmy Buffett was bad for America. It took me a long time to put together why, but I knew back then that what he was selling was poison for the American mind and those six people were certainly the products of it.

Over the years I have always been a 7 day a week 24 hours a day worker, from then until the present it has been the way I function. I like to work and I am very busy because of it. Even when I’m not working, I’m working so it has always befuddled me why people are so happy for Fridays and so depressed on Mondays. I never understood why people were in such a hurry to do nothing, but that is precisely what Jimmy Buffett has captured in his songs, such as “Hamburger in Paradise” and “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere.” The theme is to do as little as possible and get to the end of the work week so you can get shit faced and just lay around relaxing. When people talk to me through the week, I hate it when they say something to the effect such as, “It’s four days to Friday,” or “Thank God it’s Friday.” The meaning of course is that they will be free of their jobs and their bosses so they can lay around and do nothing all weekend. I think those types of meditations are unhealthy and very unproductive. In the richest country in the world I can’t help but think that if not for people like Jimmy Buffett, our adult class of people might work much harder and better becoming happier with their lives than the poor example provided in a typical Buffett song.

Jimmy Buffett is selling below the line thinking to lazy people, which is obviously very popular. The resort in Orlando is very nice, as are the Margaritaville restaurants around the nation selling the island life experience. But the essence of what they are selling is drunkenness and unproductive lifestyles and it hasn’t been good for American culture. The meaning of life can’t be found wasting away in Margaritaville, its in discovery of new ideas while working hard to uncover them. It’s in accomplishment. It’s in getting your hands dirty on Saturday and Sunday just as much as you did on Monday and Tuesday. But Jimmy Buffett has made laziness mainstream, his songs have let people off the hook of expectation and allowed them to think that being a beach bum is much more important than a corporate executive. And that is just wrong. Ultimately that’s why those customers didn’t like me all those years ago, they knew I was one of those stuffy people they were running from that evening and they didn’t want the reminder during their dinner before a Buffett concert. They didn’t want any above the line reminders. But that should have said everything, and perhaps its time we examine this relationship that Americans have with laziness, made all too possible by the type of loser life that Jimmy Buffett sings about. Maybe its time that all Americas stop wasting away, and get to work.

Rich Hoffman

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