It’s been sixteen years since I last wrote to you. I remember that day with clarity. It was autumn. Ol’ Jack Frost was in the air with the promise of winter on the horizon as he kissed my nose every time I faced north. What was left of the leaves on the sugar maples and oaks prolific in our corner of the world were on the wane and the geese were flying in formation. Black and grey squirrels as if on amphetamines would scury to and fro collecting acorns. In a frenetic tizzy only a squirrel can muster it would half bury a nut before setting off to find another nut, return and dig up the half buried nut and start the burying process again.
Sitting on the bow of Hyacinth the T-30 my parents owned, I was considering a proposal of marriage. He asked me all the right questions while I asked him one, “Do you know who Jimmy Buffett is?” Bless his heart he had a cassette of Songs you know by heart. I am not a shallow person, but I do know for the most part that people who are Buffett fans are generally good hearted people with a penchant for a laugh a good yarn and a good time. If you can laugh your way through life, you are miles ahead of the souls who can not. With my baguette sandwich gone, I had no real use for the brown paper lunch bag except to use it as writing paper. Necessity is afterall the mother of invention. I got down on the “Knees of my heart” and implored that you tour in Canada so I could have a chance to see you in concert. Maybe you remember my letter? You will be happy to know that your autographed photo arrived by snail mail and I was delighted, so much so that it hangs in a place of honour in our home. Thank you. And, yes I accepted his proposal, sixteen years later we are still married.
Fast approaching 50, I have been fanatically a fan for well over half my life. Twenty years ago after reading “A pirate looks at fifty” I loved your idea of a fifty year reality check. So I made one and here it is.
- Learn to S.C.U.B.A. dive
- Learn to make a croissant and good brioche at Cordon Bleu.
- Dive with sharks, sea lions, manatee’s and dolphins
- Visit Paris, Ireland and New Orleans
- Attend a Jimmy Buffett concert.
- Be able to find the major constellations in the northern night sky
- Walk the Camino
- Hike in the mountains and hopefully see a bear in it’s natural habitat.
- Hike in the desert, find a joshua tree.
- Take a whalewatching excursion to see humpback whales and orcas
- Write a book.
At 48 there are only two things left undone on my reality check which are the camino and writing a book and they will be added to my 70 year reality check. No doubt you will be pleased to know I finally attended one of your concerts on August 11, 2017 in Toronto Canada.
Jimmy, I call myself a parrothead, but I do not feel the need to wear a parrot, shark or a cheeseburger on my head to label myself. For me it has always been about your music. In other blog posts I have advocated that music is a time machine that can transport you to moments in life that perhaps are a little fuzzy. I could write the soundtrack of my life with your music and oh the places it would take me. Your music transports me to the ocean and the beachbum lifestyle I wish I could afford. At heart I am a beachbum. This comes from having spent my summer and autumnal vacations as a child on Cape Cod. It is fair to say that I grew up there. Being an aficionado of tidal pools, body surfing and a veritable clam strip junkie I can emphatically say the ocean is in my veins but more importantly in my soul. My beachcomber, piraty nature is happiest combing the beach for devil purses, wampum, shells, crab carapaces and stones…that stuff is real treasure. It’s in my house. It’s in my yard. It’s in my heart and soul. When life gets hard, I head to the ocean and everything falls back into place. Beston and I agree that; “The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.
2017 for the Kuchciak’s hasn’t been a banner year. The mountains we have had to climb have been like Everest and the valley’s have been like the Challenger Deep. In June I found out you were playing at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto so I instantly, unceasingly began to indoctrinate my husband on how badly I wanted to go. Poor soul. In June there were no tickets available other than through re-sale sites. My husband was clear he didn’t mind going to the concert with me but he had to be in a box. There was a lot of waffling on my part over this issue, but in the end I bought the tickets. No Jimmy, you don’t want to know how much I spent. The rest of the trip arrangements I left up to my husband while I fervently prayed that my tickets would actually get me in the door.
We left Ottawa on Friday August 11 at 10:30. My three children and faithful dog left in the very capable hands of my soul sista Veronica and Sebastian. My husband booked us business class on Via Rail which meant that we had roughly 4 hours of peaceful, stressfree contemplation riding the rails from Ottawa to Toronto. My harried summer days are usually spent sorting out squabbles between the children and the dog. It was heavenly not to have to hear ” Stop touching me!” “That’s mine, give it back!” “Mom, make him stop looking at me!” Twenty minutes on the rails and I felt like a princess.
We arrived in Toronto relaxed and excited in anticipation of the evening ahead. Chris still had surprises in store for me as he had booked a room for us at the Fairmont Royal York on the Gold floor. Our room was gorgeous, with orchids and all the little touches that made a mom feel like a queen.
After a snack of blinis and smoked salmon we grabbed a cab and headed to the Budweiser Stage which is located on the grounds of Ontario Place and on the shores of Lake Ontario. As we entered the grounds I could not keep my excitement in check as we rounded the corner and saw the tailgate party in full swing. RV’s, pickup trucks, tents and campers were jammed in the parking lot all decked out in leis, flamingo and party lights. Smoke from mini barbeques circled the lot and wafted in our cab, it smelled so delicious as fellow parrotheads flipped burgers and steaks. Parrotheads dressed in Hawaiian leis, straw hats with Landshark Lager beer caps dangling down the sides like coins on a belly dancer’s skirt. As we approached the gate with the tickets I was still not completely certain were valid I told the ticket taker “I hope my tickets are valid, I have been waiting for this concert my whole life.” The ticket taker was an older man with silver hair and plenty of crows feet around his ice-blue eyes. He scanned my tickets and with a rakish grin proceeded to tell me they were not valid. There was a very pregnant pause whereupon my body chose to fail me, my face and ears became scarlet and red hot. I gave my husband a helpless, hapless look and began to say “I’m so sorry.” when Mr. Ticket funnyman linked his arm in mine, leaving my poor husband in our wake and escorted me to the another line whereupon he gave me a sailors wink, a kiss on the hand and said “Your ticket entitles you an entrance through the VIP line to have the time of your life.” Jimmy, you have a magic that brings out the character in people that our world so desperately needs in spades.
We were in! Fate did not conspire against us and I prayed a quick prayer of gratitude to my Maker. I have been to many concerts in my day, and I have read and heard the accounts of “what happens” at one of your concerts. But, nothing prepared me for how parrotheads attend your concert. I could not help but gawk as I walked beside full grown men (not a typo, men) wearing nothing but a coconut bra, pirate hat and a grass skirt. It was surreal to fall in stride with men and women fully decked out in pirate garb who used inflated sharks as cutlasses in mock duel. It’s the stuff legends are made of. It made the rest of the nearly 15,000 people decked wearing flamingos, cheeseburgers, sharks, Landshark sixpack boxes and parrots on their heads look tame and everyday.
After taking pictures at your entrance sign, breaking the bank at the artist concession stand, grabbing the most amazing jerk fish, slaw and margarita’s we made our way to our box. Now Jim, I have to add a nod of my head to my husband at this point. He like me is fast approaching that milestone of 50. Your concert was his first concert ever. He insisted on a box and I thought it was foolish to fork out that much money for that priviledge. The concert would have been miserable had we not sat in the box. Everyone in front of us had parrots, fins and signs on their heads and were on their feet most of the concert. Had we opted for the floor or regular seats, we would not have been able to see a thing. My husband is a wise man.
At 20:00, safely seated in our box we waited for the wave, no tsunami of people to file in and take their seats. You waited too. Our server claimed she had never been to a concert or seen the sheer number of people like that night. I chuckled when she querulously stated “Jimmy Buffett, who knew?” I knew Jimmy. Your concerts never fail to bring in less than 25,000 people in the States. At 20:10 the lights went dim, and I heard the conch shells blowing. I desperately wished I had borrowed my dad’s conch shell trumpet so I could trumpet along with you.
You opened with “Changes in Latitudes, changes in attitudes”, one of my all time favourites, by the time we reached the second verse, all 15,000 of us were primed and ready to shout for all of Toronto to hear “Good times and riches and son of a bitches. I’ve seen more than I can recall” Damn it does a body good. From get go I sang at the top of my lungs along with 15,000 of my new very best friends until you reached “This Hotel Room”, the only song I didn’t know for the two and a half hours you performed. At “Knee Deep”, I was dancing. By the end of “Fins”, I needed a beer because I was hoarse and let’s face it “Fins” is calisthenics with all that left, right, left, right, left, right…
Your tribute to Glen Campbell of School Boy Heart was touching. A deafening roar erupted through the crowd when the CN Tower appeared on the back screen during “Back Where I Come From” I sort of half hoped an image of you and John Candy from your skit The Fishin’ Musician would appear on the screen. John Candy was a native of Newmarket a town just north of Toronto. As I looked around many others, including myself were swallowing hard, moved by the music and the moment thinking about our own hometowns.
At “Volcano” I was on my feet, out of my seat, dancing for the rest of the show. If you were to ask me which song is my favourite out of all 26 of your albums. It would be a tie between “Tides” and “One Particular Harbor”. When you played the latter I was on cloud nine from which I did not descend for a full two weeks.
“He Went to Paris” was the last encore of the night, fitting as you will be performing a double header at La Cigale, in Paris on Sept 21. We waited until most people had left the venue before striking out to find a cab to head back to the Royal York.
Back at the Royal York and close to midnight we were both way too jazzed to go to sleep. We made our way to the Library Bar in the Royal York. A cozy, late night bar where the decor is dark, wood and leather. A place where everyone is tête à tête involved in intimate conversations while the crooner at the piano sings soft and low. The wine list is long, and the food delectable. Here, Chris and I dined on fantastic crab cakes and drank a amazing bottle of French red while we talked about our stellar evening. We felt like teenagers who snuck out of the house for an evening without the folks figuring it out. At last call we made our way to our room and called it a night. Yes at 48, we still have it. We can party like we did in the old days, stay up ’til the wee hours of the morning wining and dining then get up and function the next day.
So Jimmy, I will close my lengthy letter by saying thank you for the music, the lyrics, the stories and for writing the awesome soundtrack of my life. I do so hope you return to Toronto or Montreal in 2018, we will be first in line for tickets. I have always been and forever will be a parrothead.
Lots of love and fins up!
Your biggest fan
Now where’s my damn salt!