- "It's My Job," - Jimmy Buffett
- "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don't Love Jesus," - Jimmy Buffett
- "Smart Woman (In A Real Short Skirt)," - Jimmy Buffett
- "Treat Her Like a Lady," - Jimmy Buffett
Trying to stay on top of things today, I realized that I've been two two of Buffett's restaurants, the Margaritaville Cafe in Key West and the Cheeseburger in Paradise here in Columbus, OH. The experiences couldn't have been more different to me.
Yes, I ordered a cheeseburger at both.
First, my experience in Key West:
This experience occurred in March of 2001, when my friend Mitty, his brother Randy, and I ran away to Key West for a week. At least, that was the plan. We ended up driving from Columbus to Key West, sleeping in a pile in the back of the Mittyvan at a rest stop in south Georgia the first night, and spending the night at Camp Sawyer the second night. Yes, the picture at right is the place we stayed. . . and it looked very much like that, except that we had the whole campground to ourselves.
This isn't so much a description of our six hours in Key West, the coconuts we picked from the palm tree that morning for breakfast, the lovely German girl who took my picture on the beach, or the free parking we located on Eaton St, though. This is about an amazing cheeseburger and a strong mango margarita I was drinking an hour before noon that day.
The thing is, I wasn't much of a Parrothead back then: I'd heard some of the music, but by no means had I even begun to grasp the entire catalogue as I have more recently. I still misunderstood the lyrics of a popular song and believed that they referred to a "mean" kosher pickle, which gave me an interesting idea of what I should be eating.
The thing is, though, that the margarita, the medium rare burger, and the atmosphere in the café at 11 AM blended together beautifully, making my memory of the experience a sweet, soft joy in the back of my head. I recall so much about the experience, from the waitress with her soft voice and lovely hair to the smell of the sea air rolling down Duvall Street.
What I remember most, though, is the instant "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don't Love Jesus" came on over the sound system, the joy that lit up my friend Mitty's face, and his shout, "This is awesome! No one plays this song!"
Though I daresay that he might have been even more pleased with "Please Take Your Drunken Fifteen-Year-Old Girlfriend Home."
Now, for comparison, Cheeseburger in Paradise:
I was somewhat excited to see a Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant had opened up here in Columbus. I was happy to go support Jimmy with my hard-earned dollars (not that my 19 legally-purchased copies of the song "Margaritaville" aren't doing enough), and by now I'd created the Jimmy Buffett ritual (which is still talked about in various circles within ADF), and so I made a trip up with my girlfriend and we sat down to eat after waiting briefly.
In contrast to what I remember about the experience in Key West, my primary memory of Cheeseburger in Paradise is of the menu. It was like an alcoholic's wet dream (forgive the pun, please), involving more ways to get drunk than there were food items on the menu. It was a bright, garish blue with odd yellows and oranges and reds thrown in for accents. It was several pages before I managed to locate the food.
Yes, there's something about gettin' rip-roarin' drunk in Buffett's music (okay, a lot), but the focus is never on the drinking (even in that most prominent of bar jukebox songs, "Why Don't We Get Drunk [and Screw]"), but rather on relationships, the joy of life, and (though few believe me) personal responsibility that leads to an easy lifestyle and brings joy to a responsible person. Even in WDWGDAS, the singer is looking for something more than a hooker and is trying to get to know the other person. . . granted, with alcohol helping, and perhaps I'm willing to read more than I ought, but the singer doesn't come from a state of "I don't care," so much as "I don't think that's true."
So when I was confronted by this menu, I was a bit lost. I mean, what the hell was I, a light drinker at best, to do with such a thing? Still, I ordered my cheeseburger and waited, listening to the Radio Margaritaville-style musical mix (mostly Buffett and Coral Reefer side-projects, with some Bob Marley thrown in for good measure). When the burger arrived, though, I was pretty disappointed: it was small, came with few fries, and (perhaps the worst crime) tasted unforgettably common.
I admit to being pretty disappointed. I suppose I would only have been more disappointed in the place if it had served manatee burgers. Can we say "not getting the concept?" Well, I could. Funny thing is, I'm pretty sure that Jimmy was rather involved in this concept, so I guess it's really just me.
Now, it's been years since I've been to a CiP (or a Margaritaville Café, for that matter), so experiences may be different. But, from one Parrothead to a plethora of disinterested folk, that's my reaction to the two places.