Beginning the night of December 2, 2013, I embarked upon a foolhardy and ill-fated mission to spend 24 hours straight converting myself into the biggest Jimmy Buffett fan in the Twin Cities metro area.
For the uninitiated, Jimmy Buffett is the undisputed champion of wearing Hawaiian shirts and celebrating drunk, bacchanalian behavior, and his tribe is known as the Parrotheads. For more on his musical exploits, read my review of Tuesday's show at the Xcel. As a pop culture figure, he sits on a throne of golden calamari, and his Margaritaville brand produces clothing, frozen food, and alcoholic beverages.
As I knew stability would be needed, I recruited the help of my coworker, Grant Richardson -- a stable and happy-go-lucky character from the Minneapolis underground noise/punk/metal scene. A challenge of the mind, body, and spirit, I regretfully admit to the world that we were overtaken by margaritas, rum, cheeseburgers, and coconut shrimp. My esophagus still stings from heartburn, a cruel reminder of the madness induced by an overexposure of paradise.
To mirror what Buffett fans consume on a regular basis, the cheapest rum and 100 percent agave tequila was purchased at a liquor store along with a standard-issue bottle of pineapple juice. The festivities kicked off at a friend's house -- a lethal combination of cinnamon, sugar, and lime juice was paired together for an ultimate gut-rot concoction.
An hour later, I found myself at another friend's house where I consumed my first sugary mistake: an unconventional margarita made using cinnamon, sugar, and lime juice. The creator of the beverage, a stout IT recruiter named Dennis, put Jimmy Buffett on his laptop as I sucked down the beverage.
"This sounds like Raffi for adults. I'm going to lose my mind at this show, right?" I asked. "Parrotheads are pretty hardcore, man. I'm serious," Dennis replied.
Feeling uneasy, I embarked upon the next quest in my adventure and went out to purchase Margaritaville brand foods. A quick glance of the clear-blue watery website revealed that products were available at Wal-Mart. I shrugged and purchased the most comparable foods at my local co-op.
(On my way out, I placed a demand for Jimmy Buffett's culinary creations using a printed form off of the Margaritaville website.)
What followed was a restless night that involved the headphone digestion of the Mississippi native's first six albums worth of beach-bum anthems. I woke up the next day and immediately began consuming margaritas and cooking cheeseburgers for breakfast -- after I threw a 20-minute fit over losing an entire block of cheese. One could easily draw a parallel to Jimmy Buffett's most famous plight of losing a salt shaker; surely a sign that the transformation into a tried-and-true Parrothead had begun.
Wearing an outfit acquired the night before, consisting of a terrycloth hat, Hawaiian shirt, and khaki shorts, I attended my classes reeking of beef and rum. After a short nap at home while listening to Buffett's Volcano album, another cheeseburger was cooked while a mixture of panko, shredded coconut, salt, and Chinese five-spice was blended together to prep for the ultimate island treat: coconut shrimp. The mix along with the alcohol was brought to the local degenerate freak house where my co-workers Grant and Max reside.
I pulled up and saw my concert companion, Grant, standing outside in the cold wearing khakis and a Hawaiian shirt.
I fried up coconut shrimp as Grant created new margarita combinations (see them below) They included:
*Margareetos (Margarita with Cheetos dust on the rim) *Margaritos (Margarita with Doritos dust on the rim) *MargaRambos, which is simply a margarita with an egg yolk mixed inside [Ed note: Should be MargaRockys].
After a sufficient level of heartburn was obtained, there came another unconventional craft cocktail known as the "Margarolaids" featuring Rolaids ground up and floated on the top of a margarita.
We rushed out the door at 7:34 p.m., Grant chugging the remaining tequila and rum before we hopped into our friend Max's car before speeding to the Xcel Energy Center, where the show was being held.
As we finally approached our destination, we noticed a huge crowd of white people aged 30 to 70. Waves of fans were already cackling and howling as they stormed the streets. Ticket scalpers yelled into the streets as the self-assured Parrotheads ignored them or made comments like, "You don't think we got our tickets in advance to see Jimmy fuckin' Buffett?"
Inside, hundreds of tropical shirt-clad weirdos giggled and hassled security. Some were wearing shark fin hats while others were dressed fully as parrots, stopping to create irresistible photo-ops with St. Paul police.
Soon after, the object of our affection took the stage to a roar of applause. In yellow swim trunks and a blue shirt, a tanned and healthy Jimmy Buffett swayed back and forth to the island rhythms.
Grant leaned to me and asked, "This is him, right?" This clueless question was perhaps the first sign of the troubled waters ahead. I nodded affirmatively as I glanced at a couple wearing shirts that read "Chameleon Caravan." They embraced as I furrowed my brow in confusion.
After Buffett performed "Boat Drinks," he asked the crowd, "Can you say International Falls?" The crowd responded with a cascade of applause and Grant began to yell, "YOU LOOK LIKE LARRY DAVID," and "THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID." As his heckles began to degenerate into chants of, "GOOD FOR YOU, SHIT FOR ME," I noticed nearby attendees were beginning to turn on us, realizing that we were clearly seasick outcasts in an ocean of reality-denying equatorial devotees.
Experiencing profound dehydration and newly-festering anxiety, my eyes darted back and forth as I gulped a glob of regurgitated shrimp back down. Bile hung in the back of my mouth as an impeccable and powerful trumpet rang out, beaming through the blue lights and begging the audience to sing along to the Leon Redbone-sounding tune, "Pencil Thin Mustache." The backdrop changed to a picture of New Orleans' French Quarter as thousands swaggered back and forth, barking in approval.
I diverted my attention from the stage just in time to watch a man nearly impale his genitals on a handrail that was dividing the stairs. This image symbolized how I was feeling inside. Once the song ended, the backdrop changed to "Greetings from St. Paul." Everyone cheered and danced. Except for me and Grant. We stared vacantly as we realized how unprepared we were for this kind of madness.
As the show continued, Grant kept getting more and more drunk, despite the fact that he had not consumed more booze since our arrival. It was certainly a tropical miracle. His spirits steadily improved and he began high-fiving fans standing near us. A silver-haired man in a linen shirt began talking to a woman he knew; he didn't realize when my grungy associate stole his beer.
Around this time, a friend named Kathleen who was attending the show with her parents and fiancé appeared in front of me and dragged the leather jacket-clad maniac away by his collar. We walked through the hectic halls and I halted momentarily to purchase a novelty-sized margarita for $14. As I hurriedly slugged down the overly-sweet treat, I noticed Grant was attempting to steal a bunch of ornamental bananas. Although Kathleen pried the starchy fruits from his crude hands, he somehow managed to abscond with one of them. He grunted as he ate it.
We transferred seats upstairs and the beast continued unleashing his anger, yelling "YOU PEOPLE HAVE NO DIGNITY" as he dumped water on a group of fans below him. Occasionally he became distracted from tormenting the section and paused to yell, "PROVE IT, YOU ASSHOLE" at Buffett between songs.
After becoming infuriated over Buffett's bare feet on stage, Grant's feelings were represented by manic screaming into the shifting void of people as he smashed his fists on the rail in front of him. Sensing my distress and concern, Kathleen passed me a flask filled with rum as she eyed our mutual friend. We moved seats again to try and contain our little problem child.
As the show had triggered some sort of subhumanoid meltdown within Grant, I departed the arena to find another drink to help me cope.
I witnessed many strange sights in the gate area by the bar: *I saw a man wearing a coconut bra lecturing his young son to stay close and ten men who could've been James Belushi walked past. *Someone paired a "Lake Minnetonka" ski-jacket with a plush cheeseburger hat. Volcano sounds rumbled in the distance.
I felt isolated and afraid -- marooned on a deserted island. Lacking intellectual nourishment and rattled by my worry, I was forced to admit to myself that my only comrade in Project Parrothead had severely deteriorated into complete uselessness. I would have to embrace the show alone. The distant sound of steel drums sharply cut through my psyche.
Dejected and clutching an $8 beer, I plodded back to our seats to assist our savior, Kathleen. In my absence, she had decided the only way to tame Grant was to completely immobilize him by sitting on his lap. I held his arms down while he gnashed his teeth and screamed raging obscenities at Jimmy Buffett and anyone nearby. At one point, he got loose and began dancing with four very happy men before I grabbed him under the armpits and dragged him two rows back, throwing him into a chair. He remained there for the rest of the concert with a look of torture in his eyes - like his legs were being pecked off by toucans.
After the final chords of a Bob Dylan cover rang through the arena, the lights came on and Grant screamed, "THAT MOTHERFUCKER SELLS FAKE COCAINE." The remaining members of the crowd quickly scattered after getting a clear look at the source of the noise. We reconvened with Kathleen's family and her fiancé, Scott, and began our walk to their vehicle as Grant snarled at passerbys and gnawed on a parrot figure he had somehow acquired.
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To pacify the startled herd, I shrugged my shoulders and loudly exclaimed things like, "Anything can happen in Margaritaville, you know?" This and other not-so-clever lines seemed to smooth things over with even the most intimidated onlookers.
Our feet passed over the shining wet concrete outside the Xcel Center as we wove through a shockingly subdued and quiet crowd. We made it into the car and Grant's psychosis immediately diminished and although he was loud with his speech, his mind had somehow reformed. His final thoughts: "I'm okay, I just had to get the fuck away from those people."