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Everything I ever really needed to know in Life,
I learned from Jimmy Buffett

By Stephanie Staib

Stephanie's Blog Here

Editor:Stephanie wrote this novel about Jimmy Buffett. Stephanie is a student in my Fall 2005 Writing Class. Delaware folks will particularly like this essay. In that, like everything else in Stephanie's life, Jimmy Buffett taught her all about living on the Eastern Shore. Tired of reading my tirades about the great Delmarva peninsula, check out Stephanie's take on life by the shore.

She's a good little writer, Stephanie, witty and sharp. We'll have another piece by Stephanie soon. I'm trying to talk her into her own Blog but absent that, hoping she'll guest write for THIS Blog once in a while, insert wink here.

Although not officially defined in the Webster's Meridian, if forced to commit it to paper, I'd describe a parrot head as such....

Parrot Head: a fan of the eclectic country/island style music of Jimmy Buffett. Characteristics include: Love of Hawaiian shirts and gaudy tourist style garments and accessories depicting parrots, sharks, palm trees and such. Crazed compulsion to attend at least one concert annually regardless of the ticket cost or proximity from. Extreme urge to drink Margarita's, even if the taste of Tequila makes you want to gag. Lastly, deep-rooted obsession with anything and everything nautical.

Forgive me Father for I was not always a parrot head. In fact, at the tender age of 18, I couldn't have been farther from one. I developed this distaste for any music that went "twang" soon after a spontaneous daytrip to one of West Philly's seedy tearooms. It was here that a middle-aged male fortune-teller in a rumpled avocado colored leisure suit, looked me intensely in the eyes and in a voice seasoned by one too many pints of Schlitz and Pall Mall cigarettes gasped " I see country music in your future."

My initial reaction was "What you talking about Willlis? But upon further reflection remembered that indeed I was about to move out west to attend college in Arizona; land of 10 gallon hats, colt 45's and birthplace to some of the saddest cowboy ballads every set to guitar. Additionally, I've never really let go of my sneaking suspicion that the majority of applause at my 4th grade choral performance of John Denver's "Country Roads" were in fact, directed solely at me.

For all the clueless non-junkies of 70's sitcoms, Willis was not the swami's birth name. I was not privy to his personal identification, and for the purpose of this piece, so dub him Lester.

Moving along, it was 1986 and life was good. Lawn darts could still be found in abundance at Toys R Us, Bill Clinton had yet to be elected president, MTV was G-rated, and darn it, fortune tellers abided by a code of ethics.

In my eyes, I saw not an opportunistic scam artist in soiled vintage clothing reeking of malt liquor. Quite the contrary, here before me sat a prophet just trying to earn an honest living with his god-given ability to foresee the future. Oh, how my idealistic self longed to trust in Lester's prediction.

Could it truly be written in the stars that I was to be the next best thing to Rocky Mountain oysters and fried rattlesnake fingers? Bestow my "achy breaky" heart!

All the way back home to DE, I envisioned the movie they make about my rise to fame...

"I was a Weapons of Mass Destruction Makers Daughter" (FYI: My dad was VP of Boeing's Apache Attack Helicopter Program). My excitement surged and even my boyfriend Pat felt the karmic rush of energy surrounding me. It was then he looked me lovingly in the eyes, caressed me gently on the cheek and uttered the words that would rock my world. "Sweetie you could most definitively write and sing country music, IT WOULD SUCK, but you could do it."

Don't cry for me Argentina... for even though all my aspirations of being special guest on Hee-Haw's Christmas variety show flew out onto Route 113 and were smashed by an oncoming Mountaire Chicken truck, my rose-colored Ray bans were still intact. I just knew that my destiny was soon to change, for I was about to start my freshman year of college in the land of milk and honey. As far as I was concerned, my horoscope had yet to be written.

I was soon to find out that my fortune cookie would not be served to me in the form of a delicious morsel of deep-fried cholesterol but reveal itself over a cross-country jaunt from Tempe AZ to the Delmarva Peninsula.

You see, Pat, killer of dreams and my soon to be better half, and I were what you would call academic snowbirds. During the fall and winter terms, we attended Arizona State University in the valley of the sun. Come mid-May, we hi-tailed it back to OC MD every summer to wait tables at any seasonal bar & restaurant that served dollar drafts and willing to hire us as a team.

Our first year, however, we found ourselves in a quite a pickle. It just so happens that after consuming way too many cervezas at a Cinco de Mayo party, we impulsively sold our only car, a 1980 Dodge Horizon; paint color, burnt umber, to our highly persuasive non-English speaking Mexican neighbors for $500 bucks. The proceeds of which went to purchase a state-of-the-art Kenwood 5 Disk carousel compact disk player with remote control, pretty neat Huh?)

Your next logical question would be "Well, How in the Sam hill did you drive back East then?"

Mi amigos, you're forgetting the obvious. We were poor college students, thus masters of manipulating every opportunity for free goods and services. For example, on any given day three square meals were at our fingertips; Day-old Dunkin Donut dumpster treats, bottomless bowls of the local tavern's complimentary spicy trail mix & popcorn, and a nightly potluck smorgasbord of what we in the food service industry refer to as "The Bus Tub Buffet" consisting of forgotten doggy bags, half-eaten entrees, discarded rolls and after-dinner mints.

Surely finding free passage to the beach would present no hard task.

Sure enough, by some lucky twist of fate, our free ride arrived via a classified ad in the college rag. AAA was enlisting responsible young adults to drive elderly winter resident's cars back to their summer homes around the United States. All that was required was a valid identification; an unmarred driving record, and sufficient funds for gas & tolls.

After passing all the necessary tests with flying colors, AAA handed us the keys to a brand-new, fully loaded 1988 Crown Victoria sedan. We couldn't believe our good fortune. This baby had all the creature comforts; climate control heat & A/C, electric windows, power tilt steering, crushed valor seats that reclined better than any lazy boy and plenty of paw room in the back for our recently adopted cat JB (originally short for "June bug"; later changed to represent Jimmy Buffett's initials).

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However, we were soon paralyzed with horror, and I mean one could almost hear the soundtrack to psycho screeching in the background, when in the dashboard sat not a state of the art quadraphonic Blaupunkt CD player, but a Chevrolet stock cassette tape player.

Pat was distraught and began to moan in a tone not unlike that of Olympic hopeful Nancy Kerrigan "WHYEEEEEEEE?"

I too felt betrayed, but being the optimist that I am I snapped right into damage control mode.

Don't you fret, I sing-songed in the most chipper mousketeer tone I could muster, we have the power to rebuild it, we have the technology!

Those profound words of comfort coupled with the fact that this car was the only AAA Drive-away vehicle in need of delivery to the Mid-Atlantic region, soon soothed his woes.

On to mission impossible...being both self-proclaimed audiophiles, Pat and I agreed that a 2200-mile road trip, sans high-definition tunes would be comparable to a Sunday afternoon drive through the vineyard with Teddy Kennedy. Thus, we solicited contributions from all of college buddies for cool traveling tunes, which we would then dub onto 5 Maxell, Solid Gold, double density cassette tapes.

Rewarded with an almost infinite selection of music to sift through for our cross-country soundtrack, we had the luxury of being discriminatory. Not just any song would make the cut and Pat and I agreed to each exercise extreme caution and prejudice in our choices.

So imagine my chagrin when amongst the chosen few, the elite, was an album called "Songs you know by Heart" written and recorded by country singer Jimmy Buffett.

Immediately, I felt the phantom pains of my unrealized career crooning western tales of lost love, unrealized dreams and repoed pick-em-up trucks begin to nag at me. How could a man I had proclaimed my undying love and affection to, soon to be father of my 2.5 kids, do this to me?

Now who was playing Nancy Kerrigan in the made for TV movie? WHYEEEEEEEE?

Sensing my extreme distress, he then offered me sound advice, once again designed to rock my world. "Hey Big Steph (his pet name for me), Try it you like it!"

To make a short story long, I did end being surprisingly entertained by this, at the time, foreign, collaboration of songs. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was a captive audience with no other musical alternatives for 2200 miles and 3 3/4 days. But through some strange twist of fate, by the conclusion of the trip I had spontaneously evolved into a full-fledged parrot head and have been so ever-since.

For all the current timeshare holders in "Margaritaville", I need not expand, but for those of you still yet untouched by the magic of Jimmy Buffett, further explanation is warranted.

In a nutshell, Jimmy dishes out "escapism". His vehicle, a melting pot of country music sautéed with steel drums and harmonicas, is peppered with light-hearted humor and outrageous anecdotes. Makes no difference if your collar is blue or white, it's all about getting away from the daily grind and dropping anchor in your own special "one particular harbor "

He doesn't preach or lecture about his personal politics and for that I am eternally grateful.
For, it broke my heart in two when James Taylor, my second favorite artist in the whole wide world, took part in "The Vote for a Change" concert tour.

It was then that I knew I would have to forego seeing him play live that year. I couldn't in good conscious, betray the spirit of my dearly departed, WMD VP Dad, and purchase a concert ticket whose proceeds funneled down to the campaign to elect Kerry/Edwards.

Now onto the big picture (steel drum roll please...)

I'm here to tell you, enjoying Buffett doesn't have to involve escape from everyday life.

I have successfully incorporated a parrot head philosophy into my daily conservative lifestyle and I can assure you it doesn't involve dressing like a sunburned tourist and chugging tequila through a beer-bong, although definitely fun to do when the kiddies are at Grama's.

Basically, I 'm a full time stay-at-home mom/part-time desperate housewife whose mere wish is to bloom where I'm planted. Yes, there are times when I am not fully able to "love the now." And when I arrive at those impasses, I know it time to flip on the stereo, cozy up to a longneck bottle of Corona with extra lime and listen to one of Pastor Jim's sermons.

I'd now like to offer you a sampling of lyrics that continue to impact my past, present and future outlook on my 37 trips around the sun. After I'm finished, if the spirit moves you, go buy yourself a copy of Jimmy's Buffett's Greatest Hits, I guarantee you won't regret it.

Everything I ever really needed to know about college living, I learned from Jimmy Buffett

Ah the days, when all I needed was 2 packs of Marlboro lights and some form of fire and no matter what the circumstances, I was locked and loaded. (My husband still claims that I was a lot more fun when I smoked.) And though I wouldn't ever trade-in my predictable milky white toast life, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't occasionally look back and long for those crazy days.

These lyrics always manage to put a mischievous grin upon my face.

"We are the people our parents warned us about"

"I wish I were back in my crash pad days 'fore I knew what cash flow meant."

"I'd rather die while I'm living than live while I'm dead."

"Commit a little mortal sin it's good for the soul"

Everything I ever really needed to know about fate
I learned from Jimmy Buffett


Ever since I was a kid I was always fascinated by the occult and prediction of the future. Whether it was messing around with homemade cootie catchers, risking demon possession by the Quigi board, or having my 6th grade best friend's schizophrenic mom read my tarot cards, I never seem to bore of the subject.

I also take a profound interest in déjà vu. I can't recall from where this theory came, but one such notion is that these uncanny accounts are simply fate's stepping-stones. Each occurrence is an indication that you're on the right path in life.

My love of the unknown spurs my affection for these lyrics.

"I don't know where I'm a gonna go when the volcano blow"

"Twenty-four hours, maybe sixty good years it's still not that long a stay"

"With a little love and luck you will get by"

"My whole world lies waitin' behind door number 3"

Everything I ever really needed to know about attitude,
I learned from Jimmy Buffett


Growing up, I was blessed to be a part of a traditional and intact family where each parent had distinct roles. My mother stayed home with me and my three brothers (without the aid of Prozac) and my Dad, fortified with a home-cooked breakfast of sunny side up eggs and toast each morning, dutifully padded off to work each day. Because of this safe and stable environment, I had an ideal childhood, free from stress and traumatic events (one exception being the untimely death of my deranged Siamese cat Snowflake.) Thus, it came natural for me to have a good attitude.

Thanks to a lot of hard work on my parents part, I learned that happy endings were possible. How, you ask, I lived it.

In 1997 my father succumbed to liver cancer and for a while my sunny disposition was incommunicado. But reflecting back to my ideas on fate, I took comfort in accepting life for what it was, a winding path through this world over varied terrain. Some days requiring steel toed boots, other flip-flops. I also learned not to fret so much over anything that could be fixed with time or money, as there are so many things that are infinitely out of our control.

These lyrics remind me to always look on the bright side of life.

If I couldn't laugh I just would go insane"

"Gotta roll with the punches, learn to play all of our hunches
Make the best of whatever comes our way"

"Wrinkles only go where the smiles have been"

"Creola, Good for your sola"

Everything I ever really needed to know about the Eastern Shore, I learned from Jimmy Buffett
Although born and raised in a suburb of Pennsylvania, I was a lucky enough girl, thanks to the proceeds of my father's strong work ethic, to spend every summer since the age of 11 at my family's home in Bethany Beach, DE.

Spending my teenage summers in Bethany was unbeatable. Soaking up the sun by day and unbeknownst to my parents, by night drinking "Natty Bo" (National Bohemian Beer) under the boardwalk, smoking bummed cigarettes behind the arcade and counting how many times "Bubbles" the redneck could drive his Ford Pinto around the Bethany strip every Friday night.

Delmarva will always hold a special place in my heart because it is home to a lion share of my fondest memories. Not only did it foster my love for boating and appetite for anything heavily encrusted with Old Bay seasoning or on the half shell heaping with spicy cocktail sauce, it's also where I learned to drive a stick shift, catch and pick blue crabs and was enlightened to the fact that those orange orbs that grow in the Fall were actually called "punkins". Most importantly, Sussex County is where I met and later married my best friend and love of my life, Patrick.

They say once you get sand in your shoes, you can never get it completely out. Having been land-locked for a short time in my life, I 'm a true believer of that adage.

So In the famous words of Forrest Gump..."That's all I got to say about that" and I leave you with excerpts that remind me from where I derive some of my greatest pleasure's in life... the Delmarvalous Eastern shore.

"I can't pronounce my r's or g's when I'm speakin' Southernese"

"Give me oysters and beer for dinner everyday of the year and I'll feel fine"

"Got stop wishin', got to go fishin'"

"Shells sink, dreams float, life's good on our boat"

"Blackberry pickin', eatin' fried chicken...Life's just a tire swing"

"I have found me a home"

Thank you Jimmy for injecting a little fun into my life and helping me stay the coarse. I'd also like to extend props back to a certain seedy little tearoom in West Philly. Hey Lester, I guess your crystal ball wasn't broken after all.
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Review-The Ghost Whisperer

The Ghost Whisperer, airing on CBS, Friday nights at 8 pm, falls solidly within the revered "family hour". And yes it is.

A show that is, specifically, tame and even a bit childish.

Jennifer Love-Hewitt plays a woman who can speak to the dead. In fact, throughout the show, based on the episode I watched on Friday, 10/28/05, there are plenty of dead people all about and speaking with Hewitt's character about events in a life before a premature death left them to finish their business on earth.

In the 10/28/05 episode, a young adolescent met an early death as a result of excessive bee stings. To which he was allergic. The young man discovered right before his death that he had been adopted. It was his deathly quest to find his birth mother that left the adolescent unable to "cross over". "Crossing over" being the term used in the show that would have the unhappy dead finally able to rest in peace. Peace found by "following the light".

Hewitt's character helps the dead people get their rightful peace in death by finishing up what they were unable to do in life.

Such as finding a birth mother.

Which Hewitt's character did manage to do, with a little help from her dead ghost friend. There was the usual search for hospital and court records. Such searches made much easier by a ghost able to read words over some bureaucrat's shoulder to Hewitt's character while the bureaucrat has no idea a ghost is perusing secret documents thought confidential.

In due course, the adolescent's birth mother is found. Who does, in order to elevate the drama I suppose, deny ever giving birth to a son and further, demands that Hewitt's character and her alleged ghost son get out of her life.

The birth mother is undergoing her own life drama in that her daughter is then currently pregnant and wrestling with how to deal with it all.

I found it odd that the adolescent had such a troubled relationship with his adoptive mother. Who obviously greatly loved the young baby she adopted and was horribly saddened by his death. In flashbacks, we see that the troubled relationship existed during the adolescent's life and it continues, oddly, even after his death. The adolescent is very angry at his adoptive mother for not telling him he was adopted. Also odd. This type of scenario is unusual in today's more modern age. Most children who were adopted know this fact at an early age. What with DNA testing and such as concerns about inherited traits, hiding an adoption is just not done that much anymore.

It's also odd, although I'll allow it's often depicted as such in TV dramas, for birth mothers to so vehemently deny that they ever gave a child up for adoption. There's no shame in such an act. Indeed, it's considered noble to give an unplanned baby a chance at a better life than a confused and terrified young woman could possibly provide.

Perhaps it's only this viewer that found those scenarios strangely out of touch with modern day reality. The whole concept made the show as unbelievable as the concept of a woman who talks and gabs regularly with dead people. I must mention here that Hewitt's character certainly dresses very well. Of course Jennifer Love-Hewitt, formerly winner of the "Dancing With the Stars" series, is a perfect model for the fancy duds.

Even allowing that dead people can communicate with Hewitt's character, it's totally unbelievable that this Ghost Whisperer doesn't try to cash in on her extraordinary talent. I'll not accept arguments that the Ghost Whisperer is merely a fine human being who only wants to take dead people to their final peace. She could offer those services, for payment, to families of restless dead people, and still be a fine human being. Yet the Ghost Whisperer goes about her life, working to send the unhappy dead to an everlasting peace, and still must work like the dickens in an antique shop she purchased in partnership with a friend, played by Aisha Taylor.

The show has the required happy ending, with the birth mother admitting how much she thought of her adopted son over the years. The ghostly adolescent also realized, in death, how much he appreciated and loved the woman who adopted him and raised him with as much love as any biological mother. The birth mother was also jolted by the entire communication from the dead enough that she gained a new love for her living daughter and vowed to see her through the unwanted pregnancy.

Yet if my adult self seems to be pooh-poohing The Ghost Whisperer as totally unentertaining, I must disagree. Young people from about age 10 through age 16 would likely find this series very entertaining.

Young people this age are not as cynical as this adult woman. They've yet to have to make a living and struggle with finances at so precious an age.

For them, The Ghost Whisperer would likely intrigue and entertain just fine. Which is why the show should prosper during this "family hour".

Ghost Whisperer CBS Site HERE

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