When Parrotheads Attack: Exile in Margaritaville

Photo by Tony Nelson
Actual Parrotheads at last week's Jimmy Buffett show.
One night last week, 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 this review from St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. 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 Surdyk's along with a standard-issue bottle of pineapple juice. The festivities kicked off at a friend's house the night before the show -- 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 a friends 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.

Photo courtesy of Drew Ailes
I bet you can guess which one is me and which one is Grant.
"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 Walmart. I shrugged and purchased the most comparable foods at The Wedge co-op. On my way out, I placed a demand for Jimmy Buffett's culinary creations using a printed form off of the Margaritaville Web site.

What followed was a restless night of sleep 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 terry-cloth hat, Hawaiian shirt, and khaki shorts, I attended classes at MCTC 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 house of the local degenerate freak house where my co-workers Grant and Max resided.

I pulled up and saw my concert companion, Grant, standing outside in the cold wearing khakis and a Hawaiian shirt.

When questioned about his day at work of only listening to Jimmy Buffett, Grant stated, "I would equate my education on Mr. Buffett today to walking in on my parents having sex. Whats that noise? Is Daddy hurting Mommy? Oh wait, they seem to like this."

Photo courtesy of Drew Ailes
I fried up coconut shrimp as Grant created new margarita combinations -- Margareetos (Margarita with Cheetos dust on the rim), Margaritos (Margarita with Doritos dust on the rim), and MargaRambos, which is simply a margarita with an egg yolk mixed inside. 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 Center. 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 facetious 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, tanned and healthy Jimmy Buffett swayed back and forth to the island rhythm and began the Parrothead ritual that has played out thousands of times by now.

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.

Story continues on the next page.

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