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From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

“Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville, searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.”

— Jimmy

Buffett Years ago, my mother shared a story with me on an evening phone call that I will never forget. She was around 80 years old at the time, and she and my stepfather had attended a small family gathering. It was there that one of Mom’s younger brothers offered her a drink.

“He was making something called Margaritas,” she said. “He said he thought I’d like the taste, and so I said, ‘Yeah, make me one.’” Mom isn’t a teetotaler, but she doesn’t drink much — just an occasional bourbon and Coke some evenings. She described the flavor to me — sweet, sour, tangy, salty and delicious with a smooth lime flavor that really hit the spot.

“It was so good. Have you ever had one?” she asked.

“I have, Mom,” I replied. “I love them!”

“Well, I drank it down. I couldn’t really taste any alcohol in it, you know? He offered me another one, and I said, ‘Sure, fix me another one.’” During her story, I grew concerned that Mom noted that she had not “sipped” the tequila-laden drink, but that she had “drank it down.” I imagined her turning her glass upward and chugging the Margarita like she would chug a bottle of Gatorade during a hot, sunny afternoon of doing yard work.

“A few minutes later, I started feeling really funny,” she continued. “It came on quickly. My heart started beating fast and hard, and my head got hot all of a sudden. I thought I might be dying, so I walked off into another room away from everyone and sat down in a chair where it was cool and dark. I sat in that chair with my eyes closed and thought, ‘Well, this might be it. I might be dying.’” As her story unfolded, I imagined a sick, old cat leaving home to die in the woods by herself. I interrupted her story to fuss at her.

“Mom! Why didn’t you tell someone that you were feeling bad?” I asked. “If you think you may be on the edge of a heart attack or stroke or something, you should tell someone.”

“Well, a few minutes later, they came in there and checked on me — and laughed at me,” she said. “Oh, and I gave the rest of my drink to someone else, because I didn’t think it was a good idea to finish it.”

And that’s what I think of every time I hear one of Jimmy Buffet’s most famous songs. I think of my mother wastin’ away in Margaritaville, and I smile because it is so unlike my mother to slurp an alcoholic drink down quickly, and because I love that particular song.

I thought of that story and that song last week when I learned that Jimmy Buffett died this past week of a rare form of skin cancer. He was 76.

Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed Buffett’s music — lively and spirited and poetic. The son of a son of a sailor serenaded us with his smooth voice with tales of Margaritas, cheeseburgers, pirates, sweethearts, beach escapades and his longing for the ocean and its beautiful blue waves.

In the days since his death, hundreds have stepped forward to recall chance encounters with Buffett, who apparently was as warm and approachable as his music and his smile. I like to hear stories of super celebrities being good, decent people in real life, and Jimmy Buffett was one of those souls.

So today, I honor the memory of a musical legend who lived life to the fullest, sang his heart out, and left an indelible mark on the world. May we sing his songs for decades to come, and may we never drink a Margarita so fast that we feel like we may die.

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