JOSEPH CAMPBELL - The Power of Myth / THE THIRD PLENARY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE - Baltimore Catechism No. 2
X·ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON - Treasure Island / MARK TWAIN - Following the Equator, A Tramp Abroad, The Adventures of
·Huckleberry Finn, The Art of Authorship / EUDORA WELTY - One Writer’s Beginnings / CHARLES A. LINDBERGH - WE
THOMAS McGUANE - Panama / JIM HARRISON - “The Man Who Gave Up His Name” / JAMES M. BARRIE - Peter Pan
RALPH MIDDLETON MUNROE - The Commodore’s Story / JERRY JEFF WALKKER - Gypsy Songman
-TOM CORCORAN - The Mango Opera / GARDNER McKAY - “One Summer in Charente” / DON BLANDING - Floridays
·BERYL MARKHAM - West with the Night / LEWIS CARROLL - Through the Looking Glass
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH - Gift from the Sea / F. SCOTT FITZGERALD - “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”
ARTHUR C. CLARKE - 2001: A Space Odyssey / BRUCE CHATWIN - The Songlines / HERODOTUS - The History of Herodotus
ROBERT WILDER - Wind from the Carolinas / ANTOINE de SAINT-EXUPÉRYY - Wind, Sand and Stars
PABLO NERUDA - The Poetry of Pablo Neruda / PAT CONROY - The Prince of Tides / M . SCOTT PECK - The Road Less Traveled
GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ - “Nobody Writes to the Colonel” & Other Stories / ALEXANDER von HUMBOLDT - Cosmos
JOHN LLOYD STEPHENS - Travels in the Yucatan / MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS - Everglades: River of Grass
JOHN D. MacDONALD - The Lonely Silver Rain / JACK BOYLE - Boston Blackie / CARL HIAASEN - Tourist Season
HUNTER S. THOMPSON - “Salvaging is Not Looting” / HERMAN WOUK - Don’t Stop the Carnival
WILLIAM FAULKNER - Mosquitoes / V.S. NAIPAUL - The Loss of El Dorado - PETER MATTHIESSEN - Far Tortuga
P.J. O'ROURKE - Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People / JOSEPH CONRAD - The Nigger of the Narcissus
JEAN de La FONTAIGNE - Fables of Jean de La Fontaine / JACK LONDON - The Cruise of the Snark
KENNETH PATCHEN - “If a Poem Can Be Headed into Its Proper Current Someone Will Take it within His Heart to the Power and Beauty of Everyone”
HENRY DAVID THOREAU - Walden / RICHARD BRAUTIGAN - Trout Fishing in America
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE - The Life and Death of Richard the Third / OSCAR WILDE - A House of Pomegranates
A . SCOTT BERG - Lindbergh
James M. Barrie - Peter Pan
OF ALL THE MYTHS that have found their ways into Jimmy’s way of thinking, perhaps none is more quintessentially Buffett than Sir James Matthew Barrie’s classic tale of the boy who lives on an imaginary island, who flies all alone, who leaves the island to discover stories for the lost boys, and – of course – who grows older, but not up.
Down through the ages, recorded and oral histories often told stories of healing waters, or fountains of youth, or just various methods of reversing – if not stopping – the effects of human aging. And at the end of the nineteenth century, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray spun the tale as that of someone who did not want to age at all. By the time that Barrie took his turn, though, aging was no longer the issue. Peter Pan could never stop from growing older, but he refused to ever grow up.
Barrie was born the ninth child in a Scottish family of ten children; however, two of his siblings died in their childhood. His brother, David, was the next oldest to James, and he was their mother’s favorite. When David died in an ice-skating accident just before his fourteenth birthday, Mrs. Barrie was devastated. What little solace the mother found only came in knowing that her boy was never going to grow old. And so the seed of the Peter Pan myth was planted.
Some of these Pan allusions pop up in song lyrics, and many are offhand comments that Jimmy might make in conversation. But his most prolonged reference comes in A Salty Piece of Land, where Tully Mars encounters Bucky Norman, an ex-patriate who owns a fishing lodge called “Lost Boys” and who wears a hat with the words: “Never Grow Up.”
“The Island of the Lost Boys was my favorite part of Peter Pan,” Tully admits, “and now as Bucky showed me his camp, I was seeing life imitate art.” And when we understand who has written those words, then we recognize that it’s now art imitating life imitating art. Or something along those lines.
In any event, in the mind of Sir James, it is possible to think happy thoughts and fly off to that imaginary island, which he specifcally notes is “second to the right, and straight on till morning.”
Additional suggested works by James Barrie:
— Peter and Wendy (1911)
— A Well-Remembered Voice (1918)
A. Scott Berg - Lindbergh
THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT that Jimmy’s read this 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner. If you saw the opening shots of the original video download for “Getting the Picture,” then you glimpsed a quick shot of the Lindbergh cover before you saw Jimmy reading a copy of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
If you missed all that, however, here’s more impressive evidence. Of the aviator’s having landed in Paris, Scott Berg writes: “Everything changed for both the pilot and the planet.” It’s the same sentiment, as well as the same phrase, that Jimmy sings in “Oysters and Pearls.”
“This moment when Lindbergh landed in Paris in 1927 was not only a great moment in the revolution in transportation,” Berg once explained, “but also there was a great revolution going on in the world of communications. This was a moment when radio was everywhere in the civilized world, when newspaper syndicates could spread the word everywhere, when cable processes could send photographs around the world in a matter of minutes, and, indeed, for the first time, sound was being attached to motion pictures, so it’s really the first time that the entire civilized world could share a single event instantaneously and simultaneously.”
The initial desire to write about Lindbergh stemmed from Berg's belief that the aviation pioneer provided what the author calls “a great window onto the twentieth century, the great American century.” And though Lindbergh’s story already had been told, time and time again, in bits and in pieces, those all had been based simply upon press clippings and folklore. Berg wanted to set the record straight.
In addition to his own writing talents, there existed thousands of sealed boxes of personal papers and materials which Charles Lindbergh had ordered not be opened until some fifty years after the death of his wife, Ann Morrow Lindbergh. His widow, however, granted Berg access to every one of those files, along with access to herself and to the five surviving Lindbergh children, as well as to a circle of close family friends. The result is this powerful, historical narrative that begins with the simple sentence: “For more than a day the world held its breath.”
Additional suggested works by A. Scott Berg:
— Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (1978)
— Lindbergh (1998)
Don Blanding - Floridays
JIMMY'S BOOKCASE IS CRAMMED with works by others who were dreamers of dreams and travelin’ men . . . and travelin’ women, as well. Yet, none of Jimmy’s favorite writers displays those traits any better than does Don Blanding, who called himself the “vagabond poet.”
“I take a few moments to quietly move about the room and check in with a few old friends for some parting words,” writes Jimmy at the close of A Pirate Looks at Fifty. “I scan my favorite books: Beryl Markham, Don Sheldon, Mark Twain, and then I pick up an old copy of Don Blanding, and there they are, the words I need to close out this section of the book and this chapter of my life.”
The book is Drifter’s Gold, and the poem is “The Double Life,” a verse about the conflicts between wanting to roam and wanting to stay at home.
Born in the Oklahoma territory in 1894, Blanding began his worldwide wanderings right out of high school in 1912, and he never stayed in any one place thereafter for more than two years. His skills as an illustrator provided him with a livelihood from Paris to Honolulu, but it was the allure of the South Pacific that tempted Blanding to linger just a little bit longer than usual. There the young illustrator developed another artistry with words and meter and rhyme. Don Blanding’s talents, old and new, eventually led to nearly two dozen illustrated volumes of verse, including: Paradise Loot, Vagabond’s House, Hula Moons, and Stowaways in Paradise. Over the years, his works became classics among the islanders and they earned him the unofficial recognition as poet laureate of Hawaii. The title which captured Jimmy’s imagination the most, however, was Floridays, one of a handful of the poet’s works not inspired by the South Pacific.
Upon his death in 1957, his ashes were scattered just off the coast of Honolulu. Apparently, there was no one place in life that was able to contain him, and so it remain upon his death. Like Robert Louis Stevenson on Samoa, Don Blanding had written a memoriam verse; however, the vagabond poet chose to have no grave. In “Epitaph,” Don Blanding wrote:
Do not carve on stone or wood,
“He was honest” or “He was good.”
Write in smoke on a passing breeze
Seven words . . . and the words are these,
Telling all that a volume could,
“He lived, he laughed and . . . he understood.”
Additional suggested works by Don Blanding:
— Leaves from a Grass-House (1923)
— Paradise Loot (1925)
— Vagabond’s House (1928)
— Hula Moons (1930)
— Stowaways in Paradise (1931)
— The Rest of the Road (1937)
— Drifter’s Gold (1939)
— Floridays (1941)
— A Grand Time Living (1950)
— Joy is an Inside Job (1953)
Jack Boyle - Boston Blackie
LONG BEFORE BOSTON BLACKIE would become known as the “enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend,” Jack Boyle’s creation was just a safecracker and jewel thief in the bay area around San Francisco. That’s about as far from his misunderstood reputation as a private eye as it is from his misunderstood home base of Boston.
There’s a good chance that Jimmy was introduced to Blackie via TV, though, and so his take on this character is a bit removed from the pages of a pulp magazine.
“I’m a war baby (and proud of it) which makes me a first-generation television child,” Jimmy used to tell his audiences in the early 1970s whenever he introduced this song that’s inspired by Saturday morning TV. “Nobody ever writes songs about the real heroes who made America what it is today: Sky King, Ramar of the Jungle, and Boston Blackie,” he’d tell them. “I wrote this in tribute to the nostalgic people who were famous to me and nobody else.”
And so we have the lyrics to “Pencil Thin Mustache” with other allusions to Andy Devine, Ricky Ricardo, and American Bandstand. While the reference to Boston Blackie does carry the theme from the title through to the end of the song, only an aficionado of the character would be able to let you in on this other little secret: from Blackie’s first appearance in a 1914 short story, into his novelization in 1919, and throughout a string of six different actors who portrayed him in silent movies until 1927, Boston Blackie never sported any facial hair whatsoever, let along a pencil thin mustache. He was simply a clean-shaven professional thief with a heart of gold and a happy ending to each episode.
Another fourteen years would pass before anyone thought of bringing the popular character back to the silver screen. Columbia Pictures produced fourteen more films in black-and-white. One big change was their addition of sound; the other, a new actor in the title role. So, a clean-shaven Chester Morris helped evolve Boston Blackie into quite the charming investigator whose adventures involved his solving some crime which might otherwise be blamed upon him. After the seventh Columbia picture, the franchise spread to radio. Morris voiced Boston Blackie for thirteen episodes, but then Richard Kollmar played the part for some two hundred episodes, sans mustache.
Then Jimmy’s TV appeared. When Kent Taylor was cast as Boston Blackie, the character had been domesticated into a dapper and dashing detective, an image enhanced (at last!) by his pencil thin mustache. Clearly, his new appearance reflected William Powell’s portrayal of Dashiell Hammett’s Nick Charles in The Thin Man. Ironically, Hammett owes much to Boyle, as well.
Boyle was the first American writer of crime fiction in the twentieth century. Poe had written some detective stories, but none of his would rise to the level of Britain’s Sherlock Holmes.
So, it remains safe to say that Boyle’s Boston Blackie pioneered the genre of American crime fiction and paved the way for the hard-boiled detectives and private investigators, as well as for those who were not really professional solvers of mysteries at all. In much the same way that Boston Blackie had a paying job (as a thief), Alex Rutledge is a photographer by trade, and Travis McGee claims that he’s just “a salvage consultant.”
[Note: There are no existing images of Jack Boyle. This photo is of Chester Morris, the actor without a mustache who portrayed Boston Blackie more often than did any other performer.]
Richard Brautigan - Trout Fishing in America
Joseph Campbell - The Power of Myth
OF ALL THE BOOKS that Jimmy’s ever owned or read, there are very few that merit the special place right alongside this one either on Jimmy’s shelf, or in his heart.
One of life’s great pleasures is exchanging good books with close friends,” Jimmy says, and this last work of Joseph Campbell’s many volumes was a spontaneous gift from Ed Bradley back in 1988.
Jimmy had just returned from a concert tour of Australia, and he had brought home with him The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, as well as Ainslie Roberts’ Echoes of the Dreamtime. The oversized book was the most recent of the artist’s “dreamtime” works that illustrated the Aboriginal myths, and Jimmy gave it to his longtime friend.
“Ed promptly took me to a bookstore in Aspen where he bought me a copy of The Power of Myth as a birthday present,” recalls Jimmy. “I read the book, digesting it slowly like a crème brûlée, and made my New Year’s resolution to start my own book.” The immediate results of Jimmy’s reading Campbell was not only Tales from Margaritaville, but also Off to See the Lizard.
To this day, Jimmy’s affinity for Campbell’s work continues to surface time and time again. “Joseph Campbell said that a good myth is like an old car that was built to last,” Jimmy wrote when he revisited his songs for Meet Me in Margaritaville. “It just needs a good coat of paint every couple of years.”
And not long after Jimmy had followed all those bubbles up from the Lady of the Waters to the surface of Nantucket’s Madaket Harbor back in 1994, he returned home later that same August day to Long Island, where he found some comfort in watching – of all things – a few taped episodes of Campbell’s PBS series with Bill Moyers called The Power of Myth. “Campbell,” Jimmy explains, “looks at life and death as a timeless myth in which we all must find the role that suits us.”
Additional suggested works by Joseph Campbell:
— The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949)
— The Masks of God, Vol. 1: Primitive Mythology (1959)
— The Masks of God, Vol. 2: Oriental Mythology (1962)
— The Masks of God, Vol. 3: Occidental Mythology (1962)
— The Masks of God, Vol. 4: Creative Mythology (1968)
— Myths to Live By (1972)
— The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work (1990)
Lewis Carroll - Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Saw There
WHILE SOME MIGHT DOUBT whether or not “Math Suks,” very few ever challenge the claim that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was little more than a mediocre mathematician in that pursuit. So, Dodgson can thank his lucky stars that he had something other than his day job going for him, especially when he wrote under the nom de plume of Lewis Carroll.This comes from the poem recited by Tweedledee in Through the Looking-Glass.
As such, he’s known best for his 1865 classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. The two are often mistaken for one another, because movie versions have consolidated each into a single film.
“The Walrus and the Carpenter,” however, remains Jimmy’s first allusion to anything written by Lewis Carroll when it pops up in “That’s What Living Is to Me” on Hot Water:
“The time has come the walrus said
And little oysters hide their head.”
Meanwhile, the rest of Jimmy’s song is just as rich with other literary allusions, including the pun “My twain of thought is loosely bound / I guess it’s time to mark this down.” This reference should come as no surprise, for Jimmy’s spoken prologue on the album track explains how the song’s original title had been taken from an opening page in Mark Twain’s Following the Equator, which reads, “Be good and you will be lonely.”
One last piece of significa regarding this same poem arises from the verse:
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax –
Of cabbages – and kings – ”
From those specific lines, the short story writer we all know as O. Henry borrowed that phrase “cabbages and kings” to use as the title for a collection of his own short stories published in 1904. Henry’s attempt to craft a novel out of some related tales of revolution set in a fictional South American country is barely held together with a subplot about ex-patriates from the United States. In was in this very literary setting, though, that O. Henry coined the term “banana republic” to describe the sort of corrupt, unstable, and self-important dictatorships that still seem to come and go in the tropics. O. Henry’s own phrase nowadays remains better known than does his book.
So, let’s again thank Mr. Twain for Following the Equator, and add to all that some thanks for the shaky math of Mr. Dodgson as well.
Bruce Chatwin - The Songlines
ONE OF THE TWO BOOKS that Jimmy brought home in 1988 from his tour of Australia was The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. This semi-true story about Aboriginal myths inspired Jimmy to get to work ot only on his book Tales from Margaritaville: Fictional Facts and Factional Fiction, but also on the album Off to See the Lizard, which contains some songs that correspond with stories in the book.
Quite often in his lyrics and his stories, Jimmy has since invoked the simple term “song line;” however, folks from Down Under very much consider the term a single, sacred word worthy of a capital letter: hence, the proper term is “Songlines.” Of course, even that one’s an English-speaking version; in the language of the indigenous peoples, their word is “Yiri.”
In any event, the Aborigines consider the beginning of life as something called the Dreamtime or the Dreaming, and there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – which can exist in the Dreamtime until it is sung into existence. Bit by bit, then, the world had been sung into being by these mythical ancestors who walked throughout the land. In their wake, each one left a Yiri, a “Dreaming track.”
Since the Dreamtime, every Aboriginal has been responsible for keeping the world alive by remembering and by singing that part of the Songline which his ancestor first sung. Otherwise, they believe, that particular aspect of the country would disappear and no longer continue to exist. And so, quite often without warning, a current descendant might go on a walkabout and embark upon a spontaneous spiritual journey along his ancestral Songline. Quite often, a walkabout leads through territories where other tribal languages and Aboriginal dialects are spoken, and those segments of the Songline must be known as well. The belief is that following a Songline can simply provide its singer with safe guidance from one point to another, but the singing more importantly ensures protection of the countryside and the culture alike. All of this intrigued Bruce Chatwin.
Yet another vagabond in his own right, Chatwin had left his native England in search of answers to what he called “the question of questions: the nature of human restlessness.” His own wandering toes had taken him to the shores of Africa, as well as to the peaks of Patagonia, in his own belief that Man’s truest form must certainly be that of a nomad. In going to Australia, Chatwin hoped to uncover within the origin of the Songlines some proof to support his theory about human restlessness.
Additional suggested works by Bruce Chatwin:
— In Patagonia (1977)
— The Songlines (1987)
— What Am I Doing Here? (1989)
Arthur C. Clarke - 2001: A Space Odyssey
THERE WAS A PERIOD in the late 1960s when 2001: A Space Odyssey appeared as the definitive motion picture for the ages, or – at least – for those of us then coming of age. Heavy on special effects and on supposed scientific realism, the film was so short on dialogue that a great many theater-goers left the movie in the sort of silence that feigned awe and inspiration; however, a lot were simply in a purple haze or otherwise just bewildered. So, when the novel was released not long after the motion picture, more than a few people read it in hopes of deciphering just what it was that they’d scene on the screen.
Jimmy’s reference in “Fruitcakes” to “Stanley Kubrick and his buddy Hal” are one part screenplay allusion and another part literary, because Kubrick filmed the motion picture while Clarke wrote the novel (with Kubrick noted as a contributor to the book). Generally, the novel does follow the screenplay, but there are exceptions. For example, Clarke’s spacecraft stays true to Kubrick’s original Saturn destination; however, Kubrick’s film changed the course of the Discovery to Jupiter, because it was easier to design and film: No rings around Jupiter. Still, the abiding link between the two visions remains Hal, or HAL 9000, the all-knowing, soft-spoken computer aboard the spaceship.
Building upon this literary culture, then, the 2001: A Beach Odyssey tour provided yet another way of introducing “Why Don’t We Get Drunk?” by showing a video of Capt. Jimmy trying to make a tequila run, only to be confronted by Hal’s refusing to open the payload door. And when Tully Mars tries to take a siesta in San Pedro one afternoon in the course of A Salty Piece of Land, he “dreamed a giant marlin was floating through the air with his head protruding through the window of the condo, talking in a soft monotone voice like the computer Hal in 2001.”
Additional suggested works by Arthur C. Clarke:
— 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
— The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (2001)
Joseph Conrad - The Nigger of the Narcissus: A Tale of the Forecastle
Pat Conroy - The Prince of Tides
MORE THAN A HUNDRED so-called Sea Islands stretch from South Carolina’s Santee River down the eastern seaboard to Florida’s St. Johns. In the waters just offshore, between Hilton Head and the mouth of the Savannah, sits an isolated outcrop of land called Daufuskie Island, whose recorded history pre-dates America’s Revolutionary War and whose indigenous culture once added a certain richness to that of Carolina’s low country. Daufuskie’s historically scant population dwindled down even further in the 1960s to a simple few who were just too poor to relocate. Some were direct descendants of the Daufuskie Indians, but a great many others were Gullah, direct descendents of those Africans who had been brought to work in the cotton fields.
Onto this island and into this setting in the early 1970s stepped Pat Conroy, who had arrived to teach Daufuskie’s handful of children in their one-room schoolhouse. That experience led Conroy to write his first book, a memoir called The Water is Wide, which then became the motion picture Conrack with Jon Voight. Daufuskie, in short, had set Pat Conroy on course to write a bookshelf of powerful stories that shared an epic length with a Carolina background.
When a reader suggested sometime in the 1990s that Conroy must be a Parrothead, because Jimmy Buffett had written “a song about Beach Music,” the author explained that it had started with a phone call from Jimmy.
“He said, ‘Hi, I’m Jimmy Buffett.’ I said: ‘Hi, I’m Paul McCartney.’ He said: ‘May I write a song called “Prince of Tides?”’ I said: ‘You do, and I will kiss your behind.’ He said: ‘How much will I have to pay you?’ I said: ‘I will kiss your behind – I told you.’ So he wrote the [“Prince of Tides”] – and at the end he sings, ‘Beach music, beach music . . . [just plays on].’ And that gave me the title [for my next book].”
Additional suggested works by Pat Conroy:
— The Water is Wide (1972)
— The Great Santini (1976)
— Beach Music (1995)
— South of Broad (2009)
Tom Corcoran - The Mango Opera
IF JERRY JEFF WALKER’S the keystone to the lore regarding Jimmy Buffett’s arrival in Key West, then Tom Corcoran’s certainly the next stone over. And the story that’s repeated time and time again is that Walker brought Jimmy in to the Chart Room Bar for his very first sip of beer on the island. Tom was the bartender who gave (not sold) that first beer to Jimmy.
Tending bar was one of Tom’s jobs; selling tacos was another. But those were the things that brought Tom face-to-face with a daily clientele that included writers like Shel Silverstein, Jim Harrison, Thomas McGuane, and – eventually – Hunter S. Thompson. Along with Jimmy, they were a small circle of friends.
Photography was yet another line of work on Corcoran’s resumé, and his skills with a camera not only helped to provide a record of those colorful days and years, but also to hone his own sense of focus and composition – in photographs and words alike. You know what they say about pictures and words, as well as about pictures and stories, and you know damn well that’s all true. In Tom’s case, being a photographer was but another way of saying he had a novelist’s eye, as well as a bartender’s ear. So, it was only a matter of time before things finally fell into place. Sure, Tom had contributed more than just some of the ideas and lyrics to “Cuban Crime of Passion” and to “Fins.” And yes, some of his photographs had been used for Jimmy’s albums. All the while, though, he was learning from his his friends and how they went about writing.
It should not come as any surprise at all when Corcoran first brought together all of these things he knows for the story he called The Mango Opera. This is the book that Jimmy says “reconnects my heart and brain to the Key West that I knew as an unknown bar singer.”
Additional suggested works by Tom Corcoran:
— Gumbo Limbo (1999)
— Bone Island Mambo (2001)
— Octopus Alibi (2003)
— Air Dance Iguana (2005)
— Jimmy Buffett - The Key West Years (2006)
— Key West in Black & White (2007)
— Hawk Channel Chase (2009)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas - Everglades: River of Grass
CONSIDER THIS: Marjory Stoneman Douglas already was looking at sixty when Jimmy came into this world, and she was well into that personal decade when Carl Hiaasen was born. Before either one of those two had even taken a breath, Everglades: River of Grass already was in print. So, to say that Douglas was ahead of her time would be more than an understatement.
In fact, there’s more than a bit of irony when people compare her life’s work to that of Rachel Carson, whose Silent Spring was written nearly a generation after Everglades. “The River of Grass,” as Douglas was first to call it, became in time the major cause of this woman who championed Florida’s fragile environment, along with her concern for women’s rights, long before most others ever thought of such things. She later created the Friends of the Everglades in 1970, when she was eighty years old, and not long afterward she spearheaded an effort to prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from draining certain portions of the Everglades.
Wearing sunglasses and a huge floppy hat, the octagenarian stood little more than half the height of most others who had gathered for a hearing regarding the Corps’ actions in Everglades City. “When she spoke, everybody stopped slapping mosquitoes and more or less came to order,” reported one observer. “Her tone itself seemed to tame the rowdiest of the local stone crabbers, plus the developers, and the lawyers on both sides. I wonder if it didn’t also intimidate the mosquitoes.” In the end, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and her friends prevailed, the Corps was denied its permit, and Skip Wiley would have been satisfied.
By the time that Jimmy’s second collaboration with Savannah Jane went into its third printing, the dedication for Trouble Dolls had changed. In place of their original encouragement of “Children, see what you can see,” there appeared: “To Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the Seminole people who knew the Everglades long before we did.”
Additional suggested works by Marjory Stoneman Douglas:
— Road to the Sun (1951)
— Hurricane (1953)
— Florida: The Long Frontier (1964)
William Faulkner - Mosquitoes
MISSISSIPPI’S PREMIERE WRITER HAD NOT ONLY A NOVELIST’S EYE, but also a license to fly. And, more often than not, he probably had the bartender’s ear.
In the early stages of Faulkner’s writing career, he completed the typewritten draft of his second novel, Mosquitoes, while staying in Pascagoula. Basically, the story is an hour-by-hour account of a six-day cruise around Lake Pontchartrain aboard the motor yacht Nausikaa. The vessel belongs to a patron of the arts, who’s invited aboard an odd assortment of artists, adolescents, and intellectuals. And from this tale, Jimmy quotes a line for his notes on the back of Somewhere Over China:
It’s young people who put life into ritual by making conventions a living part of life: Only old people destroy life by making it a ritual. The boy that belongs to a secret pirates’ gang and who dreams of defending an abstraction with his blood hasn’t quite died out before twenty-one, you know.
While it’s no secret that there was a time when Jimmy dreamed of following in Faulkner’s literary wake, it’s also quite clear that they shared many of the very same spaces over the course of their separate lives. In fact, Faulkner’s earliest novels were written when he lived with a roommate in a small apartment in the French Quarter during the Bohemian period of his mid-twenties. There he wrote Soldier’s Pay and the unpublished Father Abraham, as well as this particular selection at hand. To celebrate the small sum he was advanced for Mosquitoes, the writer threw a little dinner party at Galatoire’s. We can only assume that Faulkner’s spirit still lingered when Jimmy had imagined that Slade and Isabella would rendezvous at the very same restaurant on Bourbon Street.
Beyond that single assumption, it’s safe also to assume that Faulkner and his twenty-something friends engaged in their favorite pastime of celebrating the somewhere of five o’clock, the Eighteenth Amendment be damned! While the author later claimed that his eventual lifelong drinking served to fuel his creativity, others said it helped him escape the shortfalls of his own existence; especially, his financial problems.
Maybe, though, there was a much simpler explanation. “It was that horrible thing of ‘You can’t do this,’” said one of the so-called “Famous Creoles” about whom Faulkner had written in Sherwood Anderson & Other Famous Creoles. “We drank because they told us we couldn’t.”
Added another one of his friends: “We did not know whether or not we would be able to get a drink tomorrow or ever again, so we drank whatever came to hand.”
In any case, Mosquitoes provides a wonderful opportunity to read about people drinking (illegally), above decks and below. Moreover, the novel puts forth, yet again, one of Mankind’s most perplexing questions: “What is it that makes a man drink whisky on a night like this, anyway?”
Well, maybe – just maybe – they drank whisky because the recipe for a Hurricane had yet to be concocted.
Additional suggested works by William Faulkner:
— The Sound and the Fury (1929)
— As I Lay Dying (1930)
— Sanctuary (1931)
— Light in August (1932)
F. Scott Fitzgerald - “Diamond As Big As the Ritz”
AS WITH HEMINGWAY, Fitzgerald wrote only a handful of books, and the short story was primarily his stock-in-trade. The length of those stories does nothing to diminish the talents of either man, for the two of them wrote stories quite unlike any others written before or ever since.
“Diamond As Big As the Ritz,” upon which Jimmy based his song of the same name, originally was titled “Diamond in the Sky,” and ran some twenty-thousand words long. Though that’s still shorter than Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, popular magazines that had been publishing Fitzgerald’s stories all sent the “Diamond” piece back to him, along with a rejection slip.
So, the writer chopped out some five thousand words, and that relatively-shorter version with the relatively longer title was printed in a magazine that paid him only three hundred dollars. By the time he managed to collect enough stories for his Tales of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald had removed another thousand words. And it still remained a long, short story.
For the most part. Jimmy’s own narrative remains true to the tale; however, nothing can match the extravagance of what Fitzgerald declared was the “Jazz Age,” that era when today’s modern conveniences were making their first appearances. Aeroplanes, telephones, and high-powered weaponry had been the remnant technologies of World War I, and they were just entering civilian duty during his “Jazz Age.”
The Montana setting for this story was likely inspired by Fitzgerald’s summer visit there when he was only eighteen. His stay on a ranch outside of White Sulphur Springs (about fifty miles north of Livingston) was marked by his several attempts to live the life of a cowboy: playing cards, drinking whiskey, shooting pistols, riding horses, and flirting with girls on a neighboring ranch. Still, Fitzgerald did not embrace the west with any of the sort of passion displayed by Hemingway. Instead, his Minnesotan outlook remained drawn to the decadence of the East Coast. Thus, his “Diamond” story was to him pretty much what he said it was: his own amusement.
Additional suggested works by F. Scott Fitzgerald:
— Flappers and Philosophers (1920)
— This Side of Paradise (1920)
— Tales of the Jazz Age (1922)
— The Beautiful and Damned (1922)
— The Great Gatsby (1925)
— Tender Is the Night (1934)
Gabriel García Márquez - No One Writes to the Colonel & Other Stories
LINER NOTES FOR “Nobody Speaks to the Captain No More” could not be any clearer. Just above the lyrics, Jimmy lists three names: Gabriel García Márquez, Allie Fox, and Phil Clark.
The last one there belongs to the legendary Key West bartender at the Chart Room, about whom Jimmy had written “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” The middle name on the list is the name of the main character in Paul Theroux’s 1982 novel, The Mosquito Coast. And the first of those three is the Colombian writer awarded the Nobel Prize in ’82 for what the foundation described as “novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.” At the time, García Márquez had already written his One Hundred Years of Solitude, but had yet to complete Love in the Time of Cholera.
The novella which had captured Jimmy’s imagination, though, is “No One Writes to the Colonel,” which was published eventually in single volume with another novella called “Big Mama’s Funeral.” The colonel in this story is an impoverished veteran of the so-called “Thousand Days War” that began in 1899 to establish Colombia’s independence from Spain; however, his story unfolds more than a half century later as martial law and censorship prevail during the chaotic years of power struggle that continued throughout the new nation. This period is known as “La Violencia.”
“Big Mama’s Funeral,” on the other hand, deals with the death of a political boss known affectionately as “Big Mama.” Though the focus of this novella is quite different from that of “The Colonel,” their social settings and literary styles remain very much the same.
All of that stuff aside, “No One Writes to the Colonel” is too long to be included in this volume, and it is also impossible to be whittled down into any sort of excerpt. So, a selection from “Big Mama’s Funeral” is presented in this anthology instead. Because this novella consists of a collection of short vignettes, “One of These Days” still provides a fine example of Gabo’s early writing, especially his solitary sense of everyday life during “La Violencia.” While it has nothing to do with the colonel, it does illustrate the style of the man whom Colombians proudly call “Nuestro Nobel.”
Additional suggested works by Gabriel García Márquez:
— “No One Writes to the Colonel No More” & Other Stories (1961)
— One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
— Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)
— News of a Kidnapping (1996)
— Living to Tell the Tale (2003)
Jim Harrison - “The Man Who Gave Up His Name”
NOT UNLIKE THE EARLIEST WORKS of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Peter Matthiessen, those of Jim Harrison also include poetry, as well as fiction. His first book was the 1969 volume of poetry called Outlyer, and then came yet another, before Tom McGuane talked him into writing a novel in 1970, and that one was Wolf.
“Key West in the Seventies and Eighties was a bit of a literary capital,” explains Harrison in his memoir, Off to the Side, but he’s quick to admit that the place “was a wide open arena for questionable behavior on anyone’s part.”
Nevertheless, Jim Harrison was one of the better behaved members of the notorious Club Mandible, and he has remained just as perplexed as the rest of the world by McGuane’s fabled liner note stating that Jimmy “was among the first of the Sucking Chest Wound Singers to sleep on the yellow line.”
Harrison not only wrote and fished alongside the best of them during his days and nights on the island, but he also succeeded with his wife of all these years in raising their two daughters. In a similar vein of stability, he has kept his close friendships with Jimmy, with the Count, and with Russell Chatham, yet another fisherman brought into the circle via Montana and McGuane.
Out of those same Key West years came A Good Day to Die, which Harrison describes as “a dour attempt at a thoroughly ‘noir’ novel in an American setting.” Years before Hunter Thompson would submit“Freak Power in the Rockies” to Rolling Stone, or Carl Hiaasen would give us the environmental terrorist that was Skip Wiley, Jim Harrison told of some off-handed remark in Captain Tony’s Saloon that inspired a plot to blow up Hoover Dam. The Washington Post claimed Harrison’s novel was “like the best of Thoreau,” but Walden Pond was nothing like the watering hole on Greene Street.
Additional suggested works by Jim Harrison:
— A Good Day to Die (1971)
— Legends of the Fall (1979)
— Off to the Side (2002)
Herodotus - The Histories of Herodotus
THE VERY FIRST OF JIMMY'S own string of best-sellers was The Jolly Mon, with Savannah Jane.
As the copy of the dust jacket tells it, “This book was conceived one day when Jimmy was watching Savannah Jane pretend to type on his computer. She was making up a story and telling it aloud. He copied down her thoughts, and they compromised on the basic plot.” Though the book version was first published in 1988, Jimmy already had collaborated with Will Jennings and Michael Utley on their 1985 song, “Jolly Mon Sing.” By no coincidence, the tale told in both the song and the book follow quite closely.
Inside the opening pages of the book, however, the “Storyteller’s Note” from Jimmy is a bit more forthright in saying that, “The poet and musician Arion seems to be the first musician to have gotten the proverbial ‘hook’ as he was traveling and singing his way through Italy around 625 B.C. He was saved by a dolphin who liked his music a lot more than the pirates, who seemed to have a different taste and threw him overboard.”
Therein lies this connection with Herodotus, for the roots of the Jolly Mon tale hearken back to the Age of Fable, when poets roamed from town to town and entertained those who would gather round to listen to their recitations. As Thomas Bulfinch has noted in his classic Mythology, these poets “were real persons, some of whose works yet remain, and their influence on poets who succeeded them is yet more important than their poetical remains.”
The most important kind of influence that those such as Herodotus had upon these more recent poets lies not just in their subjects, but also with their styles. And here’s a case where Jimmy’s learned much from both of their styles. In the end, this tale of that popular musician who was threatened by pirates and saved by a dolphin already had been history before Herodotus gave us his version. This, then, would be the English translation.
Additional suggested works by Herodotus:
— The Histories: Books I through IX (5th Century, B.C.)
Carl Hiaasen - Tourist Season
THOUGH HE'S NOT A TOTAL STRANGER TO THE MUSIC SCENE, Carl Hiaasen’s credit on Barometer Soup’s “The Ballad of Skip Wiley” is noted simply as “clapping.” Somehow this can make sense, because Wiley’s the so-called “environmental terrorist” in Hiaasen’s first solo novel, Tourist Season. At the time, critics hailed his work as a variation on the so-called “new journalism” pioneered by Hunter S. Thompson. And that makes sense, too, because Carl was then a reporter for the Miami Herald.
Though he had yet to become a columnist, it was not a big leap for Hiaasen to create the character of a columnist so upset with Florida’s land development that he took matters into his own hands. After all, Carl’s a native Floridian who has seen his boyhood territory “developed” right before his eyes. Over the next quarter century or so, Carl Hiaasen would create another dozen novels that each bore a snappy, two-word title; however, they shared more than just that. His main character’s always a hard-living bachelor. Often, he’s a journalist who’s been drummed out of the business by scandal. So, he becomes an outside renegade.
While Carl’s only Key West story was Trap Line, his Basket Case some twenty years later would be much in line with Where is Joe Merchant? Jimmy had nothing to do with Carl’s tale about the death of the frontman for a hair band called “Jimmy and the Slut Puppies,” but their mutual friend most certainly did. And that’s how Warren Zevon’s track called “Basket Case” appeared on his 2002 album, My Ride’s Here.
This was not the first such collaboration between Hiaasen and Zevon. Warren Zevon’s dirty little secret was that he hated writing lyrics, and so he sought out the writing advice of Hiaasen. “After some mild nagging,” Carl explained, “Warren finally agreed to come fishing in the Keys.”
That’s where Zevon first saw the phrase “Seminole Bingo,” and he thought it would make a good title . . . if Carl would write the lyrics. The result was the tale of a junk bond king from Wall Street who was losing money nightly in the bingo hall. Thus, the opening track of Zevon’s 1995 Mutineer album was created, along with another cut: “Rottweiler Blues.” Clearly, Carl set aside some time to perform with Jimmy on “The Ballad of Skip Wiley” later that season. Meanwhile, his working relationship with Warren would continue to grow through Basket Case and beyond.
Until the day that he died in 2003, Warren remained one of only a few whom Carl permitted to read his works-in-progress. As each chapter of Skinny Dip was drafted, a copy was sent off to Zevon, and they’d had a phone conversation about the book on the Friday before his death. Warren was eager to read the completed final chapters, but he passed away two days later. Skinny Dip is dedicated “In memory of Warren Zevon.”
It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, that the remaining two writing/rockers (or rocking/writers) would join forces for the film production of Hoot. And it should also come as no surprise that they’d somehow find a way to work into the soundtrack, Warren Zevon’s classic “Werewolves of London.”
Additional suggested works by Carl Hiaasen:
— Trap Line written with Bill Montalbano (1982)
— Tourist Season (1986)
— Basket Case (2002)
Anne Morrow Lindbergh - Gift from the Sea
FIVE O’CLOCK EACH EVENING in the Dwight Morrow household meant only one thing: Elizabeth Cutter Morrow, a poet in her own right, would gather together their four children and read aloud to them for at least an hour.
Throughout the formative years of the Morrow children, the ritual continued until, one by one, they all were able to read on their own. At that point in a young Morrow’s life, the hour became a private one set aside simply for reading or writing alone. Even when the family summered on Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard, the schedule remained the same.
It was not simply by chance, then, that Anne Morrow developed a kinship with the written word that would make her nothing less than a force of nature in the literary world. The fact that Anne Morrow eventually married the man who was then the most famous person in the whole wide world should not cast any semblance of a shadow over her own talents and accomplishments. Her much-acclaimed Gift from the Sea was only a matter of time, and her own life leading up to that slender, but powerful volume is replete with achievements that are no less impressive.
In many respects, the marriage of Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh in 1929 was a proverbial match made in heaven. Each one tended to bring out the best in the other, and that enabled their union not only to endure, but also to thrive.
The only title by either Lindbergh that Jimmy lists of his dozen favorites, however, is this small volume essays by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. On Captiva Island, she had found inspiration in the shells of her Florida vacation, and her meditations upon simplicity, solitude, and caring for the soul became Gift from the Sea. The book underscores Jimmy’s own thread of self-examination and self-improvement which runs throughout A Pirate Looks at Fifty.
Additional suggested works by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:
— North to the Orient (1935)
— Gift from the Sea (1955)
— Bring Me A Unicorn: Diaries and Letters/1922-1928 (1972)
Charles Lindbergh - WE
SITTING ALONE IN A RICKETY, WICKER CHAIR for more than thirty-three hours can make for a mighty long airplane ride, but the twenty-five-year-old flying his Spirit of St. Louis had no idea where his course would take him.
There was no doubt that he was headed for Paris, but Charles A. Lindbergh never once expected to become overnight the most famous person in the world. Nevertheless, that’s what happened once his wheels touched down at Le Bourget Aerodrome on the outskirts of Paris. The fame of others over the years in the City of Light, such as Oscar Wilde or members of the Lost Generation, would be overshadowed by “The Lone Eagle” and what he had accomplished. Lindbergh’s flight was one thing, but the speed at which its word was spread was altogether another matter.
Unfortunately, his fame soon proved to be the sort that brings confusion, for the madcap media of that era were more eager to spread their words than to spread the news. When they soon began to make up whatever stories they could sell, the otherwise shy and quiet Minnesota farm boy took it upon himself to set the record straight. Lindbergh never once fashioned himself a writer, let alone a person who boasted of things he’d done. What he simply wished for posterity was an unadorned account of what it was that he had set out to do and what it was that he had actually done. And that’s how the first telling of his story became his first book, entitled WE.
Lindbergh firmly believed that this progression of flight was nothing other than a stage in the evolution of mankind, and he was simply a link in that inevitable progression. In less than three weeks, he drafted a single manuscript that provided an almost mechanical account of his life up until then. Simple and direct, WE appeared in stores less than two months after he’d landed in Paris. And so great was his fame that it became a best-seller in less time than it had taken him to cross the North Atlantic. Within those next eight weeks in 1927, WE would sell nearly 200,000 copies. By comparison, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises had sold 23,000 copies during its entire first year in 1926.
Additional suggested works by Charles A. Lindbergh:
— Of Flight and Life (1948)
— The Spirit of St. Louis (1953)
— Autobiography of Values (1977)
Jean de La Fontaine - Fables of Jean de La Fontaine
Jack London - The Cruise of the Snark
John D. MacDonald - The Lonely Silver Rain
OVER THE COURSE OF SOME TWENTY-ONE YEARS , Travis McGee found himself in an equal number of adventures that took him all across southern Florida, and sometimes even beyond. During those two decades spanning 1964 to 1984 – from The Deep Blue Good-by to The Lonely Silver Rain – never once did the character ever set foot upon Cedar Key. Even though that’s what Jimmy Buffett might have said, John D. MacDonald had written otherwise.
Nonetheless, Travis McGee left an indelible footprint in both the Florida landscape and the American literary landscape alike. A self-proclaimed “salvage consultant,” McGee was not at all a private investigator or even a police detective. He was instead a beach bum who lived aboard the Busted Flush and who only accepted cases when his supply of cash was running low. And when that happened, he’d charge his client half the value of the recovered property, along with whatever costs he’d spent to do that. McGee called himself a “knight in rusted armor,” and he adhered to a strict code of values. Not the least of these was a reverence for the Florida environment. It was that attitude along with the strength of MacDonald’s storylines which endeared him to readers, including the likes of Jimmy and Carl Hiaasen.
“Having failed in every attempt to subdue the Glades by frontal attack, we are slowly killing it off by tapping the River of Grass,” says McGee. “In the questionable name of progress, the state in its vast wisdom lets every two-bit developer divert the flow into drag-lined canals that give him ‘waterfront’ lots to sell.”
The planet’s first Earth Day and Charles A. Reich’s The Greening of America, as well as Hunter S. Thompson’s landmark piece called “Freak Power in the Rockies” in Rolling Stone, all were awaiting the arrival of the subsequent decade. Until that time, MacDonald not only had a clearer view of the future, but also had a spokesman to present it.
“When I went to write books, I said, ‘Well, I gotta go back to the books that really got me excited, and those were certainly the John MacDonald books, Travis McGee,” explains Jimmy. “I miss Travis McGee a lot. So, I’d go back and look at those just to get a feel of something, and how to begin and end.”
Additional suggested works by John D. MacDonald:
— The Deep Blue Good-by (1964)
— The Lonely Silver Rain (1984)
Beryl Markham - West with the Night
HER LANDING ON THIS SIDE of the Atlantic was nothing at all like Lindbergh’s welcome in Paris. In fact, the only witness to the ending of Beryl Markham’s historic flight was the aviatrix herself when her plane crash-landed its nose into the muck of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. Her head struck the cabin glass, and blood poured down across her face. Nonetheless, she had become the first woman to solo an aircraft eastward over the Atlantic.
To this day, Beryl Markham is probably known less for that feat in 1936 than she is for her memoir West with the Night. Though the book was released to critical acclaim in 1942, the rest of the world had more pressing things upon its mind. Most everyone’s words – whether fact or fiction – could not compare to the reported events of the second World War. So, West with the Night quickly lapsed into a generation of obscurity.
Years later, when Ernest Hemingway’s Selected Letters 1917-1961 was published in 1981, Papa’s oldest son Jack (the father of Margaux and Mariel) casually asked one of his trout-fishing buddies if he’d ever read any of his father’s published letters. “They’re very revealing,” he added. So, the other fisherman took Jack’s advice and came upon these words about Beryl Markham:
“ . . . She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer,” admitted Papa. “I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and sometimes making an okay pig pen.”
Thus, from a casual remark during a fishing trip, a new edition of West with the Night was released in 1983. In Ernest Hemingway’s words: “It is really a bloody, wonderful book.” And there’s little doubt that Jimmy wholeheartedly agrees, for he refers to this book at both the beginning and the conclusion of A Pirate Looks at Fifty. Had Beryl Markham never learned to fly, though, she would still remain a fascinating person.
Additional suggested works by Beryl Markham:
— West with the Night (1983)
— The Splendid Outcast (1987)
Peter Matthiessen - Far Tortuga
Thomas McGuane - Panama
THE MAIN CHARACTER in Tom McGuane’s second novel migrates from Michigan to Montana, then down to Key West, and that was pretty much the writer’s own course in those days. Because The Bushwhacked Piano was published in 1971, however, readers will never know just how Nicholas Payne ever might have fared during Key West’s “decade of decadence” that was the Seventies. McGuane, on the other hand, came to know that reckless period quite well, for often the writer was right there in the eye of its storm.
And while he somehow managed to weather it all, the young storyteller of that time had no trouble fitting a constant full-tilt feeling into his next two novels: Ninety-two in the Shade in 1973, then Panama in 1978. Populated with shrimpers and smugglers and artists of every stripe, the island life had changed quite a bit since the arrival of Nicholas Payne. And it had become a whole lot different than McGuane’s very first look, as well.
A much younger Tom McGuane had been introduced to Key West when his father brought him down from Michigan to fish. That little father-and-son excursion played out in the more tranquil Fifties: Tom was in his teens, Truman was out of the Little White House, and the Old Town of the Cold War years still struggled in somewhat of a stupor. The water-based economy relied fully upon some spongers and turtlers, along with struggling shrimpers, as well as the U.S. Navy. Nonetheless, there was more than enough water surrounding the Keys to make young Tom McGuane want to come back some day, a sentiment best stated by his fishing-guide hero of Ninety-two in the Shade. “God, if they will only leave the ocean alone,” exclaims Tom Skelton, “I can handle anything.”
Without McGuane, we might never have Rancho Deluxe along with Jimmy’s trek to Montana to compose the musical score with “Livingston Saturday Night,” to meet the acclaimed writer named Richard Brautigan, and to stumble upon the dying town of Ringling. Without Guy de la Valdéne’s Tarpon, we’d never have his footage of flats fishing, of the Seventies Key West, and of Harrison, Brautigan, and McGuane holding forth together on the topic of fishing the keys. And without Tom McGuane, Jimmy might never have had a talented writer for a brother-in-law.
Additional suggested works by Thomas McGuane:
— The Sporting Club (1969)
— The Bushwhacked Piano (1971)
— Ninety-two in the Shade (1973)
— Panama (1978)
— An Outside Chance (nonfiction, 1981)
— Nothing But Blue Skies (1992)
— The Longest Silence (nonfiction, 2000)
— Gallatin Canyon (short stories 2006)
Gardner McKay - “One Summer in Charente”
OTHER THAN ELVIS AND MR. TWAIN, no one else’s name has been invoked more times in Jimmy’s works than that of Gardner McKay. Of course, it’s really the image of the tall and handsome captain whom Gardner portrayed on the small screen that Jimmy most often had in mind. That TV character’s name was Captain Adam Troy, and Gardner explains in his memoir that the role and the series were altogether different from anything appearing anywhere else on the networks’ schedules. The captain neither rode a horse, nor wore a gun, as McKay had already done on the series Boots and Saddles. Instead, this captain sailed his schooner Tiki out of Honolulu and through the South Pacific.
In fact, Adam Troy had sprung from the mind of James A. Michener, who had first established his own credentials with Tales of the South Pacific, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1948. Michener’s collection of short stories not only provided the basis of Broadway’s classic South Pacific, but also of television’s popular Adventures in Paradise. It was in Paradise, then, that Jimmy and most of the world feel that they first met Gardner McKay . . . an artist they continue to confuse with the character he portrayed.
His real life was truly much more the adventure, and the world outside Hollywood was where he could find his own Paradise. At the age of sixteen, for example, Gardner was sailing the West Indies. And once he was through with the backlot of 20th Century Fox, he not only took to sea and to the Lesser Antilles, but also to the backroads and the pathways throughout South America, moving at a pace that he has described as being “not much faster than a dog.”
By chance, he had become that television actor; by birth, he was an artist whose visions continued to spring forth through more than a single medium. To the artistic skills which he had honed as a student, Gardner later added those of stage actor, as well as those of poet, of playwright, and of storyteller. And then there were his talents as both a photographer and a sculptor alike. Each and every one of these provided focus for Gardner McKay’s own passion for life
Not long after the release of his novel Toyer, Gardner was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Still, that did not keep him from working through his decades of journals to craft a memoir called Journey Without A Map, nor did it keep him from the Sunday evening readings of his “Stories On the Wind” for Hawaii Public Radio. Before another two years could pass, however, Gardner had grown too weak to continue, and he passed away in November of 2001.
Those who knew Gardner fully understood that he was much more than merely some television idol; he was a sailor, an artist, an adventurer, and a beloved family man. Like that of Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa, Gardner’s grave is graced with lines from a poem of his own:
Now comes the end of the day.
Now comes the rush of night.
The luminous sea turns grey.
The faces of friends lose their light.
I have sailed toward a high, steep island
Where my dreams would all come to be,
Never wanting to be done with the ocean
Till each wave was done with me.
Additional suggested works by Gardner McKay:
— Toyer (1999)
— Journey Without A Map: A Memoir (2009)
— The Kinsman (2010)
Ralph Middleton Munroe - The Commodore’s Story
MIAMI WAS SIMPLY the most recent of a long line of names for a Florida river when young Ralph Munroe first arrived in the late 1880s.
That newest name had come from those people known as the Mayaimi, who’d lived around the fresh waters of Lake Okeechobee for the past two thousand years. Cousins to the Tequesta and the Calusa, the Mayaimi had all but disappeared by the early 1800s. Some had been sold into slavery by raiders down from the Carolinas, while others had escaped to Cuba and points further south. After they were gone, the Mayaimi had left behind little more than a handful of unwritten words from their native tongue. The most enduring of those was their name, “Mayaimi,” which meant “sweet water.”
All of this began to make sense later when the U.S. Coastal Survey of 1849 indicated that the river was not at all an estuary of Biscayne Bay, but a freshwater tributary flowing from the lake down to the sea. Having been known since the arrival of the Spaniards as Rio Ratones (Mouse River), as well as Fresh Water River, Lemon River, and Garband River, the Sweet Water River became more commonly called Miami River not long after the Second Seminole War ended in 1842. And so it was called the Miami when Munroe arrived at the settlement that was commonly called “Biscayne Bay Country.”
As a young man, Ralph Middleton Munroe came down from Staten Island to Florida aboard the vessel of William Brickell, another resident of that same New York island who had established a trading post along the banks of the Miami. In time, he settled into Biscayne Bay Country, where he helped found Coconut Grove. Munroe became both a naturalist and a photographer, but his truest passion was designing yachts for those with both the money and the time to spend upon such things.
To the Commodore, as well as to millions of others who would follow, south Florida was pretty much their idea of life in the tropics, even though its in the temperate zone of which Jimmy says he is “umbilically connected.” That doesn’t mean that the Commodore never sailed into the tropics, as well as into Key West, whose latitude of 24° 33.2' N. places the southernmost point just minutes above the Tropic of Cancer at 23° 26.17' N. “I believe the love of the tropics is born in most boys of the temperate zone,” wrote the Commodore early on in his story, “and though it may remain latent, if once roused it is seldom quieted until satisfied.”
This is the very line which Jimmy cites on the record sleeve within his One Particular Harbor album. Jim Shea’s image of Jimmy almost says it all: the guitar, the outrigger, and those beautiful Tahitian women, positioned within sight of the Bounty on the hook in the harbor beyond. Lest the listener miss the full appeal of the tropics, Jimmy cites that line.
Meanwhile, in the autumn of 2009, Jimmy gave his full support to the restoration of the Miami Marine Stadium where he’d recorded his Live by the Bay video back in August of 1985. Most accounts of the effort have noted that the 6500-seat stadium has an unconventional design and structure, but they have overlooked one significant fact: the true name of the stadium remains the Commodore Munroe Stadium.
V.S. Naipaul - The Loss of El Dorado
Pablo Neruda - The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
MANUSCRIPT GROUP 105 in the Special Collections of the University of Florida’s Smathers Libraries consists of ten boxes of stuff donated by Jimmy.
That includes his contract for a 1975 concert in Portland, Oregon at the Euphoria Tavern and a 1987 first draft of Margaritaville, The Movie 3, along with several drafts and galleys of A Pirate Looks at Fifty, as well as Where is Joe Merchant? There, you will find a revision of a Joe Merchant chapter entitled “Pray for Me, Pablo Neruda.”
That chapter title never made it into print, but it did become “Shelter from the Storm” about Blanton Meyercord’s escaping by Jet Ski to South America.
“Blanton started his engine and saluted the owl,” writes Jimmy. “The bird spread its small winds and lifted off the poling platform. ‘Pray for me, Pablo Neruda,’ Blanton said and headed southeast into the large ocean.”
Though that original reference to the Chilean writer had become an off-handed remark at the end of a chapter, it sort of foreshadowed Jimmy’s admiration for the poet whose name appears on the list of thirteen favorite books.
Born in a logging town of the Chilean frontier in 1904, the boy named Ricardo Neftalí Reyes Basoalto was raised by his hot-tempered father, because his mother had died when her child was barely two months old. Just above the Patagonia in the early twentieth century, a muse must have discovered the impoverished youngster and set him to writing poetry. “Poetry is like bread,” he would one day write. “It should be shared by all, by scholars and peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.”
Over the years, Neruda traveled the world, far and wide, and eventually found his way to the shore of his native Chile, where he became a lover of the sea, as well as of all things maritime. In the village of Isla Negra, Neruda built a low-ceilinged home with narrow passages and creaking wooden floors that lent it the semblance of a ship. There he found inspiration for countless poems, and there he was buried alongside his wife in 1973, two years after he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Additional suggested works by Pablo Neruda:
— Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924)
— On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea (2004)
— The Poetry of Pablo Neruda (2003)
P. J. O’Rourke - Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People
Kenneth Patchen - “If A Poem Can Be Headed into Its Proper Current”
M. Scott Peck - The Road Less Traveled
GIVEN JIMMY'S PERSONAL FASCINATION WITH MYTHS, most readers will understand just why he’s included M. Scott Peck’s most celebrated work on his list of favorite books.
“While I generally find that great myths are great precisely because they represent and embody great universal truths,” writes Dr. Peck in the section before this selected passage, “the myth of romantic love is a dreadful lie.” That mythical sort of love is something he claims is perpetuated from fairy tales to wedding days . . . And often, divorce.
On the other hand, what Peck calls “true love” can only come about when both parties are able to extend the boundaries of their egos and provide a spiritual nurturing of one another. Jimmy explains his own revelation in A Pirate Looks at Fifty.
“In the hills and valleys of my life journey, one of the deep valleys I trudged for quite a while was the valley of marriage. I come from a moderately dysfunctional background, topped off with twelve years of parochial education . . . Now, that is not the kind of gear you want to stuff into your emotional backpack as you venture into marriage, but it was the only gear I had. It’s taken a long time to figure out, first of all, that I had the wrong gear, and then an equally long time to figure out what kind of gear I needed.
“Jane and I have had a wild and wonderful roller-coaster ride of a relationship, from the day I met her in the Chart Room in Key West through living together, breaking up once or twice, then getting married and having a child,” says Jimmy. “We found ourselves speeding in and out of control on a train that was about to jump the tracks. She had seen the light way before me and was working on her problems long before me and was working on her problems long before I had the good sense to come in from the cold.
“I had gone with her, and without her, to different therapists, which for a Southern man is like having a root canal and an IRS audit in the same afternoon. I treated therapy like a performance, and I am good for that.”
Meanwhile, he also found some solace and support in Peck’s best-seller The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. One of only three nonfiction books on that hallowed list of thirteen, this one reads well alongside Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea.
Additional suggested works by M. Scott Peck:
— The Road Less Traveled (1978)
— People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil (1983)
— Further Along the Road Less Traveled (1987)
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - Wind, Sand and Stars
LESS THAN A MONTH before that young American air mail pilot flew alone to France and into history, a businessman on the other side of the Atlantic named Pierre-Georges Latécoère sold his own air mail enterprise to a another Frenchman in Brazil named Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont. Most people today might know the name of Lindbergh much better than they do the names of those Frenchmen, but a great many others would still recognize their company’s name: Aéropostale.
Just the year before those events, another young pilot some two years older than the young American had begun adapting his military aviation skills into those of an international mail carrier at Aéropostale. Flying routes among the French Colonies in Africa and South America, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took pride in the fact that his craft had very few instruments to tell him what to do. “The man who assumes that there is an essential difference between the sloop and the airplane,” he would later write, “lacks historical perspective.”
Saint-Exupéry’s skills in both flying and in management soon took him to outposts throughout the far reaches of the hemisphere; first to the Sahara, then on to Argentina. During an attempt to set a record flight from Paris to Saigon, however, Saint-Ex and his navigator crashed in the African desert after some twenty hours in the air. Both men survived the fall to the earth, but their entire provisions consisted only of some grapes, two oranges, and less than a bottle of wine. Seeking an oasis, the two were seeing mirages by day three. They were on the verge of dehydration when a Bedouin discovered them wandering about aimlessly on day four. That experience became the inspiration for two of Saint-Exupéry’s best known writings: Wind, Sand and Stars and The Little Prince.
As for the ending of Saint-Exupéry’s own story, it is not unlike that of a great many others of his era. An older Saint-Ex had returned to military life in World War II, only to disappear in flight and never be seen again.
Additional suggested works by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
— Wind, Sand and Stars (1939)
— The Little Prince (1943)
William Shakespeare - The Life and Death of Richard the Third
John Lloyd Stephens - Incidents of Travel in Yucatán
WITHIN ALL THOSE WRITERS ON JIMMY'S SHELF of favorites there lies a common sense of restlessness, and it’s a trait that’s traceable back to Jimmy’s very earliest readings. The archaeologist John Lloyd Stephens firmly belongs among those folks. Perhaps the only difference for Stephens, though, lies in the fact that he first set out on his travels not to placate some inner itch to move along, but rather to remedy his failing health.
A native of New Jersey, Stephens was born in 1805, studied law at Columbia University, then became a practicing attorney in New York City. Before he had turned thirty, though, the east coast climate was not doing much for his well-being, so Stephens left the states for a two-year tour through Europe, Syria, and Egypt.
When he returned, he wrote the first of his travel books, published in 1937: Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea, and the Holy Land. This the same sort of book which Twain would later pursue, except that it was a generation earlier and not at all funny. Still, the public received his Incidents well, and Stephens produced another: Incidents of Travel in Greece, Turkey, Russia and Poland. And so, a series had begun to emerge by John Lloyd Stephens.
Having read von Humboldt’s Cosmos, Stephens set his sights upon South America, and he once again enlisted a young British artist named Frederick Catherwood to accompany him to Yucatán. They embarked on their eight-month mission late in 1839, and they came home in 1840. Stephens wrote in two volumes his Incidents of Travels in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán, published in 1841, and then returned to Yucatán later that year. In 1843, Stephens published another two-volume work, Incidents of Travel in Yucatán. His expeditions and explorations not only earned him the title of “the American Traveler,” but also fed his own interests in archaeology and geology alike.
So, pull up an ice cube and enjoy the same view of Yucatán that also fed the daydreams of Tully Mars at the wheel of the Caribbean Soul.
Additional suggested works by John Lloyd Stephens:
— Incidents of Travels in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán, Vols. 1 & 2 (1841)
— Incidents of Travel in Yucatán, Vols. 1 & 2 (1843)
Robert Louis Stevenson - Treasure Island
THERE’S NO BETTER PLACE to begin appreciating Jimmy’s personal tastes in reading than with this classic tale which created the myth underlying practically everything that we’ve come to believe about pirates. Listed as one of his favorite baker’s dozen (minus one) of books, Treasure Island was the first hardcover volume that Jimmy ever owned. More importantly, it was a gift that his grandfather had brought back to him from a sailing voyage to Argentina.
On many occasions, Jimmy has claimed that it’s this classic tale by Robert Louis Stevenson that first planted those seeds of adventure which grew eventually into his own nomadic and gypsy sort of life. Jimmy has also said that when he captained Euphoria on a passage through the British Virgin Islands, he took his sailing companions on a side trip to Beef Island, just east of Tortola, and proclaimed, “We’re sailing to Treasure Island!” To a great many historians, Beef Island is said to have been the inspiration and setting of this classic tale of adventure.
As for Robert Louis Stevenson himself, the world at large owes him a debt of gratitude for having the imagination to create those very notions we now hold about pirates sailing black schooners through tropical islands, moving in the company of one-legged sailors with parrots perched upon their shoulders, and daring to bury their treasures anywhere ashore, let alone on some deserted island. Indeed, it is Stevenson who gave us each one of those pieces of the pirate myth, as well as the very notion that a buried treasure might be marked with an X upon some map. Whether or not Stevenson’s inspiration might have been Beef Island, the truth still remains that it was his own creativity that has given us that very term “treasure island.”
And though Robert Louis Stevenson will also be remembered for a handful of his other works, such as Kidnapped, A Child’s Garden of Verses, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of his most-quoted works is his personal favorite of all the verses he ever wrote. “Requiem” – which is Latin for “rest” or “peace” – is the poem that includes the verse he placed in his will for the headstone overlooking his own particular harbor within the island coastline of Samoa.
Additional suggested works by Robert Louis Stevenson:Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
— A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885)
— Kidnapped (1886)
— The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde (1886)
— South Sea Tales (1893)
Hunter S. Thompson - “The Gonzo Salvage Co.” & “Salvage is Not Looting”
THOSE WHO THINK THEY UNDERSTAND Hunter Thompson just because they’ve read Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas are the same sort who believe that they understand Jimmy just because they’ve heard “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
Born about the time when Papa was getting set for a new life in the palm trees on the outskirts of Havana, Hunter belongs to that generation of writers who were born before the war and influenced by magazines, newspapers, and books, but not at all by TV. To them, journalism demanded both serious thinking and serious writing, and there were publications eager to print that standard of work.
After being stationed with the Air Force near Pensacola during the late Fifties, Hunter then became a freelance writer, a role he struggled to maintain at the onset of the Sixties. He was in his mid-twenties just as the post-war babies were coming of age, throwing tantrums en masse, and proclaiming such behavior to be a cultural revolution. With his wingtip shoes and his close-cropped hair, though, Hunter S. Thompson was pitching articles and earning just enough to support his young family in the San Francisco area.
His 1965 assignment from The Nation magazine was a piece that he’d proposed about Hell’s Angels, and it led to his first book. Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs was a prime example of his serious thinking and serious writing, but the bikers weren’t at all happy that Hunter would not share his profits. So, they beat him savagely in what they called “a stomping.”
Despite that, his book attracted assignments from major magazines and national newspapers. In the spring of 1967, he wrote a piece for the New York Times Magazine called “The Hashbury is the Capital of the Hippies,” and he railed against the emptiness of the so-called social revolution. Drugs, he said, were pretty much their only reason for existing.
With that preconception stated, Hunter then proposed a book to Random House about “the death of the American Dream.” He wanted to report how promises made in the 1968 presidential campaign measured up to the ideals originally set forth by James Truslow Adams. “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement,” Adams had written in his 1931 Epic of America.
Random House liked the idea and gave him a small advance, so Hunter headed for the Democratic Convention in Chicago. The craziness that he witnessed there would change his thinking forever. Alongside members of the very generation he’d derided, Thompson himself was beaten by Chicago police. The stomping by Hell’s Angels was one thing; violence disguised as law enforcement was another thing altogether. Unable to express his outrage, Hunter never published any piece on the subject. And whenever he tried to speak about it, he always broke down in tears.
In Chicago, Hunter Thompson believed he had seen the fabric of the American Dream rendered into shreds: authorities pummeled America’s youth while elected leaders assailed the audacity of their generation. That vision which Adams had given of the American Dream, the same one alluded to by Martin Luther King in his 1963 “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” was something Hunter felt was being endangered.
Hunter never wrote that book that had led him to Chicago. With his royalties from the Hell’s Angels paperback edition, he moved his family to the outskirts of Aspen, Colorado. His sympathies turned toward that next generation, which was already graduating from college and heading into law schools. Hunter Thompson was ready to lend his voice to their cause, but he needed an appropriate forum.
As the publisher of Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner had needs of his own. The very audience that Hunter was seeking just happened to be the very same one that was losing interest in music as its social focus. Rock still had its place in their lives, but so did political movements. Into Wenner’s San Francisco office one day strode a lanky man wearing an Acapulco shirt, white pants, and tennis shoes. Atop his head was a woman’s gray wig; in his hand, a six-pack. The man declared his name was Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and that he was about to be elected sheriff of Aspen.
With the October 1 issue in 1970, readers were greeted by a close-up photo of Felix Cavaliere staring out from the cover. Across his forehead ran the banner Rolling Stone; over the bridge of his nose, “Freak Power in the Rockies by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Candidate for Sheriff).” A new era was beginning, in politics and in literature alike. This “Battle of Aspen” would prove to be more than just the “new journalism” of Norman Mailer or Tom Wolf. This would become known as “Gonzo Journalism,” wherein the journalist becomes so immersed in the reported event that his very involvement itself becomes the focus.
“What began as a $250 assignment to write a photo-caption for Sports Illustrated,” said Hunter, “ended some two years later as a book titled Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas – which, despite a long history of financial failure on all fronts, remains my personal favorite among all the things I’ve written. And it is still the lonely cornerstone of everything that has since become genuinely and puzzlingly infamous as ‘Gonzo Journalism.’”
The often-overlooked subtitle of Fear & Loathing has always remained: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. Hunter’s narrator, Roaul Duke, early on declares that the point of the story which he is about to cover is “Free Enterprise. The American Dream. Horatio Alger gone mad on drugs in Las Vegas. Do it now; pure Gonzo journalism.”
Later, Hunter would admit that Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas was simply an experiment that had failed, and nearly everything else he wrote always entailed much more serious thinking and writing. And almost always, it had dealt with the loss of the American Dream.
Additional suggested works by Hunter S. Thompson:
— Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1966)
— The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from A Strange Time (1979)
— Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream (1990)
— The Mutineer: Rants, Ravings, and Missives from the Mountaintop (2012)
Henry David Thoreau - Walden
Mark Twain - Following the Equator
SAMUEL CLEMENS WAS BORN IN FLORIDA, in Monroe County, in 1835; however, he was not born in the Monroe County of Florida, where Key West is the county seat. When Sam was four, the Clemens family relocated from that village of Florida, Missouri to the port town of Hannibal right alongside the Mississippi River. And that, apparently, made all the difference.
Though Sam Clemens and Mark Twain are well understood to be one and the same person, it took nearly another twenty-five years before Mr. Twain would be born. By then, Clemens was a typesetter, editor, and correspondent for the Territorial Enterprise of Virginia City, Nevada, and he needed some sort of nom de plume that might provide a bit of anonymity for a satirical letter he wanted published. So, Sam Clemens printed the piece on February 3, 1863, using the name “Mark Twain.” As every schoolchild probably knows, that term “mark twain” was the boatman’s call to indicate a depth of “two fathoms” along the Mississippi’s shoals. And so it was that the writer called Mark Twain was born.
It should come as no surprise that Jimmy Buffett would discover a soul mate in Mark Twain. After all, when Twain gave his very first lecture east of the Mississippi, he appeared before an audience of some 3,000 people packing themselves into the auditorium of New York’s Cooper Institute just to listen to what he had to say. Twain was thirty-two, and he didn’t sing or dance or play any sort of musical instrument. Though he simply talked, he was pretty much a rock star, strolling the stage without any amplification whatsoever and barely standing out upon stage in the glow of the gas chandeliers. And as Steve Martin would discover decades later, a white suit could certainly go a long way in helping the vast audience follow a solo performer standing alone by himself on the stage. Twain later explained in “How to Tell A Story” that he was neither a comic, nor a wit. He described himself instead as a “humorist,” which he claimed was altogether an American invention and art.
Within the week of those sold-out lectures, Twain boarded the Quaker City to embark upon an adventure that would provide him with material for The Innocents Abroad. That first book would sell more copies in 1869 than any one of Mark Twain’s other works, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. From that time on, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was a proven American original.
Additional suggested works by Mark Twain:
— The Innocents Abroad (1869)
— A Tramp Abroad (1880)
— Life on the Mississippi (1883)
— The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
— How to Tell A Story and Other Essays (1893)
— The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
— Following the Equator (1897)
— Mark Twain’s Autobiography (published posthumously) (1924)
— Who is Mark Twain? (published posthumously) (2009)
Alexander von Humboldt - Cosmos
THE ONLY TWO WORKS OF ART in the collection of Tully Mars were a painting of The Patron Saint of Lightning, as well as a black-and-white engraving of Frederic Edwin Church’s Heart of the Andes. The painting was something that Tully had picked up in the Frontier Days flea market just outside Cheyenne; the engraving was a legacy from his would-be great-grandmother. Her name was Sarah Sawyer Mars, but she was known with affection as Grandma Ghost.
As Tully explains, Church was a nineteenth-century American artist on a scale of celebrity alongside the likes of Mark Twain. People stood for hours in line just for the opportunity to pay the price of admission required to stare at his work. One of his most renowned works in oil was this Heart of the Andes piece that measured five feet by three feet and remains on display in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. At its unveiling, though, the painting hung in Church’s Greenwich Village Gallery, where it captivated the imagination of Sarah Sawyer Mars, enticed her to purchase this engraving, then caused her to abandon Tully’s great-grandfather in order to pursue her artistic dreams in South America. The letter she left behind cited a passage from this selection by Alexander von Humboldt.
Now, if that Humboldt name rings even the slightest bell of recognition, it might be due to that current in the South Pacific that bears his very name. Running north by northwest along the South American coastline from Chile to Peru, the Humboldt Current is the flow upon which Thor Heyerdahl rode his raft Kon-Tiki just to prove his theory that the inhabitants of the South Pacific islands could have migrated there from South America. The current, however, was never the subject of von Humboldt’s writings.
Born and educated in Germany, von Humboldt went on to become a noted naturalist, cartographer, artist, and sociologist whose travels throughout Europe and South America earned him the reputation as “the last universal scholar in the field of natural sciences.” In fact, Charles Darwin proclaimed him “the greatest scientific traveler who ever lived.”
Through his travels, observations, and studies, von Humboldt did his best to make some sense of it all and to present a greater semblance of the natural world through his artistic renderings of Europe’s nature, much in the way that James Audubon had approached his study of the birds of North America. Once von Humboldt was done with Europe, he turned his attention to the South American continent, and then on to Asia. The product of this lifetime of travel and observation began to emerge in the 1840s with the first two of five volumes entitled Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe. The entire work would take him years more to complete, and the last volume was published after his death.
Nonetheless, it was Cosmos that moved Frederic Edwin Church, and it was the fruits of Church’s observations that inspired Grandma Ghost to dream and to pursue that dream. And to send Tully Mars on his own adventure.
Jerry Jeff Walker - Gypsy Songman: A Life in Song
ANSWERS MIGHT ALWAYS BE THE EASY PART, but here’s another question just the same. Would Jimmy Buffett ever have made it to Key West had it not been for Jerry Jeff Walker? (Hint: Even time won’t tell.)
Jimmy has said that he’d have found his way to Key West in due time, but it remains Jerry Jeff’s Packard – The Flying Lady – that carried those two guys, along with Murphy Sadler, to the island for Jimmy’s very first look. Though Murphy and Walker both had been there more than a couple of times before, Jerry Jeff already decided that the wild island life was not one which he might ever survive. So, he followed US 1 north out of Monroe County and made a name for himself prior to his ever crossing paths with Jimmy.
Long before they ever met, though, this couple of fledgling gypsies already had a lot in common with one another, as well as with countless others trying to find their way through life and through the music business all at the very same time. In Jimmy’s case, “along came that ‘devil music’” just as he was “about to get serious about journalism” in Nashville. So, Jimmy became part of a group that worked a lot of the same clubs throughout the country. Steve Goodman. John Prine. John Sebastian. Gamble Rogers. Fred Neil. And Jerry Jeff Walker. Each of these guys have known just as much about the pains of street singing as they have about the grind of crossing the country in rent-a-car and westbound trains. And from the looks of things, not a one of them would have traded that life for anything else in this world.
Meanwhile, if you think you’ve found an answer to that opening question, then maybe you’d want to tackle this one: If Jerry Jeff Walker had never left Key West, would he ever have made it to Austin, then go on to become this legendary Lone Star country-rocker?
The answer doesn’t matter. Let’s just be glad that Jerry Jeff’s been to the island and back, then on to other places, as well. And that he’s told us his life in his songs.
Additional suggested works by Jerry Jeff Walker:
— Driftin’ Way of Life (1969/1990)
— Cowboy Boots and Bathin’ Suits (1998)
— Gypsy Songman: A Life in Song (1999)
— Best of the Rest (2004)
Eudora Welty - One Writer’s Beginnings
EUDORA WELTY WAS BORN TO BE READ, and I’m sticking with that line for openers.
Whether or not you know anything about either her or her life really does not matter, for Eudora Welty’s a person who should be taken at her word. And each one of her words is a gem.
Jimmy not only knows that, but he understands that as well. There can be no doubt that he first came to idolize her as one of Mississippi’s legendary writers, but that he later built an even greater appreciation upon that foundation. Eudora Welty is on Jimmy’s list of favorite books, but not so much for her fiction or her photography, but more for her memoir called One Writer’s Beginnings, which is based upon a series of her lectures about writing; however, the lectures read more like a collection of stories, and each has a point to be made about the art of writing.
You could easily view One Writer’s Beginnings in the same two ways that Jimmy has absorbed it: as a wonderful story of life in Mississippi and as an essential primer on how to become a writer. “My mother had made me a reader and stressed the legacy of my family’s Mississippi roots,” says Jimmy. “Mississippians who had made people take notice.”
Eudora Welty is a significant member of that group.
“Anyone bellying up to the bar with a few shots of tequila swimming around the bloodstream can tell a story,” he adds. “The challenge is to wake up the next day and carve through the hangover minefield and a million other excuses and be able to cohesively get it down on paper.”
Those things Jimmy learned from a collection of masters like E. B. White, Hunter Thompson, Robert Penn Warren, and – most certainly – Eudora Welty.
Additional suggested works by Eudora Welty:
— The Optimist’s Daughter (1972) Pulitzer
— The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1982
Oscar Wilde - The House of Pomegranates
Robert Wilder - Wind from the Carolinas
JUAN CADIZ MADE HIS VERY FIRST APPEARANCE on any record album anywhere when 1978’s Son of Son of a Sailor was dedicated to him, as well as to Save the Whales; however, Juan’s name popped up once again only a few months later supposedly for editing in London the dialogue on the live album You Had To Be There. And when Volcano appeared the following year, there was Juan’s credit for background vocals, along with Johnny Montezuma, James Taylor, and the Embarrassing Stains.
Then, of course, there’s the photo in The Parrothead Handbook of Jimmy sporting than t-shirt emblazoned with the two simple words: Juan Cadiz. These were the days when Euphoria II was roaming through the colorful Caribbean waters.
So, all of that might well beg the simple question: Who is Juan Cadiz?
The answer can be found yet again in one of Jimmy’s dozen favorite books, Wind from the Carolinas, where Robert Wilder has created this self-taught guitar player who took his surname from the stern of a sailing ship and who well understood that “there were always a few coins to be picked up in the taverns and grogshops by a man with a song and a ready smile.”
In the liner notes to Son of a Son of a Sailor, Jimmy cites a passage from the book that he says reminds him of old Key West.
But none of that has much of anything to do with Wind from the Carolinas, which remains the only one of Wilder’s works still in print. The story is a fast-reading, fascinating epic which traces the flight of the loyalist Cameron family plantation – lock, stock and barrel – from the American colonies across the southern waters to the British Bahamas. And back: aristocrats to bootleggers. In short, this is a story that’s ripe for a Buffett soundtrack, or simply an 8-track aboard Euphoria II.
Additional suggested works by Robert Wilder:
— Flamingo Road (1942)
— Written on the Wind (1946)
— Plough the Sea (1961)
— Wind from the Carolinas (1964)
Herman Wouk - Don’t Stop the Carnival
RARE IS THE WRITER whose reputation is based upon his personal virtues rather than upon some popular vices; however, Herman Wouk is just that treasure. In fact, “official living legend” is the title which the Library of Congress bestowed upon the prolific writer back in the year 2000, when the Library itself was celebrating two hundred years and Wouk was but eighty-five.
Less than a decade later, the same living legend donated nearly a hundred volumes of the journals he’d been keeping since some time back in the 1930s. Wouk’s parents both had been born in Russia, and his mother’s father was a rabbi who refused to learn English. At the knee of that grandfather, Herman Wouk received all of his religious upbringing in Hebrew. It was one of those very talks that inspired the grandson not only to become a diarist, but also to commit himself to his writing regimen of creating at least a page a day. This is the same advice which Herman once passed along to Jimmy, and it’s a schedule that both of them share.
The true measure of Wouk’s work, though, lies not in its quantity, but in its quality. As Time magazine noted more than half a century ago, “Wouk is not an angry man,” writing with any of the irreverent tones popularized by Hemingway or Mailer. “You don’t use dirty language in someone’s home,” Wouk once said. “When a reader holds my book, we are in an even closer relationship than a guest’s.”
Meanwhile, at the age of ninety-four, Herman’s regimen brought to life yet another book, The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion. Though it’s only a couple hundred pages, that’s ample length to contain the soul of one who’s trying to bridge a chasm that runs between his faith and science. Understanding the passion and the commitment behind such a valiant effort, readers can expect that the writer comes much closer to bridging that gap than any other person before him.
Additional suggested works by Herman Wouk:
— The Caine Mutiny (1951)
— This is My God (1959)
— The Winds of War (1971)
— War and Remembrance (1978)
— The Language God Speaks (2010)