Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So, Jimmy Buffett walks into a bar...

My parents gave me some surprising news my freshman year of college. My Mom and Dad were moving. And not to a house across town either. [Point of clarification: I have two Dads. My Father (retired police officer) and my StepDad who is referred to as SD or Dad.] My Mom and Dad were moving to the great frontier: Alaska. I am sorry...what's that you say? Yes. Alaska. This photo is an aerial view of where they lived. The biggest import /export point on the entire Western Seaboard.

That following summer, I returned to our house in Seattle. By myself. The summer without my parents was not comprised of raging keggers and frolicking in the hot tub either. I missed them and didn't actually enjoy staying in an empty house. Foolish, foolish girl.

So the summer after my sophomore year, I accepted the invitation to brave it in Alaska for three months. My Mom and I literally passed each other in the atmosphere as she flew to Seattle the same day I flew to Alaska. First to Anchorage, and then three more hours on a small plane to the island my parents were living on.

When I arrived, I was shell shocked. Both gorgeous in its beauty and more desolate than anything I had ever seen; the Aleutian Islands are as phenomenal in their topography as they are bleak in their social and cosmopolitan offerings. While I might like all kinds of perfume and pretty clothes, I am also not a priss. Big coats and boots the name of the game? I am in.

My SD picked me up at the airport with very interesting news.  Jimmy Buffett was in town. Jimmy Buffett on this tiny island was like a figurative needle in a very wild haystack. But it was true. He was researching for a book he would later publish titled Where is Joe Merchant? And he was performing that night at one of the rowdiest bars in the United States, The Elbow Room.

We take all my luggage home and after the quickest of turnarounds, we head out for a night on the town. Being all of 18 at this time, I am ballsy at dinner and order a cocktail. I wait to see if my SD is going to put the foot down like I KNOW my Mom would. He does not. I think he is super cool. He is secretly laughing inside because I ordered a White Russian. I will likely never get drunk from it. And to me, after a semester of drinking Natty Light and Flaming Doctor Peppers, I thought a White Russian was the epitome of sophistication.

We phone my Mom in Seattle prior to going to the bar. She is mortified. She does not like the idea of her precious child within 100 yards of such a watering hole. Why? Because in addition to having a very low surplus of fashionable heels, this island also has a very low surplus of young college-age women. She perhaps attempts to put her foot down. Good luck. That foot in Seattle was a thousand miles away from me. Put it down all you want, sugar! I am going to The Elbow Room!

Before entering the bar, my SD says, "I don't care if you have a few beers but you don't need to talk to a single man in this bar, and none of them better speak to you." Did my SD not realize that college was a wonderland of opportunity to practice certain skills? I mean, in addition to increasing my base of valuable knowledge, I was becoming quite adept at how to drink beer and talk to boys? But he meant business. And rightfully so.Once inside, I changed my tune. From the outside, an unassuming beat up old blue shack. This is an actual picture. Inside, it was like Roadhouse. Only less tame. When I asked the giant man behind the bar for a White Russian, he said, "Sure sweetheart." Then laughed. Then place a bottle of Bud in front of me. I knew better than to toss my hair and sass.

The bar was filled with the most motley of crews, peppered with East Coast based CEOs in town on business, family men working hard towards their children's futures, college boys spending the summer on fishing boats, and more than a light dusting of convicts. I stayed glued to my SD's side the entire night.

But listening to Jimmy Buffett play from only 3 feet away, in a bar with about 150 other people, on a remote island in Alaska was one of the coolest things I have ever done. I mean besides getting to have a cocktail with my Dad when I was not quite 21. Oh, the liberation.

Leaving that night my thought: THIS PLACE ROCKS. THIS IS GOING TO BE AN AMAZING SUMMER. Into the wild...nothing quite like it.

And today is my SD's birthday. Some of the greatest memories of my life involve you and when I said at ten years old that one of the best gifts I ever got was you as a second dad, I still mean it today. Happy Birthday.

123 comments:

Mandy's Life After 30 said...

Some just talk about living life to the fullest. But you, my friend, LIVE it! What a great story. And happy birthday to your SD.

the walking man said...

Happy Birthday pops you got a lot to be proud of.

JennyM...I think Tom Waits would have been cooler though.

AmyLK said...

How Cool! Jimmy Buffett! Happy Birthday SD!

The Peach Tart said...

What a great story, what a great step Dad (Happy Birthday SD), and what a lucky girl you are.

Stepharoni said...

I felt the same way about my Step Mom when she joined our family. What a tough gig being a step parent. BTW love your blog just started reading.

Secretia said...

That is one of the nicest thinks you could have said about him.

And thanks for describing Alaska, as I want to go there next summer, maybe it will come true!

Secretia

mo.stoneskin said...

Awww and a lovely tribute to your SD (which is not your SD card, lovely though that may be).

Cee said...

Great story and Happy Birthday to your SD. I would love to visit Alaska someday...it just looks so beautiful!

af1blog said...

A beautiful post!

Vinomom said...

What a cool story. I actually grew up north of Seattle in Snohomish county, and my cousins grew up in Alaska. My grandpa used to spend summers on the fishing boats out there. That picture is truly amazing. Happy birthday to your step dad!

Mom in High Heels said...

Oh, happy birthday to your step-dad! What a gorgeous town and how very chic and grown up of your 18 year old self to order a White Russian.
Jimmy Buffet and I are from the same home town technically. He was not born there, but grew up there. I was born there, but did not grow up there. My parents both live there now and most of the rest of my family. Once when we visited when I was a teenager, I was down on the beach with some cousins and there on the beach, with a campfire and a guitar was Jimmy Buffet. WHAT? He was there with some friends who lived on the water front (but thankfully did not have a private beach) and was incredibly gracious. We were invited to sit around the fire and join in on the singing. I've seen him in concert a few times, but it was never as awesome as sitting on the beach.

Lee the Hot Flash Queen said...

That is an awesome story! We were thinking of renting a house for 2 weeks in Alaska next summer with the kids.

Tia said...

A. Thats so sweet! I never liked my step dad, and this makes me a little jealous!

B. I ♥ Jimmy. Parrothead fo life!

C. Happy birthday to your awesome dad!

123 123 said...

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SamiJoe said...

So glad you had this chance to experience this. I have lived remotely before too--it really does teach you to look at the world a bit differently. Happy bday SD!

ShellSpann said...

I love this. Reminds me of a lot of my great memories with my stepdad :)

JenJen said...

How sweet!

And MAJORLY SWEET that you experienced that!!

Elise said...

loved this post - thank you !

Cathi said...

What an awesome story! Happy Birthday SD! :)

That Gal Kiki said...

A lovely tribute and story and how awesome to have seen JB in an intimate setting. Those moment are what life is all about.

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer & Crazy Woman said...

Happy birthday to your SD! What an amazing post - I have seen JB front row at Nissan Pavillion, but something tells me that this Alaskan bar trumps that by 1,000,000. Great story - sweet post.

Also, White Russians were my 21 yr old drink of choice - so classy and elegant ( :

Michael Rivers said...

Great story and happy birthday to your SD!

Summer said...

Sounds pretty amazing! Happy Birthday to your SD!

Bird Shit and Baby Caca said...

Jimmy Buffett is the best! I am so jealous! Happy Birthday SD!

Yankee Girl said...

What a great story and great bonding moment. There's is nothing like JB to bring people together!

Happy birthday to SD!

Mommy Lisa said...

Okay, that was super cool.

My step-daughter said when she was about 8, "Divorce is great. You get more people to love you. More grandpa's and grandma's and just more."

It is true if you let it be so.

You have a great SD. Happy Birthday to him!!!

foxy said...

What a great story! And with such sweet sentiment at the end, JennyMac. Sounds like you two are lucky to have each other. ;)

Happy birthday, SD!

The Boob Nazi said...

Alaska is definitely on my list of places to go ASAP!

Kaela said...

That's lovely JennyMac! I wonder if SD's birthday wish is that you've moved on from the White Russians ;)

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

What a very cool story and wonderful tribute to your stepdad.

i am the diva said...

That's an AWESOME story!! especially the part where you ask for a White Russian and get a Bud. Gold.

Will Burke said...

Great Story, especially going from "I-Know-better" to "Don't-go-to-far-Daddy" I'm the same with my SD, and tipping a few with him is a favorite memory!

Suzanna said...

haha, love the story. Thanks for visiting my blog!! :) I've looked at the Groupons for Atlanta every now and then, I figure if I find a reeaaly good deal then it might be worth a trip. Not counting the trips I already take to go to IKEA and H & M. We in Nashville are not blessed with such places...

Pricilla said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate your Dad's birthday.

Buckeroomama said...

For some reason, while reading this, I had images of you as Sandra Bullock upon her first arrival in Alaska in "The Proposal," only just the wee bit more prepared. :)

Happy birthday to your SD.

Eva Gallant said...

Jimmy Buffet? I am so jealous. Nice that you have a great relationship with your SD.

ellen abbott said...

What a great experience. Reminds me of the time I didn't meet the Rolling Stones.

Alicia said...

fun times!! i love that you're so close with SD...i'm the same with mine!!

Kristina P. said...

What a cool experience. Happy birthday, SD!

obladi oblada said...

Nice story...very sweet at the end too. It looks like a beautiful place.

carissajaded said...

Awww Happy Birthday to your SD!! I would love love to spend some time in Alaska. And to see Jimmy Buffett!!! Sounds just amazing.

ajm said...

I have a sister in Alaska, and I have never been there! I need to use her as an excuse and get my behind up there. It does look quite beautiful.

Laurie said...

Love this J Mac! When you talk about those college years I'm right there at WSU with you ...my pals & I went through a massive White Russian phase my sophomore year and all gained 20 pounds! I've never forgiven WR's since--never gone near another!

What a great once-in-a-lifetime story. I've got a cherished few too. And am always on the look-out for more ...

Thanks for making me think about it. And Happy Birthday to your SD! Sounds like all three of you lucked out :-)

Salt said...

I have always wanted to visit Alaska and do even more now that I've just read this. What an awesome experience! I love a good dive and that place is the diviest dive I've ever seen. :)

Happy birthday to SD!

Working Mommy said...

Happy Birthday SD!!! I can only imagine what an experience that was for you at 18 - how cool!!

~WM

*uncorked said...

Great story! I've always wanted to go to Alaska and now one of my closest friends is moving there in a few months. I hear men outnumber women like 50 to 1 there. Amazing.

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

happy birthday to SD. He sounds very cool.

Janet said...

What a fabulous story! I cannot believe that quaint looking little blue barn is a crazy bar!

Myya said...

What a sweet tribute to SD! I too have a SD like this! I love it when I hear others have the same great experience as I have had. Anyone who ever says that someone can't love you as much just because it isn't biological certainly has not had this great gift!

Kate said...

What a lovely story and lovely post. I hope your second dad has a great birthday

Kate xx

M-Cat said...

Personally not a Jimmy Buffet fan, but I am a fan of great memories.

And the fact that you get along so well with SD - that says alot in my book.

Happy Birthday SD

Tsquared417 said...

I didn't know this cute story was going to make me teary at the end!! Love it. happy Birthday SD!

Andrea said...

What a great birthday card for your SD! I love the story, I love Jimmy Buffett!

Stopped by from SITS. have a great day!

Postman said...

How awesome is THIS story? The Elbow Room? The Aleutians? Jimmy Buffett from 3 feet away? Wow! I'm impressed, and that's getting harder and harder to do after reading your blog.

Not only am I spiritually satiated with yet another humdinger of an anecdote, now all the sudden I have a line on a rather good beer joint in Alaska. Awesome. Thanks a million.

The Blonde Duck said...

What a great story!!!

Emily said...

That is awesome. Some of the best times I ever had were at Buffett concerts. That had to have been a once in a life time experience. And that bar totally reminds me of the FloraBama...ever been there?
(White Russians are sooo my favorite winter drink too.)

Vivienne said...

Awe.Some.

Liza said...

Fantastic story! I'm glad you shared it, because it made me smile.

Rebecca Knight said...

Awwww, dangit, JennyMac :). These posts always choke me up a little! I hope your Dad has a wonderful b-day!

Also, when you say like Roadhouse but less tame, do you mean that *two* dudes had their throats ripped out? Cause holy crap, that's pretty rowdy!

Baloney said...

That is so sweet! The part about how you feel about your SD I mean. What a gift to have someone in your life who obviously must have relished his role.

hotpants™ said...

Great story! I've always wanted to go to Alaska.

Brian Miller said...

what a cool tribute and birthday present! happy birthday to the SD! i always wanted to visit alaska...and jimmy rocks!

Hyla said...

Great post!

Simone said...

OMG, what a really fantastic memory, how cool are you??!!

What a lovely thing to say about your SD...beautiful.

:)

J.J. in L.A. said...

Happy Birthday, SD!!!

I've been to Alaska (cruise) but actually being there sounds like a LOT of fun! Even if you had to convort with convicts. ; )

Erin said...

Not everyone has a good relationship with stepparents, but I am so glad to hear that you're recounting such wonderful tales of the time you spent together. I wish I had positive things to say about the people my parents have chosen since they divorced. Happy Birthday, SD!

Debbie said...

What a great post. I can only imagine how thrilling it was to be there that night.
And happy birthday to your SD. He sounds like a great guy.

Mighty M said...

Awesome story! I love the White Russian you got! Happy Birthday to your SD!!!

Alyssa said...

What a wonderful tribute to a terrific stepdad...without being all syrupy and gooey. This is also a great post about Alaska. Are your parents still there?

ByDSea said...

Wow, THAT'S the infamous Elbow room?!?! It's kinda cute in a barnish kinda way. And the hillside makes it look all peaceful. Anyway, great story and Happy B-day Daddymac!

susan said...

This looks like Jimmy Buffet's kind of place! Seeing him is on my "bucket list". I am sure your good attitude, has a lot to do with having a great step dad--it takes two :) !!

shortmama said...

How awesome is it that you have such a great relationship with your SD?!

We went to Alaska a couple years ago....mesmerizing!

Colleen said...

I cannot begin to adequately express my jealousy at you getting to see Jimmy that close!

blueviolet said...

That is so sweet that you had such a great SD! Very rare, as I'm sure you know!

Uptown Girl said...

Sounds like such a cool experience! I've always wanted to go to Alaska, and now I have 1 more reason - checking out that bar...
happy bday to your SD!

Poindexter said...

what an amazing and crazy experience. was the rest of the summer equally unpredictable? Happy bd to SD!

secret agent woman said...

That's a wonderful story. I remember going to a restaurant with my Dad when I was 16 and ordering a turkey and seven. I was wa-a-a-ay cool. :)

Herding Cats said...

Aw! This was such a cute story! Your SD sounds awesome, and Alaska is a place I'd LOVE to go to!

mbkatc230 said...

Great story JennyMac. And a wonderful tribute to your SD. I laughed when I read your description of the bar, it reminded me of my one and only foray into the Flori-Bama lounge. Which now seems to be a tourist attraction! Kathy

MissJody said...

I love your blog and your style of writing :)

Thank you for stopping by my blog :)

otin said...

Everything about that story makes me envious. The isolation, The scenery, the age, everything. To me that sounded like a Cheeseburger in Paradise!

otin said...

By the way! Happy Birthday to your Step Dad. I have a stepdad who is very special also.

Ali said...

What a nice little twist at the end! And here I thought this was just another one of your hilarious (and extremely well-written) stories.

Happy Birthday, SD!

a H.I.T. said...

What an amazing story! I love Jimmy Buffet and have always wanted to visit Alaska. The best of both! Happy Birthday SD.

Scrappy Girl said...

When I am exhausted at the end of my day and I am in need of a good read I know I can come to your blog and be entertained. I love this story! Happy Bday to your SD!

Ed Adams said...

Cool.

You got to see the Dude.

Happy Birthday to your SD.

Existential Waitress said...

I really, really loved this post. The story itself was really cool, and when you wished your SD a happy birthday, it brought a tear to my eye. Nicely done.

ShellyInOz said...

Jimmy Buffett! Wasting away again in Margaritaville is one of my favourite classics. How cool!

I love your story about a favourite memory with your Dad. Very entertaining.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Nice post.

Little Ms J said...

While Jimmy Buffett makes me cringe and shake, I am a sucker for father/daughter moments. Sweet.

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

Hysterical post and then you whollop me with the tear-jerker ending! ;-) Happy b-day to SD...you are so lucky to have each other!

The Vegetable Assassin said...

Jenny, I am going to go against the tide here and say that I am totally allergic to Jimmy Buffet. When I was in the Keys last I actively checked he wouldn't be there before I agreed to go. I mean don't get me wrong, I'm happy to drink his fine margaritas till I fall down, but I could never have enough of them to listen to his music without my ears bleeding. Plus I always want to call him Jimmy BOOFAY because it amuses me. :)

CCW said...

How DO you DO that?

Here I am, all ready to snark on your cocktail du jour, and you go and make me all misty.

Damn you, JennyMac. Damn you.

p.s. At 18, I thought Brandy Alexanders were tres chic. *sigh* Now they've gone from sophistication to stripper name.

Matthew said...

More power to the stepfathers. :)

Jules said...

Happy Birthday Mac Daddy!!

sheila said...

Awe! I have a second dad too! My first one was....not so great. Second dads rock! Happy Birthday! and I love your pics of Alaska! You should post more of these. I've always wanted to travel there!

Little Ms Blogger said...

Oh how fun that must have been. I saw Jimmy Buffet at MSG, last and highest row in the place and it was still a blast.

I thought your parents lived in Seattle. Do they have 2 homes? I ask because you mention you were there for your high school reunion.

tiburon said...

Now I really want to go to Alaska.

Where did you grow up in Seattle? That is where I am from too...

MommaKiss said...

Gorgeous pictures. An before you said "not a priss" I was totally picturing Sandra Bullock in that movie where she goes to Alaska w/ her 'admin' (the hotness that is Ryan Reynolds)...I've always wanted to go to Alaska. Sigh.

Happy Belated to your dad.

Joshua said...

You have me beat. All I saw was Deep Blue Something in a bar in Texas in 1999, after they started to wane. It wasn't spectacular; they didn't even play "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Slamdunk said...

Love the story. In military circles I associated with, the cold cold of the Aleutian Islands can be similar to being banished to Siberia.

I hope this series continues so we can learn more about your summer up there--like with the grizzly bear wrestling and related.

Mindy said...

I loved this post. I'm from the Seattle area, too, and know quite a few people from Alaska. When I had a chance to visit, I was struck by its beauty. This is a lovely tribute to your SD.

Kathryn said...

Oh, Happy Birthday, SD! You've obviously endeared yourself to JennyMac in so very many ways... but I'm imagining the under-age drinking probably pushed you into the zone...taking her to hear Jimmy Buffett in a run-down blue shack that looks like it should be part of some long-ago-abandoned turkey farm in NowhereVille was just pure genius. What an excellent memory!

Molly said...

great toast to your SD....I would love to go to a bar in Alaska, the closest I've gotten is the Adirondack's, where my in laws live...and they've got some interesting shacks, I mean bars as well!

I enabled my email for you!

Aunt Juicebox said...

Awesome story. My husband loves Buffet, but I don't really like him. Parrotheads are HUGE in Cincinnati. I recently tried the beer he markets, Landshark I think. It was watery and not good.

Scrappy Girl said...

My email is girl {dot} scrappy {at} yahoo {dot} com

Corrie Howe said...

Today is my dad's 70th birthday!

I can't believe you got to listen to JB only three feet away.

I was born in Alaska...I'd like to go back and see it one day, since my family left when I was two.

Jen said...

Oh, that is such a cool story, JennyMac!

Dustjacket Attic said...

JM you sure have had some cool times girl, and your SD sounds great!

All fixed at my place, thanks for reminding me, I meant to link it a while back.
xox

Nathanael Rey said...

That is pretty freaking awesome.

Lily Johnson said...

Beautiful story dear and Happy Birthday to SD. He is a cool guy!

Unknown Mami said...

You do some awesome birthday posts.

Kato said...

Great story! I am planning a trip by myself to Alaska, and these pictures just solidify why I want to go! Well, maybe not the scary sounding bar but...

Happy birthday to your dad!

Nonflammable said...

I swear you can have more fun in places that are less than tame. It's great to take a walk on the wild side even if it's for the sake to later recall the adventure.

He sounds like a very koool (step)dad.

Life Laugh Latte said...

Love the beer on the bar. Terrific! I've always wanted to go to Alaska and go fishing with the guy with the rifle watching out for bears. Oh Yeah! I have a strange question for you. Is your header actually you? I was having lunch with the kids at a local high end shopping street called Santana Row in San Jose, CA and saw that picture on several of the banners. I yelled out...JennyMac and the kids said...What?! Holly:)

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

whoa what a very nice tribute to your SD.

And, I"m so jealous. Jimmy Buffet from 3 feet away? You were close enough to see his wrinkles and liver spots close up! Just kidding.

BigSis said...

Great story. I love Buffet! And, of all random coincidences, my parents lived in Kodiak, Alaska for their first 2 years of marriage. I could have been an Eskimo baby!

Lee G said...

My distaste for Mr. Buffett is well documented, but even I loved this one.

kilax said...

Happy belated SD! I love this story.

Have you seen The Proposal? They go to remote Alaska... it's so beautiful! How cool that your rents live there!

CatLadyLarew said...

What an awesome story! No wonder you love your dad! Happy Birthday to him!

Vodka Logic said...

What a wonderful memory. I hope you shared this blog with your SD... but I am guessing he already knows.
xx

120 comments... wow

McVal said...

Awe! What a great story! Happy birthday to your SD!

Paul and Kerry said...

this is an old post but so good! one of my dear friends grew up in Juneau and she never attended a live performance of anybody famous until she left AK for college. So JB in the Islands? so amazing. And you SD? very cool but fatherly and protective. gotta love him.