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Every once in awhile, something comes on where I am instantly transported to a place where living was easy, where there was nothing in the world that bothered me. Yesterday, that song came on and when it did, it put a smile on my face. I had to sing every word, passionately. So much passion, in fact, I'm sure that the people that passed me thought I might be having a mental break down to song. And honestly, that's fine by me.

When people hear the name Jimmy Buffet, they may only think of the Hawaiian shirts, parrot hats, and wasting away in Margaritaville.

Ever since I was a kid, Jimmy Buffet has been one of my parents go to artists any time we were in the car. Let's face it: Jimmy was on almost every opportunity that was given. For those long car rides, there were times where we would go from one Jimmy album to the next, with all five of us singing along. When I was a kid, though, the songs were fun ditties to sing along with, making up words when you didn't know what he was saying (which was often, I'm sure). Jimmy was always with us wherever we went. So much so, that when it was time for the school talent show, my dad would gather the three of us in the living room, and always say: "this is the year that I want you to sing Cheeseburger in Paradise" which was always followed by the normal "how embarrassing" or "nobody listens to Jimmy Buffet, Dad" from the three of us.

Then, one year, when we were at our most fragile - our early teen/mid teen years - the final request came. That year was different. That year, in a sign of solidarity (and to get our Dad to stop asking) the three of us decided that we would, finally, perform Cheeseburger in Paradise at the talent show. But not just any talent show...

Pioneer Days, as I remember it being called (it could have been something else, but Pioneer Days makes the most sense), was where our little town of Jacksonville would gather together for a day filled with family friendly activities. California Street - the main street through town - would shut down and on either side would be vendors of all sorts: games, food, jewelry, shirts. And at this Pioneer Days festival: a talent show.

This has to be the setting for our performance of Cheeseburger in Paradise.

The amount of practice time leading up to the talent show was grueling. Countless minutes were spent creating and perfecting the choreography. Who would sing which parts? That took meticulous planning. It was decided that India would sing first, to start on a good note because India could sing. Katie would sing verse two, with yours truly bringing it home with the final verse.

Sweat and tears (maybe some blood) went into our practice time. Yelling was had, with someone storming off at least once every few minutes. The pressure was getting to us. Then, we found out, that the winner of the group talent would win a prize. Do not ask me what the prize was, but I would assume it had monetary value, because we decided to up the ante: the was going to be a lift.

There were different variations of the lift: lifting on shoulders, which led to falling; jumping into a lift (like in Dirty Dancing) which led to more falling. Finally, we decided on a simple chair lift, where I was to be raised by the two sisters, arms interlocked, as I sang the final chorus. When we put the final touches on it, we thought we had it in the bag.

The day finally came; there was no turning back.

It was a warm summer (maybe Fall...?) day. There were more people than anticipated, but we were hungry for the win. The three of us sized up our competition, nothing we couldn't handle: a children's dance group, a group of singers, maybe a group of polka dancers. Those acts thought they were good, but they weren't ready for how well Jimmy Buffet would warm the hearts of the judges and bring the audience to their feet (although they were already standing). By the time our turn rolled around, we all had sweat through our shirts. It could have been because of the heat, it could have been nerves. We will never know.

When the song was over and the lift was competed without a hitch, we had the audience in the palms of our hands. We were shocked to learn that we didn't win. Not even second....or third.

Empty handed, we left bruised and defeated. It wasn't until we gathered with our parents, our dad smiling from ear to ear, did we realize that it wasn't about us winning or losing that day. It was about him, watching the three of us before we got "too old" to perform something, together. It made him happy. Looking back, it's a fun story to tell. It may have been the last time that the three of us really worked on something and wanted to make it as great as we possibly could.

So as I sang the final chorus in my car, remembering all the dance moves and editing out "cold draft beer" (changing it to "cold root beer". It had to be family friendly, after all), it still puts a smile on my face.

- G

Title: Cheeseburger In Paradise

Artist: Jimmy Buffet

Year Released: 1978

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