business news in context, analysis with attitude

Garden & Gun had a piece by Chris Dixon, a journalist who was hired early in his career by Jimmy Buffett because he had two skills - he could surf and he could code HTML.  Buffett was looking for someone to help him produce "a sort of proto blog we would call Travels with a Pirate," documenting Buffett's life, adventures and tour.

"I would come to learn many truths about Jimmy Buffett, but for purposes of this story, here are three," Dixon writes.  "First: Jimmy Buffett was pretty much exactly the person you hoped he’d be. Second: Beyond his well-documented lust for life, he was witty and kind. (You know how some folks say you should never meet your heroes? Well, Jimmy wasn’t my hero until after we met.) Third: Jimmy Buffett was an endlessly entertaining, truly fascinating, and occasionally terrifying person to try and keep up with. By the time I came on board, he had pretty much given up on the harder-partying aspects of his piratical life. What that meant in practical terms was that he channeled his boundless energy into seeking out adventures that regularly scared the crap out of his entourage, and occasionally me.

"I never had the chance to survive a ship-sinking offshore gale with him like fellow G&G scribe Jimbo Meador, or wake-surf amid the 1,400-horsepower prop-wash of Jimmy’s massive old Albatross like his righthand man Mike Ramos, but I did sit behind Jimmy as he banked that Albatross so hard above the blue Gulf Stream that I nearly passed out. I gaped as he piloted his Cessna Caravan seaplane down onto blue Bahamian water, and later between two crags onto the tiny runway of St. Barths’ Gustavia Airport. In 2008, I helped him very nearly drown his one-of-a-kind, veggie-oil-powered Sportsmobile camper—a vehicle I’d helped him build out—during a rising tide at Montauk Beach. A couple of years after that, I again death-gripped the armrests as he buzzed and banked, literally at dune level, around the Cape Hatteras lighthouse during a Wright brothers pilgrimage."

Writing about his last visit with Buffett, when the singer visited him at his home on the water, Dixon notes that "I was aware Jimmy had been under the weather, but aside from looking a bit thin, he was as energetic as ever. We stroked out of the small tidal creek and cruised toward an uninhabited island near my house in search of tailing redfish and bottlenose dolphins. Out on Folly Creek, we intercepted a full bottlenose family frolicking along a shoal of oyster beds and spartina grass. The mama and her babies made lazy circles around us—close enough we could whisper to them—and then moved off. Nearing the forested island, Jimmy pointed to a break in the trees. 'What’s over there?' he asked. 'There’s gotta be redfish in those shallows.'  I’d honestly never even noticed it, but Jimmy somehow found a break in the marsh that led through a maze-like creek to where the trees parted. Redfish were indeed popping through the shallows. We heard the screech of a bald eagle and the knock-knock-knock of a big woodpecker. Soon, that mini maze opened up to a tiny sand beach that curved around into a stunning tidal creek bisecting the island. Pushed along by the rising tide, we paddled through a cathedral of trees until the creek simply petered out. Luke and Scott nailed the footage, but Jimmy was too mesmerized to notice. 'Jesus, dude,' he said, pulling up onto the sandbar. 'This place is beautiful.'

"The next day, Jimmy rolled up around daybreak so we could get in a paddle before his noon flight back to Sag Harbor. The tide was quite high, so we reckoned we’d cruise across a different flat in the direction of Morris Island. But as we left our little creek, a pair of dolphins surfaced, so we followed them at a distance. We tracked them, silently, just watching and listening as they breathed in and out."

Later on, Buffett would observe about what they experienced that day, "We don’t have to go to church. It’s right here.”  

Dixon writes, "I didn’t want to dwell on Jimmy’s health, but I was, of course, concerned. 'It’s been a rough go, honestly,' he said. 'But things are looking up. I think I’m actually gonna be able to go on tour. It’s really true, you know. Getting old ain’t for the faint of heart'."

And Dixon concludes:

"As I type these final words, the tears are starting to well, so maybe it’s time to close the computer and get out on the water. I’ll leave you all with a few parting thoughts. 

"First, until the day I die, I will never cease to be inspired by Jimmy Buffett. He never stopped taking risks and pushing himself—even when he was battling cancer, and even when it drove those who cared about him crazy. Doing so would have been antithetical to the Fearless Man he truly was. 

"While I’ve watched that fearless man move very fast, I’ve also watched him slow down enough to spend hours in a front-porch rocking chair, recording personalized greetings and messages of hope for terminally ill fans. It’s not something he ever told folks about, but he did it just the same. I’ve seen his Singing for Change foundation fund projects that allowed hundreds of people to start their own successful philanthropic ventures. And I’ve marveled as a collection of personal surfboards he donated allowed the founder of Charleston’s Warrior Surf Foundation to quit his job and focus on the veterans’ organization full time … My stories, while unique to me, aren’t unique. If you had the chance to bask in Jimmy’s glow, whether through a chance encounter at a fishing dock, a wedding photo he crashed at a Margaritaville restaurant, a wave you shared at Ditch Plains, a beer you sipped at a Key West dive, or a massive concert filled with screaming Parrot Heads, you were a fortunate person indeed. And you knew, because it was obvious: Jimmy Buffett cared about you."