Jimmy Buffet blasts in the background and I am sitting here drinking a diet coke. I turned 22 last December, mind you, however have not completely escaped my “baby fat” as they say, evidenced by my mother’s brushing away my pleads for a margarita. She just bought a margarita machine which, if I can remember, cost quite a few shiny suburban dollars. I asked her how to use it and she simply replied “Um…we’ll look at it tomorrow…”

It is a hoppin’ Saturday night at the Robinson household as my parents and their friends are enjoying one of their beloved monthly events: the dinner party. There are more bottles sitting around than at a frat house, except the munchies are far superior. I would know—I am currently munching. There is bean dip, tortilla chips, cheese, freaking quiche?! In addition, there is no other way to fulfill my kid-at-the-parents-party identity than to drink a pop, eat the provided munchies and only say some awkward comment about the pets when I walk into the dining room.

Parents become interesting people once they have been drinking. They cackle, they raise their voices (but in much less why-was-your-bike-stolen threatening ways) and they often dance—or at least “boogie.” They may also make semi-racist (or full-on racist) comments and then laugh, and then have the moment of “I didn’t really mean” and then have the moment of “yes I did, though…”

Personal spaces are disregarded and social norms are more and more forgotten. This behavior is true of all wine and whiskey-drowned parties, though, is it not?

My mom is currently assessing the coffee and Kahlua for dessert and the men are ready to discuss trains or something. Or perhaps their days at state schools. Or perhaps the score from the Indians game last night. Am I over-generalizing? Maybe. Maybe I’m just hearing what I want to hear, as I have decided to push the current Jimmy Buffet CD music to the background. It is the new Jimmy Buffet—the Caribbean Jimmy Buffet. I am only used to the Florida Jimmy Buffet, and therefore, do not fully support the present tunes.

I would know the caribbean and its drunk parents because I endured it last summer on Robinson Family Vacation ’10:  Jamaican Resort. There was a handful of awkward and awful pictures by the beach, as my sister and I suffocated ourselves with sighs, having to take picture after picture and consistently be unsatisfied with the results. No candids were taken. No moments of fleeting bliss. Just the two of us posed against a purple sky and me inwardly clenching my guts.

The candids came later, when we made our trip to Margaritaville—Jimmy Buffet’s restaurant chain now stationed in the Caribbean. It was complete with authentic Jamaican workers and the white northerners who would sufficiently and drunkenly tip them.

Margaritaville was actually the final destination of the “booze cruise” package we purchased. It was a vacation tour in which we boarded a ship, went snorkeling in waters I was not willing to enter (the Jaws theme aggravating my brain), and drank as much as we wanted. Needless to say, people got drunk and people acted more outlandish than usual. I was attempting to connect to the workers by reciting the opening lines to Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” (“What a gwan man?”). My mom was being “cultured” by dancing with the black girls on the back of the boat to the sudden Lil Wayne tunes which blasted from the radio. During our earlier conservative snorkeling adventure, all I could recall was a soft background of island steel drums. Now the boat could have been an adequate substitute for Jay-Z’s yacht, as we held cups of vodka in our hands and whipped our hair, inevitably, back and forth.

Once we arrived to Margaritaville, Kate and I were bathing suit-clad and whooshed our way down the Margaritaville slide. It was NOT a delicate ride. Our stomachs whipped into the water and our parents just stood at the top of the deck, margaritas in hand, laughing and taking (now candid) pictures. After swimming (dangerously drunk) in the water, Kate and I made our way to the giant floating trampolines and jumped and flopped with children half our age. Our parents continued to watch and cheer us on, later taking double shots of tequila. Hilarity ensued.

On the ride home from Margaritaville, my mom and dad laughed at the formation of a certain cloud, as it appeared to look like a giant, floating white penis. As soon as we returned to the hotel, we stuffed our mouths with bread and cheese from the buffet and then did cartwheels in the hallway back to our room. Those margaritas not only made us flamboyant, cackling gymnasts, they opened us up to goofiness and whateverness. We  laughed candidly about giant cloud penises and suddenly our vacation was more than posed pictures which superficially pointed to “memories.”

At my sister’s graduation party (what seems like) a million years ago, a drunk dad sat and watched everyone with overwhelming anger, quietly yet profoundly vibrating in his lawn chair. Everyone was a little confused for a bit, until he came up to my bikini-wearing sister, menacingly stating “You better put some clothes on before your mother sees you like that.”

I was off somewhere being 13 and only considering the earlier day of baseball fields and boys, but I can recall this behavior and the general laughter flecked with slight fear my sister and I both let out.  Still, one cannot look back without intrigued eyes. Was this man simply trying to protect my sister in some weird, trying-to-be-paternal way, or was he simply creepy and strange? As the children laughed and splashed in the pool,  this man was breathing heavily and was full of discontent. A longing for better times, perhaps? A  numbing gaze onto a projection of his lost youth?

No, this is all too pseudo-intellectual and somewhat overbearing. I think I’m being a bit harsh and literary. I also believe many movies and novels and perhaps big city views tend to be just as harsh, over-analytical and a little unfair. One typically regards places like New York City and thinks — “here is where culture is.”  Sure, one cannot deny the grand, diverse culture which can be found on the island of Manhattan or perhaps a more liberal and new-found vegetarian college campus, but what does that leave for the suburbs? Sure, many of the women tend to gravitate towards the same khaki pants and safely-colored coral cardigan from Ann Taylor loft. The men also tend to become more verbally communicative once they have downed jack and cokes. But isn’t that a kind of culture within itself?

When I returned from Athens, a place which, culturally, seems light years away from Perrysburg, my perception had certainly shifted; funny, since it is only around three hours away. I began to look around at the multiple chain stores and the SUV’s and yes, a lot of it seemed like what one would call “boring.”  I, however, began to see it as somewhat colorful.

Things like my dad’s TRAINS magazines and Dancing with the Stars conversationa at the nail salon became particularly poignant in my eyes. These are the kinds of things which indicated this life style. These are the kind of things I grew up with. Dads’ beer bellies over belts and yes, Jimmy Buffet, were just aspects of our national anthem. And, of course, dinner parties where everyone’s feelings about that bitch’s dead baby were just music to my ears. I could see people just talking–now louder because of the wine and margaritas–and they all had something they wanted to say. We all have a lot to say. It was all quite…charming.

(Closer and closer to the Caribbean every day)

My dad sits at the end of the dinner party table and says how much he loved The Sting. It was not necessarily his all-time favorite movie, but it was one of his favorites at least.

I watched the movie Freshman year after I received his recommendation. It was one of those things I’d heard a million times before, and then once again as we sat around the fire in the backyard. He’d say it and in your mind you would think, “Okay, I’ve already heard all this,” but then, out of respect, you would listen anyway like it was the first time because you knew  he wanted to say it.  He wanted to tell you something.

I heard it once again from the other room and this time it was probably the most clear I’d ever heard it before.


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