Where’s My Salt Shaker?

This past weekend, my wife, Michele, four friends and I went to a Jimmy Buffett concert in Kansas City.  Michele has always been a “Parrot Head” ever since I introduced her to this beachcomber, country-style, Caribbean-type music that has made Buffett popular for the last 40 years.   It came to me while I was making fake Shark fins with my hands above my head (Fins) that I could relate a lot of past and present experiences to Jimmy Buffett’s lyrics.  You may have to skip this edition of Stein’s Blog if you don’t know much about Jimmy Buffett.  It will sound really strange as I relate lyrics to events.  Heck, my “Attitude” has change with my “Latitude.”  (Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude).

I have to first tell you about Michele, the biggest Parrot Head of all.  Jimmy’s first number one hit wasn’t Margaritaville, but a song called “Come Monday.”  I will have been married to Michele for 18 years this May 16th.  I remember the wedding day like it was a conference championship game.  You see, the wedding was held on a Monday afternoon in a park in Lincoln, NE. 

Of course, you know why on Monday, right?  When Jimmy sings, “Come Monday, it’ll be alright.  Come Monday, I’ll be holding you tight, “he obviously was sending a message to Michele for a Monday wedding day.  At 2 pm, Monday, May 16, 1994, Michele, her daughter and Michele’s father, my father and aunt and uncle gathered at a small park near the Capitol Building.

 It was a perfect day for a wedding except the city hadn’t turned on the lone fountain in the park.  Michele couldn’t rest with that inconvenience.  She called the city parks department to give them a piece of her mind.  When they heard about the wedding they asked, “Did you move the wedding up?”  Apparently, they were going to turn on the fountain for someone else’s wedding.  Like any good bride, Michele told a little white lie and answered a big yes to the question.

I had hired a Justice of the Peace for $75.  The ceremony lasted seven minutes (I timed it).  That means the retired judge made over $700 per hour.  It was the best $75 I had ever spent and the fountains were gurgling like it was the middle of the summer. 

However, having it in the park did have its distractions.  Directly over the Justice’s shoulder lay a college-age girl getting a tan in a very skimpy bikini.  I got thumped on the shoulder more than once as my new bride thought my attention was too divided.

Now 18 years later and one family addition by the name of Sam, our tour through Buffett songs will take an obvious turn.  You just can’t leave Sam at home while we are singing along to “Son of a Sailor.”  Sam is pretty spoiled about Jimmy Buffett.  In his dozen years of life, Sam has seen Jimmy live twice.  He was offended that I wasn’t taking him to his third concert.   To ease my guilt, I told him and my 14 year old grandson, Jacob, I would take them to Kansas City, spend the night, then go to the Royals game Sunday.

That did mean leaving Sam and Jacob in the hotel alone for six or seven hours.  That reminded me of Buffett’s worries when he would leave his house in charge of a roadie or two when he went on vacation.  Writing a song about that experience, Jimmy called it “Gypsies in the Palace.”  He wrote, “Me and Snake (roadies) will watch your place and treat it like our own.”

I got that promise from the boys.  They seemed to enjoy their independence.  I gave them money for food to be delivered.  I gave them the green light to hit the swimming pool as long as they were always together.  For some reason, they loved the pull out couch more than other amenities.

Sure enough, they treated it just like it was their own.  Sam kept texting about anything that crossed his mind.  Jacob only sent me a text to find out what was my password to the computer.  I hope he only visited “G” rated websites.  The entire concert, I imagined only the worst case scenario back at the hotel.  In the end, we came into the room to find two lifeless forms on the pullout couch and empty food containers laying everywhere you wouldn’t expect them to be.  They did put their wet swim suits on a tile floor, but it was right in front of the toilet.  At least they hadn’t done anything for me to lose a damage deposit.  “Gypsies in the Palace, there ain’t no wrong or right. . . “

Cheeseburger in Paradise is probably his second most popular songs outside of the world of Parrot Heads.  Jimmy sings, “I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Hines 57 and French fried potatoes; big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer.”  Coaching college women’s basketball for 28 years, you would think sticking with the burgers would keep all the players happy.  Think again. 

It’s always a guessing game where to take the college women to eat.  I almost always follow the advice of the majority.  That’s why it surprised me so much at Doane College when my assistant, Kim, announced that the team was sick of Wendy’s.

I swear; I don’t care where we eat as long as a meal doesn’t cost the monthly payment of one of the player’s SUV.  I promised Kim that Wendy’s was out for our next road game.  Kim had recently played and I was sure she knew the needs of the team.  She told me, “Coach, all the players are going to revolt if we don’t go somewhere other than Wendy’s.”  I sure didn’t want a revolt over a simple cheeseburger, even if it was square in shape.

After thinking about it, I decided to poll the team.  I asked them their favorite place to eat.  All but one player and Kim said Wendy’s was great.  Apparently, “all the players” meant the two that was in attendance during the revolt meeting.  That was my first lesson in extremes isn’t always extreme.  Sometimes a Cheeseburger in Paradise really can be found in a Wendy’s.

I found the perfect budget saver during my years at Doane College and carried that knowledge to Northwest.  That saver is the Mini-Mart, the Quick Shop, or the Convenience Store.  The Mini-Mart is what they were called in the 70’s and 80’s.  That’s when Buffett wrote the song “The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.”  The song saved Jimmy’s budget in his early days as he and his band got the five-finger discount, only to “pay the Mini-Mart back,” when he and the Coral Reefers (his band) made it big. 

I never had to pay anyone back, but during my Doane days, we had to improvise to meet budget needs.  The team drove two vans to most games.  At each stop for gas I would announce, “Snack stop!”  The players would load up on junk food and nutritionally weak beverages (non-alcoholic, of course).  If the tank got below one-half, it was “Snack stop!”  For about $25, I could keep the whole team full of sugar and thinking they were being spoiled.

The reality was I put the snacks on the gas card.  It saved the budget since gas was part of the van rental charge with the college.  Also, I could limit the players to a pre and post-game meal and since they were already bulging from the junk food.  I looked like a genius when my budget stayed low.  Other coaches didn’t know what to think when my players bragged about how well fed they I kept them.

Even at Northwest, we recently went to Subway on the bus pre-game meals for shorter road games.  That would be fine with the players as long as we stopped to stretch our legs halfway to our destination.  Of course, it was always at a convenience store.  “Snack stop!”  It was a small price to keep the budget under control.  The Mini-Mart was great.

How can I coach women’s basketball in college for 28 years without using Buffett’s line in Margaritaville, “Some people say there’s a woman to blame.”  In the last verse, Jimmy admits, “But I know, it’s my own ##**  fault. 

The individuals that secured the Jimmy Buffett tickets for my friends and I was my very first college recruit and her husband, Dena and Rich.  Dena’s mother, Kay, is the woman to blame in one very funny but telling moment in Dena’s playing career. 

Kay was always terrific to me, even if the team wasn’t very successful Dena’s first three years.  Then in year four, the team went nuts.  We won 24 games and came within one win of the Sweet Sixteen back when there were about 600 teams in the NAIA.

That winning season, Kay organized home game winning celebrations at the Crete Pizza Hut.  She was the ring leader as a great group of parents led the fan charge as we barreled our way to a conference and district championship.  In the round of 32, a home game with Northern Montana, the event that truly made Kay the “woman to blame” occurred. 

The head of instrumental music at Doane didn’t bring a pep band to many games, but they showed up in force for the Northern Montana game.  Imagine Bearcat Arena with no bleachers on one side.  The music man would set the pep band up in orchestra-style seating.  Just as they were about to begin playing, I noticed they were all packing up their instruments.

I wandered over and asked the band director what was wrong.  He told me, “The flute didn’t show up.  How can you have a band without a flute?”  I didn’t even know flutes were allowed in pep bands.  There was no time to argue with the most important game in school history 15 minutes from beginning.

After a close, exciting win, Kay asked what happened to the band.  After I told the story, I knew the band director was in trouble by the look on Kay’s face.  By the time Kay was done with phone calls to the Doane administrators, the flute less band director was given a pink slip.  Kay was one of my first parents as a college coach.  After her they threw away the mold.  I never had another like her in the remaining 25 years of my collegiate coaching career.

While at the Buffett concert, Rich told me his feisty mother-in-law was sick.  I don’t know if she will read this blog, but here’s wishing you a speedy recovery and plenty of more time to boss around your son-in-law (and your grandkids).

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.