Do you like piña coladas? Getting caught in the rain? Do you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape? Of course you do. It’s hot outside; the waves are crashing into the rocks. You’ve got an old portable stereo in the side yard, where the sun’s going down. Ten of your closest friends form a circle of lawn chairs; the beer, wine, and gin are flowing where drunks dare to dance. And Rupert Holmes’ “Escape” — AKA "The Piña Colada Song" — makes you forget about life for a while.
Ah, good-time Rupe. His easy-rockin’ ditty is so snappy and ends so smoothly that you hardly pay the lyrics any mind. And that’s probably for the best, because the relationship he depicts is utterly twisted. If Holmes were more of a karmic realist, his beachfront lovers would get hammered midthrust by a tsunami or, best-case scenario, end up in intensive couples therapy. Their union is one that is deeply damaged, not the sort of pairing that can be patched up with a stiff drink and a blue-vein meat roll.
“Escape” begins with the following lyric: “I was tired of my lady, we'd been together too long. Like a worn-out recording of a favorite song.” Later, he (we’ll call him Cliff) talks about how they’ve fallen into “the same old dull routine.” With his girlfriend (we’ll call her Sheila) asleep next to him, Cliff starts perusing the personal ads and finds one seeking a man who likes piña coladas and… well, you know the rest.
He answers the ad, professing his love for all of those things, and arranges to meet this mystery lady. She, of course, turns out to be Sheila, and they share a good laugh and presumably “escape” to find a blender and fuck in the dunes.
But what happens the morning after? This question is too ugly for Holmes, who just repeats the chorus, leading the listener to believe that Cliff and Sheila lived happily ever after. But there’s no way such a scheming, fed-up couple magically turned their shared guilt into some sort of connective renaissance. One was desperate enough to get out of the relationship to place a personal ad, while the other was desperate enough to answer one. Plain and simple, they wanted to cheat and take the chicken-shit way out — there’s no escaping that reality.
Neither Cliff nor Sheila knew that the other liked piña coladas or getting caught in the rain. Both were too timid or embarrassed to wake his or her partner and make love at midnight, much less in a public, outdoor setting. They were afraid to be themselves in front of each other, yet Holmes would have us believe that such a massive chasm can simply be filled in with sand.
More realistically, Cliff and Sheila would have heatedly questioned each other’s fidelity, right there in the restaurant. After all, they’d each shown up in hopes of railing a stranger. That they finally — accidentally — recognize, after so much time together, some common interests only goes to amplify their severe communication problems. If they laughed that off and said, “OK, we’re toast, but how about a night of piña coladas and dune sex before you pack up the boxes and split?” — fair enough; plenty of couples share a nostalgic salvo before permanently parting. But the notion that they somehow rediscovered why they fell in love in the first place through a classified ad is bologna, and if they ultimately decided to get married, rest assured they ended up divorcing bitterly.
Now, would you like that piña colada served with warm or cold piss?
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An occasional New Times contributor, Mike Seely is a longtime journalist who has written for many publications, including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He’s now a staff writer and editor at Better Collective, which owns the gambling news sites Sports Handle and US Bets. If you believe that's a conflict of interest, bear in mind that gambling writers are best equipped to make sense of that stuff for the rest of us.