Spontaneity can be a funny thing. Last Sunday, for example, when the fellas suggested that we drive down to N’awlins for the Final Four, I found it funny – hell, I even offered a hearty chuckle at the idea. Then, two days later, as they tossed the idea out yet again, I returned in form with more laughter. Two days later I was still laughing . . . though this time, from Kentucky.
Of course, I suppose one could argue that four days of headway isn’t really spontaneous, but as we – myself, along with chums Jon Ferland, Alex “Voetsch” Voetsch and Voetsch’s friend Matt From ‘Cuse – made our way south, in a non-stop 18-hour trek from the icy tundra of Rochester into the Cajun Chaos of N’awlins – New Orleans, for the uninitiated – it certainly felt spontaneous. Wisely, a journal was kept of our travels.
10:15 p.m. – After a feverish hustle home from work, I meet up with my southbound companions and we hastily load our van. It’s just five minutes on the road before we realize we forgot something already – namely, a place to stay once in N’awlins. Excitement mounts at the discovery.
4 a.m. – Wake up in the back of our Motel 6-esque minivan to chuckles from the captain and crew regarding our evident entrance into the “South,” as is clearly marked by the venerable Waffle House that now towered above us. Giggles quell at the discovery that we’re only in Ohio, and yet, we all begin to anticipate the Southern-ness of the next stop – Louisville.
5 a.m. – With Ferland at the helm, our Oldsmobile minivan screams through central Ohio like a streaking missile of fanaticism. Unfortunately, as with all streaking missiles, it comes to a crashing halt when Ferland’s yanked to the side of the road by the most polite State Trooper this side of the Aleutians. Ferland is “issued a citation for violating the posted speed limit on this stretch of the highway in the state of Ohio,” as the puzzlingly thorough officer calmly informs us. He then continues to describe to us when, where, why and how he clocked us, what Ferland’s legal options were and the theory of relativity. Ferland continues onward bitterly, though enlightened.
3:30 p.m. – We engage in a low-speed chase with a Mississippi State Trooper that I inadvertently blow by. He throws on his lights but refuses to accelerate. As we watch him fall away in the rear view mirror, a round of discussion is had as to whether or not he’s actually pursuing me. Siding with safety I pull to the side of the road, and when he finally catches up the officer employs a heavy drawl to remind me that “Sorry won’t feed the bulldog” and that he hopes I’m not in too big a rush, ’cause he was going to hold me up “for a good forty-five seconds.” Fortunately, due to either my assurance that I’m not out to feed any bulldogs, or to the Australian driver’s license that I befuddle him with, the officer lets me off, but not before warning me that there would “be three troopers looking for me between here and the Louisiana state line.” Five minutes later we cross the unguarded Louisiana state line, still repeating the bulldog line.
6 p.m. Friday – 4 p.m. Saturday – Mediocre nonsense. Deep fried crawfish and a lackluster Bourbon Street all contribute to a fairly uneventful night, though Voetsch wins $100 playing blackjack with Indiana basketball coach Mike Davis at the casino. Still, skepticism runs rampant regarding the success of our trip. Game time can’t come soon enough.
4:30 p.m. – Arrive at the SuperDome early and immediately switch into “intrepid” mode. Boldly sneak past security guards to access the floor level seats so as to watch pre-game shoot around. Find empty seats in row seven of the Texas players’ Friends-and-Family section. I cleverly pass myself off as T.J. Ford’s younger brother in the interest of assimilation.
5 p.m. – As the intended ticketholders shuffle down to the floor section, we find ourselves sitting with throngs of beautiful girls, all of whom were clearly Texan – and by “Texan” I mean “not interested in me.” Unfettered, I buy two ladies ice cream, which turns out to be a wise long-term investment. The tip-off nears and empty seats still abound excitement continues to grow.
5:30 p.m. – The Kansas-Marquette massacre of ’03 is well underway, and we remain firmly planted in seats carrying a street value of over $3,000. Seatside Texas fan asks me to stop drooling on his shoe.
7:15 p.m. (or so, who knows) – The Kansas game ends with one of the most harrowing Final Four losses ever, courtesy of a dejected Marquette squad. The Jayhawks score at a Ron Jeremy-esque rate as Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison show why they’re on the All-Unstoppable Team, and Langford, Miles and the towel boy all have near-career nights as the points flow like booze on Bourbon Street. We find ourselves spitting distance from Greg Gumbel’s post-game telecast, and plot ways to get on camera. Better sense soon prevails.
8 p.m. – The Texas section starts to fill as the Texas game nears, and it looks as though our hard-stolen seats may be stripped from us. We watch nervously yet giddily as T.J. Ford’s family, Roy Williams, some Texan senator and assorted other celebrities shuffle in ahead of us. Ricky Williams – yeah, that Ricky Williams – moves in a few rows back, and we gloat about how our seats are better than his. Then I get evicted. Fuck. In the following seat pursuit Voetsch, Matt From ‘Cuse and I head over to the Syracuse section, where we’re floored by a handshake and conversation with Donovan McNabb. Rony Seikly soon approaches, and then we begin to feel remarkably high-society, until we get kicked out yet again. Fortunately we catch a close up of ‘Cuse coach Jim Boeheim’s wife before our removal. She’s not unattractive.
8:15 p.m. – Soon following our second seat eviction was a section eviction, as security clearly doesn’t appreciate shady youths asking about every empty seat on the floor. Defeated we make our way up to my intended seat on the 600 level, which turns out to be somewhere between the 500 level and the moon. Glaring skeptically at the binocular and oxygen tank kiosks that greet us at the top of the escalator, we scale up the treacherously steep staircase to our seats, all of five rows from the top of the dome. Ten minutes are spent listening to my nose-bleeding neighbors prefix “Dome” with every adjective except “Super” before I realize that I can’t live like this. Drastic measures are devised. Carefully I slide down the staircase and dash back down to floor level. Voestch and Matt From ‘Cuse stay in the rafters with the ‘Cuse student body – alliances have developed.
8:30 p.m. – After eluding security with a breakneck dash back to the floor, I elect to use my ace-in-the-hole and approach the Texan ice cream girls, asking to share a seat. They accept, though not before vainly holding out for another Dove bar. I look back and see that Ferland hasn’t budged from his original seat – the bastard had randomly chosen the only seat in the Texas section whose owner didn’t arrive. We proceed to cheer enthusiastically for the ill-fated Texas team, who ultimately fall victim to some skewed officiating and freethrow missing from James Thomas. Still, Ferland and I hold our pinky-n-forefinger Longhorns high in the air with every shot and holler back with a resounding “Fight!” whenever the name “Texas” bellows forth. ‘Cuse meanwhile shows the bravado that will eventually carry them over a disjointed Kansas squad, and Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara display the precocious talent that led one seat-stealer to remark that a four-year Boeheim dynasty may be hinging solely on the length of Anthony’s tenure.
11 p.m. onward – Bourbon Street, round two. A cornucopia of all that is “B” – namely beer, ballers, and breasts – greets us as we stumble onto the narrow rue. The night is spent with, appropriately, a bottle of Bourbon and a virtual “who’s-who” of college basketball players, and as I shake the hands of Keith Bogans, James Thomas and Carmelo Anthony I can’t help but remark that, despite all being younger than me, they all had six inc
hes and sixty harem-girls on me. Depression sets in – consolation sought by approaching the Texas Cheerleading squad. Deeper depression results.
6 a.m. – In a move representative of the spirit of the trip, we decide, that, with no place to sleep that night, we should just get in the van and drive home.
An impromptu vote is held and it is half-drunkenly decided that this is clearly the best option. I hit the backseat for an hour to finish the sobering process while the crew runs amok on the Tulane fraternity quad, and by 7 a.m. we’re on the road home.
Eight hours later, when all are sober and realize what just occurred, a van-wide laugh is shared. Eleven hours after that, as we roll into Rochester at 6 a.m., some quick math is performed, and we realize that in the past 76 hours we’d spent equal amounts of time on the road as we did at our destination, that we sat in seats worth over 20 times the value of our abysmal tickets, and that we met more celebrities in this one weekend than during all of our lives combined. A final exhausted laugh is shared before we all pass out with the knowledge that in the end, it all certainly was funny.
Janowitz can be reached at email@example.com