The trip to New Orleans was the most unique trip to the Final Four yet. It was as much of a cultural experience as it was a celebration. I didn’t know what to expect after a great Indianapolis trip and a so-so Houston trip, I figured this one would be somewhere in between. But the experiences of the last few days took on a life of it’s own, so here is the running diary of what happened.
Thursday March 29
7:40- My earliest wake up call in about a month. I have an 8:15 ride from Tom (Head Coach at Rollins) for a 12:15 flight that has a 3 hour layover in Miami. Don’t judge, I’m not making it rain yet.
9:05- Finding time to kill, Media, Tom and I drop Bird off at the airport and go to Tom’s favorite spot, Mickey D’s. I reluctantly get some hot cakes (which of course are free, I’m not paying to eat Mickey D’s, not even IF they paid me)
9:45- Check my bag and post up outside security for a solid hour reading drunk Tweets and Facebook posts from current Rollins students celebrating Fox Day. Has me wishing I went to the BBQ later in the day.
11:20- Get thru security without any delay, which is a rarity for me this day in age.
12:25- Flight departs to Miami.
1:15- Arrive in Miami and proceed to walk a marathon to my next gate.
2:30- While sitting down in some Cafe sipping on some guanabana juice (it’s unbelievable, I’ma have to make it a staple of my diet), I proceed to have a Chinese and a French and then a Turkish family of four sit next to me. I understood about one of every 4 French words, and a combined 0 Turkish and Chinese words. Shows me the more I think I know, I really don’t know much do I?
4:30- Flight to the NOLA.
5:45 (Central Time)- Arrive in NOLA, and met the assistant at LIU Brooklyn who used to play at Bentley. LIU Brooklyn has made the tournament the last 2 years, and asked me about players in Orlando.
7:05- Arrive at the Hilton Riverside and meet up with the STL crew consisting of Hixey (former coach at Winter Park High), and his two assistants AB and AT. The Hilton is a $320/night hotel room. Walk into the lobby and right there is Izzo, Huggins, Beilen and Frank Martin. Just some of the notables. That’s when you realize you ain’t shit.
7:20- Hixey says he can’t figure out the internet. After 15 minutes of trying to figure it out, I dial up Internet support and it still won’t work.
8- STL crew is parced, so I make my first visit down to Bourbon Street and eat a Gator po-boy at Sammy’s. The waitress provides to tell us how much she hates I-Phones because of the “shitty service.” I tell she needs to get Verizon or AT&T if you have one. Bourbon Street is one of a kind- in every sense of the word. It either has restaurants (very few might I add), bars or brothels. More to come on each of those in a few.
9:30- Back at the hotel, our door is broken on top of the fact the internet doesn’t work, so we proceed to switch rooms. A $300/night hotel room who’s internet doesn’t work and door is broken.
10:00- After the room switch, you have to pay $15/night for internet. Can we just go the 9th ward homeless shelter? More bang for your buck there.
11- Go back to Bourbon Street. On our way there we cut through Harrah’s and we run into the Rollins crew who is on the table with Steve Robinson from UNC. They have been there for hours, but I didn’t expect anything else.
11:15- I purchase my “Free Sean Payton shirt.” It’s the cool shirt in NOLA and I get my first taste of the NOLA culture.
11:30- Hit Bourbon Street with the STL crew and run into the Rollins crew. I then realize that places advertised as “strip clubs” are brothels. I am also approached by this random bum who one of the members of the Rollins party mistakes as a friend. If a dirty bum, with a du rag that is being held up with yellow “caution” tape and oversized clothes is considered one of my friends, then I really need to invest in image refinement services. This bum proceeds to kidnap this member, albeit for an hour, as we search frantically for his whereabouts all over Bourbon Street. Keep in mind this is NOLA, one of the Top 4 murder capitals in the US. He then emerges an hour later, claiming he was trying to get some chronic in a back alley. That’s all I will disclose due to the Federal Privacy Act.
Friday March 30
2:00 AM- After posting on Bourbon Street, witnessing a near kidnapping and countless sets of saggy breasts being exposed, we get back to the hotel. After getting the internet to work, Hixie and I set out to get some water. A $320/night hotel has no vending machines, just ice. I then say “It’s easier to find a hooker in this town, than a bottle of water.” May have been among the most prophetic statements I’ve ever made.
2:10 AM- After walking outside the hotel on our journey, we decide to go around Harrah’s. Hooker and ticket scalper witnessed outside the lobby.
2:12 AM- Hooker witnessed and turned down. $100 for a blowjob. Eff that.
2:14 AM- Another hooker witnessed. Then another. Then another. Another ticket scalper!
2:20 AM- Nirvana. Convenience store seen! I purchase 3 bottles of water and some crackers.
10:30 AM- Wake up and go to the convention. Watch Shaka Smart speak about the various presses they do at VCU (I can talk about that on some other post), run into some coaches, talk to them about players, former players, acquaintances and the sort. You have to have a pass to get in this thing, so I conveniently pose as Kyle Frakes, assistant from Rollins. Everyone just knows me as Juan.
6:30 PM- After the convention and getting something to eat, I begin to watch the beginning of Game 2 of the Magic’s five game implosion.
8:00 PM- We arrive at Melange’s. I feel like Namond (with the afro) in this clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhlW6SRu5rA. 80% of the stuff I didn’t know you could eat. Duck? Rabbit? I didn’t even know any of that was edible.
9:15 PM- After settling on Mahi Mahi (which I did know what it was, not that I’ve ever ate it). There is live music and dancing right in front of us, but all I’m worried about is the Magic are up 13 midway thru the third. Thank God for Watch ESPN app.
9:30- Magic lead down to 2. Mahi Mahi was nice.
9:45- Waiter asks us for dessert and I quickly recognize Pecan Pie, which was fire. Meanwhile, Dirk just hit a ridiculous jumper with 5 seconds to go to put Dallas up 2 with 5 seconds to go.
9:46- Hedo airballs a 3, Ryan Anderson misses a putback. I almost nearly got us kicked out of the restaurant after watching the Magic implode yet again (the double positive meaning that I wanted to yell out every cuss word in the book, but there was a crowd and an appealing live performance going on right when that happened). That pecan pie was the really good by the way. IT better be for a $95 tab.
10:15- Make our way to DBA’s, which has some live music. The Iguanas (not that I had ever heard of them before are on stage) are decent. That whole bar, boozing and listening to live music thing isn’t really my scene. Thank God there is a TV and my attention quickly turns to Blazers and Clippers.
11:45- After the game ends, my attention begins to wane and I am ready to call it a night. And then comes the moment…
11:47- We have Jimmy Buffett in the house! Guys dropped their drinks, women dropped their draws and all of a sudden everyone is going apeshit. Yes, even I know who Jimmy Buffett is.
Saturday March 31
12:10- After the Buffett performance, I proceed to go backstage to use the restroom. There is Buffett, chatting up backstage and taking photos. I have friends that would do anything—and yes, anything to get a picture with Buffett.
12:20- After going to the bathroom and phenagling my way thru the crowd, I ask some random lady to take a picture with Buffet and I.
12:21- “Hi I’m Jimmy,” says Buffet, “Juan,” I say. Boom (see attached)
12:40- After posting the picture and creating an instagram account, viralness has hit me like Linsanity.
1:15- Shortly after the picture and taking Phil Jackson’s “nothing good happens in a bar after 1,” AB and I head back to the hotel. I am instructed to order some pizza, and eat a couple slices before calling it a night.
11 AM- Wake up and hit the streets. Tickets to be sold.
12:45- All tickets are sold. Hit Bourbon Street for an afternoon rendezvous with the Rollins crew.
4:30 PM- After nearly four hours of uncertainty, I hit this Rising Coaches party to watch the first game.
5:09- Game tips off. Zach is in the corner of the parking lot taking a piss.
5:20- We get to the party, and it’s a customary order of Hoers d’Ouvres. Not like last year where it was entree carte blanche. Needless to say I got my free fill and then hit the hotel to recharge my batteries and watch the second half of this game.
7:00- First game ends and Hixy thinks I’ve flown back to Orlando with his money. I proceed to head to his location and we walk around downtown aimlessly looking for a place to watch the secon game.
7:45- 2nd game starts and we descend upon the Argentinian steak house. One that actually has a TV.
7:50- As we’re seated, the waitress explains the appetizers and the crew goes all Zenobia on me (see the above link for details). My how the script has flipped in the last 24 hours.
8:10- I place the order for the most expensive steak I’ve ever ordered. Ever. I also enhance my cultural experience by getting it cooked “medium rare” instead of “well done.”
8:45- Ohio State looks like it will move onto Sunday. I’m gonna enjoy this steak. Biggest piece of red meat I’ve ever seen in my life.
9:25- Kansas is slowly creeping back into it. Somehow I am able to eat that entire steak. I feel accomplished.
10:05- Kansas advances to Monday. The tab is $150. I pitch in $35 because my steak was $25 and I drank water. Namond or Zenobia wouldn’t leave 10 on 25.
10:20- On the way back, I spot one of my enemy turned friend and my friend turned enemy at a bar. Keep in mind, there aren’t many people I don’t like. Period. End of story. I go in and try to approach the enemy who thinks I’m his friend, but he proceeds to bigtime me, so I move on. I get a text the next morning that claims I big-timed him. I’ll leave it at that before I start sounding like Dwight. Shot fired.
11- Make my way to Bourbon Street, but it’s so crowded that you can’t even move. A 7 block nightclub. So I go back to the hotel and call it a night.
Sunday April 1
9:30 AM- Start my day by making some April Fools posts on Facebook. The phone wakes the rest of the crew up.
12:30- Meet some of the Rollins crew downstairs and take them over to the dog track in the 9th Ward.
1:00- Head to the NOLA airport to pick up Bird.
1:15- I arrive at the airport. The wrong one. God darn GPS.
1:45- I get to the right airport. Bird and I hit the casino to get something to eat and watch the mass exodus of the red flags (Louisville and Ohio St. fans) from the city of New Orleans.
5:30- Head to the 9th ward to pick up the crew and then make another airport run. Details of car rides can’t be revealed due to the Federal Privacy Act.
8:20- Arrive at hotel and sit and eat dinner with the Rollins crew. Never had a dinner conversation with as many laughs as this one. Once again, Federal Privacy Act.
11- Bird and I hit Bourbon Street and watch some girls flash. Hit me up for some pictures. Also, Jay Bilas, Erin Andrews and other notable personalities were also in the crowd.
Monday April 2
10 AM- Championship Monday begins.
11 AM- After an hour of classic waffling by the Rollins crew, we decide to head to Harrah’s Buffet, which is the last thing I’m in the mood for.
1 PM- After spending 2 hours on life increase pills (laughter), I head back to the hotel to give the STL crew a ride to the airport.
3:30- Get back and go to Brackettown, a fan experience at the Final Four.
5:15- Naptime at the hotel.
7- Wake up and take the shuttle to the stadium for an 8:23 tipoff. It’s raining and we have to wait 24 whole minutes for the shuttle.
7:45- Arrive at the scene and quickly scalp Bird a ticket. Then I do my shenanigans to get him down to the first level.
8:23- Settled in and the ball is tipped. Kansas. Kentucky. For all the marbles.
8:40- Kansas has no chance. The game has turned into a track meet early.
9:15- Kentucky somehow only up 14 at half. Feels like it’s 20. We (Kentucky haters)can only hope for a miracle.
9:40- After a couple of Commemorative Final Four Sprites, Kansas is back in it, only down 6. Kentucky is playing not to lose.
10:10- Kentucky only up 4, but Kansas’ mercurial guards make 2 crucial errors, therefore killing their chances.
10:25- Kentucky 67, Kansas 59. Let Banner #8 hang for Four years before the Feds come down.
10:50- One shining moment, Top 5 moment in sports.
11:10- After figuring out this bus situation, we catch the shuttle back to the hotel.
Tuesday April 3
12:01- After arriving back at the hotel, the crew heads to the Casino and I head there sorely after.
2 AM- Kenny the Jet Smith seen at a Poker Table.
2:30- Comedy, comedy and more comedy at Fuddruckers. Once again, Federal Privacy Act.
4 AM- Hit the sack
10 AM- Wake up and hit the streets. Shirts are half price.
12 PM- Check out of the hotel and hit the road, 10 hour drive back to Orlando. Stop by Arbys and are on the road at 1 PM.
3 PM- After driving the first 3 hours, through three different states (Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for the geographically challenged), we pull into the only gas station with no receipts. We manage to pull into 3 gas stations and bum some receipts.
11:30 PM- Back in the homestead. It was a great, culturally endearing trip. I would rank it better than Houston, but not as good as Indy. It was the best from a entertainment standpoint, but dead last from a convenience standpoint. What do you expect? It’s easier to find a hooker in New Orleans than a bottle of water.