It was January, 1988 and I was a freshman at Samford University. I had just completed my first semester with a 1.5, which to this day I still don’t know how I got. You mean something higher, Joe? No, I am shocked I was able to put a digit in front of the period.
Anyway, I had vowed that in the second semester, I would bring it up and be able to stay eligible to play football but more importantly, that my mom wouldn’t kill me.
All was going well until I heard this-“My uncle has a bar on Bourbon street.” Excuse me? I had to ask Judd again. “What did you just say?” He smiled and said, “my uncle has a bar on bourbon street. We are going down for Mardi Gras. Do you wanna go with us?”
“Do you wanna go with us?” I heard that question bounce and bounce and bounce in my head. That angel said, “Joe, let’s go study and remember that promise you made to yourself?” The other guy said, “Bourbon street. Mardi Gras. Joe, it’s just a small trip down and back, no biggie.”
Guess who won?
5 of us took off for New Orleans and for Mardi Gras. We stayed in Slidell, where one of other guys had an uncle who lived. We made our way the next day to Bourbon Street and my first reaction, OH MY GOD.
Was not even on Bourbon street 5 minutes before I saw Quincy Jones, yes, the real Quincy Jones, walking down the street with a huge entourage. We found the bar that Judd’s uncle owned. We were all 19 years old so he would not let us drink but sure as heck did not stop other bars down there.
“I would like a giant Hurricane drink, please.” “How old are you?” “40?” “Here ya go, enjoy.”
And we were off. I will make a long story short but everything you have ever heard about Mardi Gras is absolutely true. Not kidding. I actually made the CBS Evening News when were there, because the reporter said, “I was the only one he saw that could stand up without holding on to anything.”
I had no idea what having beads meant. Or throwing them. None of that. I also had never seen that many people, drunk, or whatever, not cause any ruckus, or fights, or anything that usually results in someone getting drunk.
I soon realized that New Orleans is an amazing city that will not conform to anything or anyone. I also realized that I had just witnessed the greatest party of all time.
We didn’t get arrested or into any kind of trouble and made it back to Samford in one piece.
Oh yeah, I ended up with a 2.1 in the second semester. Take that, Mardi Gras!