Bumped to front page - FlaGators. Also ... Kenny Loggins!
I went to the Cocktail Party. I took notes. The notes decreased in quality and relevance as the alcohol continued flowing, but I will do my best to reconstruct the day as best as I can. I had intended to take many photographs, but my ancient iPhone (3 years old) did not want to cooperate most of the day. I did manage a few pictures.
As a child of Jacksonville, this photo represents the city perfectly. Gray, grimy, drunk, poorly maintained, with "Florida" affectations and teeming with scammers and people looking to make a quick buck. Bold New City of the South, indeed.
I've been to the Cocktail Party many times, starting when I was about five years old. For the first time, I went with only one person I knew, and he was missing for most of the day (this is not a rare occurrence at the Cocktail Party). As such, my notes are filled with accounts of meeting random people and bumping into old friends. Jacksonville is a massive city geographically, but a small town in experience.
7:30 am: Wake up.
9:45 am: Arrive at stadium with a cooler full of cheap beer. Wander to the only tailgate where Ryan (the one friend) knows anyone.
The tailgating area we
chose ended up in.
10:00 am: First beer of the day.
10:10 am: Second beer of the day. This continued in this fashion for most of the morning and afternoon.
10:45 am: I meet a Georgia fan who described Mike Bobo as "that retard with the notebook." This Georgia fan, like all the others, was grilling gator tail for lunch.
11:26 am: Girl in a sundress spills her beer on my shoes. In between apologies she says that she's a German (or was it Italian?) major at UF, and that this is her first Cocktail Party. Sadly, she would never make it to the game, as she passed out in the truck before kick off. She doesn't know it yet, but this is a rite of passage for Cocktail Party veterans.
12:12 pm: The first call from nature begins in earnest. I am about 6 or 7 beers down at this point, and had been postponing the port-a-potty visit as long as possible. This was a mistake. The line was a dozen people deep and moving at a glacial pace. I was on the verge of needing a new pair of pants right before the group of girls in front of me abandoned the line, and I moved to the front. Of the many unique features of tailgating at the Cocktail Party, the fact that most of the drinking occurs in an industrial district with no permanent public bathrooms is among the most annoying.
Another view of the lot. Note the industrial neighborhood and the baby in the stroller. At the risk of being a ninnie, I must say that this really isn't the game to bring kids to. The standard debauchery in Gainesville is fairly tame by comparison, and for whatever reason Jacksonville feels exponentially more dangerous. Probably because it is.
12:45 pm: The drinking games begin. My beer pong partner is a pre-med UF student from Tampa. Earlier in the day, I saw her drinking vodka straight from the bottle. During our game, she flashed the opposing team a number of times in an effort to distract them. It worked.
1:30 pm: The second call from nature begins. This time it's accompanied with fairly extreme back pain. I don't know if this was just pressure from the massive quantities of excess liquid in my system or if it was an organ or two in revolt, but it hurt. The line at the port-a-potty was even longer, and I was basically doubled over in pain. Thankfully, by this point many people in attendance had given up on the toilets and formed a separate line to go behind the dumpster. This was much faster. While back there, a girl came around the other side and dropped her pants. Normally it would be noteworthy to witness a woman urinating in broad daylight with many people for an audience, but the Cocktail Party is far from "normal." More surprising is that said girl turned out to be a friend from high school who moved north for college. I can't remember the specifics of our conversation behind the dumpster, but I'm sure it was enlightening.
1:50 pm: The pain in my back had yet to recede, so I decided to take a break and sit down next to a truck. Ryan, who apparently had been at a tailgate with Driskel's parents (so he says), turns up and asks me what I'm doing. For some reason I decide to quote the chorus from this song:
Why I thought that made sense or was funny, I don't know. My only excuse is that I was quite drunk.
2:15 pm: The guy I was supposed to buy a ticket from has yet to show up. Ryan finally gets him on the phone, but he is so drunk he can't even describe his surroundings, let alone how to get there. I start to deal with the fact that I might not get to go to the game. I am surprisingly OK with that idea.
3:02 pm: The keg is finished off. A Dawg fan who wandered over to hit on some of the girls who were hanging around decides to try to move the mini-grill from the tailgate, because "it's too hot." This was a bad idea. Nobody could get service to call an ambulance for the burns on his hands, and he decided to walk off somewhere instead. Hopefully he found a ride to the hospital at some point.
3:10 pm: Begin the trek to the stadium, where I am supposed to meet ticket dude outside the gate. The fact that roughly 60,000 people were outside the gate didn't seem like a problem at the time. On the way, a Gator fan vomited in the street. He wiped his mouth and kept walking. What a pro.
3:30 pm: Kickoff is minutes away and I can't find ticket dude. Eventually I'm reduced to climbing half way up a tree and yelling his name. Shockingly, this works. He gives me the ticket for only $10 over face, and we share a beer that somebody randomly handed to me on my walk to the stadium. We exchange "Go Gators" and I begin my hike to the very top of the stadium.
The view the nosebleeds. The man in the white shirt in the bottom left corner (not with the hat) is SBN's own Doug Gillett, I believe. The man in gray on the opposite side of Crocodile Dundee is EDSBS's own Spencer Hall.
Somehow, I ended up sitting about 6 rows behind Spencer/Orson. I didn't notice until the beginning of the fourth quarter, and I decided not to introduce myself, as my verbal communication capabilities had been reduced to guttural noises and randomized vulgarities by that point.
3:40 to 7:whatever pm: The game. As it turns out, I didn't drink enough. It was cold and awful and miserable. Special thanks go out to the guy who screeched "Come on, Brantley!" in my ear every single down. The Gator fans were loud and energetic. The Dawg fans were their usual selves, though they spared us the pain of "Hey Hey Goodbye," to their credit.
7:50 pm: Begin the walk back to the tailgate. Somehow, the fairly even distribution between Dawgs and Gators before the game turned into nothing but Dawgs everywhere after the game. The following are direct quotes that were yelled at me on this walk:
"THIS IS THE GREATEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE! ARP ARP ARP!"
"WE RUN THIS CITY!" -- I liked that one the best.
The mock-chomp in people's faces was also very popular.
8:40 pm: Arrive at the tailgate to find three Gators sharing a bottle of rum on the bumper of the truck. One of the UGA tailgates nearby is blasting some godawful country music. I say to Ryan: "the joke's on them, really. They have to go back to Georgia."
9:30 pm: As I had warned earlier, the plan to get picked up after the game was ill-advised. All the roads going into the stadium were blocked or turned into one-way (the opposite way). After our ride parked somewhere and told us where to walk (with the huge cooler), my iPhone calculated the total distance as a little over two miles. This was the longest two miles of my life.
9:50 pm: We pass three men dressed in referee outfits. They look for all the world like Chippendale's dancers. One of them was examining his hand, which was apparently broken in a fight earlier.
10:30-ish pm: I finally arrive home. Sunburned, angry, depressed, and already feeling hung over. All in all, it was a fairly tame Cocktail Party. 2007 was one of the most insane experiences of my life, and I don't even know if I can do that story justice in only words. Maybe next year I'll give it a shot.