One of my favorite stories about Joe Garza takes place nine years ago when a few of us spent spring break at a condo in South Padre Island. It was your typical spring break, we drank a lot of beer and hung out on the beach and in the clubs (at least the ones we could get into) and yelled “watch out! it’s the chupacabra!!!” the whole time.
Jason Clark and I flew down together and met up with Joe, Matt and Laine. We stayed up every night drinking and listening to Joe play his acoustic guitar and sing until he was hoarse. Of course, Joe was the highlight of the trip, in many different ways.
First, we drove down to Matamoros (against all of our parents’ warnings). Joe was a wonderful tour guide, taking us to Bigo’s (a really good restaurant) and on to an all-you-can-drink nightclub. All five of us piled into his tiny, yellow Geo Storm, to get across the border. We all fit pretty well considering that he had removed the hatch to make it into a convertible. I remember we pulled up to the restaurant and some guy was trying to guide us into a tight parking spot. I think we hit both the car in front of us and the one behind us when we were parallel parking. The parking attendant said “No problem!”, then offered to clean our windshield or wash our car. We ate at Bigo’s and then spent an evening at the hay-covered $5 all-you-can-drink bar with a trough for the urinal and of course, the mechanical bull. Here’s a picture of what how small that car is, if you don’t remember…
Then came the rain. With most convertibles, you can just flip a switch or pull the top up. Not with this one… Jason and I were riding in the back seat holding a tarp up to protect us from the storm.
The rain cleared up a bit, so we hung out at the pool that night. Joe had made friends with some girls in our building that had a second floor condo with a balcony. Matt and Jason might have to correct me if i’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure we started daring each other to jump off of their balcony into the pool. Now, it’s like 3am and everyone’s about to pass out. I’m still hanging out by the pool and Joe’s playing some Sublime and singing louder and drunker than ever.
Just as we’re all about to pass out, Joe decides to jump off the balcony into the pool. This isn’t a diving pool, it’s more like a kiddy pool. He dives straight in and hits the bottom of the pool (shoulder-first). I think Matt and Laine were already passed out and there was no way they were getting up… and anyone that knows Jason, knows his “there’s no way I’m doing that” chuckle. Joe was seriously in a lot of pain and I was probably the most sober. So, he and I got into his car and took off, looking for a hospital. We stopped at a gas station and the attendant said there wasn’t a hospital on the island!
We’re in South Padre Island, one of the most famous spring break spots where tens of thousands of kids get drunk and do crazy things every night. So, you’d expect they would have a first class hospital specifically designed to handle drunken accidents. Not a chance, no hospital open at 3am!!!
So, now we’re heading out to Brownsville …now it’s raining again, we’re in a hatchback with no hatch and a moaning, drunk Joe Garza is in the passenger seat. His car would only safely go about 50 mph in the rain, so it was a long drive. I think Google Maps lies, there’s no way you could make it in 45 minutes.
We made it safely to the ER and he gets sent right into to see the doctor. I think he had dislocated his shoulder and they were able to push it back into place, but I don’t think they gave him any pain medicine since he had been drinking all night. In fact, I think they made us wait until he was sobered up a bit. It was at least two hours, because I watched the entire movie, The Birds, in Spanish with English subtitles. That was one of the longest, most memorable nights of my life.
I really wish we could have spent more time together over the last few years. I have no excuses for not being a better friend. I think Joe was the only friend of mine to wish me a Happy Father’s Day this year. I wish Jake could have met him. I’ll never forget his music, his smile and amazing personality.