It’s a surprisingly chilly afternoon in Jacksonville. The city is still abuzz from Jacksonville’s dominant victory over the hapless Bills. In the busy neighborhood of San Marco, an almost overwhelmingly hip area of Jacksonville south of the St. Johns River, I wait for her. She’s not exactly one for punctuality, but she’s a busy woman, one who is still trying to learn how to deal with fame. Her fame is no more showcased than in here in San Marco. Take it to the Limit and Steal the Show T shirts populate the mannequins of local shops. A large billboard with Jacksonville Quarterback Blake (Vick) Bortles showcases he and Jags Lady promoting a local Mexican restaurant: Better Taco’s than Ricky’s Taco Stand? Ha, Certainly Not!
After a few more moments, I hear the whir of a Hoveround, Mach 3, Imperial model, not a better movement machine on the planet. It’s the Jags Lady, and she’s more magnificent in person than she is in her now famous viral video. Jolene Ann Gardner (Yes her initials actually spell out JAG), is not one for small talk and want’s to get right to it. We forgo our original meeting plan for a different one. “I want to show you what made me who I am…How I was able to afford that beach house in Miami…Well it’s a couple…” “Minutes from the beach,” we say simultaneously. I have watched her video at least 1000 times. Every time I watch it I feel like I see and learn something new about this fascinating woman. None of those video views could have prepared me for the night Jolene had in store for me.
Jack Rabbits Live is what the sign outside says. A local music venue that Jolene has owned an operated for the last 23 years, coincidentally the same amount of time that pro football has been in Jacksonville. “Rock and Roll for me has always been the antithesis of playing by the rules, and you know how I feel about that.” I let her go on about her venue, bands that have come through and plan on coming through. She is very excited about the Chrome Fangs playing the night before the Jags play the Steelers this weekend. “They’re shit but hey, so were the Jags before they stopped playing by the rules.” Those “rules” she keeps mentioning the Jags stopped playing by are those that were implemented by previous ownership, before “That sexy Pakistani showed up” (I won’t dare print what she claimed she wanted to do with his mustache). The reluctance to sign free agents is now gone with the new regime, and the draft picks are starting to hit (She takes personal responsibility for the draft selection of Jalen Ramsey). “That’s why I said what I said during that interview. I am not surprised at all by the teams success this season.”
After giving her scooter battery a quick juice, she tells me that we are going to be late for our reservation at BB’s, a posh dinner venue for the social elite of Jacksonville. I am not dressed for this type of place, but she assures me that it doesn’t matter, she knows someone who can get us in no problem. As we walk (ride) to the door, a large line begins to form at the door. Word of her dinner plans have gotten out, and people want to get their photo with the Jags Lady. Jolene rides right in, and moves people out of the way by force. Once to the front, I hear a loud booming voice yell, “HEY BITCH”. But this isn’t an angry hey bitch, this is an endearing hey bitch. A smile appears on Jolene’s face as a large, intimidating figure stands up from his table with his arms wide open. “Bitch get your ass over here and join us for dinner!” It’s Calias Campbell. With him are Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette, and Justin Blackmon (weird I know but he just like…hangs around I guess. Drunker than shit too. It was wild.) As we walk (ride) to the table, I ask her about this bitch nickname. “It’s my tattoo. Here let me show you” (you can see the tattoo in the bottom right of the video). Instead of just removing the part of her shirt covering her back shoulder, Jolene removes her entire shirt. “See?” she exclaimed, “Yeah we see!”, Blake Bortles yelled, “now put them floppy bastards back and come get some dinner, girl!”
We enjoy the dinner and the conversation. I learn more about the men behind the helmets and more about the woman behind the video. After dinner, I decide its time for me to head back to my hotel. It’s been a hell of a night, and I have a deadline. We plan to meet again in the morning, but I know this wont happen. Jolene has had a couple drinks and is oozing sexuality. Calais informs me that Bortles and her have been playing cat and mouse all season and he thinks tonight the mouse is finally going to get the cheese and he knows from personal experience that “That juice is worth the squeeze”. Jolene scoots away with the Jaguars players to a popular nightclub, and its the last time I see her before my flight back home. I initially set out to learn more about the mysterious Jags Lady. And I certainly did that. But I also learned about a city. A city with a chance for greatness that no longer cares about the rules. From what I’ve learned its only until you’ve stopped playing by the rules to steal the show, and Jolene and the Jaguars are poised to do just that.