Running buddies

I’m always the guy who vows to keep in touch. I’m the guy that grasps hold of a true friendship and refuses to cede control to the forces of time. Of course, I’m one of the world’s worst at actually keeping in touch. I abhor speaking on the phone, I’m not much for instant messaging, and my life is so full of professional travel that I rarely get back to see my old friends. When geography gets in the way, it takes real effort to make sure friendships don’t change or fall apart.

Over the years, though, I’ve been fortunate enough to develop friendships with people who share a love for the road and none-too-casual leanings toward mischief. These people need not be named. You read about them here on a regular basis. One of those people is a guy I met almost exactly 15 years ago. One of the first things I remember him saying is, “I like my coffee black and bitter–like my life.” Sure, he was pretty dark back then. In the past decade and a half, he’s lightened up more than I ever thought possible. He’s forgiven me when I needed to be forgiven and he’s been there for me every time I needed it. The only other thing I require in a friend is an understanding of my adventurous spirit. This guy has always done me one better and hit the road with me.

I’ve been a lot of places with a lot of people over the years. I’ve got running buddies in a lot of states and few different countries. However, no one has seen more new places and sought out more mischief with me than Marty. We hit the road together the first time in 1993 on the first of what would be three trips to New Orleans. That year and the next, we went in the middle of Mardi Gras. After that, the only thing that ever stopped us was running out of money or time. And even those things sometimes didn’t get in the way.

There were times over the years that Marty, our friends, and I would literally grab a map at 4am and ask, “Okay, so where are we going?” That usually worked out pretty well. When we did it one night in Scotland, it landed us in Inverness at a really odd hour. We were looking for Nessie and ended up on an overnight train ride with some drunk Canadian girls.

Now, 15 years later, I’m married with a kid, dog, mortgage and screwed up professional life. Still, Marty and I have managed to hit the road together at least once a year for the past several. And now what is doing? Well, my running buddy is going and getting married. Insert whatever jokes you like here. I can’t find one in my head. His wife-to-be is a sweetheart and seems to be able to put up with Marty. Of one thing, I’m relatively sure: our travels will continue.

Still, this whole “running buddy getting married” thing has gotten me a bit nostalgic. I spent some time today thinking back on our trips and looking over some old pictures. I probably have a thousand photos from those old days. I’ll post the ones that won’t get us in trouble.

I-70 rest stop on way to what I think was a Cardinals game. We’re all throwing the “Jerry Brown! Write him in!” hand gesture. I wish I remembered what started all that.

Marty having a theological discussion with a street preacher in New Orleans

Breckenridge, CO…I picked up the nickname Otis, my brother (not pictured) picked up a fantastic head wound, and Marty went punk (Ryan and Frank, also pictured, were neither wounded nor punk)

Punk pre-law

The same four guys on a ledge overhanging the North Sea. We randomly jumped off a train at an unscheduled stop because we liked the view

Checkpoint Charlies with Joey Two-Hands, Marty, and our late friend John

Marty, Frank, and Ryan in Paris, making sure everyone knows they are Americans

Marty in the Louvre

Scotland, 1997

No one ever said traveling was easy

Marty and Ryan in the stairwell of Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

Marty with another Marty making up two parts of The House That Love Built’s Trinity of Leisure hammock art (what we did when we stayed home)

Thinkin’ man’s chess after a ski trip

Vegas, 2002, with a group of hooligans that we call our friends

Marty, Scotland, 1997…I can’t think of a more appropriate picture to end this

With less than a month to go before the nuptials, there is only one thing that makes sense. Sure, we could go to his town and follow some pre-marriage script. Or, we could do what we have always done and hit the road.

And, so, once more into the breach we go. It’s not going to be a roadie this time, but, really, we’re in our mid-30s now. We get in a car together, it’s going to end up being some bad version of Old School. So, we’ll skip the “drinking in the back seat and driving all night” portion of the show and just land in, well, of course, Las Vegas. After seven weeks there this summer, there’s only one thing that would get me to go back, and this is it. And, of course, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

That’s the good thing about the road. When it’s your home, you’re never far away from the people with whom you’ve shared it. I’m luckier than I can say to have shared it for so long with my running buddy, Marty.

So, here’s to surviving this week and making it to the next dot on the map in the near future.


Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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5 Responses

  1. Anonymous Su says:

    Have fun you guys! Don’t get into too much trouble! Love you all and can’t wait to see you in STL. Su

  2. Anonymous Anonymous says:

    Don’t forget to ask Marty, about the time he spent the night with a pony on the streets of Dublin.-fb

  3. Good luck and congrats to Marty, my color-enabled poker friend.

    p.s. – Punk Marty rocks!

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