Brought up on Sin City

I’ve managed to make optimism a fault. I don’t know how it happened, but some time in the last decade, I’ve figured out a way to find silver linings in sow’s ears (not to mentioned mixed metaphors) and do it so incessantly that I don’t think anything will ever go wrong. It’s a blissful little place, Ignorance.

It’s actually quite surprising that I have this sunny outlook on life. Despite providing me with the best childhood a kid could want, my parents raised me on decidedly depressing music. If I had to pick two songs I heard more times between birth and age ten, it would be pretty easy: “Sam Stone” by John Prine and “Sin City” by Graham Parsons/Flying Burrito Brothers. Some of my most vivid memories from my youth are sitting around my dad and his buddies while they harmonized over the hole in daddy’s arm and earthquakes putting people in the poor house. At the time, they were just songs. My life was so perfect and sheltered, I didn’t see the truth from which the songs sprang.

As I mentioned to a friend this morning, I’m in one of my shady times. I never really get too dark, but for a sunshiney guy like me, even the shade is a bit off-putting. This morning, I can’t get my mind off my cousin’s daughter in chemo and my friend’s son in for a blood transfusion. That’s the kind of stuff that really matters. It reminds me that I still lead a very shiny life that is protected by more than just my good luck.

Hope springs. It’s in my son’s eyes. It’s in every word he speaks. It’s stuff that makes me misty with nostalgia, even though the words are still fresh in the air. This conversation happened between my wife and son while I was on the road and it breaks my heart. I’d been sending him e-mails updating my days in the card room.

Son: “Mommy, I’m starting to get a little hair on my arms right here like daddy. Some day, I’m going to get some right here on my fingers, too. When I grow up, I’m going to be a daddy.”

Mom: “That’s the best job ever, buddy.”

Son: “Yeah, and then I can go to work with my dad. I can take my Elmo bag, and I can help him carry his stuff and I can ask daddy to send you an email, and I can help him.”

Mom: “I would love that, buddy.”

Son: “And when I’m a daddy, I can play cards where my daddy does, and I can hang out with my buddies and play cards with my dad.”

Mom: “I think your daddy would really like that, buddy.”

I think I’ll leave it at that today.

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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7 Responses

  1. Wes says:

    “Are your friends coming over to play poker?”
    “Yes they are.”
    “Can I play?”
    “You can watch for a little bit before you have to go to bed.”
    “I know how to play.”
    “You do? How do you play?”
    “You stack your chips as high as they can go. Whoever makes the hight stack without it falling over wins.”
    “You’re exactly right.”

    We also had the hair on the arm conversation this week. It will be these conversations we will remember in the teen years when they are striving to ignore our presence as much as possible.

  2. cc says:

    Welcome home, and enjoy the time with your family!

  3. ExMember says:

    Isn’t your son quoting last verse from “Cats in the Cradle”?

  4. Strawberry Shortcake says:

    You’re so blessed to have such a beautiful family! 🙂

  5. MGM says:

    Upon reading this post, I had this flashing memory of a conversation between us one day long long in the past….

    A I remember it, I was stumped that you could be so seemingly unaffected or even practically oblivious over something that I was quite upset about, and something that I thought you needed to be upset about as well (funny that I remember all that detail and yet do not remember what the “something” was). At any rate, I remember quizzing you about how you could possibly be so seemingly unaffected when I was so desperately distraught (I’ve always erred a bit on the dramatic side, myself). You said something to the effect that when you don’t want to think about something that would otherwise be upsetting, you just think of Bullwinkle.

    Oh please please tell me that this conversation really did happen between us, because otherwise I will feel just a tad foolish that I ever brought it up.

  6. KenP says:


    Looks like the truth is finally coming out. He is really Rocket J. Squirrel. Like him, a bit of a wimp at times. But, the nicest one you know! And, like him, never frustrated with the cast of characters around him.

  7. Drizztdj says:

    I can’t tell you how much I wait for the day that Wyatt joins in our poker game.

    Proud papa indeed.

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