We didn’t go to Cabo for Spring Break. Daytona Beach never made the list. If somebody had mentioned Cancun, we probably would’ve yawned. Why, I can’t say for sure. We were surely as drunk as every other college kid. Our libidos worked fine–too fine most of the time. I was running from a relationship that wasn’t going to work and killing time before another relationship that would fail. Getting out of town and to a proper place was the only goal.

We drove through a March night and turned the CD player to Uncle Tupelo’s “New Madrid” as we crossed the Missouri Bootheel. Mr. Browning may have had a prediction, but we had a week off and we weren’t about it to spend it playing Sega hockey and drinking Natural Light. We hit the Mississippi River crossing just in time for someone to say, “Graceland.”

We were on our way to New Orleans, hopped up on goofballs, and eager to bury ourselves in Bourbon Street gutter trash. It was dark and the chances of seeing a pink Cadillac were as good as one of us doing something smart over the next three days. We were on our way to make memories. Sure, they would be stupid memories, but they were going to be memories nonetheless. First, we were going to look for the King.

Yes, Graceland was closed. That much was understood. Why, then, we went out of our way to pull up to the gate, I don’t know. I just know we snapped the picture below before hopping back in the car and driving the next six hours to the Big Easy.


I found this picture today as I finished turning my office into a nursery. When the photo was taken (1995? 1996?), I could never have imagined having an office, let alone having to give it up for a second nursery. Then, every decision was made at the last minute–whether to go to New Orleans, whether to stop at Graceland, whether to buy that girl in the beret another drink. Now, I buy concert tickets months in advance and spend as much money on life insurance every month as I did on college beer binges. Back then, I was paying to live. Now, I’m paying in case I die.

Make no mistake, I am happy where I am. I have a beautiful wife, an old dog, and 1 8/9th kids. I have wonderful friends and a great life. But I do miss those carefree times, those times where being stupid was expected, those times when my hair was still growing instead of retreating, those times when Elvis was dead and we were young.

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. Dr. Chako says:

    You seriously miss that hair?

    Back in the BK days (Before Kids), we were simple and carefree. I remember getting a wild hair about playing golf in Arizona, so we just hopped in the car and drove there from Denver. Just because. The memories are still vivid.


  2. otis says:

    Yeah, the hair wasn’t my finest moment. Was on its way to full length shoulder hair, but at the time was just a mess. But, hell, who was I trying to impress?

  3. Pauly says:

    Flock of Seagulls called. They want their hair back.

  4. Da Goddess says:

    It’s a bitch to grow up. But in the long run, it’s so worth it!

    After spending the day revisiting my past with family, it’s been a real trip to realize how much more interesting — and dare I say BETTER? — my life is since having kids.

    As for the photo? What a great reminder of a fun trip.

  5. MGM says:

    Bwah ha ha ha ha ha! Flock of Seagulls…(gasp)…want their hair back… ha ha ha ha ha ha! I’m laughing my ass off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Funniest thing I’ve heard all day. (Yeah, life is slow in the back woods of the Ozarks.)

    Seriously, though. I’ve been there, Otis (well, except for the hair part). There are a few wild times that haunt me with bittersweet memories, too. Wouldn’t change a thing in my current life, but sometimes I look back with nostalgia at those wild twenties years when I could be spontaneous without dragging a diaper bag along, or spend my money without first considering if I can feed and clothe my kids.

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