by Brian Clarey
In that winding gap made by the Smoky Mountains where they peel off from the Blue Ridge chain, the leaves have already turned. Amid the riot of reds and oranges and yellows, some trees show their naked black branches where the foliage has blown away.
It’s the road to Memphis, where I drove with one of the Mikes, who flew down from Long Island to make the trip with me.
I’ve known this particular Mike since fourth grade. We went through high school and, later, college together with the other two fools waiting at the end of the line.
Ray Ray’s out in San Francisco these days with a hands-on business and a young family. The D makes his home in Harlem, NY and works for a fantastic television show that I won’t name in print just to tick him off a little. That’s how we do each other, me and my friends.
And while we’ve seen each other a few times since we graduated and we keep in touch over our various screens, it’s been 25 long years since we had our time together in the city of New Orleans.
We all had our reasons for going on this trip: stress, lifestyle changes, divorce, escape. And at the heart of it, I believe, was the realization that despite our best efforts, the years are still managing to get away from us.
The D is going gray at his temples now, like Paulie Walnuts from “The Sopranos.” Ray Ray has been coloring his thick, white hair, a concession that one of the Mikes has been unwilling to make. I am by far the most bald member of the quartet, though when we were running around I had more hair than all of them put together.
But in the studio at Sun Records, where Bob Dylan once kissed the ground where Elvis Presley stood as he recorded “Hound Dog,” and in the Jungle Room at Graceland, where a young Lisa Marie used to nap in a monstrous carved wooden chair, we felt young again.
The inside jokes. The ridiculous recollections. The relentless busting. The bonds are still there, perhaps even strengthened through the decades.
We felt strong enough to execute a maneuver known as the “bang bang,” wherein participants eat a meal at a restaurant and then promptly go to another restaurant and eat another one. It surely put a hurting on me, but I have no regrets about the fried chicken at Gus’s, or, for that matter, the dry ribs from the Rendezvous, which we later ate for dessert.
Life’s too short for regret.