Now the race is on…

Now the race is on and here comes pride in the backstretch, heartache goin’ to the inside…

I first heard this George Jones tune in a fraternity brother’s room. It was the late 60’s and country music was not “in” the way it is today. The Rolling Stones, the Mamas and the Papas, the Beatles, the Monkees, and many other pop groups took first place in the music world.

Don’t know why the lyrics to George’s song stayed with me all these years. I can still picture my fraternity brother’s room on the campus, it was never a bastion of neatness. Drew was never a bastion of anything but party on, brother. His focus in life was golf and beer. Or was it beer and golf?

Maybe that’s why George Jones’ death brought back thoughts about life and what it brings to us, and what it doesn’t bring. George lived a life that was out of control at times. Drew was the same, and he beat George to the finish line.

Drew was an alcoholic. Took me three tries with the spell checker to get that word right. I didn’t know he was one, most everybody in our fraternity would not know the difference between an alkie and an average college kid in the 60’s. We partied, partied a lot, drank heavily. Most of us saved the party part until the weekends. Drew didn’t. Anytime after noon or so you could find Drew in his room, an open beer bottle on the desk and George Jones records lettin’ loose tune after tune on the stereo. The door was always open, there was always a beer in the fridge. George and Drew had something in common.  Booze and a life out of control at times. The story of Drew driving home for a holiday once was legendary. He was pulled over for erratic driving, turns out he had consumed more than a few of the beers in the case he bought before leaving school to go home. The sheriff bluntly told him he’d been drinking. Drew’s candid response (“No #$%*, sheriff!”) caught the sheriff by surprise, so much so that the sheriff didn’t give him a ticket but instead escorted Drew all the way into the next county. Home.

Could it be that our generation was faced with Viet Nam and the implications that falling out of college meant in those days? Flunk out, lose the college deferment, go to the front of the line for service in ‘Nam. Not a popular war, not a popular topic amongst the college crowd, and a source of fear to many. Could it be that the pressure was there to perform, keep the grades on the passing side, keep the army out of the picture, no matter what? Was that the reason for the liquid dependence?

Or could it be that just the pressure of life was too much for some? Maybe for Drew?

I don’t know. Lost track of him after college, only to have his name come up one day 40 years or so later, when a friend of ours mentioned they were from a small town in Texas. Drew’s home town. Where? I asked, I have a fraternity brother from there, did you know Drew?

Yes, same high school class, was the response, followed by did you know about him and his life?

No, what happened, I asked.

Maybe I shouldn’t have asked, the story was tragic. Too much alcohol, lost jobs, a stint as high school coach, a bank robbery, or maybe it was just an attempt, prison time, a lost and dissolute life, a wreckage of a family, and finally a lonely death on a New Year’s Eve a decade ago.  His death went unnoticed for days, no one went looking for him.

No one missed him.

I passed the news on to my fraternity brothers five years after his death and not one of them knew of his passing on. Most of us go in one direction, our lives are predictable, we don’t know or understand what hurts inside others and makes life misfire. I wonder what demons turned Drew down the wrong road.

George Jones’ death made me think of Drew again.

Now the race is on and here comes pride in the backstretch, heartache goin’ to the inside…

…and the winner loses all…


Filed under In Memoriam, Other Stuff, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Now the race is on…

  1. missbirdlegs

    Well said, Sir. Sorry about your friend and sad about George. Not many of the Country greats left. The bright spot of the day was that Country radio played a ton of Jones today after years of few or none, which is criminal, IMO.

    • Bill Brandt

      I am waiting in line at the drug store and read on one of the tabloids that Jonathan Winters died Apr 11 – one of the great improv comedians harly in the news

  2. Bill Brandt

    I’ve been to 2 reunions, well, 3, Busbob and found 1 to be a bit melancholy.
    Had a classmate named Brooks – everyone who knew him knew that he was going places with his life. His family lived just down the street from my family.

    Straight A’s, never in trouble. Quiet. I figured he was going to be a nuclear physicist.

    After High School everyone went there separate ways. I find out, 20 years later at the reunion, that in college he parked his car on the Golden Gate Bridge and jumped off.

    We never know what demons others are wrestling with.

  3. Bill…”We never know what demons others are wrestling with”…reminds me of:

    Richard Cory

    • Bill Brandt

      How true David – As I have gotten older, every now and then I get just a glimpse of “truth” in some interaction – how people react to you, how you perceive others. And most of the time what we think we know – or more importantly , “assume” is completely off…

  4. Also, Simon & Garfunkel did a version of this.

  5. Pingback: Index – The Rest of Neptunus Lex | The Lexicans

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