In Search of Spring Break: Then and Now

How Spring Break '89 stayed with me

My own most memorable and fateful Spring Break took place in South Padre Island and Matamoros in 1989. At that time I was a freshman and well on my way to flunking out of UT. I'd uncorked a 0.5 GPA my first semester, and while I more than tripled that in the spring, it was only half what I need to continue my stay on the 40 Acres.

So I knew I was a dead duck going into that break. And I had no money. I did have the longest two-door Cadillac ever made – a 1976 Coupe de Ville with no back windshield – and a Phillips 76 card. And you could get an "emergency student loan" of $100 from UT. My buddy Steve Uecker and I both availed ourselves of these, piled in the Caddy ("Billy Clyde") and pointed it south to Padre. We planned to sleep on the beach for the whole week, and we had a half-gallon of tequila to help see us through. We figured the gas card would provide us with microwave burritos and Doritos, thus leaving us healthy cash reserves for booze, and with such low overhead in all other areas, we felt surprisingly well-off.

Though I had no plan other than mindless hedonism to take my mind off the mindless hedonism that my life had been back in Austin, that week would end up changing my life forever.

Uecker and I slept on the beach that first night. And then the next day, after spending some time on the beach amid hordes of kids from places like the Dakotas, and trying and failing to pick up girls, we headed over to Matamoros.

While there I got a funny feeling that I would be seeing Kelly, this girl I used to seriously crush on in high school at Strake Jesuit / Saint Agnes. Weirdly, though I had scarcely spoken to her back then, while on a religious retreat as part of the senior year of my Catholic education, I had this vision, perhaps the only true vision I've ever had.

As I was drifting off to sleep, in front of my eyes, I saw two glasses of champagne fizzing away. The view cut away and I could see one was being held by a man's hand, the other by a woman's. The view cut back further and I could see that one was this beautiful, warm-eyed embodiment of grace I'd long admired, and the other was me, and we were sitting on a beach house balcony in the moonlight, the waves softly crashing on the shore across the beach.

And a year later, she was at A&M, and I was at UT, and I don't know why I thought I would be seeing her in Matamoros.

But a couple of hours later, there she was, with a pack of girlfriends, crossing a street towards the border. Without further ado, I walked up to her and literally picked her up off the ground and threw her over my shoulder.

She was a good sport about that, and she introduced her friends to Uecker and me, and we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon and evening drinking and dancing to such late-'80s wonders as Bobby Brown, Debbie Gibson, Tone-Loc and Paula Abdul in the Matamoros clubs.

There was an extremely ugly vibe on the streets of Matamoros that night. Despite our tequila- and sun-addled states, we all noticed it. At one point on our way out of town, some locals tried to trip us with a rope they had snaked across the sidewalk, but that was just a nuisance compared to a sense of evil and impending doom we all felt.

Our fears were increased when Uecker, who had gotten separated from the rest of us, came running up and said some locals had tried to push him into the back of a pick-up truck. We congratulated him on getting away and thought little more on it.

Because even that was not enough to stop me and my new girl from making out in the little park between Calle Alvaro Obregon and Calle Las Rosas, just south of the international bridge. And we pretty much didn't stop making out the rest of the trip.

Uecker and I moved into the girls' sprawling, beach-house like room in South Padre's old purple-icious Sea Grape Motel. It was the best week of my life up to that point and there have been few if any that could match it since. Kelly and I had such a great rapport, and she was so beautiful and sweet, and I got to wake up next to the woman who was literally my vision of beauty every morning. I told her I loved her before we parted ways at the end of that Spring Break.

And by then we had heard that we were not mistaken about that ugly vibe in Matamoros. It had been March 13, 1989, a date that lives in infamy in borderlands lore to this day. That was the night that UT student Mark J. Kilroy vanished without trace from the streets of Matamoros during the same night of revelry we'd enjoyed with such abandon. Weeks later his mutilated body was found alongside 14 Mexicans, all buried in shallow graves on a rancho south of town.

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11 comments
prebble
prebble

Wow.. I remember this vividly...Steve talked about this trip but not the depth/significance, which I only just put together....

Krast Lee
Krast Lee

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Krast Lee
Krast Lee

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Haskellgossett
Haskellgossett

I also found my true love at Texas. Mine was different; I did not have the money nor the time to go to lovely spring breaks nor did I even think of this. I wonder who was footing the bill for the college works while you were touring the world and detting loop eyed drunk. I respect my more than to advertise how many times she rolle in the hay with me befre we were married. Yes, I am old fashoned and I still smile at my wife after 54 years realizint I am the only man that has ever had her. Times may change but God's law never changes.

Haskell Gossett

Bella Adela
Bella Adela

Awwwww!!! and... WOW. Seriously, WOW. I LOVED learning the backstory about you 2 crazy kids! :)

Dannine Donaho
Dannine Donaho

What a story. Thanks goddess for small mercies. I wish both of youse wonderful people all the best,

David Harry
David Harry

Great story! I met the love of my life after my first marriage as well, It is funny how life puts people in our path at both the right and the wrong time! Thank you for sharing your spring break story. Each year, when kids arrive her on SPI, I hope that they take memories home that will keep them coming back year after year. It sounds like you did!

David HarryAuthor, The Padre Puzzlewww.davidharryauthor.com

Timothy Freeman
Timothy Freeman

An ancient,abiding, and, for me, deeply important axiom, I first heard Martin Buber repeat on PBS when I was about 10, then heard Elie Weisel reiterate at MIT many years later,"The Truth of The Torah, is in the Telling."...The Life of The Truth is only Present in the testimony of the story's Becoming Now...You're a cultured,devoted, Ace, at this. And, Thank you!... I, personally, am pleased and proud to participate in it with you...If I didn't know you were a Papist, I'd swear you were a Christ-Killer...xo

TOLDYA
TOLDYA

Great story never pegged ya for a Jevy though, go Eagles 79

Texophilia
Texophilia

I try to go to the bathroom before the wee wee hours.

Blake
Blake

"In November of 2010, we got married at Avant Garden and danced holes in the floor until the wee, wee hours."

Yeah, I remember something like that

 
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