It's New Year’s Eve and I'm writing you from a cold front porch in Eclectic, Alabama. Over the last years, I’ve written from some interesting places. Barbecue stands, hotel lobbies, airplanes, hurricane shelters, Episcopal beer festivals.
Funny. If you would’ve told me five years ago I’d be writing at all, I would’ve called you clinically insane. This is because most of my life’s dreams have died slow, agonizing deaths.
As a boy, I wanted to be a pianist—I don’t talk about that very often because it seems silly now. I’ve played piano since age nine. Once, I competed in a piano competition. I wore a suit and played before a large theater.
My hands were trembling. The other contestants backstage were kids from big cities who spoke with New-York accents.
One kid shook my hand and said, “I’m gonna blow you out of the water, sucker.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said I.
“Aw, your mother sniffs your underpants, loser.”
I came in last place.
As a newlywed, I tried opening a landscaping business. I sunk my savings into commercial mowing equipment. Business was bad.
On weekends I’d print hundreds of flyers and shove them in mailboxes.
“FIFTY PERCENT OFF!” the flyers read. “CALL NOW!”
Pretty please. With sprinkles on top. My business folded.
I did handyman work. I laid floors, hung drywall, renovated bathrooms. I tried to do this on my own, doing odd jobs. Disaster.
I played music in rundown bars. Not fancy tourist joints. I played ugly rooms, for folks who tipped a buck to dance to “Crazy” one more time.
I’ve even worked in a few churches.
I’d rather push-mow Jordan-Hare Stadium.
After I finished community college as an adult, I applied to three major universities. The idea was to do something with my life. Writing, perhaps.
I received three response letters. Here’s one from Tallahassee: “Dear applicant, we regret to inform you that whereupon reviewing your…