BATON ROUGE—I am at the Louisiana Book Festival. The downtown is overrun with tents, vendors, and lots of book-people.

Book-people look just like real people, only they aren’t. They have much bigger vocabularies. Many of them have earned doctorates in fields of study like post-Romantic Russian interior plumbing.

These are the kinds of brilliant people who spend two years writing a four-hundred-page dissertation about precolonial usage of the semicolon.

People who use words like “prosaic” in daily conversation.

Prosaic, I just discovered, means plain. Ordinary. Sort of run-of-the-mill. One book festival volunteer (a grad student) used this word—this is the truth—when he was giving me directions to the bathroom.

“It’s just down that hallway,” he said, “to the right, over by that rather prosaic-looking plant.”

He even used the hyphen.

So believe me, these book-people are all very nice, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that some of these well-dressed folks are the kind who—how do I put this?—have never heard of Rusty Wallace.

But it’s a great festival. Baton Rouge really comes alive. It’s not a stuffy literary gig at all. It’s fun. There

are live bands playing jazz and Cajun music. The smell of jambalaya is in the air. Many vendors are serving boudin, which is basically Cajun sausage on crack.

I am standing on the sidewalk, waiting for a ride to my presentation downtown. A black SUV pulls to the curb. A chauffeur wearing a suit opens the door and asks me to get in.

“No thanks,” I say. “I’m waiting for my ride.”

“I am your ride, sir.”


“That’s right.”

“You mean this stud mobile is for me?”

He makes no facial expression. “Please, sir.”

I have never had a chauffeur before. On the ride over I am cracking all sorts of jokes to lighten the mood, asking where my mimosa is. Come to find out, chauffeurs don’t find mimosa jokes funny.

He drops me…

Finally, I decide that someone has to say something to him.

It’s after midnight. The plane spits us out at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport and we trot across the empty building. We stand before baggage claim with a bunch of weary passengers, staring at the large Roulette Wheel of Luggage with tired looks on our faces.

But the baggage treadmill hasn’t started moving yet. We are gathered around it, waiting, but it’s been thirty minutes.

There is a man next to me who is wearing a business suit that looks like it cost more than a three-bedroom-two-bath in Mountain Brook, and he is clearly ticked off.

“$%*#!” he says.

Over and over again.

He looks like the kind of guy who, whenever he doesn’t get what he wants, always asks to speak to the manager. You know the kind I’m talking about. You can’t take these people anywhere.

“$%*#!” he says again.

I’ll bet this guy was no day at the beach when he was a kid, either. I’ll bet when his childhood friends were busy playing cowboys and Indians, he was dressing up as Ted Turner and firing the butler.

My friend Darren used to be like that. Before he would come over to play, we all had to participate in group meditation just to prepare for him. Because we knew how things would go:

We would all want to play Lone Ranger, but Darren would want to play “accounting firm,” which was a make-believe game wherein we would pretend to be H&R Block professionals doing tax returns in cubicles. Darren would play the role of boss, patrolling the cubicles and shouting, “Come on people! Time is money! Chop! Chop!”

And eventually we’d tie Darren to a tree and scalp him.

So this guy is a lot like Darren. He’s pacing around, getting angrier by the second. He removes his watch and shakes it.

“$%*#!” he says again.

He sits on a chair and starts making loud sighs. People are looking at…

The best thing a guy can do is give his wife a credit card and fake the flu.

It’s a sunny day. The mall is busy. There are hundreds of people beneath the tall atrium. They have places to go and things to buy.

I am here with my wife, who is shopping for blue jeans at Old Navy.

Shopping for jeans with your wife is a dangerous gamble. In the Western world, the leading cause of divorce is shopping for blue jeans at Old Navy with your wife. Ranking second is chewing your food too loud.

It goes like this:

Your wife locks herself in the dressing room with eighty-seven pairs of jeans. While she tries them on, you, the husband, go to the designated detention area with other husbands.

Intermittently, you wife emerges from her room, modeling jeans that look exactly like the jeans she wore when she entered the store.

Then, she glances at her reflection and begins speaking in foreign tongues. She asks things like: “Does this chino inseam appear too constricting?”

And: “Do you think these boot-cuts too are too roomy on the calf region?”

We husbands have

no idea what our wives are actually asking. This is why we often mumble. Because we know our words don’t really matter when it comes to blue jeans. Our wives will make their own decisions.

We know that by the end of the day our wives will have at least two emotional breakdowns, and likely leave the store without a single pair of blue jeans because they hate blue jeans and they wish blue jeans would’ve never been invented and they hate anyone who wears blue jeans including members of Congress, anyone below age thirty, and Cher.

And instead of buying jeans, our wives end up getting something like a “cute little cardigan that was on clearance.”

Then everyone goes out for ice cream. The end.

The best thing a guy can do is give his wife a credit card and fake the flu.


Experts are saying that the mosquitoes are worse this year than in recent years. I just heard it on the news. The news anchor gave the official report, pausing to slap his own face between sentences.

Later, I went for a walk and there were so many mosquitoes outside that when I breathed inward, I actually swallowed one. In my actual mouth.

The thing flew into the back of my throat and bit my esophagus. Then it lingered for a while, I could feel him buzzing around. I started making the same sounds you make when you’re drowning.

The first person I yelled for was my wife. “Jamie! Jamie!” I screamed. I don’t know why I did this. What was she supposed to do about it?

But then, I’m a male. I always call for my wife to “do something” even when there is nothing that can technically be done. That’s how men are. Before I got married I used to call out “Mama!” in times of distress. I guess the idea among

men is that Mama—at least mine did this—carries a bunch of magical things in that giant purse of hers.

My mother, God bless her, had to be so tired of hearing her own name being hollered so often. It’s a wonder she didn’t up and move to Fiji, where I hear the mosquito issue is at least under control.

So after the mosquito mauling I ran home swatting my legs, leaping, coughing, and hacking. Blood streaks were on my thighs, mosquitoes were buzzing in my ear canals. One mosquito landed on my shoulder that was about the size of a Nissan Altima.

This is a real crisis facing Florida, and if you ask me, we the people need it to stop. How long are we going to sit idly by and watch mosquitoes take over our way of life and ruin our esophaguses?

I talked with a…

Did you ever notice how when you were a kid, a full year actually felt like a year?

The cashier at the convenience store just told me to “Have a nice day.” And it got me thinking.

I used to hate this little phrase. It can sound so insincere. But the more I think about it, the more it’s growing on me. After all, who doesn’t deserve a nice day?

So I hope you have a nice day. Why not? Shoot. Have two.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about a ridiculously happy day. No. Too much happiness can make you unhappy. That kind of elation is way too much stress. And stress is stress, no matter how you look at it. Even happy stress is still stress.

You can be gut-bustingly happy on the day of your wedding, but you will STILL be so stressed out that you will probably consume too many Bushwhacker cocktails, and—as in the case of my uncle during the 2002 incident—dance the Funky Chicken on top of the groom’s mother’s table.

So I wish you easiness. Relaxation. A very mellow, simple day. Like playing

table tennis without gravity. Like sitting in a comfortable chair and watching goldfish. Like sailing a boat on mirror-like water.

My father used to look at smooth water and always say, “That water’s slicker than owl snot.” I loved this particular phrase and often used it to impress my Sunday school teachers.

I hope you have an owl snot kind of day. I hope the woman who has eight kids she’s rushing to soccer practice eats a Klondike Bar. And I hope Jason, the kid with stage-four cancer, who has horrible headaches, has a very good day.

I hope your favorite show is on TV, or that you find something worth “binge-watching.” Which is a term I just learned. A twenty-four-year-old person taught this to me.

This twenty-four-year-old told me that he had been “binging” all weekend. I told him that they had AA meetings in…

I sat in a chair and looked at my reflection in the dressing room mirror, surrounded by a hundred light bulbs. “What a dork,” I thought, staring at myself.


I saw your show in Talladega last week and I really wanted to go up after and say hello to you to get one of those free hugs you were giving out to everyone in line, but I was so scared and nervous because I don’t feel good about myself right now. I am very shy. I have always felt like you get me. I wish I would have hugged you now.

Thank you,


I was really looking forward to doing that show in Talladega. I know that sounds like an odd thing to say. Because Talladega isn’t exactly Disneyland, but it was to some of us growing up.

When I was a boy, I would have MUCH rather gone to Talladega and seen Dale Earnhardt Senior drive his Chevrolet Monte Carlo than take ride in a Magic Kingdom teacup.

Once when I was a kid we camped at the NASCAR Superspeedway, and it was life changing. Consequently, I’ve also shaken hands with Donald Duck. I could

take him or leave him.

But never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that someone would actually ASK ME to come to Talladega, of their own volition, to perform. The first thing I did after getting the call was to figure out precisely how to use the word volition in a sentence.

I am not the kind of guy who draws crowds. I am not a confident guy. I am the sort of man who often does his dog-and-pony show in rest homes, gymnasiums, and occasionally in front of eighth-graders who are more interested in grabbing each other’s butts than listening to a skinny redhead talk.

So there I was, backstage in Talladega’s Ritz Theater. The hallways were lined with headshot pictures from famous people. I’m talking: Ronnie Milsap, Ray Charles, Bill Monroe, Etta James, Tanya Tucker, and of course, Engelbert Hunperdink.

And I walked…

CAPE SAN BLAS—It’s a sunny day on the beach, but cool, with a steady breeze. It’s the perfect kind of day to have the blood sucked from your body by Old-Testament-style mosquitoes. Which is exactly what is happening to me.

I have never seen mosquitoes this bad. I just walked my dog, and for three minutes I whined, “Go tee-tee, for the love of God!” while mosquitoes had their way with my body.

Soon, my white T-shirt was painted with blood smears. My poor legs were chewed to shreds. I have so many swollen bites that I look like the Michelin Man. On my upper body alone my wife counted—this is an actual number—190,281,333 bites.

Why am I telling you this? Because I always tell you worthless stories that have no basic point. This is the role of a columnist. Which, I suppose I am.

I come up with tiny pieces of insignificance to fill this column (if you call it a column). And I have been writing this thing every day for six

years now. I can hardly believe it.

When I started doing this, there were a few people who offered me advice such as, “Don’t do it,” or “Nobody reads columns anymore.”

One tidbit came from a prominent writer who I once asked for advice. He said, “Why would anyone read YOUR writing? What makes you so special?”

The prominent writer was only trying to give me a dose of reality, but it made me feel ridiculous. Then he went on to tell me that column-writing was a total nightmare.

For one thing, Mister Prominent pointed out, how in God’s name would I come up with new things to write about?

Well, he made a good point. To find something that’s important to write about every single day must be very difficult. But then, I wouldn’t know. I write about mostly unimportant topics. Mosquitoes, being just one…