New Year’s Eve always reminds me of an elderly man in town who everyone called Bug. He was bad to drink, but nobody ever called Bug a drunk. Our parents simply warned us not to light a match within two feet of old Bug.

Whenever you’d see him out and about, red-faced, he’d always be the happiest guy you ever met. His claim to fame was that he had already chosen his life’s last words so that when he was on his deathbed he wouldn’t say something stupid.

Almost everyone in beer joints between here and the county line tried to coax Bug to reveal these words. Some even offered to pay big bucks. But nobody could make Bug say it.

One New Year’s Day, after Bug had been out all night celebrating—and this is how I heard it—Bug started having chest pains. His wife drove him to the emergency room. They hooked him up to wires and tubes.

Bug was in the bed, moaning in pain, and when his final moment came, he motioned for

his wife to come close. He whispered his last words, which would become locally famous:

“They say you only live once, but believe me, it’s a great ‘once.’”

Thus satisfied with himself, Bug closed his eyes. They say he smiled. And a few moments later, doctors told Bug that he was only suffering from gas pains and he would be perfectly fine once he pooped.

Bug opened his eyes, cussed the doctor, and lived twenty more years.

I wish I had something clever to say like Bug. In fact, I’ve been thinking about what to write all night. But I just can’t find anything. Because I’ve never been good under pressure.

Do you remember when you were a kid and everyone would play highly pressurized backyard games like football, hide and seek, or Pin The Tail on the Redhead? Do you remember when the…

I’m staying in a little house with a funky smell. It’s not a “cottage” because that word implies cuteness. It’s not cute. It’s a modest house on East Haymore Street, borderlining on ugly.

Cheap carpet, old wood, vinyl siding, nothing fancy. And for the love of God, what is that funky smell?

In the den is a sofa with faded plaid upholstery. It looks like something my granny would have owned. Like something everyone’s grandmother owned, back when grannies still watched Billy Graham on black-and-white television sets the size of chifforobes.

The ceiling has water spots. The kitchen is dated. The appliances are ancient. Especially the stove. It’s a 1950s Hotpoint electric range.

And just when I don’t think this place could get any more hideous, I see across the street—not fifty feet from my bedroom window—the dang city water tower. Two hundred stories of municipal eyesore towering overhead like a monster.

My wife rented this ugly house for my birthday. You’re probably wondering why. I am too.

Maybe she did it because I’m a low-rent kind of

guy. Maybe because I come from modest people and I’m uncomfortable in fancy digs.

When I first started public speaking for a living, I once stayed in a notable hotel that gave new meaning to the word “swanky.” I was there to entertain members of a big organization that required me to sign privacy disclosure agreements beforehand.

The elaborate shindig was held in Alabama. I have no earthly clue why they hired a yahoo like me.

It was pure extravagance. You should have seen it. The event was catered by a barbecue joint from Kansas City. A private pilot had flown the steaming pork 700 miles south while it was still hot. And, by God, they had a party.

Southern dignitaries discussed their golf swings while sipping highballs made from liquor that was worth a working man’s salary.

The organization put me…