I am on a stage. I am playing guitar and doing my one-man show. The same show that critics often hail as a remarkably powerful sleep aid.

I see a redheaded man in the audience, sitting in the balcony. I almost lose track of what I’m talking about on the microphone. The redheaded man is grinning at me. He reminds me of someone I once knew. Someone from long ago.

The very first time I was ever on a stage I was six years old. My father was the reason. I don’t know why he had such a bee in his bonnet about getting me in front of people, but he was hellbent on it.

He practically begged the preacher to let me sing in front of church, even though I REALLY didn’t want to do this. My father could be relentless. Soon I was standing before everybody and their mother’s house cat singing “Precious Lord Take My Hand.”

Something I’ll never forget: Just before I took the church stage, the old

preacher introduced me by calling me a forty-year-old man trapped in a six-year-old's body.

Everyone chuckled. But I didn’t see what was so funny. I sang the best I could, but I was godawful. People applauded. My redheaded father, who was in the balcony, whistled with his fingers.

After that, I started doing some singing in public. I was shy and I hated it. But my father said the only way to get over stage fright was to simply get over it. He kept making me audition for local plays. I couldn’t understand why he found this so important. All I wanted was to go back to making mud pies in the backyard.

I got a role in one play where I had to memorize nearly a hundred lines. My mother and I worked on these lines every day after school. She’d read the script while standing at…

I have here an email written by John, from Marietta, Georgia. He writes:

“Sean, I lost my car keys and I’m late for work, I can’t find them and I’ve looked everywhere. I don’t really want to call my wife because she always knows where my keys are.”

John, this is by far the strangest letter I have ever received. But you were right to contact me. The best help I can give is this: Whatever you do, don’t call your wife.

Because if you do, she will find your keys, and she will win. And if your wife wins, she will hold it over your head for the next two million years.

And if you’re like me, this subject will be brought up when you least expect it, like when my wife introduces me at parties (“This is my husband, who couldn’t find his own keys if they were lodged in his throat.”).

Sometimes you will be in the middle of a disagreement with your wife and the subject will pop up. You’ll

probably be arguing the same way all married men argue, humbly pointing out the many sacrifices you make for the family. While you are speaking, she will interrupt to remind you about the time you lost your car keys, whereupon (poof!) you will be instantly neutered.

So how can you find your keys without the help of a qualified female? This is a tough one. Because women know everything. They can also smell aromas that average humans can’t smell.

I base this statement on the fact that many times I’ve been trapped in confined spaces with myself and have failed to smell odors coming from my sweat glands, scents my wife claims can be detected from as far away as Quebec.

My wife has a nose like a pregnant bloodhound. She is always saying, “What is that SMELL?” Then her nose starts sniffing around, trying to…

I am in a public place watching several kids play on their smartphones. They haven’t blinked in over an hour. Or moved. Someone better get these kids some urinary catheters.

I’ll admit right off the bat that when we were kids we were not half as “hip” as today’s children. These kids are smart. They have cutting-edge phones, earbuds, skinny jeans, light-up shoes, and unique body piercings. Compared to these modern children we were complete dorks.

Do you know what my uncool friends did for fun? Our mothers made us pick wild strawberries. That’s right. Strawberries. These hip kids are going to laugh us right into the nursing home one day.

Certainly, video games existed during my youth, but my people didn’t have them. And don’t get me wrong, I would have killed for a video game. But it was a pipe dream. Back then, if you had a video game console, this meant that you wore silk undies and a man named Wadsworth turned your bed down each night.

The first

time I ever saw a video game was at Michael Ray’s house. His father was an importer, his mother was a competitive horse jumper and Junior League vice president.

The video game was Pong. It was a blank television screen with a singular dot drifting from left to right between ping-pong paddles. This dot traveled about as fast as it took to complete law school. Every kid within three counties traveled hundreds of miles just to see this dot.

My father forbid me from playing video games. He once told me plainly, “Son, if you play video games your brain will melt.” And he didn’t say it like he was joking.

Looking back, I’m sure my father got a great laugh out of this, but I sincerely believed him. For years I thought that video games would cause brain matter to leak out my ears. So I never…

I was sitting here thinking about you. Which is kind of weird because I don’t know you. But I still consider us friends.

See, when I write, sometimes I envision you reading this. Whoever you are. I can almost see you sitting in your PJs, or your work clothes, or dressed in a gorilla suit.

Maybe you’re sipping your morning coffee, or hot tea, or an ice cold Ensure. Or maybe you’re stopped at a redlight, reading this on your phone, holding up miles of traffic. In which case, you’d better put your phone down because right now everyone wants to harm you.

Over the years I have written some off-the-wall things to you. I once wrote an entire column/blog/whatever-you-call-it about eyebrow hair. Another time I wrote a column where, as a joke, I quoted God. Almost everyone got the joke, but a select few didn’t. These are a select few religious people who might benefit from a little Metamucil in their diets.

But after I quoted God I got some hate mail from

these people who obviously have incredible amounts of free time because they went into lengthy detail about what was going to happen to my eternal butt. One guy told me I was going to rot in Hell for putting words into God’s mouth.

Normally this kind of thing doesn’t bug me too bad. But getting more than a few hate messages at once can really put you in the dumps. Which is what happened.

But the tides turned. A Catholic gentleman from Maine sent me a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon in the mail. There was a card attached.

It read: “I sure love you. Sincerely, God.”

Somebody I’ve never met guessed that I was having a bad week and took the time to send me the Catholic sacrament of choice, full-proof alcohol. The thing is, I don’t even like bourbon, but it made my whole…

The woman in the checkout aisle is small, white-haired. Her cart is full, mounding with Gatorade, Cheetos, and ice cream sandwiches.

I love ice cream sandwiches.

She is bent at the waist, her joints are as thin as number-two pencils. She is struggling to push her cart.

I offer to unload her buggy. She thanks me and says, “Aren’t you a sweet little Boy Scout?”

A comedian, this lady.

If I am lucky enough to see old age, I will be a comedian.

She’s out of breath, leaning on her basket. If I didn't know any better, I'd guess her back is killing her.

“My grandkids are coming to town this week,” she says. “Wanna make sure they have enough food.”

This explains the Mountain Dew, the Goldfish, and the ice cream sandwiches.

We talk. Grandma is friendly. No. She is perfect. Dressed to the nines, hair fixed. It is nine in the morning, she is bearing pearls and ruby lipstick.

She is the American grandmother. Nineteen hundred and fifty-nine, frozen in time. The kind of woman whose lifelong occupation is

to keep stomachs full while wearing matching blouse and shoes.

When the cashier finishes scanning, the old woman thanks me. I offer to take her groceries to the car. She tries to pay me.

No ma'am. I’d rather sell my soul to Doctor Phil for thirty pieces of silver than take your money.

I roll her cart toward the parking lot. She holds the buggy’s side.

I suggest she grab my arm. She does, and for a moment, I am ten-foot tall and Kevlar.

She has an economy Ford. The trunk is tiny. I have an idea: I ask her to let me follow her home and unload her groceries.

It’s too much. Too personal, too fast. This embarrasses her.

“No thanks,” she says. “I’ll have my grandkids unload when they get here tomorrow. My grandkids, they’re visiting me…

Help me. I am going to die. I’m not sure how exactly I got locked in this bathroom, it all happened so fast. I can’t remember much.

All I know is that we are staying in a rental house for the weekend. It’s an old home that was built back before the Babylonians discovered WiFi. My wife went into town to go shopping and I chose to stay home because I would rather be stabbed in the thigh with a BIC pen than go shopping.

Anyway, I was in the bathroom and when I tried to turn the doorknob to open the door the knob snapped off.

Thus, I am trapped without food or technology. I’m shouting for help, but my wife is long gone and the cleaning lady isn’t due for another several hours.

The gravity of this nightmare finally hits me all at once. I am stuck in this tiny hellhole without access to the outside world. I will never see the sunshine again. They will find my body covered in cobwebs. The coroner

will shake his head and say, “Looks like he got so hungry he ate a bar of soap and choked.”

Also, my cellphone is in the other room. This means no texts, no calls, and—here is the worst part—no Scrabble.

I am officially dead.

Scrabble has always been my game of choice. It was my grandmother’s favorite game, my mother’s favorite game, and it is the only game I voluntarily play. Unless of course I am in Biloxi, in which case I voluntarily visit the roulette table and play Let’s Set Fire To All Sean’s Twenties.

If someone were to ever put a competitive Scrabble table in the Beau Rivage Casino, I would have to reverse mortgage my house.

I play Scrabble every day on my smartphone. I keep ten or twelve games going at a time. I don’t want to toot my own…

She has a box of to-go food in her hands. I overhear the man at the barbecue joint counter say she is missing two pounds of brisket.

The man apologizes to the people in line, then he tells her it will be coming right up.

“Don’t forget extra sauce,” she calls out. “The sauce is for my son, he’s a Dipper.”

Well, I can relate. I’m a Dipper, too. If it can be dipped, I dip it. French fries, for example, were designed by God to be ketchup delivery vehicles. Don’t even get me started on salads. My salads consist of a single sprig of lettuce with nine cups of ranch dressing.

She looks at me and apologizes for holding up the line at the counter.

The woman is about seventy, I’d guess. Maybe a little older. White hair. Slim. She takes care of herself. She’s wearing workout gear.

I don’t know what she’s doing in the to-go lane of a greasy barbecue joint. Usually, people who exercise a lot don’t openly consume cholesterol in public smokehouses. It just doesn’t fit

the health-and-fitness thing.

Seeing someone like her in here feels like seeing a Church of Christ preacher at the blackjack table sipping a whiskey sour.

“You ordered a lot of barbecue,” I say because I have a gift for pointing out the obvious.

“Oh, it’s for my son,” she says. “He LOVES barbecue, and so does his fiance, and they’re gonna need something for their road trip. Something that will hold them, they leave tonight.”

And we are knee-deep in a conversation. Her son and his fiance are driving toward Canada tonight. She’s staying behind to watch his kids.

“My son’s getting married this weekend,” she goes on. “They’re doing a private ceremony, just the two of them, way up in Canada.”

She tells me the Canadian province where they’re traveling. It is a French word, but I won’t…

DEAR SEAN:

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I like this girl who is my friend, but I want to be more. I don’t want to say anything to her because if I do I’m afraid it will end our friendship if she doesn’t feel the same way, and I don’t want to lose her as a friend.

Thanks,
FRIEND-ZONE-IN-ASHEVILLE

DEAR FRIEND-ZONE:

Before I say anything, remember that I know Jack Squat about this subject. Thus, whatever else you read here will likely be about as valuable as a screen door on a submarine.

But here’s the deal. I don’t think things will go back to normal no matter what you do. Even if you never told her how you feel, things are probably already getting weird between you two. And trust me, they are about to get weirder if you open your mouth.

But I still think you ought to say something to her. Before you do, however, maybe ask yourself a few questions:

Such as, what happens if she doesn’t like you THAT way? How

will you feel when she starts dating Brad Pitt? And she WILL date Brad Pitt, they always date Brad Pitt. Will seeing her with him kill your confidence? Will you forever look into your mirror and see “Fatty” Arbuckle staring back at you?

Well, I can almost answer this question for you. And the answer is: “Who the heck is Fatty Arbuckle?”

I’m speaking from experience here. When I was younger, I was friends with a girl who, for the purposes of this column, I will call—oh, I don’t know—Medusa.

Medusa was very pretty; I was young. She considered me her lovable little pal. To her, I was sort of like Raggedy Andy, only less attractive. She gave me butterflies in my stomach. And I mistakenly thought she felt butterflies, too. But come to find out she was only feeling gas pains. Seriously.…

I got a letter from Phillip in Sacramento, California, who asked an important question. And by “important,” I mean life-or-death important:

“Sean, which brands of mayonnaise do Southerners like best?”

I immediately spotted the small error in his question. And if you live in the same part of the world as I do, you probably spotted it too.

Phillip’s question suggests that there is more than one acceptable mayonnaise brand. But there is not.

There is only one officially approved mayonnaise of the Southern Baptist Convention. This mayonnaise comes in a jar with a yellow lid and it is the secret to living a rich, satisfying life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I say anything else, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t intend to be critical of other people’s mayonnaise choices. I would never do that. Just because you and I don’t see eye to eye on mayonnaise doesn’t mean that I think you are a communist. It simply means that you have strong tendencies toward communism.

So I don’t know much about Sacramento, but I’ve

heard that grocery stores out West don’t carry the yellow-lid brand I mentioned earlier. This is a shame.

Then again, I suppose that mayonnaise probably isn’t part of Sacramento’s historical heritage the way it is here.

Early Californian pioneers probably had WAY more important things to worry about like taming the Western frontier, building sod huts, droughts, and surviving destructive Grateful Dead concerts. Whereas our ancestors in the Southeast were primarily concerned with perfecting our congealed salad recipes.

Still, I’ll bet that Sacramento is probably like many cities. The stores probably sell many jars that LOOK like mayo. But don’t be fooled. Even though these jars appear to be filled with mayonnaise, the jars actually contain noxious commercial automotive lubricants.

I base this statement on a study conducted by a major university last year wherein scientific researchers discovered that most people in…

One of the first speaking gigs I ever had was in Dothan, Alabama. It was at the Houston County Public Library, and I did not want to be there.

At the time, I had been writing this column for a few years and had a couple books published. I had not done ANY public speaking. I was very worried that I’d make a fool of myself.

The fact is, I can always be counted on to make a moderate fool of myself. As a boy, for instance, my friend’s mother, Miss Martha, used to always tell me, “Think before you speak, Sean.” She was a cantankerous lady who was always saying this to me.

I had no idea what it meant at such a young age. After all, my usual policy was to think AFTER I spoke, when I had more free time available for reflection. But years later, I discovered what Miss Martha truly meant. She meant that I should shut up.

I wish Miss Martha would have

just come out and said that. It would have saved me a lot of embarrassment later in life. Because I wasn’t aware that she was absolutely right about me. My mouth did frequently make a fool out of me.

Like the one Sunday at church when I was supposed to read the scripture verse that would be the topic of the preacher’s sermon. A lay person always read the Bible verse before the preacher’s sermon and that week it was my turn.

My mother had written my verse on an index card and tucked it into a Bible so that all I had to do was open the Bible and read the bold letters on the card. But somehow I lost the card. And when I opened the Bible I had no idea where the verse and chapter were located. So I just read from the open page. It was Proverbs…