I am listening to the radio. The DJ tonight is a 93-year-old elderly man with a feeble voice. He is introducing the songs of Frank, Ella, Bing, Nat, and Lawrence.

I turn it up.

This is a pirate radio station. Until a few minutes ago, I didn’t know anything about pirate radio. I looked it up. Wikipedia says pirate radio is any station that broadcasts without a valid license. Meaning: I still don’t know what the heck it means.

All I know is that I’ve been listening to radio gold for a few hours. I’ve heard such giants as Elvis, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, the Beach Boys, and of course Frankie Yankovic playing his American masterstroke, the “Hoop Dee Doo Polka.”

This radio station is called Radio Recliner. It is available on the internet. The station is disc-jockeyed by elderly people who are quarantined in assisted living facilities around the country.

In other words, the old people call the shots. They choose the songs, announce them, and talk to listeners using cellphone microphones from

the safety of their own rooms.

Radio Recliner was started by an Atlanta and Birmingham-based marketing firm who thought it would be great to let elderly people have their own radio station during a pandemic. This station has become so popular that every hopeless sentimental from here to Timbuktu is tuning in. Like me.

Tonight’s DJ tells his audience a little about himself between songs:

“Hi ya, I’m 93 years old, and I’m feeling good tonight...”

A song begins to play. “In the Mood,” by Glenn Miller. The song is so peppy that I am bouncing in my seat while I write this column.

The music ends. The elderly voice comes on again, this time to tell a story.

“I was in World War II,” he says. “I was 18 years old and foolish, the war certainly made me grow up in a hurry… There was…

A few years ago, I went to a graduation party. There must have been a hundred people there, all dressed in nice clothes. Under the current social-distancing circumstances, it seems like ancient history thinking that people were holding graduation parties.

In the entryway was a poster-sized picture of the kid who graduated. He was eighteen, tall, handsome. He looked like Superman, minus the “S.”

People were mingling, there were refreshments, music, and a long buffet. And I was on a mission for pimento cheese.

I will do almost anything for pimento cheese. Not plain pimento cheese, but the kind made by a professional. My aunt, for instance, makes a spectacular variety. And my wife’s pimento cheese is good enough to make Billy Graham slap his own mama.

My mother is not going to like that joke.

Anyway, I don’t care for the orange slop found in supermarket coolers. That stuff looks like stink bait. I’m talking about the real thing, made by a lady who knows her way around a kitchen.

A woman who swats

your hand when you poke your finger into her food. A woman who shakes a wooden spoon at you and says, “Good things come to those who wait, young man.”

These sweet women have been shredding blocks of cheddar the old-fashioned way since the early days and have developed arms bigger than Sylvester Stallone.

My mother used to have a cheese grater we called the “knuckle buster.” It was shaped like a cowbell, with rusted edges. You had to stay current on your tetanus shots to use it.

If you were disobedient, my mother sentenced you to grate cheese until your knuckles were unidentifiable. If you were especially bad, you had to grate the onions for tartar sauce.

I don’t know if you’ve ever grated an onion. Many good men have lost fingers grating onions on my mother’s grater.

But the fare was worth it.…

My mother-in-law is turning 80 today. She’s wearing lipstick, eye shadow, Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew bath powder, and two hearing aids that cost more than an aircraft carrier.

It’s a big day. A fish fry. There are cheap party decorations on the old pier, overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay. The water is calm tonight. We have a local term for this calmness. Some of us might say the bay water is currently “slicker than owl snot.”

Sailors and commercial truckers often substitute the word “snot.”

Everyone here is using their outdoor voices because the people attending this party are social distancing, sitting 25 feet apart.

It’s a tiny, select gathering of immediate family members, not many. This party was supposed to be a humdinger, but COVID-19 stepped in and slowed the whole universe down.

In fact, my wife almost didn’t throw this party at all since my mother-in-law has some health issues. But here we are, keeping 3,203 feet away from each other, using gobs of hand sanitizer after we swat mosquitoes.

I have

a conversation with the birthday girl from afar. I am holding a beer. My mother-in-law and I are talking about how Aunt Flossie goes grocery shopping during a pandemic.

“FLOSSIE DOES ALL HER SHOPPING ON SENIORS DAY!” says my mother-in-law, using a volume loud enough to rattle the windows of a 747 overhead. “SHE WEARS A MASK AND RUBS THAT STUFF ALL OVER HER HANDS!”

She is definitely using an outdoor voice. Also, I think her hearing aids are turned off.

It’s funny. When I was a kid, everyone’s parents were big on indoor voices. “Use your indoor voice!” was the gentle instruction offered to me by the parents of my friends. Apparently, I was always using an outdoor voice, and thereby driving many local parents to take up heavy drinking just to deal with me.

But I couldn’t help it. I came from a loud family.…

What I am about to tell you is going to sound ridiculous. So I won’t blame you if you speak ill of me. All I ask is that you do it behind my back.

For 17 maybe 18 years I have been going on daily walks. Always the same route. When I’m walking, people honk and wave at me because I am a fixture in these parts. A very odd, gangly, bearded, fixture. But still, people wave at me. Everyone always waves.

Over the years, I’ve seen the world undergo a lot of changes on my walks. I’ve seen car models change each season. I’ve watched fashions change among teenagers who ride bikes on this old road.

For example, at one time it was “cool” for boys to wear baggy pants so low on their hips that when viewed from behind you could see their Great Divides. This fashion changed.

Soon the fashion became the exact opposite. Boys were wearing pants so skinny that whenever they opened their mouths to speak they sounded

like first tenors in the Gaither quartet.

Technology has changed, too. Eighteen years ago people weren’t using smartphones. But today you rarely see a kid riding a bike who isn’t staring at a cellphone. If you ask me, this is a dental disaster waiting to happen.

On my walks, I usually see young couples pushing strollers. I’ve watched the kids in the strollers turn into adults over time. Today I see those same young people driving SUVs. They wave at me when they cruise by at 93 miles per hour while texting on a cellphone, steering with their left knee, and blaring music that sounds like an industrial chainsaw fight.

But like I said, everyone waves at me, young and old. It’s an unwritten tradition. I’m hard to miss. I’m the guy on the shoulder of the road with the beard.

But I’m getting off subject here,…

I sat on the docks in the late afternoon and watched the sailboats do figure eights. It made me smile.

I once had this crazy idea that I wanted to take up sailing. And when I get ideas I can’t be stopped. I don’t want to say that I’m stubborn. So I’m not going to say it.

I had always wanted to sail. I started looking in the classifieds for boats. I visited everywhere from Mobile to Panama City looking at them.

I finally found a twenty-six footer in Fairhope. It was old, and ugly, but seaworthy.

It was a big step for me. I’d never done anything notable except once, when I slid down a bannister with the wood grain facing the wrong way.

This does not give you the same exhilaration as sailing.

The man on the sailboat was waiting for me. I waltzed along the dock and I declared that I would buy his boat. Then, I handed him a check.

“But you haven’t even seen it yet,” he said.

“No, but I’ve seen enough bad boats to

know when I’ve seen a mediocre one.”

That man took me on my first voyage. I sort of discovered myself on that Fairhope water. I didn’t think it would be that easy to find yourself, but sometimes it is.

For three months, that kindhearted man gave me lessons. He taught me to raise the main, to trim the jib, and he taught me to sail single handed.

And after my first successful solo sail, he handed me a cigar and said, “I bought these for celebration.”

“No thanks,” I said. “I don’t smoke.”

“You do today.”

In the following years, I would use the boat with my wife, my dog, or some unfortunate friend. And I would demonstrate my newly acquired knowledge by sniffing my nose and saying things like:

“All hands on deck, secure the scuttlebutt on the…

I am on my porch, covering the arrival of an afternoon rain. It’s a downpour on a warm spring day. And I love rain.

But I can’t focus on writing because my cats are driving me insane. Rain makes my cats totally nuts. I can’t write a single sentence without them jumping on my keyboard and pouncing on the keys and L4eij2- 94t2pgw;g.w -2t

So we are on the porch together. Them, acting like they’ve escaped from the psych ward. Me, trying to write something meaningful. But before I can write a single word about the rain, the weather changes.

Soon, the rain has stopped.

Now the sun has popped through the clouds. The birds have started singing. I can’t believe how fast it all happened. I wasn’t even finished with this column’s opening paragraphs and the clouds have already parted. Now what I am going to write about?

Welcome to Florida, where the sky changes every few minutes and it rains three times per day. And, of course, we also have mosquitoes. Some Florida breeds of mosquitoes grow

big enough to have their own congress representatives

It’s a little bizarre, this weather. It has gone from dreary, to suffocating, to full of mosquitoes. Only a few seconds ago, the clouds were black, like something from a cheap horror movie. Now it’s Beulah Land.

The air has become humid and hot. There is steam rising in the distance, between the millions of pine trees. This happens whenever rain hits the warm soil in the woods. The result is a magnificent steam that looks like something from a storybook. This usually happens during very hot weather.

And it has been HOT lately. Yesterday, for instance, it was so warm outside I saw a Baptist funeral procession pull through a Dairy Queen.

I’m sorry.

You’ll have to forgive me. That was just a little warm weather humor to lighten the mood. You…

LOUISVILLE—The middle of the night, 3 a.m. It’s chilly. Maybe 30 or 40 degrees. A car squeals into the Baptist Health Hospital parking lot on two wheels. David Patrick is driving. His wife, Sarah, is in the passenger seat, having contractions.

“HOLD ON, HONEY!” he shouts.

She is grasping her pregnant belly. Breathing heavily.

As a side note, I was born under emergency-style circumstances, too. Sort of. My mother had to drive herself to the hospital. My father was working late. Her water broke in the car. She made it to the delivery room just in time. When I entered this world, my mother named me “Sean,” after Sean Connery, the actor who played James Bond.

When asked why my mother named me this, she answered, “Because Sean Connery is one sexy man.”

In all my life, I’ve never met another kid named after James Bond who successfully survived his childhood.

But getting back to David and Sarah. There they are, in dire straits. They jump out of the vehicle. They waddle up the hospital sidewalk. A pregnant woman can

only waddle so fast.

“He’s coming!” shouts Sarah.

They are at the west entrance of the hospital, and security is tight at hospitals these days because—just in case you forgot—this is an international pandemic. The west doors are locked.

David pounds on the glass. “HELP!”

Nothing.

David tries two more entrances. All locked. Nobody answers. He scrambles back to Sarah. Now they are rushing back to their car. David plans on driving to the emergency room entrance on the opposite side of the hospital.

All of a sudden, Sarah stops shuffling on the sidewalk.

David hears a gush of water fall onto pavement.

Uh-oh.

“He’s coming!” Sarah says.

It’s a little ironic, David and Sarah are standing beneath the glow of a lit-up hospital sign that reads: “Labor and Delivery.” This is not a dream. This is your life, David…

BOW, N.H.—A sunny morning in New Hampshire. Summer is inching closer. A few rural mail carriers ride the backroads, making their rounds. A dog barks in the distance, striking terror into the hearts of each USPS employee.

People in New Hampshire are stuck at home, and they’re going to keep being stuck for a little while. On Friday, the governor extended the stay-at-home orders, with some exceptions. Some hair salons are reopening, a few restaurants, a few businesses here and there. But otherwise, New Hampshire is not out of the woods yet.

In Portsmouth, the Prescott Park Arts and Crafts Festival was cancelled. That hurt. The Seacoast’s ocean beaches are shut down, too.

And of course, high school graduation is limping along. If you can even call it a graduation. In Bow, for example, there’s nothing happening graduation-wise except that seniors get little signs in their yards that read: “Bow High School Senior Lives Here.”

Whoopee.

You spend your high school career trying to get good grades and make your parents proud, and all

you get is corrugated cardboard on a stick. No cap. No gown. No dancing the Funky Chicken with your friends on top of a speeding van. It’s depressing.

A few days ago, Lydia Gialluca, a Bow High School senior, found something in her mailbox. It was a handwritten note. Inside was a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts. The handwritten message went something like this:

“Dear Graduate, congrats on graduating, please enjoy this card, and get something at Dunks. Your mailman, Josh.”

The gift card was for $5.

Other seniors in the area have been getting the same cards in their mailboxes. The same short notes. Same 5 bucks. It’s no Funky Chicken on a moving van, but it counts.

Lydia says it means everything knowing that someone notices her. “We’ve lost a lot of our senior year, and just knowing that someone is thinking of you,…

DENVER—Thirty-two-year-old Illsia Novotny has had a hard time making the rent. Illsia is a single mother and a hairstylist. And the last thing on John Q. Public’s mind right lately has been getting a haircut. So Illsia’s rent has been late.

Life can be unkind to single mothers. I was raised by a single mother. I know what it’s like. Day-to-day living is like sprinting through a giant gameshow obstacle course while IRS agents chase you with chainsaws.

I remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table, paper bills scattered around her, her hair frazzled from a long day. She would be punching numbers into a calculator. And there was that look on her face. Fear. But she didn’t let on, not around us kids.

“How are we gonna pay our bills?” I would sometimes ask her.

She’d smile and say, “Little miracles happen every day.”

“Little miracles happen everyday?” Really? That was the best she could do? I thought this was ridiculous. “Give me a freaking break,” that was always my motto back

then. How could one woman maintain such a Pollyanna attitude when the ship was going down? What planet was she living on?

But getting back to Illsia. Until recently, the salon where she works has been closed due to the coronavirus quarantines, just like the rest of civilization.

Thus, many of us guys have been forced to let our hair grow so long that we now resemble large skunk apes who wander around rural regions subsisting on a diet of whatever we can find in the woods. At least I am speaking for myself here.

I caught a glimpse of my own reflection yesterday during humid weather, my curly hair looks like a Chia Pet.

Still my hair complaints are petty compared to what Illsia has been going through.

A sole female breadwinner does not have it easy. If you ever want to know what it…

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.—Earl’s dog died Saturday afternoon. It was a dark day. Nobody wants to make the decision to put their dog down.

Blue was his name. He was a Lab mix. Earl found Blue with his wife 14 years ago. Their kids had left home to find careers and make families. Empty Nest Syndrome set in. The retirees were lonely, a little aimless, and bored.

Blue was a welcome member of the family. In some ways, he was a four-legged child. They took him to obedience school. They cleaned up his accidents. They let him sleep in their bed.

When Blue was seven, Earl’s wife, Mary, died of breast cancer. That’s when Earl’s world changed.

A man who loses a wife is a ship in a storm with a busted hull. There are some things a man needs in life, and a partner is one of those things. Mary was his compass, she could guide him through rough seas with her eyes closed. She took care of him. She fed him. Now all

he had was Blue.

So Earl and Blue did everything together. They rode in the car, went on walks, ate supper, and went through a coronavirus quarantine together.

Earl has been staying indoors following quarantine orders to the letter. North Carolina has been hit hard by COVID-19, and Earl hasn’t taken any chances.

It’s been difficult. Earl used to socialize a lot. He would visit the grocery store and chat with clerks. In the evenings, Earl used to hang out at different restaurants for supper. Waitresses would talk sweet to him and he would tip them well. Being a widower is lonely.

But when the world shut down and everyone began wearing masks, his social life came to a stop, and there was nothing left to do but sit inside and watch TV with Blue.

“We ate a lotta frozen food, and I read a lot of…