Yeah, I cried a little when the rocket launched today. When the SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off, I was sitting 14 inches from my TV, watching the two-man crew blast into orbit. And my eyes got blurry.

I was a child again. Not because I felt excitement and awe, though I had plenty of that. I was feeling a nervous nausea.

The last time I saw a rocket liftoff I was a kid. I was seated in a classroom with 24 of my peers. We were a rowdy group of stinky freckled children whose noses were always running.

Our entire class sat Criss-Cross Applesauce on the carpet, surrounded by woodblocks, Tinkertoys, and picture books.

Miss Jeanne, our teacher, brought a Zenith portable TV to class to watch the Challenger Space Shuttle launch. The television was about the size and weight of a Plymouth Belvedere, only with worse reception.

On the screen, the Challenger astronaut crew was all smiles. We kids applauded when the screen showed an image of Christa McAuliffe, the vibrant New Hampshire school teacher

and civilian who had been selected to fly into space via NASA’s “teacher in space” program.

Christa McAuliffe was us. She was an ordinary American, just like our teachers who stood beside the TV set. She even looked like our teachers.

During launch preparations, Miss Jeanne explained everything. Whenever the TV reporter talked technical details, Miss Jeanne translated the big words using hand gestures. She even took questions from her audience.

We came up with some doozies. Our arms shot straight up.

“Yes, Tyler?” said Miss Jeanne. “You have a question?”

Tyler said, “How do the astronauts go NUMBER TWO?”

A rousing round of laughter from the class

“I don’t know, Tyler. Yes, Andrea?”

“Can people breathe in space?”

“That’s a good question, Andrea.”

And so it went. Miss Jeanne would answer every question. And she never broke her reverence for the occasion because…

It was late. We were near Savannah, Georgia. I was with my friend Roger. It was midsummer and we’d driven all the way from West Florida to look at a boat for sale. We were young men, trapped in an un-air-conditioned truck cab. We smelled like the varsity basketball team laundry bag.

A guy will do strange things when a boat is involved. To some people, a boat is just a boat. But to many American males, a boat is an enchanted thing that sits in the backyard for decades, untouched, forming an enchanted natural habitat for spiders and raccoons. Until one day, the enchanted boat-trailer rusts apart from neglect and becomes a historical landmark.

It was dark. There was heavy fog. Roger drove his truck with the hazards on. It was 3 a.m.

We stopped at a cheap hotel to get some rest. It was a seedy place. The night clerk smirked at Roger when we asked for a room, probably because Roger looked like a junior librarian.

“We’d like a room,

please.” Roger’s voice squeaked.

“How many hours?” said the guy. “We rent rooms by the hour.”

That’s when we noticed a woman sitting in the corner, wearing fishnet stockings. We could tell right away that this was not the kind of establishment that offered a continental breakfast.

So we drove outside of town and parked near a large salt marsh in the middle of nowhere. We slept in the front seat.

When the sun came up, I was sitting on the hood, admiring miles of golden cordgrass and sea lavender. If you’ve ever seen the lower coastal plains of Georgia, you can’t help but think that this incredible earth was no accident.

Anyway, the boat for sale was a Boston Whaler. The kind of boat that would have made a great home for some lucky family of field mice in Roger’s backyard. Roger inspected the trailer and…

I have an email here from Todd, in Dallas, who writes:

“I’m super depressed from sheltering in place, I’m not even kidding, Sean, please write something that’s going to make me feel better!”

Todd, believe me, I get it. I can’t make you feel better, I can’t even make my dog sit on command, but I do sympathize with you. I’ve been pretty blue lately, too. I miss going places, doing stuff, seeing people, watching baseball, and shaking hands.

So I understand what you’re going through. Which is why I’d like to tell you a story that was sent to me by a reader from Calgary, Canada, named Harriet. I wasn’t aware that anybody in Canada, read my stuff, so I can only assume that this woman was probably forced to read my words against her will.

But anyway, Harriet wrote a letter detailing a trip she and her husband, Phillip, took for their 40th wedding anniversary last year. I don’t have room for the whole thing, but here are the highlights:

Phillip wanted to get Harriet something very special for

their anniversary. He had been secretly asking her friends about it. Harriet had always wanted to take a cruise to Mexico.

So Phillip began researching cruises and trying to find the absolute cheapest tickets on the internet because Phillip is a notorious cheapskate.

“He’s Canadian,” explains Harriet. “Canadian men can be tightwads.”

Phillip found a killer deal on a cruise, but the only drawback was that this ship departed from Tampa, Florida, which—as the crow flies—is about 3 million miles from Alberta.

When Harriet asked about this, Phillip’s answer was, “Well, I thought we’d take a roadtrip across the United States.”

Of course Phillip could have simply admitted that he’d gotten a little carried away looking for hot deals, then cancelled the reservations, and booked something closer. But—and I think I already mentioned this—Phillip is male.

“It’ll be fun,”…

My wife and I are watching the NASA rocket launch on TV. And I am a nine-year-old boy again. I am cheering for the two-man space crew and it’s a wonderful day. This might be the first true entertainment I’ve enjoyed since this miserable quarantine began.

Thirty-six minutes until launch.

We sit before the television with popcorn, tortilla chips, and beer. I am giddy. Which is a welcome feeling. There hasn’t been much to be giddy about during a coronavirus pandemic.

“Go Crew Dragon,” says my wife, giving me a thumbs-up.

That’s official spacetalk, you understand. The crew is named Crew Dragon. We speak this way because this is a bona fide space party and we’re not thinking about sad things like infection-rate curves, death tolls, or cholesterol. Astronauts are launching into the cosmos for the first time in almost a decade. Pass the bacon cheese dip.

My phone dings. It’s a text from my old friend Billy. “ARE YOU WATCHING THIS?!”


We text in all caps the same way we might do during baseball games.

Because that’s the kind of grown-up guys we are.

The Demo-2 mission is a big one, and it’s nice to finally have something to cheer for. God knows, we don’t have any sports right now.

The mission is being piloted by Douglas Hurley, former Marine fighter pilot, and commander for the last shuttle flight in 2011. His copilot is Robert Behnken, former test pilot with over 708 hours in space, and six spacewalks. These guys are the real deal. I think I’m going to pee my pants from sheer joy.

I don’t know about you, but I have needed a little good old-fashioned entertainment. The COVID-19 crisis has suspended every cherished American institution. Baseball, basketball, maybe even college football. Yellowstone is shut down, the Grand Canyon is a ghost town, live concerts are a thing of the past.

Not to mention that I’ve…

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…