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!”


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.


“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.”


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…

I am on the beach with my wife. I am under the umbrella, my wife is in the open sun. I haven’t visited the beach in a hundred years. We have been quarantined for at least that long.

We are social distancing, sitting almost as far away from the water as you can get. The nearest beach goer is about a mile away.

I used to work on the beach. One summer, I got a job in Destin, Florida. I was a lifeguard-slash-beach-attendant. The industry term was: “chair setter-upper.” Or: “rented mule.”

My main job was to set up umbrellas and chairs, and to make sure everyone’s radio was cranked up loud enough so that others would complain to the lifeguards about it.

You learn a lot about people when you watch them on a beach, which is what I did for nine hours per day.

One time, there was a family of Germans on my beach. They were mostly elderly people. Mid-70s, maybe.

Germans are finicky, they don’t like wearing wet swimsuits

after they’ve been swimming in the Gulf. So every time the old man would emerge from the surf, he would remove his Speedo.

He did this nonchalantly, as though sliding out of a Speedo before a couple hundred spectators was just another day at the office. Then his wife would hand him a dry Speedo, and he would cram into it. Whereupon his wife would fully strip and do the same thing. Gravity had not been kind to these people.

That was a bad day to be a beach-attendant-slash-lifeguard.

I also had to deal with Young Drunk People as a lifeguard. When young people visit the beach, federal law requires them to bring 50 cases of beer per young person and a boombox capable of shattering windshields.

Drunk young people also love to invent creative ways to consume alcohol. As in: “Hey, y’all! Watch me drink beer…

You have always been there for me. Whenever summertime would roll around, you were always there. In fact, in my book, you WERE summer. Summer couldn’t happen without you.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of other great memories about summer. There are precious few memories, for instance, more wonderful than ball games on a radio; or the sounds of distant children laughing; or crickets singing; or third-degree sunburns strong enough to damage your liver.

Even so, nothing compares to you.

Maybe it’s all a matter of body chemistry. Maybe you and I just work well together. Maybe your pH and my chemical makeup fit together like puzzle pieces. I don’t know. Truth be told, I don’t even know what pH is.

All I know is that when I was growing up, I would slice you with a kitchen knife, place you on white Bunny bread, and slather you with mayonnaise. Then I would eat you. And if I wasn’t wearing your seeds and juices all over my T-shirt afterward, I had

done it wrong.

Other times I would pluck you right off the vine and eat you like an apple. You were warm from the sun, and your vines were fuzzy.

My mother could grow you better than anyone else in the county. She had a garden that seemed like it was about the size of a rural school district. Then again, that was back during childhood, everything seemed bigger then.

Mama had so many plants that she was collecting five-gallon buckets of ripe ones every single morning. We were giving you away to neighbors, coworkers, strangers, and anyone who could fog up a mirror.

There was so much fruit coming off your vines that we set up a little vegetable stand at the end of our driveway. I sat behind a folding table all summer, watching people pay good money to buy you.

They would stuff cash…

I used to know an old man named Bill, he was my neighbor. I think he was in his late 80s when I knew him, but I don’t remember now. He was soft spoken, he sort of reminded me of Jimmy Sterwart.

He loved caramel-flavored coffee from a gas station up the road. It came from a fancy machine and was sweet enough to rot your jaw. Sometimes we would drink this stuff together. The coffee was so sugary I could hardly choke it down.

I remember one day, he and I were sharing one such coffee in his kitchen while his grandchildren were playing Pictionary. Thus, between the words of our heartfelt conversation, kids were shouting: “A CAT!” “A DRAWBRIDGE!” “LEONARDO DICAPRIO!” “SHUT UP!”

During that conversation, Bill said to me something I will never forget. He said: “I think the key to being happy is having something to look forward to.”

Sometimes words hit me just right and make perfect sense. This was one of those instances.

Anyway, I have always

been very interested in what elderly people believe the key to happiness is. I’m always asking old people questions about happiness because we young people sure as Shinola don’t know a thing about it.

Just yesterday I was walking through my neighborhood. I passed a youngish woman who was jogging while having an animated cell phone conversation. Here is a verbatim quote from the conversation:

“I’m sick of working for a cheap firm, I want my freaking BMW.”

That’s the problem with young persons. They think BMWs will make them happy. But when you ask an old person what makes them happy, they usually point to a photograph of their children, then ask you to refill their glass of Metamucil.

Bill said he was in his 60s when he discovered this trick of finding things to look forward to. His discovery came during a vacation to Hawaii.

The old woman is sitting on her porch in an average residential neighborhood. I am standing at a distance, interviewing her. She wears a cotton blouse. Floral print. Thick glasses. Surgical mask.

The yellow flies are killing me. One bite from a yellow fly makes my body parts swell up like the Michelin Man. I hate yellow flies. In fact, on my list of most hated things, yellow flies are among my top three items. Right beneath tomato aspic, just above telemarketers and pop-country.

This is the first interview I’ve done in a few months. I’ve been quarantining like everyone else, I haven’t left my house to do much more than get the mail.

There was a time when I was interviewing and writing about new people every day. Then the virus hit and suddenly, here I am, wearing the same pajama pants for 64 days straight.

Anyway, the woman I’m interviewing is 90 years old. We are keeping a 20-foot distance. I’m here because I am a sucker for a good story.


is a mother of three. She lives with her daughter, who is her caregiver. Her daughter admits that occasionally taking care of her mother is exhausting work.

“But at least I ain’t in a nursing home,” the old woman says. “Least I’m with family.”

She is no stranger to hardship. Before she was born, three of her brothers came down with the Spanish flu from the 1918 pandemic. They almost died.

“My parents called it the plague, we didn’t call it the flu, not until years later.”

When she was a girl, she lived in Southern Kansas. And in the 1930s, parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas turned into a giant eroding bowl of dust. In other words, it was a veritable hell on earth.

I don’t have the education nor the knowledge to explain the Dust Bowl era here, but I can…

I am on camera. There is a film crew standing around me. They are all wearing surgical masks. This is my first day out of quarantine, and we are shooting a screen test for a commercial. Each member of the crew is holding important equipment like cameras, light reflectors, enormous microphones, boom stands, chocolate glazed donuts, etc.

The first thing they tell you when you’re on TV is that you have to “act naturally.” No matter what kinds of off-the-wall things a director tells you to do, no matter what kinds of skimpy clothes they make you wear, acting naturally is key.

But otherwise, when you’re on a video shoot, basically all you do is say the same line all day until the words are floating in your subconscious and you aren’t sure how to say them anymore. The sentences get jumbled in your mind and start coming out wrong.

For example, there are 39,021 wrong ways to say these 6 words: “Call for a free quote today!”

DIRECTOR: Aaannnddd… Action!”


Call quotes for today!

DIRECTOR: [bad word].

Also, the director is always giving explicit instructions for my facial movements. “Gimme that wide SMILE!” “No not THAT smile! The other smile! Show me all your teeth!” “Raise your eyebrows!” “We’re selling insurance, not caskets!”

In a lot of ways, being on TV is like being in the third-grade musical from hell. You know how at school performances parents are always frantically whispering from their seats in the audience, reminding their children to smile, stand up straight, and quit digging in their underpants? Well, it’s the same way on camera, only the person reminding me not to dig in my pants is a man in a safari shirt who deeply respects Sidney Pollack.

“Don’t walk so stiff!” says the director. “And try to sorta swoop your head when you say, ‘auto insurance.’ Is that food on your shirt? For crying…

One of the first things you learn when you become a dog-person is that normal people look at you funny when you talk about your dog too much.

This is usually because these people have normal healthy lives, with real kids, real jobs, and retirement plans.

Well, I never had any of those things. I spent adulthood working crummy jobs. I don’t have kids. And retirement is a three-syllable word used in Charles Schwab commercials during baseball games.

The highlight of my workdays was coming home to find the silhouette of a bloodhound in our front window. Her name was Ellie Mae.

In her heyday, Ellie was obsessed with a cat in our neighborhood named Dexter. Dexter was born of Satan and had eyes like the kid from the movie Poltergeist.

Dexter would torment Ellie by visiting our backyard and sitting right in Ellie’s food bowl as if to say, “Look! My butt is on your food! How do you like that?”

And thus, Ellie became transfixed with Dexter and his feline butt. Ellie

would sometimes spend entire days at our window, keeping track of all the illegal activities Dexter committed in our yard. She would turn circles, whimpering.

Dexter would make eye-contact with Ellie through the glass. He would stare her down until she hurled herself against our window hard enough to shatter it.

Dexter was a professional competitor when it came to games between canines and felines.

There was the time, for instance, when I drove to the bank. Ellie came with me. She waited in my truck with the engine running. I ran inside. I was writing a deposit slip when the teller pointed out the window and shrieked.

“Your truck!” she hollered.

My vehicle was rolling into a flower bed.

I sprinted through the parking lot and when I reached the truck, I realized that my crazed bloodhound had knocked the gearshift out of park. She…