The year is 1923. It is the middle of June. You are a kid in a seersucker suit, on your way to a picnic. The weather is hot. Sweltering, actually. Texas can be like a steam bath sometimes.

Today is a holiday. At least that’s what everyone is saying. But it’s a day you’ve never heard of.

“What’s Juneteeth, Daddy?” you ask.

“Ssshhh,” says your father, the quiet Scottish minister, who is always telling you to shush. If you’ve been shushed once, you’ve been shushed a million times. He usually follows this up with, “Ssshhh, just listen, David.”

Just listen? You’ve been just-listening for your whole life, and it never seems to get people to quit shushing you.

This morning, before your family left the house, your mother dressed you up and fixed your blonde hair to your head with industrial pump lubricant. These trousers cost your parents money they didn’t have. Your father has lost three church jobs in one year because he keeps getting fired.

When you arrive at the park, it’s crowded with an all-black gathering of folks

who eat lunch on blankets. And you discover that your family is the only white family at the celebration.

The place is alive with energy. There is laughter, games, drink, and music everywhere. Real music. The kind of modern music they’re playing in cities. They call it jazz. You’ve heard jazz a few times on your friend’s mom’s Victrola. You can’t get enough of the stuff.

“Hi, Reverend Amons,” a young black woman says to your father. “Happy Juneteenth.”

Your father takes her hand. “Delia, happy Juneteenth, sweetheart.”

“Happy Juneteenth,” your mother says, embracing the girl.

“What the heck is Juneteenth?” you announce.

“Ssshh,” your father says, straightening your jacket collar. “Just listen, David, and you might learn something.”

There he goes again.

Here come your friends running toward you. John, Jeremiah, and Terrence. They ask if you want…

It’s night. I’m outside looking at the stars. Tonight, my wife and I decided that we wouldn’t go on our annual vacation since COVID-19 is running rampant in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just that now isn’t a good time for vacation.

So my wife and I sit on the porch, retelling our best vacations to one another.

Like the times we went to the Grand Canyon. I’ll never forget camping at the Canyon. The way it looks in the early morning can change a man’s life. We hiked, ate canned food, I made coffee over the campfire and burnt the roof off my mouth so bad I required a priest. It was great.

At night, we would look at the stars from the the canyon and marvel at them. Stars are funny things. You look at them every night, but sometimes you don’t actually see them.

And the Suwannee River. Now there was another great vacation. You don’t hear many people sing the praises of the Suwannee anymore,

but it’s a truly magnificent piece of black water.

We went for my wife’s birthday once. We rented a canoe and trickled down the slow-moving river with our box lunches and sunhats.

A friend of mine had given me a cigar as a gift. I’d been saving it. I’d never officially smoked a cigar before, so I thought I’d give it a try on the Suwannee.

I lit the cigar while paddling and almost puked. I hated it. The lit stub fell into the water only a few feet from a large, scaly, reptilian head floating beneath the surface.

It was an alligator about the size of a Plymouth. My wife and I froze and tried not to breathe. We watched the gator swim through the water like a Biblical leviathan, and I immediately realized that I was wrong about this gator. He…

It was 135 years ago today. The ships from France arrived in the Upper New York Bay carrying 214 wooden crates and 350 monstrous individual pieces of iron, steel, and copper.

Everyone was talking about it, from Mark Twain to Thomas Edison.

The first guy to propose the statue was Édouard de Laboulaye, a French anti-slavery activist. His idea was that since the Civil War was over, it was a perfect time to honor human freedom.

Artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was immediately excited about the idea. He agreed to design it. He asked for help from his friend, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the same man responsible for the Eiffel Tower.

Bartholdi and Eiffel got together one night—they probably had a few beers—and brainstormed about a statue Bartholdi had been thinking about for years.

At least, it seemed like beer was involved because they ended up designing a 450,000-pound structure, gilded in pure gold, with a mind-blowing framework of iron pylons and support beams, that would double as a lighthouse.

It would take years of work

to get the idea off the ground.

For one thing, they had to get some actual Americans onboard. Which wasn’t easy because Americans were about as interested in public art as they were in fat-free mayonnaise.

So Bartholdi had to promote the tar out of this thing. He proposed building it in New York. Then, he did a lot of public relations footwork in the U.S., like demonstrating the statue’s torch at the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia. And even though a lot of people thought it was neat idea, most Americans were still leaning toward the fat-free mayo.


Boston said in 1882 that they wanted the statue built in their harbor. You have to watch out for Boston.

This changed everything. Up until that moment, New York hadn’t been too concerned with the statue. But now that Beantown was in the picture, it was…

I am holding a small pink rock. Rose quartz. It usually sits on my desk, just above my laptop.

Sometimes, when I can’t think of anything to write, I hold this rock in my hand and toss it up in the air a few times until either an idea comes to me, or I give myself a black eye.

I have been staring at this rock a lot during the quarantine. In fact, I spend a lot of time tossing this stupid rock into the air.

A long time ago I helped drive the church community van. It wasn’t my regular gig, I was just a volunteer. The van carried maybe five elderly people who needed help running errands. My friend Bobby was riding shotgun.

Mostly, we loaded and unloaded wheelchairs and walkers, took people to the post office, purchased their medications, carried them to the supermarket, or assisted them with “public bathroom ordeals.”

The elderly people lived alone. I believe the term the church used for them was “shut-ins.”

So we spent the whole day driving them

around. Whenever one of the ladies would start complaining about low blood sugar, we stopped by a drive-thru window.

You should have seen our McDonald’s fiascos. Trying to explain the finer points of a fast-food menu to older people with severe hearing problems was like trying to rewrite the Magna Carta with a white crayon.

“Do you want SUPERSIZED FRIES, Miss Caroline?” one of us would ask.

“Huh? I don’t know anyone who died!”


“I think he died thirty years ago!”


“I have to pee.”

And so it went.

One day, we stopped at an apartment to pick up an old man I’ll call Mister Johnny. He was a recluse, and as unfriendly as a copperhead. The inside of his apartment was probably the most disgusting place on planet earth. We rolled into his driveway to find him sitting on…

I have here an email from a woman named Ellen, in Elko, Nevada, who writes:

“Your writing used to be very funny, but in the last few months it seems more reflective and almost sad. Sean, I have come to depend on your stuff to make me laugh, but lately you haven’t been doing your job! LOL! I’m just wondering if you’ll ever go back to being funny again!”

Ellen, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s been tough finding humor in daily life since the pandemic hit. I hope I haven’t been too much of a buzzkill for you, I’m sorry if I have.

Humor is just one of those things that feels “off” when used at the wrong time. I’ve found that sometimes gags which are hysterical one day, can feel very impolite under the wrong circumstances.

Case in point: Once I was building a shed. My wife was my construction assistant. My wife and I have always had a running joke between us where I “goose” her when she’s not looking.


is of course pinching someone’s hindquarters. This is not to be confused with “Christmas goosing,” which is sneaking up behind your cousin and pulling down his pants in public. Both are classic moves.

So one day my wife and I were building this shed, pounding nails with hammers. All of a sudden, my wife gets silent and turns her back to me.

I’m thinking she’s taking a break, maybe catching her breath. But little do I know that she has just smacked her thumb with a hammer and is crying silently, grasping her swollen thumbnail, which is now about the size of a grapefruit.

That’s when I sneak up behind her and goose her.

What happened next would live in local folklore for years to come, and is still talked about in many circles. I will leave out the violent details involving how she…

A little church. It’s been a long time since I’ve been here. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve been anywhere. I haven’t ventured far from my house for almost four months of quarantine.

I used to attend a church like this a lifetime ago. I played the piano on Sunday mornings. I played music for all sorts of church occasions.

One time, for instance, there was a guy in our choir who wanted to sing a Randy Travis tune for service. The song was “Forever and Ever Amen.” It’s not a church song, it’s more of a romantic song, but my buddy was in love with a soprano, so the lyrics made spiritual sense to him.

My friend and I worked on it for weeks. He sang, I played keys. Finally, we auditioned the song for the pastor. The old clergyman almost had a cardiac event. He was furious.

The preacher said that if we played another Randy Travis song on church grounds again we would be asked to leave.

We made a solemn vow to never play another Randy Travis tune in our lives. Not even “Honky Tonk Moon.”

Right now it feels good being here. I’ve been indoors, stuck on an endless repeat cycle, like an LP record that keeps skipping.

My wife and I have tried visiting friends once or twice while maintaining social-distancing regulations, but it’s weird. We end up sitting 50 yards from each other so that transit trucks and commercial airliners can pass between us. I have to squint just to see my friends from so far away.

The sanctuary is empty. I hear the air conditioner humming. I wander around, running my fingers along the window panes, flipping through hymnal pages.

I look out the window. There is one car in the parking lot, which belongs to the secretary. She said I could hang out here today if I wanted.

My wife and I are at a blueberry farm located in the middle of nowhere. My wife wears a sunhat. I am wearing a third-degree sunburn.

There are acres of blueberries stretching toward the treeline. The bushes are loaded with beautiful purple berries that are—this is a well-known fact—explosively high in fiber.

Blueberries are a big part of life in South Alabama. My wife is from Brewton, the “Blueberry Capital of Alabama.” It’s your quintessential small town, with a cute mainstreet, historic homes, and 1,228 nearby churches.

Brewton is the kind of place that dedicates entire holidays to the humble blueberry. They have the Alabama Blueberry Festival, complete with a car show, arts and crafts, and music. And of course they have the Blueberry Drop. The Blueberry Drop is a New Year’s Eve event where instead of dropping a big ball like they do in Times Square, they drop a giant blueberry behind the Church’s Chicken.

When I first met my wife, we spent a lot of time picking blueberries. One summer,

a local farmer got several volunteers from our little church to pick blueberries for a three-day weekend. I was an adult “chaperone” for the youth group blueberry squad.

Now, let me say upfront that the last thing you want to do is chaperone a youth group for a weekend in rural Alabama. It’s misery.

When youth-group kids reach a certain age, all they do is run around pinching each other’s hindparts and smuggling unfiltered Camels. And at night—at least this was true for the boys—they would sit around a campfire and hold scientific discussions about human anatomy using slang words only.

I remember when the farmer warned the youth group that blueberries were a VERY high-fiber fruit, and not to eat too many of them. The boys ignored this and ate their weight in blueberries. The next morning, these boys spent a lot of private time in the…

There was a lot of excitement in the admissions department yesterday morning. It was a big day. All the angels were getting their wings ruffled over a big-time celebrity who was checking in.

“Did you hear?” said one angel to another. “Today’s the day! He’s coming!”

“Who’s coming?”

So the angel pulled out the logbook and pointed to the photograph of a small 10-year-old boy. The boy who spent his last days in the hospital. The boy whose family prayed until the bitter end. The boy who never, not even once, lost heart. Not even in the face of his leukemia.

The angels were pulling out all the stops for today’s big party. The beautification committee was hanging streamers and a large banner over the abalone gates that read “Welcome Home!”

The snack committee brought so much food they ran out of paper plates. The fireworks crew prepared for a huge display.

The first spectators started arriving early. Among them were people like Elvis, George Washington Carver, William Franklin Graham, Lewis and Clark, Vincent van Gough,

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Leonardo da Vinci, and Babe Ruth. And there were many others who you’ve never heard of.

There is no rank of importance in this place. Everyone is the same. It’s hard to explain this concept to Earth people. One of the most popular saints up here, for instance, is an elderly man who used to be a janitor in a Soviet orphanage. You’ve never heard of him, but he’s a big deal.

So everyone gathered at the gates. Not just people, but animals, too. Zebras, lions, sheep, antelope, penguins, and squirrels.

And the all-star band was warming up. Vivaldi played fiddle, Chopin was on keyboard, Miles Davis played flugelhorn, Lawrence Welk was conducting.

You could hear the rustle of wings when the angels crowded the gates. They sounded like a bunch of excited chickens. Angels love new arrivals.

The reception was…

Zach and Kelly got married yesterday. They did the ceremony outdoors. Zach says the pollen was pretty bad.

The allergies have been rough in my area, too. I thought pollen season was finished, but there were huge yellow quilts of the stuff floating through the air, dusting my car, killing innocent woodland creatures, inducing mild hallucinations.

The first thing that happens to me during pollen season is that my right ear gets clogged and I am rendered almost completely deaf and can’t hear when my wife tells me to mow the lawn.

Anyway, Zach and Kelly have been together for five years. They have done everything together. From riding go-carts and eating nachos, to travelling through Europe and eating tapas in Spain. But they have never taken the plunge into holy matrimony.

Now, I know all you women out there are probably shaking your heads, saying, “Five years? Geez, Kelly. That’s way too long to wait.”

But all you men out there are nodding and sincerely thinking to yourselves: “What are tapas?”

Zach explains his position.

“I guess I just didn’t want to give up my independent lifestyle and get married, maybe that was it.”

Maybe. Either way, Kelly never pushed him, even though her mother recommended putting on the pressure. Kelly simply waited and said to herself, “When he’s ready, he’s ready.”

This is exceptional on Kelly’s part. I am thinking here of my friend, Bradley, a musician who wasn’t sure if he wanted to get married until one day his girlfriend of 11 years tried to strangle him with his guitar strap until he proposed.

Zach says he doesn’t know why he didn’t propose. Maybe it was because his father left his mother and brother when he was still in the womb.

“I just never saw a good example of two married people being happy,” says Zach.

Kelly couldn’t have been any more perfect for him. A few…

You know what I wish? I wish there were free pancakes for the whole world. Call me a dreamer, but I believe that pancakes slathered in butter and syrup are one of the secrets to a rich and happy life.

Will that sugar rot our teeth? Yes. Will the calories go straight to our butts? You bet. But we will be happy.

Growing up, whenever my mother made pancakes, you just knew it was going to be a good day. Not even hell itself can stand in the way of a man who’s had his pancakes.

A long time ago, I used to volunteer at a little church that always held pancake breakfasts for the homeless, underprivileged, and lonely. Several of us volunteers would spend a week stapling flyers to hundreds of telephone poles.

The flyers’ message was simple: “FREE PANCAKES!”

The fellowship hall would be slammed with children, single mothers, old men with stained clothes, young men on their way to the work, old women who lived by themselves, all holding

paper plates. It was as though everyone from 18 counties had come to have fun, eat pancakes, and get some good old-fashioned type-two diabetes.

So that’s what I wish. During the midst of the troubled world we’re living in, I wish everyone could have pancakes and forget about their problems for a while.

Since I’m on a roll with my wishing, I also wish there were more old movies on television. Have you ever wondered where all the old-time movies went? Oh, sure, we have plenty of modern movies and modern actors who cant seem to keep their clothes on for two consecutive scenes.

But where are Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton? Come back John Wayne and Randolph Scott. I miss you Katherine Hepburn.

There’s something else I wish, too. I wish Louis Armstrong were played on more stereos. If for no other reason than because his music…