The things I could write about pound cake. I could go on and on and bore you to death, but I won’t.

After my father died, I remember visiting a Methodist church with my boyhood friend, and he was introducing me to people. He was raised Methodist, I was not. My people were Baptist.

The Methodists were cheerful. My people didn’t believe in cheer. Our pastor preached hard against alcoholism, promiscuity, and narcotics because these things could lead to cigarette smoking.

My friend pointed to one lady in the congregation. She was slight, with gray hair, and a blue skirt suit.

There are some people you don’t forget. She was one of those people.

She had a heavenly glow. People smiled when they passed by her like she was unique.

“Who’s that woman?” I asked.

“That is the Pound Cake Lady,” my pal said in reverence.

After the Methodist service, my friend led me to a downstairs fellowship hall. The Methodists put out a bigger spread than any I’d ever seen. There was even a special table dedicated

to cornbread and biscuits.

It was too much. Overwhelming. I even saw people standing outside the fellowship hall, smoking cigarettes after their meal. It was as though they were unwinding after sin.

The woman in the blue skirt suit placed something on the end of the table. It was golden, fat, hulking, sacred pound cake.

“Hurry and get some,” said my friend, “before it’s all gone.”

He was right. The cake didn’t last four seconds among those chain-smoking Methodists. But when it disappeared, the old woman replaced it with another.

People blessed her name forevermore. Hallelujah. And so did I.

So every church has a pound cake lady. They are young, middle-aged, or elderly, and they are holy. These ladies are messengers, sent to humanity as proof that God is not gluten-free. He loves white flour, sugar, and butter, no matter what…

There is something about the way the sun falls upon the lustrous water of the Choctawhatchee Bay that lights my heart on fire.

No. Wait. I apologize. That sentence you read in the above paragraph was ridiculous. Lustrous? How immature and overly dramatic. This is because I wrote that sentence when I was about 17 years old, everything was dramatic back then.

That was probably the age when I truly decided that I wanted to be a writer. I was lanky. I was dumb. I was a fatherless dropout. I remember taking my Lettera 32 portable typewriter down to the bay, pulling it out of its travel case, and loading it with paper. I expected a wave of literary inspiration to just (bam!) hit me, but nothing happened. Nada. Zip.

Welcome to writing, kid.

I was sitting there on the shore, my typewriter was getting corroded with salt air, and the only sentence that came to me was the ridiculous one you just read.

But I remember the evening

I wrote it. I was camping by the water in a secluded spot. My dog was with me. Lady was her name. She was curly-haired, and faithful. Behind me was my pup tent. Ahead of me was that water. And that stupid typewriter.

What a dork. I can’t believe the level of dorkiness. I remember sitting by that bay, trying to write what I hoped would become a novel. I got maybe six words into it and realized I was an idiot.

You can’t write a novel at 17, your earlobes haven’t dropped yet. You know nothing of life, or about the joys of paying health insurance premiums that cost more than tactical helicopters. But there I was, trying, and I have to give Young Me credit for giving it his best shot.

Somehow, the kid thought that looking at the big water would give him the right words. But after…

I have here an email from a woman in North Carolina, named Pam, who writes:

“My dad died of COVID-19, and there could only be a few of us at his funeral for obvious reasons. I don’t know how to stay positive anymore, I don’t know how to cope, I’m crying while I write this. He was my best friend and he’s gone.”

Pam, after I read your letter, out of pure reflex I was tempted to say, “I am sorry.”

But I caught myself. People are programmed to say that little phrase without even thinking. We say it because we don’t know what else to say at funerals. It just slips out. I don’t care for the phrase.

I don’t mean to imply that saying “I’m sorry” is insensitive. It’s just that EVERYONE says it. And sometimes, it comes off as insincere.

The day of my father's funeral, for example, I must have heard this phrase about 24,192 times. By the end of the day I never wanted to hear “I’m sorry” again.

There are other things people

could say in these instances. People could always go with something honest, like: “Hey, I don’t know what to say.” Or they could just hug you and say nothing.

But alas, most folks stick with the old standbys. “He was a good man.” “Life is short.” Or my personal favorite: “He’s in a better place.”

Do you know what I wish people would say at funerals sometimes? The truth. As in:

“This really sucks.”

One time, my mother had a momentary breakdown shortly after my father passed. Her emotions overtook her. She screamed until her voice broke. She said over and over again, “THIS SUCKS!!!”

We’d never heard her say that word before. But she was saying how we all felt. And it needed to be said.

The ironic thing is, my mother didn’t talk that way. My mother is a…

We are getting gentle rain in Northwest Florida. I am on the porch, watching it fall. I love rain. We have been quarantined for 45 days, and I am going crazy. So the rain is a friend.

Maybe I like rain because of what it represented when I was growing up. See, the people I come from never stopped working. Not even on holidays, weekends, or during the World Series. It was always work, work, work. The only time they ever took a break was when the preacher was about to bury them.

Unless it was raining.

And this, I suppose, is why rain will always be special to me. Rain makes me think of days passed on the porch. The only time my father and mother would sit on the porch and refrain from blatant yard work was during a good rain.

My mother would be sewing something. My father would be shirtless, like a hick. He never wore a shirt at home. His people never wore shirts, either. He

hated shirts. One time I asked my father what life was like before I was born, and I’ll never forget when he said, “We used to walk around naked all day.”

I don’t think he was telling the full truth because my mother was a hand-raising fundamentalist who did not believe in nakedness. If she could have had her way, I would have showered with my clothes on.

My mother’s fundamentalist food was always particularly good on rainy days. This is because my mother would bust her butt in the kitchen since she couldn’t bust her butt outside.

She had these gospel records she would listen to while she would be frying something. Or a gospel radio show she would have playing, where Baptist quartets sang songs that only men who were castrated could sing.

Her food was legendary. That’s another thing about my family. We grew up breaking…

Yesterday I went for a walk. I have been going on a lot of walks ever since the word “quarantine” became a household term.

Sometimes, I like to be alone in the woods. I grew to become a big fan of the woods when I was a young man, growing up in a household full of females, waiting sometimes nine hours for the bathroom to be free. I visited the woods a lot back then.

One of my favorite secluded spots is near the water, in a big swamp.

When I arrived, I saw two men fishing. They sat on overturned buckets. One man was mid-60s, the other was about 19 maybe 20. Both wore surgical masks and they were sitting about 25 feet apart.

This is one of my all-time favorite fishing spots. But the funny thing is, this place has terrible fishing. That’s not why people come. They all visit for the same reason I do.

They come because these surroundings are a sanctuary. Large swollen cypress trees stand in

swamp water that goes on for acres, dotted with billions of lily pads, croaking frogs, a few gators, and egrets.

I love egrets. Sometimes I stop by this little place simply to watch egrets. Egrets have that ice-cold glare. A look that says they are smarter than you are. A look that says they don’t give a rip about what kinds of problems mankind gets himself tangled in. All an egret cares about is eating.

I introduced myself to the two fishermen.

“I’m Mark,” the young kid told me. “And this is my dad.”

Dad said, “I’d shake your hand, but...”

Right. Social-distancing. I stayed about 30 feet away from them.

Dad has a weak immune system after having survived an infection following a surgery last year. When the coronavirus epidemic hit, Mark was away at college in northern Alabama. They told Mark to stay away from home…

I was going to write about dogs today because I love to write about dogs. I was doing it for an elderly woman named Mona who passed away a few years ago from pneumonia.

She was a cool lady. And a dog fanatic. She always used to say, “One day, when we all get to Heaven, we’re gonna be surprised at how many dogs are running around.”

When Mona’s kids inherited her house, they started leaving the back porch light on. It glowed all hours of the day. I asked why.

They said, “Mom always kept the light on in case any stray dogs needed a place to sleep at night.”

So when I sat down this morning to start writing this, I was going to tell you about a man in Northern California who rescued a stray dog during the coronavirus pandemic. All he did was put food on the porch and a dog showed up.

And you know how dogs are. Word spread on the canine Western Union telegraph. The next

day he had three more strays. A few days later he had six more. Today, 12 strays all live on his farm. Somehow he feeds them all and has not filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Mona would have liked that story. But I never really got around writing about that guy because I got sidetracked doing research. Which happens a lot to us mediocre writers. We don’t have the skill nor the experience to avoid being sidetracked.

Don’t get me wrong, being mediocre isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s a lot of fun once you get into the spirit of it. One of the great things about not being a “great” is that you’re allowed to stink sometimes. And it’s totally okay because, hey, you’ve already set the bar pretty low.

It’s sort of like when a 4-year-old paints your portrait. You don’t expect perfection from him.…

RICHFIELD, Ohio—Yesterday was overcast, chilly, 44 degrees, with light gusts from an approaching front. If a meteorologist would have been reporting the weather, he might have used the fancy term “BRRRRRR.”

Elderly Bud Wisnieski sat in a chair in his driveway, observing the weather. Weather-watching is in his blood. He was draped in warm blankets, wearing a jacket.

He heard something in the distance. Honking horns. Whoops and hollers. Shouting. Cheering. It was getting louder. The motorcade started on the horizon, then it rolled right past his house.

There were fire trucks, squad cars, and antique vehicles, spit-shined to a glow. The parade was led by a police escort. Vehicles were decked out in red-white-and-blue banners. People all shouted the same thing:

“Happy 100th birthday, Bud!”

Bud has been quarantining due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it didn’t dampen his spirits. He waved until his arm was sore. Between waves, he kept tabs on the weather. Old habits die hard.

He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as part

of a unique outfit. A weather reconnaissance squadron.

You don’t hear much about the old weather squadrons from the Army Air Corps days. They weren’t the glittery crews who got all the attention, but they altered history. In fact, some believe these airmen helped win the war.

Take, for example, the 3rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. That name might not mean much to you. But if you live on the Gulf Coast, it will.

The squadron later became the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. Most people call them the “Hurricane Hunters.” And that’s exactly what they are.

The 53rd Squadron began on a dare. It was a warm July day in 1944 when an easy going Georgia boy named Joe Duckworth was dared to pilot a plane through a hurricane.

Duckworth was just gutsy enough to do it. He flew his AT-6 Texan training aircraft directly into the eye…