A newsroom. I was in my mid-twenties. Unruly red hair. Big nose. A necktie that was suffocating me. Don’t ask me how, but I had a job interview. I was pure nerves.

I had no business being there. But then, I have a well-documented history of being in places I shouldn’t be.

“No journalism degree?” the editor said, squinting at my resume which read like a Hardee’s breakfast menu.

“No ma’am.”

“So, what’s your degree in?”

I explained that, at the time, I was in my ninth year of community college. And I was showing true potential as a promising liberal arts major.

“Aren’t you a little old to be applying?” she said. “What exactly do you want?”

It paralyzed me. I didn’t know how to answer. She waited. I made no human-like sounds. She asked me to leave.

Goodnight John Boy. Thanks for playing.

I loosened my necktie. I ordered three tacos from a Mexican dive downtown. The tacos came doused in a red sauce that would forever burn the protective lining from my lower gastrointestinal tract.

I sat on a curb.

What DID I want?

I saw a group of young men, walking the street, wearing suits and neckties. They did not look like me. They were cleancut, perfect teeth.

They probably had vocabularies which did not contain words like, “y'all,” and “twelve-pack.”

I was interrupted.

Across the street, I saw a young woman struggling to lift a wheelchair from her trunk. I offered to help. She asked if I’d lift her sister from the vehicle and place her into the chair. I did. I sort of had to bear-hug her sister to lift her out of the passenger seat.

And this did something to me. I discovered what I wanted.

And I’ll share it with you, if I may:

First: I want my friends to feel important. I want children to feel loved—all children. I want dogs…

It’s raining tonight in the Florida Panhandle. My wife is sitting on our sofa watching television. Our two ninety-pound dogs are asleep on her lap. There is no room for me on the couch. I am sitting on the floor.

Long ago, our couch was a nice-looking one. I should know since I’m the one who bought it for fifty bucks from the newspaper classifieds.

The ad read: “Nice leather couch, $50, OBO.”

Fifty bucks. What a deal. There’s nothing that the men in my family loved more than bragging about our good deals. My father, for instance, would drag innocent pedestrians into our garage just to show off his used Ford station wagon because he got a good deal on it.

He would say, “Can you believe the deal I got on this heap? IT WAS THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY!”

Everything was always the “deal of the century” to my father. Even clearance spaghetti sauce at the supermarket.

Anyway, when I bought this sofa I had just recovered from lower back

surgery. The surgeon warned me not to lift anything heavier than a ham sandwich. To move it I enlisted the help of my buddy, Lyle, and my wife, Jamie.

We all arrived at the enormous high-rise condo across town. The unit was located on the 22nd floor. It wasn’t the highest floor, but it was high enough to wave hello to low flying aircraft from the balcony.

The place was grungy and looked like a frat house apartment. No sooner had we walked through the front door than we were greeted by a pile of stinky laundry the size of Mount McKinley, several old pizza boxes, and a half-clothed female.

A young man with a ponytail introduced himself as “Shark.” He smacked the upholstery and said, “She’s a good little sofa, bro. Lotta good memories on this little baby.”

Then he removed a stale slice of pizza…

I am in a rundown breakfast cafe. The kind with torn vinyl seats and Formica countertops. The TV above the bar plays news headlines.

One of the TV’s talking heads shouts, “HOW ARE WE GONNA SAVE THIS WORLD?”

At exactly this moment my waitress appears. She places a plate of hot biscuits before me. She turns off the television and says, “This is how you save the world. Biscuits.”

She laughs at her own remark and walks away. And I am left looking at steaming biscuits, wondering if this woman isn’t correct.

Biscuits are one of those mysterious things that bring out the best in mankind.

Think about it. Have you ever seen anyone rob a bank or hotwire a car while simultaneously eating a biscuit? No. But you’ve probably seen plenty of career criminals eating Miracle Whip. Thus, we can conclude that Miracle Whip is of the Devil. Also, low-fat cottage cheese.

But biscuits? They are downright holy. There are too many varieties to name, but here are a few:

Rolled biscuits, fried biscuits, beaten biscuits,

drop biscuits, angel biscuits, shortcakes, widowmakers, heartstoppers, eye-poppers, Alabama sin cookies, Mississippi mantrappers, Georgia homewreckers, Texas tummy-tuckers, Louisiana lard pellets, buttermilk biscuits, sourdough biscuits, Dutch-oven biscuits, and of course the immortal cathead biscuit.

When I first started writing in earnest, my work was published in a tiny regional newspaper. The editor asked for professional byline—which is a mini biography. But I had no byline since I had never written anything more than a classified ad about a 1986 Ford.

So the editor tried to come up with a few words on my behalf. She asked, “What’re some of your major achievements?”

Achievements? I thought long and hard. “Well, I can swallow my tongue.”

“No, that’s not what I... Wait. Really?”

“Wanna see?”

“Yes. Actually, I would like to see that.”

So I did it. She stared into my open mouth then made a…

It was a cardboard box in my garage. It was marked, “Sean’s Stuff.” That was it. Two words. It’s been sitting in my garage since the construction of the pyramids.

My garage looks like the aftermath of an atomic explosion. There are boxes everywhere, along with wounded furniture, elderly lawn mowers, arthritic hand tools, dead tennis rackets, and an asthmatic GE refrigerator.

I don’t even remember what I was looking for when I found this box. There were spiders inside. I am a well-noted spider hater. I released the spiders outdoors instead of killing them because it just didn’t seem sportsmanlike.

Also inside the box was an old deck of cards, comic books, a baseball cap, and an empty Schweppes ginger ale bottle. Then I found it. My old teddy bear.

He was a good bear. Actually, he was my best friend once. It is a natural thing for boys to call stuffed animals close friends. I have even met grown men who admitted to almost making a teddy bear the best

man at their wedding. Don’t force me to start naming names.

My bear was named Teddy just like every kid’s bear probably was. I should have named him something original like “Herman,” but there was a factory tag on his butt that read “Teddy.” So who was I to change it? A man is entitled to keep his name.

When I was a child, I remember one time I was sick with the flu, and I held onto this bear for dear life.

Late that night my father told me the story of how the American teddy bear got its name. At the time, I was borderline delirious. Hot. Sweaty. Out of it.

My father suggested that I drink ginger ale to calm my stomach. This was his answer for any ailment. To my father, if it couldn’t be fixed with castor oil, Mentholatum, or ginger ale, you…

WINFIELD—If you’re just passing through, you might not even notice this tiny Alabamian town. But the people here are great.

I once had a friend from Winfield. Every time we saw each other he gave me a gift, without fail. I once asked why he did this.

He shrugged and said, “‘Cause that’s just how people from Winfield are.”

Which isn’t hard to believe. The town is roughly twenty-five miles from the Mississippi line, and about as wide as it is high. Let’s just say that if you took the population of Winfield and crammed them into a football stadium, you’d fill up one row. Maybe two.

The downtown is nice and maintained. You could pitch a baseball from one end to the other.

A few months ago, Winfield celebrated Mule Day Festival, an annual tradition. A mass of jack Mules parade up the streets towing wagons, getting showered with affection.

The festival started as a downhome parade. Today, it draws nearly 25,000 people from across the southeast who come to honor the American Mule.

“Mule Day’s great,” says

one old man. “Lotta people forget, but our nation was built by a lotta purebred jackasses.”

He laughs at this. Because like my pal once said, that’s just how people in Winfield are.

Well, yesterday afternoon the good people of Winfield were lining the quiet streets. They had gathered to see a different kind of parade. Some held banners or balloons. Others were bundled to fight the chill. Everyone was there.

They were waiting for Wyatt.

Wyatt Spann is four years old. Last year, he was your typical toddler. He loved dinosaurs, cartoons, and especially trucks. Then he took ill. When he wouldn’t quit vomiting his parents took him to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

His mother said, “We thought he had a stomach virus that had been going around.”

That’s what doctors thought too. But the blood work came back normal.…

I hope this doesn’t come across wrong. Yesterday I hung out with college kids, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve had more fun eating raw papier mâché. Which I actually did once when I was nineteen.

I was expecting to have a wild and crazy time since these were, after all, nineteen-year-olds. It was anything but fun. It was sleep inducing.

Don’t get me wrong, these sophomores were great kids. Well-behaved, good grades, nice-looking, polite. It's just that they were too busy thumb-typing on smartphones to notice me.

We were at the mall because my wife and everyone’s parents were seeing a movie together. It was a romance movie and I didn’t want to go. Mostly because “romance movies” are rarely about real romance. They are usually about two people who yearn for three hours then kiss right before the credits.

That’s not romance. Ask any married guy. Romance is when a man, acting of his own free will, picks up his dirty laundry from the bedroom floor and places it into a hamper without

being asked. When a man does this he is transformed from a North American sasquatch into George Clooney.

So the college kids and I were wandering around a shopping complex. But nobody was talking. Which brings me to my main point (and I promise I will be sensitive when I say this since teenagers might actually read it):

Get. Off. Your. Phones.

Don’t even finish reading this stupid column. You’re not missing anything worthwhile, I promise. Just put the phone down and go find some papier mâché.

Of course I have no room to judge. Who am I to point the finger? Nobody, that’s who. My parents used to warn me that TV would turn my brain into slush, but did I listen? No. An jus lookit me noww.

But when I was in this crowded mall, I noticed almost everyone beneath age ninety-seven was…

She was slight. Elderly. She had an old kitchen that was lit up with smells and colors.

There is no place better than the humble kitchen of an American woman. If there is, I wouldn’t care to know about it. The linoleum floor. The enamel table with chipped edges. The stove with the stubborn oven door. Brillo pads in the sink.

And Lord, the smells. I could live and die in a good kitchen.

She was dusting her counters with flour on the day I interviewed her. She covered those countertops in snow, the way our ancestors have been doing ever since they deboarded the ark.

She wore one of those aprons that looks more like a cobbler’s apron. Two pockets. Floral print. She kneaded dough with frail hands. If you are ever lucky enough to see an elderly woman take out her aggression on a lump of lifeless dough, you are lucky enough.

When I visited her little kitchen I was on a long drive from Atlanta to Birmingham. Her son asked me

to visit. I only had thirty minutes to spare.

The reason she told me to come was because she wanted to make one of my favorite casseroles, one she remembered that I mentioned in my books a few times.

I don’t even know what the casserole is called. I’m not sure it even has a proper name. It has little diced potatoes, mountains of cheese, and—this is the crucial part—Kellogg's Corn Flakes on top.

When I was a kid, there was a lady in our church named Miss Patty who made this casserole for every get-together. As an adult, I have yet to find it again. I guess it’s an outdated church casserole now. It’s probably not stylish for modern women to put cornflakes on top piles of cheese anymore.

She made more than just casseroles. She cooked for local funerals, baby showers, anniversaries. And if…


How do you write your columns? Is that what you call them? I want to do it too. My mom was a writer before she died, and I think I want to be a columnist like you someday.



I don’t know if this is called a “column” or what. What I can tell you is that after being rejected by a handful of newspaper editors there wasn’t really any option for me but to publish stuff online. So call it whatever you want.

Some people call them blogs. But blogs weren’t around when I was young. Besides, I always had a thing for ink columns printed on gray newsprint.

I love the feel of a newspaper in my hands. And the way everyone gives the paper one hard shake to get it into position before they read it.

I used to deliver newspapers when I was younger. My mother and I would toss several million papers each morning before the sun came up. The greatest part came after

we finished. I would read my favorite columnists.

What I love about columnists is that they are, by in large, pretty crummy writers. Seriously. Most columnists wouldn't hold a candle to a Great American Author, English-wise. This is why I love them so much.

Because a Great American Author writes so beautifully that he makes the rest of us petty writers seem like Labradoodles.

It’s sort of like dating a girl who is better looking than you. She knows that she ranks WAY above you, so she sits in your passenger seat giving you the stink eye, saying, “You brought me to Waffle House for a date?”

And even though you remind her that Waffle House has award winning chili, she is disgusted.

So now you know why I call them columns, and you also know why Vanessa Spurton never returned my calls. But anyway,…

I saw an old friend today. He watched me crawl into my twenty-year-old beat-up truck and couldn’t believe I was still driving it.

“I don’t understand why you still drive that thing,” he said.

Well, it’s not difficult to understand. Vehicles are important to the ordinary people I come from.

When I was a kid, we would take long Sunday drives to nowhere. I wonder what happened to the American Sunday driver. There was a time when working-class families used to hop into station wagons and just play.

I remember one such Sunday after church. My father was on the sofa, his necktie hanging half mast. He was scanning the sports page.

“Yankees beat the Red Sox,” he said in mock amazement.

If there’s one thing I was brought up to dislike, it was the Yanks.

“Glavine pitches shutout in Atlanta. Unbelievable...”

“Gashouse Gang gets slaughtered again, fourteen to nothing, holy...”

And so on.

Usually, after he finished reading, he’d put on a pair of piddling clothes. Then he’d change the oil, organize the garage, mow the lawn twice, or repaint fifteen

houses using only one arm. My father could not sit still.

But on this particular Sunday he said, “Hey, let’s all go for a drive, what d'ya say?”

My mother was knee deep in preparing cornbread and whatever else was on the menu.

“A drive?” she said, “But I’m cooking dinner.”

Sunday afternoons were the only time we called it “dinner.” Every other day of the week it was “supper.”

So my father looked at me. “How about you, Tiger? Wanna take a drive?”

A Sunday drive was big. On the occasions my father took me on these outings, I knew for certain that one thing was going to happen: Ice cream sandwiches.

We piled into my father’s ‘74 F-100, forest green, rusty, with welding equipment on the back. Oxygen canisters, cables, air hoses dangled every which way.

Once the holidays are over a lot of people curl up on their sofas and sink into clinical depression. And I am not kidding.

I base this statement on an article sent to me by Glenn, a family therapist who notices a spike in depressed patients after the holidays. He gives examples of why this occurs:

1. Less sunshine.
2. No fun stuff to do.
3. Nobody parties in January.
4. Or travels.
5. Going back to work sucks.
6. And you’re fat.

I called a family therapist to get a few comments on the issue. But I got his secretary who said that he would charge $800 per hour for a phone consultation, so I decided to:

Go roller skating.

Again, I am serious. This seemed like a good idea because evidence shows that skating might help with post-holiday blues. Also, my cousin’s children were attending a birthday party at a roller rink.

So the next thing I knew, we were in a rundown skating rink with cars arriving in the parking

lot by the dozen.

Carl, the man who runs the rink said, “Rinks like ours ain’t gettin’ much business no more.” Carl spit into a Mountain Dew bottle. “But today we got a big party, so hey, that’ll pay the light bill.”

The first order of business at any rink is to exchange your perfectly good shoes at the counter for some truly disgusting ones. Behind the counter, I met a woman who also appeared to be suffering from Seasonal Depression. I have met junkyard Rottweilers with warmer personalities.

“What size?” she said.


“Thirteen? You joking?”


“We don’t have thirteens.”

“How about a twelve and a half?”

She looked on a rack. “Biggest I got is an eleven.”

“That’s not gonna work.”

“Take it up with the complaint department.”

The woman slammed down a pair of skates that smelled like…