Her letter came via snail mail. She’s 16. Her beautiful handwriting makes my own penmanship look like chicken fertilizer.

She’s an exceptional kid. Wants to be a graphic designer one day. Loves horses. Favorite book is “Huckleberry Finn.” Her favorite author is Mark Twain.

We’ll call her Becky.

“Dear Sean,” Becky’s letter began, “why are people so mean on social media…?”

It all started this summer. Becky posted pictures online. They were images her mom took while she was at the lake with friends.

Four teenage girls with arms draped around each other. Smiling. They wore modest bathing suits. They were eating ice cream. Normal kids. Just having fun.

The images received fistfuls of hateful comments from some of Becky’s classmates online. It really hurt.

“We’re not the tiniest girls in school,” she wrote. “I’m overweight and I’m not super pretty, but people were so mean that I literally wanted to die.”

There were over 73 ugly comments on Becky’s post. It started with kids she knew, then the remarks were coming from people she’d never met.

She finally took

the photos down.

“Help me deal with haters,” Becky wrote. “I feel so bad about myself.”

I can relate to what you’re feeling, Becky. I was a child who never seemed to fit the mold. I had a wider waistline than most of my peers. My childhood doctor actually told me, point-blank, that I was overweight.

The exact word he used was the F word.

He laughed endearingly as he pinched my pink tummy and said, “Good heavens, this boy is FAT.”

He told me to be more active, to take better care of myself, to eat better, to consume less sugar, and then he lit another unfiltered Camel and offered the nurse one.

So I disliked myself, growing up. Which made me a prime target for bullies. To make matters worse, I wore godawful jeans my mom purchased from…

I was driving. I was hungry. I had to pull over because I was about to eat my own steering wheel. The Tennessee autumn was in full swing. I had a long way left to go.

I found a meat and three in a strip mall. Lots of trucks in the parking area.

You can trust a place with trucks in the parking lot.

Everyone knows that if you see a throng of Fords and Chevys in a restaurant parking lot, the said establishment has exceptional fried chicken. If you see Cadillacs and Buicks, they will also have excellent congealed salad.

The server behind the sneeze guard asked what I wanted. He was tall, gaunt, wearing a hairnet. His neck and arms were painted in a gridwork of tattoos.

“Chicken of meatloaf?” he said.

“Chicken,” said I.

Fried chicken is a dying art in America. I was raised fundamentalist; fried chicken is my spiritual mascot. Fried chicken is holy food. And it is the only dish I don’t mind eating cold. Next-day chicken, straight from the fridge,

is better than Christmas.

The server selected drumsticks that were roughly the size of a James Patterson paperback.

“You want veggies with it?” he said.

“Does the pope go in the woods?” I said.

The list of side dishes was plentiful: Mac and cheese, fried green tomatoes, squash casserole, turnip greens, butterbeans, pintos, great northerns, zipper peas, cornbread salad, slaw, tater logs.

And don’t even get me started on the sweets. You had peach cobbler, lemon meringue, blueberry dump cake, caramel cake, chess pie, and complimentary syringes of insulin.

When my foam box was loaded to capacity, I filled my cup from the tea dispenser. The man who served me was on break, waiting to fill his tea.

We started talking. After a few minutes of conversation, I learned that he had just got out of prison.

“I was turned down for ten…

Today my wife and I visited the Callahan School for the Deaf & Blind with our dog. We were running late. Our vehicle squealed into the parking lot on two wheels.

I applied deodorant in a timely manner, ate two fistfuls of Altoids, and made my way inside.

Marigold is my blind coonhound. She goes everywhere with me. We do everything together. I drive; she sleeps. I watch television; she sleeps. I work; she sleeps. I go out for tacos; she eats all the queso.

Mrs. Hess invited us to visit the school today, since many of the students can relate to Marigold.

We were buzzed in through the doors. I apologized for being late. Everyone told me it was no problem, which made me feel worse.

The first thing that struck me was how ordinary the school looked. Callahan looks just like any school in Anytown, U.S.A. Like every school you’ve seen a-million-and-six times before.

Same cinderblock walls. Same tight hallways. Same smell. Why do all schools smell the same?

But that’s just the surface appearance. Because

nothing about this place is common.

Mrs. Hess has been working here for a long time. She’s seen it all. She’s had students enter her classroom in need of tender care. She’s seen these children find their voice. She’s seen them kick butt and take names.

Callahan is a public elementary school, they get kids here from all walks. This place is a miniature snapshot of Mobile.

“Welcome to the most rewarding place on planet earth,” says Mrs. Hess, ushering us forward.

Marigold and I approached the library. There were teachers waiting nearby. Outside the door, a cluster of tiny walkers and guidance canes were parked together.

“They’re ready for you,” whispered one teacher.

The library was packed to the ceiling with kids, waiting for their late presenter. I was greeted with several little faces beaming at me as we entered. Children…

It was 12:21 a.m. There were no restaurants open in Fairhope at this untoward hour.

Unless, of course, you counted Sonic Drive-In. And if I wanted the joyous experience of dining in my vehicle, I could save time by dumping boiling grease into my lap.

So it was Waffle House.

I stepped into the surgically chilled air of America’s greatest eatery and found my usual seat.

Waffle House dining rooms are predominantly designed the same way. A Waffle House in Benson, North Carolina, for example, is set up just like the one in Albuquerque.

So I always choose the same seat. I always select the leftmost seat at the very end of the bar. Back of the house. Nearest the refrigerators. Against the window.

I sit here for two reasons. One, because the air conditioners at Waffle House will freeze your vital organs. Two, the air vents can’t reach you back here.

Tonight, our grill-person was named Larry. He was tall, with Rosie Greer shoulders and a perpetual smile.

I asked what he was smiling about.

“Oh, I always smile,”

he said.

I asked why.

He shrugged his granite shoulders. “Customers need to feel like they’s at home.”

Larry is a relatively young guy. At least he seems young to me.

He recently suffered a heart attack. The cardiac event was so bad that his doctors weren’t sure how much destruction had been done. They placed him in a medically induced coma to reduce damage to his brain.

Life came to a standstill. His family went into a kind of half mourning. If you’ve ever had a family member in a coma, it’s exactly like going to hell, only with more vending machine food.

Larry survived his heart attack with almost no lingering effects. One week after he left the hospital, he was back at the grill, cooking.

“Cooking is what I do,” he said, flipping eggs with a gentle…

Someone is impersonating me. This person has created a fake account using my name. They’re going around asking for money on Facebook. And worse: they’re using bad grammar.

And I just think that’s tacky.

For starters, I don’t ask for money. The last time I asked for money I was 16. I was trying to get to Miami Beach for spring break along with my friends Ed Lee and Tater Log.

We told our mothers we wanted to attend a very special Bible camp in Coconut Grove.

“Bible camp?” Tater Log’s mother remarked, doubtfully. “And does this Bible camp also have wet T-shirt contests?”

So we tried my mother next.

I asked Mama for a modest $1,200, which I thought was an honest estimate for travel expenses and gas. Mama laughed so hard she had to be calmed with buttered Saltines.

So anyway, my wife was the first to bring this Facebook scammer to my attention. She thought this person was hysterical. She located the imposter’s Facebook profile and howled with laughter.

“He isn’t even cute!” my wife

announced, cackling at the computer screen. “Look at his cheap haircut and that idiot grin.”

The impersonator, as it happens, is using my actual photo. And it’s a recent photo, too, which features my current haircut and my current grin.

Moreover, it turns out this hoaxer is trying to sweet talk innocent people into giving them personal information and account passwords.

Well, let me reassure you, publicly, I do not want your passwords. I can’t even remember my own passwords, and I have thousands. In fact, remembering all my passwords has become a full-time job.

Whenever my wife and I try to watch TV, for example, our streaming service requires us to re-enter our password each time.

And since I am the tech-guy in our house, it’s up to me to remember this password. At which point I have to don reading…

Pelham, Alabama. The year was 1927. Coolidge was president. Gas was 21 cents per gallon. Beer was illegal.

It was a pivotal year in this country. Maybe the most pivotal ever. Charles Lindberg crossed Atlantic. A guy named Philo T. Farnsworth transmitted the first electronic TV image.

Henry Ford unveiled the Model A. The first “Talkie” motion picture was released. Work began on Mount Rushmore. The Babe was setting world records up the wazooty.

And way down in Alabama, the Twenty-Second state bought 940 acres and transformed the land into a state park.

It was virginal country which included Double Oak Mountain and parts of Little Oak Ridge. The foothills of the Appalachians themselves. These were pristine mountainsides. Some of the most incorrupt acreage in the United States. One reporter called it “Zion.”

This was such magnificent country that a few years later, the National Park Service got involved with its development. The NPS acquired 8,000 acres of additional land.

The federal government was so psyched about this place, they were going to

turn it all into a national park, on par with Yellowstone and Yosemite. They were going to call the park “Little Smoky Mountain National Park.”

Dear old Uncle Sam bussed down shiploads of Civilian Conservation Corps men. Machines began hewing through stone and granite. The population of Pelham swelled with workers.

But then some guy named Hitler screwed up the world, started a war, and every able-bodied male was sent overseas.

Work ceased on the park. The national big-wigs forgot about this place.

Today, what remains is Oak Mountain State Park. The greatest state park in the country. Hands down.

I’ve been to a lot of state parks and national parks on the North American Continent. Oak Mountain is among the best.

I hike Oak Mountain a lot because it isn’t far from my back door. I like it here.

Whenever I visit, I feel my heart…

Lessons from my blind rescue dog.

—Wherever you are, find the dog-people.

—The only things in life that matter are people and food. Although not necessarily in that order.

—You learn everything you need to know about a person by the way they talk to you.

—When you are blind, friends are very important. If you hang around the wrong ones, you’ll get lost.

—Food tastes SO good.

—But not broccoli.

—If you do enough of the things that scare you, you won’t be scared of those things anymore.

—Out of all the animals on the earth, humans are the only ones who can be cruel.

—Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you will end up peeing in the house. So just remember, if you DO pee indoors, try not to walk through your own puddle.

—There is no such thing as a little triumph.

—Being afraid is okay. Everyone gets afraid. But being afraid doesn’t have to slow you down. You can be afraid and be strong at the same time. In fact, sometimes the strongest creatures are also the most


—If you DO, however, walk through your own ginormous puddle of pee, and your feet become wet with puppy urine, whatever you do, DON’T climb onto Dad’s bed with your pee-feet and put your paws on his pillow and root around like you are searching for exotic truffles.

—There is no value in celery.

—Or spinach.

—Life is far easier if you have a bad memory.

—Follow the voice of someone who loves you and you will be okay.

—The most valuable possession you own is your trust. But trust has a shelf life. So give it to someone fast or it will spoil.

—Children are always nice to blind dogs.

—People in hotels do not like it when you sniff their butts at the communal coffee machine.

—If someone loves you, they will prove it…