I remember an old café where old fishing boat captains used to hang out. I was a kid. I lived up the road from the joint, in a cinder-block house. I frequently walked to this greasy spoon to listen to the old men jaw.

Destin was different back then. We didn’t have 4.5 million visitors. Highway 98 wasn’t America’s largest automotive parking lot. We were small. We were unknown. We had old men.

They were vile old men. Unshaven. Unwashed. Unsanctified. Undomesticated. Unfriendly. Un-everything. They smoked Luckys and survived on bad habits. Their skin looked like chewed-up boot leather and their teeth had gone to be with Jesus long ago.

They were commercial fishermen. The real deal. A dying breed. These men did not like where the world was going, so they were always ticked off. Their favorite thing to say, “Hell, I don’t know anymore… I. Just. Don’t. Know.”

This phrase was their theme song. They said it often. But then, they were roughnecks. They did not use politically

correct language. They did not listen to Michael Jackson. They smelled like sweat. They always wore trousers—even in 280-degree weather. Their pants were stained with fish guts, Clorox, and non-synthetic motor oil.

Whenever they stood, they swore loudly as their joints crackled. Whenever they stooped, they winced in pain. They had scars all over their sun-browned forearms. Sometimes they were missing fingers. Dogs and children followed these men around.

Their stories were a joy. Namely, because they spoke of olden times. Of the way Destin used to be before it was overrun with G-strings, T-shirt shops, and zip lines.

The men spoke of old time street dances, community fish fries, dinner on the grounds, all-day singings, unsinkable Fords, and the price of gasoline.

I remember hearing them discuss the first fishing rodeo. The fishing rodeo was held here in ‘48, to attract visitors during the slow season. Harry Truman was…

“Hi, Mister Sean…” the letter began. The entire letter was penned in a neatly-written cursive such as I have never seen before.

“...I don’t know how to ask a girl I like out, to be my girlfriend, kind of. I would normally ask my grandpa about this kind of girl thing but he is dead from a brain aneurysm, and I don’t know who else to ask because it’s just me and my mom now, and Mom says just be nice to the girl and be myself and she will like me. What do you say?”

The letter was signed by an anonymous 15-Year-old boy. I’ll call him Tyler because that is his real name.

Tyler, I was raised by a Single Mother, so I can relate to what you’re going through. My mother always used to tell me the same stupid thing: “Be yourself,” she was always saying. Give me a break.

The problem is, being myself means being a complete Knucklehead McSpazatron.

To prove my point, I want to tell you about

an average adult experience I had a few days ago. An experience you are bound to have as the product of a single mother.

Recently, my wife and I were at the auto mechanic when the technician looked at us and said, flatly, “Your wheel bearings are shot.” He said this with a frown, using the same serious voice you’d use to tell someone their cherished family member had been run over by a car.

“Wheel bearings?” answered my wife. “What’s that mean?”

“Your bearings need to be machined and repacked,” the mechanic said.

My wife immediately looked to me for a response. Namely, because I am a guy. Guys are expected to respond to automotive statements made by mechanics.

We guys are expected to be manful and have some technical know-how when it comes to things like cars, trapping spiders, hiring refrigerator repairmen, discussing supernational…

An old Florida village. Not the touristy kind with swimsuit shops and scooter rentals. This is a place where the local high-school colors are probably camo and orange.

We are nearby this week. I am in search of tuna dip.

I pull into a random seafood market. The place isn’t fancy. This is rural Florida, where all seafood markets are required by state law to look like rundown miniature correctional facilities.

In the sandy parking area an old man and a kid leap out of a dusty Suburban then walk inside. The old man wears an Atlanta Braves ballcap. His grandson is maybe 9 years old.

Inside the market, the old man never speaks. He communicates via sign language with the boy. I don’t speak sign language, but I speak fluent Kid. And I see a lot of love on that little freckled face.

When the employee at the counter is ready to take their order, the old man gestures to the kid who serves as our translator this afternoon.

The kid points and speaks to the guy

at the counter. “We want three pounds of those.”

The seafood market employee is a man with a shaved head, lots of inkwork, and an unlit cigarette wedged in his lips. We must have caught him just before a smoke break.

The inactive cigarette bounces when he talks. “Three pounds of shrimp? Anything else, boss?”

The kid checks with Granddaddy for instructions. The old man looks over the motherlode of seafood displayed on ice. Choices, choices. He signs to Junior.

Junior translates. “Yeah. What’re those things?”

“These? Grouper cheeks. Good eating. Want some?”

The kid signs to the old man who nods.

“Yes, please.”

The kid never stops signing, even when speaking to the cashier. It’s called being polite to Grandad.

“Sure thing, bossman.” The guy behind the counter is trying to act nonchalant about this exchange, but I can tell he’s…

I’ve never been to a trampoline park before because I prefer my groin muscles to be untorn.

Recently, we took my friend Becca—she is 11 years old—to visit a trampoline park. Becca is blind, and going to a trampoline park is a lot of fun for her.

“I love to bounce!” Becca pointed out six or seven thousand times.

For the unbaptized, a trampoline park is a warehouse filled with dozens of trampolines and children who have consumed gallons of sugar and handfuls of barely legal stimulants disguised as “candy.”

The first thing that happens when you enter the park is you get a pair of special socks with plastic grips on the bottoms. You will need to burn your socks after visiting the men’s room.

There is also a concession area wherein eager children can buy caffeinated beverages, which the children dutifully spill on the floor. Sometimes, to save time, employees pour drinks onto the floor directly after purchase. The floor is caked in past Coke spills predating the Hoover administration.

As a result,

many adults waiting in this concession line are unable to move their feet because their special socks are permanently glued to the sticky pavement. I met one elderly man in line who said: “I’ve been stuck to this floor since my 30th birthday.”

“Why don’t you just take off your socks and leave?”

“I’d rather die than go barefoot here,” he replied.

Inside the park, dance music throbs at a loud volume whilst kids run around, shrieking with glee. Usually, kids are accompanied by middle-aged parents who look as though they have come directly from work.

You can tell these adults are thrilled to be here by the faces they are wearing. It’s the same face you see while in line at your local adult correctional facility.

For sanitation purposes, all equipment is monitored very closely. Remember, thousands of kids use this equipment every month.…

I was late for a plane when I saw him. The freckled kid was in uniform. Operational camouflage combat fatigues. Reverse-flag patch on his right shoulder. High and tight haircut.

He was standing on the sidewalk outside the airport. His mother was beside him, straightening his collar. His little sister was there, too. So was his dad.

The young man was carrying a backpack the size of a Frigidare, the thing must have weighed a few metric tons. He was vaping from an e-cigarette nervously.

I could tell by everyone’s body language that this was farewell.

Mama stood three feet shorter than her boy. She stared upward into his young eyes and the expression on her face was mournful.

“You got everything, baby?” she said.

He might be on Uncle Sam’s payroll, but to her, he’s still “baby.”

“I packed sandwiches in your bag,” said Mama. “It’s a long trip, be sure to eat, need to keep your energy up.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Dad jumped in. “How long of a flight is it?”

“Six hours for the first half,” said the soldier.

Little Sister spoke up.

“I’ll miss you. I don’t know what I’m gonna do without you.”

He nodded solemnly, but offered nothing heartfelt in return. In fact, his side of the whole conversation was about as emotionally charged as a scoop of coleslaw.

Dad said, “Just keep your head down and your nose clean.”

Funny. American dads have been using this exact phrase since dads wore knee breeches and carried muskets to PTA meetings. Head down, nose clean. Here it is 2023, and dads are still saying it. Don’t tell me this isn’t a great country.

Dad clapped his son on the shoulder. “You’re gonna be fine.”

“We’re so proud’a you,” said Mama.

“I love you,” said Sister.

Once the soldier finished sucking on his vape pen, he gave Mama one final hug. Then he stooped to embrace Sister.…

You were my writing partner. Almost every morning, whenever I would emerge onto my front porch with messed-up hair and stiff joints, a laptop in hand, ready to write, there you would be. Waiting for me.

I’d tap out this column, and you’d sit at my feet. Silently evaluating my por grammer.

Each morning. You’d be whipping your tail, sitting on my rocking chair, sort of expecting me. You knew what time I woke up. You knew my writing habits. You knew I’d be on this porch at 7 a.m., steaming mug in hand, ready to tap away on this laptop.

They called you “Half Ear” because you were a feral cat. Feral cats get their ears tipped whenever they are caught. Ear-tipping is when they surgically remove a small portion of a cat’s ear while the animal is under anesthesia for spay or neuter surgery.

This, of course, is the universal way of signifying that a feral cat has been spayed or neutered. Sort of like the universal way of knowing that a

guy with sleeve tattoos either rides a Harley or is a hipster chef who prepares balsamic vinaigrettes in his or her spare time.

You’d weave yourself through my legs the way all felines do. You’d purr. You’d flick that tail. And you weren’t satisfied unless I’d take a full five or 10 minutes out of my work schedule to stroke you.

You were Steinway black. You were slight. Your coat grew unevenly because of fleas, and the rainbow of scars accrued on your body from past street fights.

You had a home in our neighborhood. All the neighbors fed you. All the local kids played with you. All the residents knew your name. We all loved you.

Whenever I would return home after a long trip, I’d see you in my windshield the moment I entered our neighborhood. You’d be sitting in the center of my…

I am waiting for my wife to get ready. We are going out to dinner. She is in the bathroom. I see her in front of a mirror, pinching her belly. She asks if I think she is fat.

“No,” I say.

“Are you sure?”


“Well, I feel fat.”

“You aren’t.”

“How about now?”

“Still no.”

“What about from this angle?”


“From this side?”


“What about when I turn around?”


“How about when I hike up one leg, spin in circles, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance?”


“Do you REALLY mean it?”

“If you were any skinnier you’d have to stand up five times just to make a shadow. Now can we please go to dinner?”

“But I feel fat.”

My whole life has been spent in the company of women. When my father died, he left me in a house of estrogen. There, I learned something about the opposite gender.

Namely, women often think they are fat. And they are always wrong about this, no matter what their size.

It isn’t their fault. Every printed advertisement and commercial tells them to feel this way.

But it wasn’t always like this.

Things were different seventy-five years ago. Back then, nobody went around saying Marilyn Monroe looked like a North Atlantic whale, or told Doris Day she needed to go paleo.

People weren’t this obsessed with being skinny. Consequently, American families ate more bacon, and butter. And you know what they say: “The family that eats bacon and butter together, stays together.”

But things have changed. Famous women from bygone eras would be called “large” or “fluffy” in today’s world.

Marilyn Monroe, for instance, would be considered a Clydesdale. Barbara Eden, a Holstein. Ginger and Mary Ann wouldn’t have a chance with their muffin-tops. Daisy Duke would be playing the part of Boss Hogg.

Last week, I got a letter from a reader named Myra, who…