You might not know this, but today is a national holiday. A day when our nation traditionally puts aside our differences, stands together in solidarity and brotherhood, from sea to oil-slicked sea, and we celebrate our most cherished national pastime.

Pound cake.

That’s right. Today is National Pound Cake Day.

Frankly, I did not know today was National Pound Cake Day until a reader named Phyllis Ratliff, of Oneonta, Alabama, brought this to my attention. Phyllis reminded me that today is a critical day in our native heritage.

“We must ask ourselves,” writes Phyllis, “how many pound cakes sacrificed their lives defending our privilege to celebrate this day?”

Phyllis is absolutely right. Pound cake is an expressly American dish, right up there with Velveeta, and Budweiser. And yet nobody in the news media is even talking about this issue.

One columnist demands to know why.

Contrary to popular notions, apple pie is not our flagship American dish. Forget apple pie.

Apple pie originated in England during the 14th century, shortly after the birth

of Cher. Back then, English peasants were so poor that most historians believe the first apple pies were made with apples harvested from the stalls of nearby horse pens.

Pound cake, on the other hand, is an American cake. It originated right here in the North American colonies. The first mention of pound cake comes to us in a cookbook entitled “American Cookery,” published in 1796 (HarperCollins).

So this morning, I, for one, am choosing to celebrate this holiday by eating a wedge of pound cake that is roughly the same thickness as the unabridged edition of “Gone With the Wind.”

Pound cake is in my DNA. I have been eating pound cake since I was six minutes old, which was all my grandmother’s doing.

In the hospital delivery room, shortly after my birth, my Granny and her church-lady friends showed up with baked goods and greeting…

I received a seething email from a man in Baltimore, Maryland. He apparently has a political bone to pick with the state of Florida, and he read that Florida is where I’m from.

He wrote: “...Florida is a stupid state, the most [deleted] up state in this country… I don’t think [Floridian] idiots deserve to be a state at all in my opinion.”

Well, I normally wouldn’t respond to a message like this, but I detected a slightly negative tone in the above email.

Granted, we Floridians have our problems. We are a unique state. And by “unique,” I mean that we are completely insane. But insanity is not the same as being “stupid.” Stupid people are uneducated, oftin using terible grammer.

But you know what? We Floridians are also polite, at least in West Florida. In fact, we don’t even use the word “stupid.” It’s offensive. If we’re going to call someone stupid, we usually say, “Well bless your heart.”

What irks me as a Floridian is whenever people from Baltimore stereotype

me. Often, people assume that all Floridians speak Spanish and wear shorts year round. Which is ridiculous, sometimes we wear thong underwear.

I am proud of my homeland. Whenever I travel throughout the U.S., I find myself homesick for the nostalgic pastimes of the Florida of my youth. Such as, for example, head-on collisions.

Florida motorists are responsible for 79 percent of the auto accidents in the U.S., and we work hard to maintain that number. Florida is the only state where you can witness vehicles traveling both directions in the right lane, many of which are state employees.

I have totaled three cars in Florida. Each time, the cause of accident was that the driver ahead of me was a motorist who did not use a blinker and was also, technically, my immediate family member.

Something else I love about the Twenty-Seventh State is our wildlife.…

Before we got married, my wife and I had to take a mandatory church marriage class. The Baptist church would not marry anyone without this rigorous class because the church ran the real risk that unschooled young couples were engaging in premarital relations, which could lead to dancing.

The idea was: After eight weeks of rigorous marriage training, couples would receive an official certificate, trimmed in gold, with their names on it. And this certificate would prove to the world, without a doubt, that couples were spiritually, and emotionally prepared to take the multiple choice exam in the back of the book.

Keep in mind, this certificate wasn’t a marriage license. This was a “Baptist pre-marriage class certificate,” from the back of the “official Baptist marriage workbook,” purchased for $24.99.

Within the Baptist tradition, you see, you can’t do anything without first obtaining a certificate and unanimous committee approval. Even Sunday greeters are required to attend a four-week class that teaches them to properly, with true conviction, look a wayward reprobate

in the eye and say: “Here’s your bulletin.”

Thus, my future-wife and I arrived at the fellowship hall each week to participate in courses that prepared us for cohabitation.

These courses featured many “fun” games which the workbook termed “marital building exercises.” Many of which were developed by professional marriage book authors—some of whom had been married to the same person for as long as one year.

One such exercise was the Egg Test.

In this game, the future-bride (Jamie) balances an egg on a spoon clenched between her teeth. She wears a blindfold and walks across a room.

Then, the future-husband (me) stands on the opposite side of the room (over by the piano). He uses ONLY his words to guide his future-wife through an obstacle course made up entirely of folding chairs which represent the confusing Maze of Life.

Tacked to the chairs are Post-It notes, labeled…

A gas station. Rural east Texas. A young man sits in front of the ice machine, and he’s babbling nonsense. He is shirtless. He is dirty. People pass him as they walk into the convenience store.

But one old man doesn’t.

Because this old man has been homeless before. He knows what’s going on. The old man knows that about 30 percent of homeless persons are mentally ill. He knows that 30 percent are addicted. He knows this kid is probably blitzed out of his gourd on a substance.

The old man knows all this because he was once that guy.

The old man makes a few calls. In a few minutes an Episcopal priest and a few other church members are standing before the young shirtless man. They are asking him if he has anywhere to spend the night. They’re offering him a hand.

The young man sees the priest’s collar and he starts to cry.

“Please help me,” the kid sobs. “I don’t want to live like this anymore.”


minutes, the kid is taken to the hospital. An anonymous donor pays for him to visit rehab. The kid is clean within a month. That was 15 years ago. Today, the kid is an employee at the same rehab that saved him.

Cincinnati. Her family moved to this town for work. After a year, she learned her husband was having an affair. Her competition was a 22-year-old. She caught them in the act. And she almost had a nervous breakdown.

After the divorce, she never thought she would love again. So she raised kids on her own. She got a job working at K-Mart. She disappeared into the throngs of working-class Americans.

Until she met Ron. Ron was a widower with three kids of his own. He worked in the stock room. He was cute. One day, he worked up the nerve to ask her out. He asked…

Happy 11th birthday, Becca. I hope you eat enough cake to qualify as a misdemeanor.

There is one thing I want you to remember on this wondrous day:

Whenever you think you’ve had too much cake, whenever you think your tummy can’t hold any more, force yourself to eat ONE more teensy-weensy little slice.

Because one can never eat enough cake.

Being 11 is pretty fun. It is, however, the beginning of the end. Because next year you’ll be 12, well on your way to teenagehood. And you’ll suddenly know it all.

When I was 13, I thought my mother was so incredibly ignorant it was staggering. Then I turned 20 and I was shocked at how much my mother had learned in those seven years.

But you aren’t like me. I was a dense boy. You, on the other hand, are a wise child.

You’ve been through a lot in your life. Your story isn’t mine to tell, but I’ll hit the highlights:

Your biological mother was an addict. You were left lying on your

backside for the first several months of your infancy so that the back of your head was flat. You are blind.

But you were adopted by unbelievably beautiful parents, and you have become the most impressive person I have ever met. Hands down.

For starters, after you went blind, you could have given up. You could have quit trying. Instead, you started taking up new life skills.

You tried out for your school play and landed a major role. You wrote poetry. You took up new musical instruments such as the harp, the cigar-box guitar, the piano, and you started taking singing lessons. You started learning braille.

I’ll never forget when we first met. We were at a restaurant. And do you know what I noticed about you first? You laughed a lot.

You laughed without abandon. Without holding back. You cackled good and…

Margie answered her phone. “Hello?”

“Hello?” said a girl’s voice. “Someone told me your husband worked on old cars?”

“My husband? Where’d you hear that? Who is this?”

Margie’s elderly husband did in fact work on cars. It was a lifelong hobby, and he was pretty good at it. He found cars, bought them for a steal, then resold them. Viva la retirement.

Whenever Margie asked him why he worked on cars, he would always answer, “Why the heck not?” Only he didn’t say “heck.”

“He’s not a professional,” Margie said into the phone. “He doesn’t fix cars for a living, but, well… I don’t know if he’d be interested in helping.”

“Oh, okay, I’m sorry for bothering you, ma’am.”

“What was it you needed, sweetie? Maybe I can at least ask him when he gets home.”

Long silence.

Two strangers. Stuck on the phone.

“Well, ma’am, my car, they say it needs a new transmission. I can’t afford to pay what the mechanic charges. And I really need a car for work.”

“Let me take your number.”

“Ain’t got no number, I’m calling from a payphone.”

“A payphone?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Oh, dear.”

Margie looked at her

side table to see photographs of a girl she once knew. A blond child, much like the girl on the phone. A daughter who overdosed.

“It’s none of my business,” said Margie. “But are you in trouble?”

“I’m okay. It’s just, well…” Long pause. “My parents kicked me out.”

“Honey, I don't mean to pry—and you can tell me to get lost—but may I ask why your parents kicked you out?”

Now there were sniffles on the line. “Well, I’ve been going through a lot of stuff. It’s been...” More sniffs. “Hard, ma’am.”

“Call me Margie.”

“I’m pregnant.”

Margie didn’t want to be nosy, but then, “I want to meet you, sweetheart.”

“This payphone’s about to disconnect, ma’am, it’s telling me…

Tea cakes. Oh, that takes me back.

Yeah, I remember tea cakes. My mother used to hold church get-togethers at our house, with her friends in the Women’s Fundamentalist Brigade.

Each week, they met in our living room to talk about mortal sin, human depravity, the horrors of hell, and dancing.

These upright women were supposed to be reading their Bibles and praying and talking about how bad missionaries have it. But instead, they spoke in hushed whispers about which woman in town had gone into childlabor six months after her own wedding.

Even so, the church meetings at our house were a great event. All the women arrived, wearing fancy clothes. Lots of polyester. Tall hair, laden with enough hairspray to qualify as a fire hazard. Coral lipstick—the official shade of nice women.

Most of the women wore pearls. “But,” my mother was quick to point out on one occasion, “hardly any of us wears REAL pearls.”

“But,” I asked, “if they’re not real, what are they?”

“Whatever was on sale at Belk.”

The living room would smell like

Estée Lauder, Opium, and Chanel No. 5. If you were a little boy, and you were to walk through this room without a gas mask, you would die.

But it’s the tea cakes I remember most. Because tea cakes are essentially big cookies, and I love cookies.

However—and I can’t stress this enough—don’t ever call teacakes “cookies.” Especially in the presence of the woman who baked them, otherwise she will castrate you with quilting shears.

They are “tea cakes.”

The difference between a tea cake and a cookie is subtle but important. A cookie is a large, dense, floury wafer made with sugar, butter, flour, eggs, and milk.

A tea cake, however, is a large, dense floury wafer made with sugar, butter, flour, eggs, and milk.

Is everyone clear on that?

These women would bring tea cakes of all varieties…