I am answering a few questions sent in by people. I chose the most commonly asked questions, but I threw in a few strays, too. I’ll quit wasting time:
Q: All time favorite song?
A: Easy. “I’ll Fly Away.”
Q: What are your dogs’ names?
A: Otis Campbell and Thelma Lou. The first is an alleged Labrador. The second is a Clydesdale draft horse who resembles a bloodhound.
Q: How did you get started writing online?
A: It’s a long story. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. The embarrassing truth is, I couldn’t hack it as a real-world writer. I got turned down for writing jobs with small publications because I had “great enthusiasm,” but was “not really what we’re looking for.” Meaning: I stunk.
Q: But you still write?
A: Pretty much.
A: Because my work is a vital part of some peoples’ morning bathroom rituals.
Q: That’s a bad joke, and it’s in very poor taste.
A: You think I’m joking?
Q: You’re always writing to kids when they ask you for advice, why do you write so many kids?
A: Because I was a lost boy. My father died young, and my mother did the best she could. I was like a kid in a boat adrift in the middle of a sea. Today, I’m still in that same boat, only now I have a cheap 2.5 horsepower motor. So I use this proverbial motor to cruise around the bay, looking for lonely boats, and anyone giving away free beer.
Q: How do you stay skinny when all you eat is junk food and barbecue all day long?
A: I do not eat barbecue all day long. I quit at about 9 p.m.
But to answer your question, I don’t know. Maybe because I walk a lot? I seriously do walk a lot. Always have. I’ve been kicking cans on highway shoulders since I was in seventh grade to deal with my own anxieties.
A: Yep. For most of my life people in town knew me as “that weirdo always jogging on Highway 98.” That was my local name. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without someone saying, “I know you!”
I was once pulled over for a speeding ticket and the cop said, “Hey, you’re that guy I always see on 98.” And I said, “Yes, it’s me.” And we laughed and laughed. Then he wiped a tear from his eye and said, “You’re still getting a ticket.”
Q: Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer like me?
A: Not really. Asking me for advice is like asking a five-year-old to parallel park your car.
Q: There you go again. Why’re you always poormouthing yourself?
A: Because people deserve to know the facts about me. I’m a former high-school dropout who didn’t finish basic community college until he was thirty. I bounced from construction jobs and bar gigs. I’m unkept and hairy. If you saw me in the Walmart you wouldn’t be asking a guy like me for advice. Your first thought would be, “I wonder if this guy needs a ride?”
Q: So you’re not going to give me any advice about writing?
A: Since you ask. My advice to you is—and this goes for everything in life—trust your gut. I am still trying to follow this advice.
Q: Favorite food in the world?
A: Barbecued pork shoulder. Cooked over hickory, applewood, and mesquite. Naked, no sauce. Just lots of smoke.
Q: Does this virus scare you?
A: Yes. Are you kidding? Still, if you ask me, the older generations who survived a very scary Great Depression were transformed into beautiful human beings because of the hell they went through.
I believe this is our moment. Our generation has the unique opportunity to put down our cellphones and be the kind of people our grandparents were. I think this pandemic is making us kinder, more compassionate, and—hold on, I just got a text.
Q: I wrote you a letter once, but you never wrote me back. Why not?
A: I apologize. Sincerely. I wish I could answer every letter that comes into my inbox. But I’m just one guy with a big nose and an overbite. I don’t type very fast. It doesn’t mean I don’t read every message. I do.
Q: Sometimes you write funny stuff and sometimes you write sad. I never know what it’s going to be. Why can’t you just pick one style and do that? I don’t like sad stories, I want them all to be funny.
A: Here’s a story. One time, my friend who owned a shrimp boat took me out trawling. We raked in tons of shrimp and I got to keep two coolers full. For the next six months I ate shrimp every single day.
Every. Single. Day.
Shrimp omelettes for breakfast, shrimp cocktails for lunch, shrimp boils for supper. I never want to see another shrimp again.
Q: What the heck does that mean?
A: Trust your gut.
Q: I’m in high school, both my parents passed away, I live with my uncle now but he’s never home and so I think they’re going to shut my school down ‘cause of ‘rona virus… I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but whatever… I am depressed all the time, I don’t know who else to tell. What do you think about heaven? Please tell me you know it’s real ‘cause I want to think my parents are there but sometimes I’m not sure if I can believe it and I want to believe.
A: Some glad morning, when this life is over, the words of an old song will make sense.
And it’ll be a reunion.