Hi, thank you for waiting. Your call is hugely important. And we mean hugely. We are working hard to answer your important call in the order received. If you would like to hold without music, press the pound sign, which is otherwise known as the ”hashtag,” depending on the year you graduated high school. Thank you.

My blog website is down. And I am calling customer service to get it taken care of. There are few things I hate worse than customer service. Except for maybe eating congealed salad. I hate that stuff.

I dial the toll-free number.

And I wait.

—RING, RING—

CUSTOMER SERVICE ANSWERING MACHINE: Thank you for calling customer service. Your call is extremely important to us. Your wait time is approximately forty-three minutes. Please enjoy this music.

—“IF YOU LEAVE ME NOW,” BY CHICAGO—

MACHINE: Thank you for holding. Your call is super-duper important to us. Our representatives are assisting other important customers, but we want you to know that they are all chomping at the bit to answer your important call in the order it was received. Thank you.

—“MAKE IT WITH YOU,” BY BREAD—

MACHINE: Hi, thank you for waiting. Your call is hugely important. And we mean hugely. We are working hard to answer your important call in the order received. If you would like to hold without music, press the pound sign, which is otherwise

known as the ”hashtag,” depending on the year you graduated high school. Thank you.

ME: (Presses pound sign.)

MACHINE: Thank you, you have chosen to hold without music.

—“AFTERNOON DELIGHT,” BY THE STARLAND VOCAL BAND—

MACHINE: Hi, remember us? Thank you for your continued patience. Our representatives are busy. But your important call is the reason we get up in the morning and face this cold world. We truly can’t wait to assist you. If you would prefer to hold without music, please press the pound sign, also known as the “tic-tac-toe symbol” to complete idiots. Thank you for your patience.

ME: (Pressing pound sign repeatedly.)

—“CAN’T FIGHT THIS FEELING ANYMORE,” REO SPEEDWAGON—

MACHINE: Hi. Your call is über, stinking important to us. We are looking forward to helping you. In fact, many of us pray for you at our own personal dinner…

But we can’t grow up. If we could, we still wouldn’t because that would be the end. And I’m not ready for the end. Not yet.

The last thing you probably want to read about is baseball, even though today was the last day of the Major League season. Believe me. I get it. Whenever baseball fans talk about their game, they get this punch-drunk tone in their voice.

It’s enough to make you roll your eyes and say, “Oh, grow up, would you?”

But we can’t grow up. If we could, we still wouldn’t because that would be the end. And I’m not ready for the end. Not yet.

I once knew an eighty-four-year-old man with dementia. He lived in a nursing home. Every afternoon, his daughter would play a VHS video tape of the 1963 World Series. And each time he watched, it was the first time.

I interviewed him. I doubt he knew I was even standing beside him. I will never forget when he held my hand and said, “This is our game, isn’t it, Benny?”

“My name’s not Benny,” I said.

But he was too emotional to care. And I never forgot that.

My childhood was

baseball heavy. I went to games before I even knew how the game was played. I was barely old enough to hold my bladder. But there was my father, talking to me about relief pitching, and three-hundred hitters.

He wore a ball cap. He was lean. Redheaded. When the sun hit his fair skin he would burn, and his freckles would get darker. He would keep score on a scorecard with a pencil—back when people still did that. And he cussed more freely at games since my mother wasn’t around.

In elementary school, he baptized me in red dirt by teaching me to slide into second base, feet-first. And I still remember my first home run. I was seven.

It might have been the greatest day of my father’s life. It was the fourth inning. Jason Davenport was pitching. My father stood by the dugout,…

I receive a lot of mail in the form of email, private messages, direct messages, snail mail, UPS, text messages, and Native American smoke signals. I wish I could answer each message, but there are only so many hours in the day.

So I am going to answer a few questions that have been sent in by people who are kind enough to take the time and write.

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?

A: I like Major League Baseball. Also, beer.

Q: Choose one: Barbecue or fried chicken?

A: That’s not fair.

Q: When did you start writing?

A: When I was two. My mother taught me how to write my name. I drew a stick-figure horsey. But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Q: Sean, do you get some kind of satisfaction by putting yourself down? I’ve read your work for two years and I’m sorry, but you’re too @&$!ing self-critical. Come on man, grow a pair and quit criticizing yourself!

A: Thank you

for your criticism.

Q: Would it be possible to ever meet your dogs in person? I love dogs.

A: If my dogs would ever stop running at speeds upwards of 129 miles per hour then, theoretically, yes, it would be possible to meet them. One day, I hope to meet them myself.

Q: I detect a tone of melancholy in all your writing, especially when you refer to the childhood loss of your father, you talk about that a lot, will you ever move on from this subject?

A: I sincerely hope you never lose anyone to suicide. It is hard to forget.

Q: Are you a night person or a morning person?

A: I am writing this at 11:27 P.M.

Q: Sometimes you write about how you doubt your abilities as a writer, and whenever I read this I tell…

To tell you the truth, I have never had a big urge to travel overseas. I guess I should be embarrassed about that. After all, there’s so much to see.

BIRMINGHAM—I am eating hotel breakfast in the dining room. This past year, my wife and I have stayed in nearly sixty thousand hotels. That is only an estimate. And I rounded down.

I have become so accustomed to hotels that when I fall asleep in my own bed it feels weird. Sometimes, in the middle of the night I wake up expecting our bedroom to be laid out like a hotel room. You can imagine my surprise when I stumble over an eighty-pound bloodhound and nearly break my neck.

But I have grown to enjoy hotels. Some are WAY better than others. I have become a connoisseur of the conntinental breakfast, which is a French word for “cardboard-tasting eggs.”

This week I have been doing my one-man shows in different cities, and I have more engagements ahead of me this coming month. In fact, we are going to be in Pennsylvania, New York, and—I can hardly believe this—Canada.

Until this stage of life, I had never traveled anywhere. In fact, I have never done

anything worth scrapbooking.

I remember when my friends would return from their world adventures and show me pictures. I would get jealous. Having to look at someone else’s happy vacation pictures is a special kind of hell.

You have to pretend to be interested while they relive every painstaking moment of euphoria from their four-week trip to Spain.

“That’s me and Buffy!” the friend might say, “And here’s us doing cartwheels in Barcelona! And here we are jet-skiing with supermodels! And here’s Buffy and I bungee jumping over the La Sagrada Familia, and we were buck naked!”

And you just smile and nod.

Because I have no gauge for what world travel is like. Furthermore, I was raised fundamentalist and have therefore never been naked. My mother said I was born wearing corduroy pants and Hush Puppies.

To tell you the truth, I have never had…

BIRMINGHAM—I am doing a one-man show for an auditorium of Episcopalians. They are a fun crowd, not too rowdy, and gracious enough not to plug their ears when I play guitar.

A few people even call me “brother.” This must be an Episcopal thing because several others refer to me as brother. And as far as I know we are not kin.

Episcopalians are not people I grew up with. I wish I would have been that fortunate, but you can’t win them all. These are fun people. Happy people. Kind people. And above all—I truly mean this from the heart—they are filthy stinking rich.

No. I am only kidding. Episcopalians aren’t ALL rich. But let’s just say that I don’t see many Nissans in the parking lot.

Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Cahaba Heights is a beautiful board-and-batten bungalow-style building surrounded by towering oaks. It is an oasis within the bustle of Birmingham.

“We used to be a trailer church,” says Kathryn. “In the woods, that’s part of what makes this parish so special.”

One

thing about the Piskies, they have different names for everything. For example, when Kathryn says “parish” she means “church.”

From here on out, I will provide official Southern Baptist translations inside parentheses for my friends.

My wife once worked as a church administrator (receptionist) in an Episcopal church. After her first day of work she brought home a book entitled, “Episcopal Dictionary” so she could learn the clerical terminology (lingo).

I learned a lot from this book. I learned all about naves (sanctuaries), and narthexes (lobbies). Also, the person who sweeps the floors and picks gum from the undersides of pews is not the janitor. This person is called the “sexton.” I am not kidding. They are actually a sexton.

The jokes practically write themselves.

Some more lingo for you: Episcopalians use holy water (tap) from a font (bowl) when they baptize (flick water…

Right now, you feel this way because you probably remember all the crummy moments of life. The mistakes, the humiliation, the parts that sucked.

Hi, Robert. I wanted to write to you because your dad told me about the hard time you’re having after your recent break-up.

I would just like to say that I know how you feel. You feel like a loser. Like a joke. Like a Knucklehead McSpazatron. But it’s simply not true.

If you could see yourself from another perspective you might believe me. But you can’t see yourself from a distance. Nobody can. Just like you can’t touch the tip of your finger with the tip of the same finger. Just like pizza will never know what pizza tastes like.

I might be carrying those examples a little too far, but you get the idea.

Right now, you feel this way because you are probably remembering all the crummy moments of life. The mistakes, the humiliation, the parts that sucked.

The time you were passed over for the baseball game. When Lee Daniels skipped you and chose someone else for his team. And you just wanted to die.

The time a pretty young woman

from the uppity side of town made a remark about how you were plain-looking. Those were her actual words. It hurt worse than being called ugly.

There was the time you were hanging out with a bunch of friends, and someone convinced you that it was a brilliant idea to attempt a dance called “the Worm.” A dance which originated in ancient Rome, whose name literally means “I’ve had a few beers.”

You wish you could take that back.

Everyone has these kinds of experiences. Not just you. They replay in the brain like a song recorded on Memorex tape—I’m sorry if you’re too young to know what Memorex is. Google it.

Sometimes these old songs haunt us. Something will trigger your brain’s play-button and this little number replays in your head until the song is over. Whenever you close your eyes, there you are,…

This has been a big month for me. A lot has happened within the span of the last several days.

This morning, I went for a short walk with my dog. I don’t normally take morning walks because we live in West Florida. Here in this part of the world we have two seasons: Scorching Biblical Hell, and November.

Normally, if you were to go for a walk on a summer morning, you would dehydrate before you made it back home. They would find you lying in the dirt road, face down, with your last will and testament typed on your phone as a text message.

So it is officially autumn. The air is no longer quite so humid, it now has a little bite to it. I carry a mug of coffee in my hand while I wait for my dog to make pee-pee.

I wave to my neighbors who are sitting on porches. We have thirty-second conversations when I pass. Mostly about the weather.

A few kids are hiking to the bus stop, wearing backpacks that are bigger than General Electric washing machines. I give a few high-fives, which I

understand kids don’t do anymore.

When I was coming along, all we had were high-fives, low-fives, and hand-cranked Victrolas. We also had the the behind-the-back-five, but that was extremely rare and only reserved for winning baseball games, or immediately following successful pranks involving explosive fireworks.

It’s a different world nowadays. High-fives aren’t as popular as they used to be. Tyler, a kid who lives on my street informs me that high-fives are “lame.” Nobody does them, he says. Everyone does the “fist bump” instead. Which I recently learned how to do.

A fist bump goes like this: Two individuals punch each other on the fist.

Tyler explains that this bumping transaction is not finished until directly after the bump when you open your hand, palm down, fingers splayed, and you make an explosion noise with your mouth.

“This is the boom part,” Tyler points out. “Always make it…

My wife had to take anti-nausea medication on our cruise. It made her drowsy. All she did was sleep in the cabin while I explored the ship.

We are sitting on a porch overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay on the first day of autumn. It is one of those accidental porch-sitting sessions where everyone ends up on the porch, but nobody planned it.

I am in a rocking chair, feet up. My elderly mother-in-law (Mother Mary) sits beside me doing the same thing. My wife is sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Our eighty-pound bloodhound wanders in circles, looking for something to chew, bury, or pee on.

Nobody is talking in complete sentences because there’s no need for coherent thought right now. The rules of porch-sitting are loose.

“Lord,” says Mother Mary. “Look at all these mosquitoes.”

“Yeah,” says my wife.

Yeah.

Every porch conversation in West Florida starts out with mosquitoes. It’s our tradition. But once you’ve covered mosquitoes, you can talk about anything.

You can talk about the time when a mosquito flew into your uncle’s shorts and bit him in his unmentionables, so he slapped himself in a place where a man should never swat himself.

Or you can talk about the time Mother Mary got malaria from a mosquito bite and had a high fever, then started singing Broadway songs at the dinner table.

Or you can talk about—why not?—that time Johnny Cooper dared you to eat a live lizard tail when you were in third grade.

Which is what I start talking about.

“So did you?” Mother Mary interrupts. “Did you actually EAT a lizard tail?”

“No, but I pretended to.”

“How do you pretend to eat a lizard tail?”

“I had gummy worms in my pocket, so I slipped one into my mouth and let it dangle, and I pretended to gag.”

“Gummy worms? Did you always carry gummy worms in your pocket as a boy?”

“No ma’am, but God was on my side that day.”

My lizard-eating stunt went down in history. To this day, people still think I actually ate a…

On Friday nights I used to stay up late because a local channel played Sci-Fi movie reruns from the 1950s.

Nobody prepares you for the idea that you are not going to sleep all that well when you’re older, but eventually you find out it’s true. For years, elderly people tried to warn you that this would happen, and you never took them seriously.

After all, you were a young man. You had nothing to worry about. You slept so hard that all you ever wanted to do was sleep. Even when your mother came bursting into your room shouting, “I made spicy chicken casserole just the way you like it!”

And believe me, you would climb Mount Vesuvius for your mother’s spicy chicken casserole. Even so. You kept sleeping because you were a greasy little brat with a lightning fast metabolism and no joint pain.

When I was a young buck, I could sleep like nobody’s business. It was one of my many unusual talents—like swallowing my tongue, playing a Strauss waltz on my armpit, or commonly referring to myself as a “young buck.”

I stayed up as late as I

wanted, eating a steady diet of battery-acid-like food. And whenever I got pooped, I would just curl up and go to sleep somewhere, even if I happened to be in a place where it was kosher to sleep. Such as Jerry’s Cue Club Pool Hall.

The next morning, I’d wake up feeling refreshed and ready to eat more acidic food.

On Friday nights I used to stay up late because a local channel played Sci-Fi movie reruns from the 1950s. These were B-movies with leading male actors who used enough Brylcreem to mortar a two-story brick home. Their leading ladies were overly dramatic and often had unnaturally small waists that, anatomically speaking, looked like they didn’t contain a pancreas or spleen.

These movies were the highlight of the week. I would stay up all night watching films like:

“Them!” A 1954 black-and-white gem starring James Arness (Marshal Dillon…

Once upon a time, butter, eggs, and bacon were considered health food. Our grandparents’ generation believed them to be the Holy Breakfast Trinity.

Old-timers believed that farm eggs, pork bellies, and hand-churned butter were the keys to longevity and happiness. And I don’t mean this ironically. I mean that these men and women actually believed this. So did their medical professionals.

Long ago, I remember when my grandfather visited his longtime family doctor—a cross between Fred Mertz and Methuselah. The old doc would finish each exam by shining a light into my grandfather’s ear canal and saying, “Hey, I can see daylight on the other side.”

Then they would laugh, fire up a couple Lucky Strikes, and tell dirty jokes.

You had to love these men. They were from another generation. They worked hard, polished their car engines, wore extremely high-waisted pants, used Old Spice, and ate bacon.

As a younger man, my grandfather would visit the butcher on payday and buy a huge pork slab. Bacon was so vital back then that he

would buy it before he spent money on anything else important, such as the mortgage, or beer.

Keep in mind, this was before the days of standardized testing and cellphones. Back when kids were still walking to school, uphill, forty miles, both ways, crossing rivers full of alligators, and doing their homework on the backs of shovel blades with charcoal.

So just to briefly recap what our grandparents believed:

Bacon, butter, and eggs; good. Communism and rock ‘n’ roll; evil. High-waisted men’s pants; sexy.

But somewhere along the way, nutrition experts changed their tune. They started claiming that bacon, butter, egg yolks, and pretty much anything that tasted good would kill you. This was in every magazine, newspaper, and morning talk show.

Soon, food companies were manufacturing bland, fat-free products that weren’t fit for thinning paint.

We had fat-free American cheese slices that tasted like single-ply…