I love fat babies. They do something to me. They make me feel like the world is warm and squishy. When I hold my niece, Lucy, I feel nothing but squish.

CRACKER BARREL—I am eating breakfast with a cute date. My date is a baby. A fat baby. She is my niece, Lucy.

I love fat babies. They do something to me. They make me feel like the world is warm and squishy. When I hold Lucy, I feel nothing but squish.

It’s as though the entire world is one big wonderful bouncy castle with all the cynical people standing outside, and all the happy people jumping inside, playing tag, laughing, and eating popsicles.

Maybe it’s Lucy’s fat little thighs. You should see them. They are Virginia hams. I could just eat her. And her cheeks. They are big and round, and when you kiss them you taste baby.

Babies have a taste and smell. Their skin is so new that it gives off a fresh scent. It’s the same idea as new vehicles with new-car smell.

This year, my wife and I bought a van that we use for traveling to my speaking engagements. It’s not a new van, mind you. In fact

it’s not even a pretty van. It looks like the kind of utility van that LabCorp medical professionals drive when collecting urine samples from reputable places of business.

But it is the newest car I have ever had, and it still has new-car smell. Sometimes I just sit in our van and breathe in and out until I get a headache.

Still, new-car smell is not half as nice as new-baby smell. Babies smell like flowers, and lavender, and cheese grits, and cookies, and biscuits.

Here in Cracker Barrel, I am watching Lucy demolish a biscuit with her bare hands. She is wearing a pink ribbon around her head and a floral-print onesie. She is a non-stop eating machine.

All she does is eat. She finishes the biscuit, then starts eating strawberries, yogurt, four strips of bacon, eight sausage links, a supreme pizza with Canadian bacon and…

We are having an Andy Griffith Show marathon. We start with the first season, episode one: Aunt Bea comes to town.

Early evening. My mother-in-law (Mother Mary) and I are watching the Andy Griffith Show. We are whistling along with the opening theme song.

Mother Mary is wearing hearing aids. The television volume is turned up as high as it will go, blaring so loud that pieces of the popcorn ceiling are falling into my beer.

We are having an Andy Griffith Show marathon. We start with the first season, episode one.

The plot is simple: Aunt Bea comes to town. Opie doesn’t like her. In the final scenes, everyone hugs. The end. Roll the credits.

Mother Mary says, “TURN IT UP!”

“But Mother Mary,” I say, “the television is all the way up.”

“HUH?”

“I SAID THE TV’S TURNED UP!”

“NO! NO! TAX DAY ISN’T UNTIL MARCH FIFTEENTH!”

“TAX DAY?”

“HUH?”

“MOTHER MARY! TAX DAY IS IN APRIL!”

“WHAT?”

“I SAID, TAX DAY’S IN APRIL!”

“WHY SHOULD I GIVE A RIP WHICH MONTH TAX DAY IS?”

So we watch TV together. And even though we’ve both seen this episode a hundred times, we still laugh at the jokes and whistle with the credits.

Episode one ends. Cue episode two: Andy and Barney catch an escaped

convict.

“TURN IT UP!” says Mother Mary.

“I CAN’T!”

“HUH?”

“I SAID, I CAN’T!”

“WHO DID?”

“WHO DID WHAT?”

“GREG!”

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!”

“HUH?”

They can hear our television blaring from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Whenever Barney Fife speaks, the sound of his voice shatters our windows and cracks one of my fillings.

Even so, this is the best show on the planet. I have loved it for my whole life.

As a boy, my friends always wanted to play “Army,” or “Cowboys,” or if we were in Marvin Kowalski’s basement, “Weatherman.” But I usually voted for playing “Andy Griffith.”

I had the clothes for it, too. My mother bought several khaki-colored safari shirts from the thrift store. If you…

I am not old, but I am old enough to remember a time when music was melodies presented in AABA song form. Back before the internet. Back when we still had ABC Sunday Night Movies, and newspapers were everything.

Dust off your turntable. Play a few forty-fives and LPs. Pour yourself three-fingers of Ovaltine and relax. Today is National Vinyl Record Day.

Now, I know what you’re thinking because I was thinking the same thing. You didn’t know there was such a holiday. Well, there is. And it’s today.

This morning, my friend told me about this holiday. I got pretty excited because (a) I have not listened to my vinyl records in a long time, and (b) I couldn’t think of squat to write about this morning.

The thing is, I am like most modern Americans. Usually, I listen to music on my phone, which has terrible sound quality.

Ray Charles, for instance, singing over a crummy cellphone speaker is not nearly the same experience as listening to him sing over a crummy record-player speaker.

So I went to the attic, found my heavy boxes of LPs, and hauled them into the living room. I dropped them on the table, smiled at my wife, then announced in a nostalgic voice, “I think I pulled my groin.”

Whereupon

I collapsed onto the sofa and screamed for fifteen minutes. I really tweaked it good, too. I now walk like John Wayne after his yearly colon exam.

But I have my father’s records to keep me company. My mother’s, too. Most of these albums have been with the family since my childhood. Such as:

—“Hank Williams Sings”

—“Walt Disney’s Country Bear Jamboree”

— “Four Tops Live”

—“Beach Blanket Bingo” (Frankie and Annette go skydiving!)

— “Love is the Thing” by Nat King Cole

—“The Music Man” (1957 Original Broadway Cast)

— “Willie Nelson and Family”

— “Songs, Themes, and Laughs from the Andy Griffith Show”

—“Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” by Ray Charles

I am listening to albums on an Amplitone suitcase turntable with a brand new needle. They take me back in time. These songs resurrect people I…

You haven't lived until you’ve tried Zipper peas with ham hocks and bacon grease.

The middle of the night. I cannot sleep. I am lying awake, staring at my ceiling.

My wife is not snoring. It’s important that you understand this because women do not like to be told that they snore. It makes them very angry, and they will inflict physical pain upon those who accuse them of this vulgar thing. Which I am not doing. Nor would I ever do.

As a boy, whenever I couldn’t sleep I would think about food. Some kids counted sheep, some added prime numbers, or recited their ABCs. I counted casseroles.

Before drifting off, I would visualize a grassy meadow filled with little church ladies, all carrying casserole dishes, taking turns leaping over livestock fences while the sheep watched them at a distance. And I would count.

“One casserole, two casserole…” And so on.

If that didn’t work, I would move on to counting pound cakes. When pound cakes didn’t work, I would count field peas.

Which is the point I am at

now.

I should probably stop here for anyone who doesn’t know about field peas. I meet a lot of people who hear “field peas” and think of English peas. Which are green pellets often served in sketchy buffet-style restaurants with glass sneeze-guards that do not protect anything from small children who are literally at nostril-level with the mashed potatoes.

Field peas are different. There are billions of varieties of field peas. I’ll name a few:

Crowder peas, Purple Hulls, Big Red Rippers, Whippoorwills, Stick Ups, Turkey Craws, Mama Slappers, Old Timers, Cow peas, Mississippi Silvers, Shanty peas, Iron Clays, Wash Days, Triple Ds, Sermonizers, Butt Kickers, Polecats, Pinkeyes, and Zipper peas.

You haven't lived until you’ve tried Zipper peas with ham hocks and bacon grease.

Years ago, I visited a no-name cafe outside Atlanta. The menu featured only one meal. It was written on…

Yesterday, I was walking through a parking lot at Target when a Ford Explorer nearly backed over an elderly woman. The Explorer didn’t even stop. The driver was looking at his phone.

Today, I almost got killed by a teenager driving a Range Rover. He might have been seventeen. Maybe not even that old. He wore a ballcap. Sideways. Music was blaring.

I was walking my dog when he swerved toward me. I heard tires screech. I leapt out of the way, hit the dirt, and rolled. It was so much fun. I wish I could do it all over again.

I caught a glimpse of the driver through his passenger window. His head was down, looking at something in his hands. I’m guessing he was either reading a receipt, a check from Publishers Clearing House, the results from a paternity test, or looking at a cellphone.

Though, something about the way he was swerving tells me that he was sending a text message. In fact, I am almost certain of this because of the exact way his tires leapt from the pavement.

He was probably sending a very important text message such as: “LOL!” or “ROFL!” Or

quite possibly—this would be just my luck—the pile-of-poop emoji.

Wouldn’t that be a classy way for an average guy like me to die? There I am, out for a walk, a middle-aged man, minding his business, his best years ahead of him, devilishly handsome, when all of a sudden (BAM!) I’m Jello salad on the highway.

All because a teenager was trying to send his buddy the universal emoji for colon health.

When I finally got back home, I was so rattled that I was shaking. So naturally, the first thing I did was hop on the internet and Google how much a Range Rover costs. Here is what I found:

$90,000.00.

That’s U.S. dollars. Not dineros, Euros, Canadian dollars, Franks, Monopoly money, or whatever else there is.

So let’s review:

1. I almost died.
2. Certain SUVs cost more than two-bedroom condos with…

You are reading my 1672nd column. That is, unless you quit reading right here and don’t get to the end. In which case, I’ll save you some time and give you the final sentence right now:

“Strawberries and empty bladders.”

You probably wonder how I’m going to work a ridiculous phrase like that into a column. Well, it looks like you’ll never know, will you? Because you’re in such a hurry, Mister Big Shot.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure if this day would ever come. Throughout the lifetime of this blog-column thingy, there were many moments when I wasn’t even sure I would survive the night.

Mainly, I am talking about hurricanes.

I live in Northwest Florida, where the Panhandle rubs Alabama’s underbelly. We get hurricanes upwards of four hundred times per year. Some of these storms are catastrophic (Opal, Ivan, and Michael). Some aren’t bad at all.

So you never know with hurricanes, that’s the scary thing about them. They can either kill you, or

they can cause mass confusion at Walmart while people stock up on milk and bread.

I don’t know why milk and bread are so important during deadly weather, but people go NUTS about it.

You cannot visit a store without seeing crazed citizens running around Piggly Wiggly pushing carts that are filled with stolen Colonial bread and 2% milk jugs. These people are often screaming passages from the book of Revelation aloud, and their children have Kool-Aid mustaches.

The reason I tell you about hurricanes is because I have done a lot of writing during actual hurricanes.

One time I wrote you during Hurricane Irma. I was in my garage with my wife and mother-in-law. We were all wearing bicycle helmets—my wife insists on wearing hurricane helmets.

At the time, my mother-in-law was asleep in the cot next to me with her…

The answer is, nothing. Nothing makes me special. But she certainly makes me feel that way.

We are driving to a restaurant. I am dressed up. She is dressed up. We are not talking, just driving. The radio is playing Don Williams’ song, “Amanda.”

“...Amanda, light of my life,
“Fate should have made you,
“A gentleman’s wife...”

Soon, we are in a swanky restaurant. All the servers wear black. The appetizers come on square plates, doused with sauces that have fancy names that I can’t pronounce. Everything here costs more than a summer cottage in Maui.

Napkins are spread upon our laps. My wife and I are not talking because we are nosy. At the table next to ours is an elderly man with a woman who looks about twenty-one.

The man kisses her. She giggles. When the old man’s waiter arrives, the man orders aged Scotch. His date orders expensive merlot.

Our waitress arrives. My wife orders sushi for an appetizer. I’m still looking.

When the sushi comes, it looks frightening. The lime green stuff that comes with it looks

like guacamole, but it is actually nuclear horseradish that will disfigure your sinuses for life.

My wife loves sushi because she is more cultured than I am. She has been to foreign countries, she knows the difference between good wine and Boone’s Farm, and she is sharp enough to win Wheel of Fortune.

Somehow, she married a guy who has never been anywhere or done anything. A kid who was once at a famous bar in New Orleans with his buddy, where the bartender offered him a free glass of thirty-seven-year-old Scotch. And this kid—who has always been a few clowns short of a circus—refused the Scotch and ordered Coors instead.

I’ll never forget it when my buddy said, “What were you thinking, you big hick? That Scotch probably costs two hundred bucks per glass.”

My only defense was that I was a fool. And God…

I’m on the phone. I’ve been on hold all morning since my blog’s website quit working. I called customer service. Ever since then, I’ve been listening to hold music, “The Piña Colada Song” by Rupert Holmes. I do not like this song.

I am desperately waiting for the sound of a human voice so I can finally...

—MUSIC STOPS—

RECORDED VOICE: Thank you. Your call is important to us, please continue to hold while you wait for a representative. Your approximate wait time is: Six hundred minutes.

—“THE PIÑA COLADA SONG,” RUPERT HOLMES—

TECH SUPPORT: Hi, thanks for calling your web service provider, this is Bill, what seems to be the problem?

ME: My website is not working.

TECH: Who am I speaking with, please?

ME: My name is Sean. My website is broken.

TECH: Okay, thanks, Wayne. And what seems to be the problem today?

ME: My website went down, I can’t access it, it’s a blank page.

TECH: Excellent. First I’m gonna need to verify your Social Security number, your zip-code, and I’ll need a quick blood sample, please. And who am I speaking

with, please?

ME: I just told you.

TECH: Fantastic. And why don’t you tell me what your reason for calling is.

ME: I told you three times.

TECH: Super. My professional advice is, if you wanna take care of this issue, you ought to buy the Silver Package. That’ll clear this whole mess up.

ME: Fine, let’s do it.

TECH: Hold please.

—“HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE,” BEE GEES—

TECH: Hi, sorry about the wait, Phillip, I had to use the little boys room. Now, what seems to be the problem today?

ME: My name’s not Phillip, it’s Sean. I already told you the problem.

TECH: Hold please.

—“LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER,” CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE—

TECH: Okay, thank you for your continued patience, Sigmund, we’re hard at…

Today is John’s first day of school. His mother, Tanya, is saying goodbye to him. She kisses him. She straightens his collar and fixes his hair. She sends him off to join his kindergarten classmates.

Soon, several five-year-olds are walking into the building, all wearing large backpacks. Tanya waves again.

“I love you!” she shouts from the parking lot.

“Love you, mom!” he yells.

“So much!”

“I know, Mom!”

John’s book bag looks heavier than he is. His mother waves again and again. More I-love-yous, more blowing kisses.

Tanya says, “Lord, I never knew it would be this hard.”

She admits that she doesn’t don’t know exactly how to feel right now. Of course she feels proud, but also a little sick to her stomach.

“For five years,” she says, “I taught him to talk, eat, how to say yes ma’am, everything. It’s always been him and me. But now…” She wipes the corner of her eye. “Now he’s in there, and I’m out here.”

There are lots of parents out

here. Each parent watches his or her child join the herd of lost puppies who do not understand the concept of a single-file line.

On the sidewalk, kids await their teacher who will take them to a classroom.

Tanya’s friend, Kimberly is also saying goodbye to her son, Townes.

Kimberly says, “This is a happy day, don’t get me wrong, but it’s bittersweet, you know?”

John and Townes are with their peers. Laughing. Horsing around. Today is the first day of the rest of their lives.

Their two mothers couldn’t be prouder if this were a Lee Greenwood hit song.

As it happens, I remember my first day of kindergarten. In fact, I remember it with startling clarity. Which is bizarre because I don’t have a good memory.

My memory has gotten worse with age. There…

This is only my second time in Kentucky. And in the last few days we have driven through the entire state.

AUBURN, KY—We are staying at the Federal Grove Bed and Breakfast in Central Kentucky. It’s an all-brick colonial house with tall columns.

It looks like the sort of estate that might have a fancy historic name like Funicello, or Vermicelli, or something like that.

The trees are fat. The hills are gentle. The rolling farmland goes on forever. This land used to belong to Jonathan Clark, older brother of William Clark—as in Lewis and Clark.

At breakfast this morning, I kept expecting to run into Abraham Lincoln, or George Washington, or at the very least, Wynona Judd.

This is only my second time in Kentucky. And in the last few days we have driven through the entire state.

Yesterday was an important day, sightseeing-wise. My wife and I are students of early American history. So we made a special point to visit an important landmark which played a pivotal role in our nation’s freedom; the first Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In downtown Corbin, the unassuming eatery still has a sign reading: “Sander’s Cafe.”

The tiny KFC museum is attached to a fully operational fast-food restaurant. A statue of Colonel Sanders sits in the lobby. I had my picture made with the Colonel.

In the dining room, I met an elderly couple who lives nearby. The old woman wore a tank top and used a walking stick. Her husband wore plaid.

“I met the Colonel once,” said the woman. “Lotta people in Corbin met him. He was the most famous Kentuck’n there was.”

“He made good chicken,” said her husband.

“He made REALLY good chicken,” the old woman said.

“That’s what I just said, Dora.”

“I know, but I was saying it again, for the article guy.”

“The article guy don’t need to hear it twice.”

Later that day, Article Guy and his wife visited Richmond, a college town. The enormous courthouse has columns as…