“I’m going to give you some friendly advice,” says Dan, in a letter he sent me.
“I’ve been reading your work,” he explains. “And I’m going to tell you the truth, precisely like I tell my students… Your writing comes across weak. One can never reside in the ranks of great columnists by writing only about happy subjects and biscuits.
“Complain, Sean! You must write persuasive copy about the things you dislike in this unfair world. Don’t be afraid to rant. That’s what I tell students. Trust me on this, I’ve been writing columns for twenty-one years.”
Dan—which is not his name—makes a point. And he knows more about writing than I do. Thus, I’ve decided to heed his counsel.
No more biscuits.
But before I start slinging complaints, I need to say a few important things.
Firstly: I love trees.
Bear with me, Dan. I know that was off-topic, but I CAN’T complain until I’ve at least mentioned how much I like trees.
You ought to see the live oaks in this part of the world. Then, you’d understand.
And: birds. I love bird-calls at six in the morning, when the world is waking.
That might seem bizarre. I don’t even chew, but I love spittoons almost as much as I love spitting. Daddy had an antique brass spittoon. It was just for show.
Also: I like runt puppies, ham hocks, tomatoes staked with twine, waking up to bacon, and Bernard P. Fife.
And skinks. Like the skink on the porch with me now. He’s blue and black. Fast. I think I’ll call him Edwin.
Edwin, because that was the name of my server at the Mexican restaurant last night. He was rude. He botched my order and forgot my beer. Worst service I’ve had in years. I SHOULD’VE complained.
Instead, I left old Ed a fat tip. I’m not wealthy, Dan, but I believe in tipping too much just for the hell of it.
I once played music in a beer joint outside Atlanta—a five-hour gig—and made zero tips. Zero. It humiliated me.
The manager told me, “This’ll be the last time we hire you, kid. Customers don’t dig you.”
After the bar closed, a waitress served me coffee for the ride home. She had old skin, and blue eyes—I don’t know why I remember that.
“Do you know ‘Danny’s Song?’” she asked.
I did. So, I played it.
“…Even though we ain’t got money,
“I’m so in love with ya honey…”
I don’t know if the hundred-dollar bill I found in my guitar case came from her, but I believe it did.
I’m sorry, Dan. I’m supposed to be complaining, like you teach your students. Who am I to disagree? I don’t claim to be a good writer. I’m just me.
Maybe you’re right. Ranting might be exactly what this world needs. But hell, when I start talking about trees, I get distracted. Trees do that to me.
So do biscuits.
Thanks for the letter.