I receive a lot of questions in the form of emails, letters, and private messages. I wish I could answer them all, but it would be impossible. Not unless I hooked myself up to the internet intravenously. So today, I’d like to take the time to answer a few questions in the Q-and-A format. I’ll quit wasting time:
Q: You say “I love you” a lot in your blogs. That’s kind of creepy, you don’t even know me, and it’s such an overused phrase. I mean, come on, why do you use it so much?
Q: How are your dogs doing during this quarantine? I worry about them.
A: Well, actually they’re great. My wife and I usually spend the majority of our year on the road, so that means their Aunt Michelle lives with them while we gallivant around the U.S. doing whatever it is that we do. Before the quarantine, for instance, we had been on the road for almost a month.
So this is heaven for the dogs. They get to see us all day every day. We even bathe together. They get to sleep in our bed. I get to sleep on the sofa.
Q: How did you start writing?
A: It’s sort of a double answer. When I was a kid I always wrote stuff. When I got older, I tried to do something with my work, but nobody wanted to publish a construction-working bar musician, and I couldn’t blame them. So I started a blog/online column/whatever-you-call-this. And my life was never the same.
Q: What’s your sign?
A: Thanks, but I’m already in a committed relationship.
Q: I once saw you playing music at a place in Destin, Florida, many years ago. You were playing accordion. Was that really you?
A: Who wants to know?
Q: Quit fooling, I mean for real.
A: I play piano, guitar, and accordion. I am mediocre at all three. I have played with various bands all my life who have all eventually decided that I was “not a good fit.” I am best at piano. When you play piano, you feel like Ray Charles. When you play accordion for the Snowbirds Annual Dance at the Holiday Inn for a hundred men who all look like your dad’s insurance guy, you feel like a Grade-A dork.
Q: I’ve never actually seen anyone play the accordion before.
A: You are a Millenial.
Q: I sent you a message awhile back and you never got back to me.
A: I am sorry. Really, I am. When I started this writing thing, I had no idea I would get so many messages, emails, and actual letters from so many great people. Some of the letters I receive move me to tears. One of the great disappointments of my life is not being able to answer every message.
Someone once suggested sending generic emails to people who write me, letting them know that I saw their letter and actually read it. My thoughts on this are: Gag a maggot.
I’m not going to cheapen someone’s heartfelt words by answering with an impersonal form-letter. What I will say is this: God bless anyone who has taken the time to write to me. My wife and I read every letter. And sometimes this takes us all day.
Q: All day? Really?
Q: I like your wife.
A: She’s pretty cool.
Q: Why do you cut yourself down so much? In your writings you’re so hard on yourself.
A: Two reasons. One, it can be funny. I’ve always appreciated guys who don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s humorous. For example, if I were to crack a joke about a chicken crossing the road, you’d think: “The old chicken joke again? This guy sucks.” But if I crack a joke about playing the accordion at a Holiday Inn for geezers in jogging suits, you think, “Hey! Nevermind, this guy REALLY sucks.”
What was I talking about again?
Ah, yes. The second reason I’m hard on myself is because I did not grow up with much confidence. You cannot simply change your stripes when you’re older. I will forever be a chubby little redhead trapped in a painfully average middle-aged man’s body. I’m so flawed it hurts.
Q: See, there you go again.
Q: Is that accordion story true, about the Holiday Inn?
A: Yes. I was the youngest guy in the band. At the time, there were only two accordion players in this part of Florida, and one was dead from old age.
Q: Was it fun?
A: Dying from old age? I don’t know. You’d have to ask him.
Q: Being in that band.
A: Sort of. One old man from Milwaukee asked me to play a tango, I couldn’t understand his funny accent, so instead we played “Freebird.”
Q: Are you scared during this quarantine?
A: I’ll be perfectly honest. I am not scared. Not because I am strong, not because I am too stupid to be afraid—though I might be. I am not scared because I truly believe that, in spite of the hell we’re going through, people are becoming better versions of themselves. And it’s happening all around us.
When I go on walks, I see families sitting on porches, riding bikes, I smell barbecue grills everywhere. Today, I saw a mother, father, and three kids playing hopscotch. I hear distant musicians playing music in their open garages. It’s as though the world has become a different place to live.
Certainly, something very bad is going on in the world right now. People are suffering. However, I don’t want to overlook what else is happening, either. Something magnificent is going on, and we’ll never be the same after this. Thank you for your letters. I really do read every single one.
I love you.