Newnan, Georgia— The downtown is pretty enough to make a grown man cry. The old Alamo Theater building has been standing, since 1890.

The large neon sign glows red in the night, and the lettered marquee is perfect. In this theater, Chubby Checker himself once twisted the night away.

Some writers become inspired by Faulkner, Tolstoy, or Thoreau. Others draw inspiration from an old theater marquee.

My aunt went on her very first date at the Alamo. I understand the boy she was going with was Catholic. My aunt was raised Deepwater Baptist. This was a scandalous affair because Catholics are allowed to dance.

On North Court Square is a 20-foot-by-40-foot mural of Alan Jackson, Newnan’s native son. In the painting, Jackson sits atop a motorcycle, wearing a leather jacket and aviator sunglasses. He couldn’t get any cooler if he tried.

The newspaper in Newnan is also world class. Always has been. The Newnan Times-Herald, as I understand, is one of the few small-town papers still kicking tail and taking names after 150 years in the business.

You might not know this, but all I ever wanted to be was a small-town newspaper man. When I was a kid, my friends were dressing up as Army men, firemen, or doctors. Not me. I wore my father’s old fedora, with a slip of paper in the hat band reading: “PRESS.”

I wanted to cover earth-shattering local news items and write cutting-edge editorials like:

—The baby shower Miss Arnette threw for her daughter-in-law, Irma Ann, was an alleged success. One female visitor remarks: “I had a delicious time and appreciated myself.”

—The Little League game between Slocumb and Fadette on Friday went into extra innings. One man in the stands says, quote: “Fadette got smeared worse than spit on a windshield.”

—The Saturday chili-cornbread potluck social at the Presbyterian church was well attended. Miss Laura Jean Mae says she knows she will regret eating too many habanero peppers tomorrow morning.

I don’t know why, but there is something holy about news in a small town. All I ever wanted to be was a writer of these things.

I remember one day, my cousin and I talked about what we wanted to become when we were “all growed up.” I knew I wanted to write. My cousin said he wanted to either become an architect, or a professional women’s swimwear photographer.

We made a pact that we would one day become men who did exactly what our hearts told us to.

But, people get older, and their dreams sort of escape them. At least mine did.

One day, you wake up and realize you are a grown man and a blue-collar worker who is failing at everything. I tried several lines of work, but managed to succeed at little.

I attended community college, and busted tail for 11 years to maintain my steady grade point average of 2.3.

I once tried enrolling in a major university; they rejected me. I once attempted hanging out my shingle as a musician; I nearly starved to death. I worked a host of manual labor jobs; I hated them.

I laid tile and wood flooring, and on every jobsite, I would say to myself: “This is the last god-forsaken floor I will ever lay, one day I’m gonna write.” But I never seemed to get around to it.

Well, that was a long time ago. A lot has changed.

Last night, when I saw the glow of the Alamo Theater, I had to stop and take it in.

I thought about my aunt—who is still Baptist, and doesn’t even allow rubbing alcohol in the house. I looked at the glowing marquee and I felt good inside.

I’m older now, and somehow I’m not lost anymore. I have been writing this column for 5 years. I write you nearly every day, and this has compiled into roughly 1600 columns.

I am a painfully late bloomer, and I do not write great literature. I am the most average man you will ever meet, and I have a bad case of ear hair.

But sometimes, I am fortunate enough to cover baby showers, Little League games, and church potluck socials. And this has been the greatest thrill of my life.

I was interrupted beneath the glow of the theater sign. A woman and her daughter were walking the sidewalk. I could tell the woman recognized me, though I’ve never seen her before.

She stopped. She turned around.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Is your name Sean?”

You could’ve blown me to Vidalia with a hairdryer.

“Ma’am?” I said.

“I don’t wanna be weird,” she went on. “But are you Sean Dietrich, the writer?”

The writer. Me.

I hugged her. She hugged me. And that’s how a woman made a grown man cry on the streets of Newnan, Georgia.

55 comments

  1. Dru - March 9, 2019 6:41 am

    I have a feeling you’re related to me. Thousands have the same feeling. That’s why you are such a terrific writer. Rock on, Sean.

    Reply
  2. Nell Thomas - March 9, 2019 7:14 am

    I got you man. Know exactly where you are coming from. Just give me a pen and some paper, a few kitty cats and puppy dogs around- makes me the happiest person in the world. Very inexpensive past time until you go to the grocery and load it down with pet food and supplies , grab yourself a pack of hot dogs – but that’s ok- when you can return home and write about.
    The pet food isle is a great place to get a story. Everyone there has one and ready to tell it.
    Just recently been introduced to your post. Can’t wait for the little bell to ring alerting me that another story is coming through.

    Reply
    • Kayren Owens - March 9, 2019 4:16 pm

      Oh, the power of a dream fulfilled. Live your dreams, people. Yes, now!

      Reply
  3. Dolores S. Fort - March 9, 2019 7:23 am

    You are real, Sean! That’s what makes your writing so very special. I don’t want you to change a thing!

    Reply
  4. Karen - March 9, 2019 8:21 am

    You are Sean Dietrich. The writer. Live with it. ❤️

    Reply
    • Steve Winfield - March 10, 2019 10:55 pm

      Perfect!

      Reply
  5. Jean - March 9, 2019 11:00 am

    I would be honored and thrilled to meet you Sean!. Certainly nothing wrong with blooming when it’s your time. We love you!!

    Reply
    • Karen - March 9, 2019 4:34 pm

      Same here!

      Reply
  6. Karen Ranney Wolkins - March 9, 2019 11:16 am

    I lay here reading your column in the darkness of a Dalton Georgia hotel room…on our way to Florida to visit family. I wish I could run into you somewhere along this journey and give you yet another hug. I SO enjoy your work. Thank you for sharing your gift!

    Reply
  7. sparkerlpc - March 9, 2019 11:19 am

    You are Sean, the writer. Great literature is writing that has great meaning, and touches the readers’ minds and hearts. You qualify. Your writing qualifies. You might have been a late bloomer, but you are in full flower now. Bask. Create. Enjoy. Thank God for the priviledge. And keep right on going!

    Reply
  8. Cathi - March 9, 2019 11:50 am

    Thank heavens your late blooming flowered into the voice I read first thing every morning. This is a virtual hug from me to you!

    Reply
  9. chatfield84 - March 9, 2019 12:45 pm

    Seems to me that you bloomed at just the right time 🙂

    Reply
  10. Nona - March 9, 2019 12:47 pm

    You are not late . Gods timing is everything.
    May God gift you with words each day and May He bless each and every word. Proud of you .

    Reply
  11. Joyce Mullikin - March 9, 2019 1:06 pm

    Every morning you help make my day a little bit better. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  12. Jo Ann - March 9, 2019 1:24 pm

    You were meant to write your stories, Sean. We need them & appreciate them every day. Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Mitsy Wilbourne - March 9, 2019 1:43 pm

    Sean, you are a writer…one that people enjoy reading every day. As a teacher, I am constantly tell children you can, you are, and you’re special. How sad in the United States, we are constantly reassuring children because they feel so inadequate. Something is wrong with our education system. You are successful and you keep writing. It’s the first article I read each day.

    Reply
  14. Linnea Miles - March 9, 2019 1:50 pm

    Me too. Someday I will write more. I’m only 62 next week. I b’lieve Newnan also reared another famous son: the pappy of our beloved Lewis McDonald Grizzard, Jr. Lots of Lewis’ tales came from Newnan way. I named my dog after my 2 fave writers- C.S. Lewis Grizzard. Keep writing!

    Reply
  15. Joe Powell - March 9, 2019 1:57 pm

    Good BBQ joint in Newnan still serve “Gizzard special”, Lewis often write about Newnan as home.

    Reply
  16. Dianne - March 9, 2019 1:59 pm

    Your columns are more often than not the good way I get my day started. You are a breath of fresh air in the den of thieves and corruption our government has become. and of which we are reminded every hour of every day now. Your columns make me forget what has happened to our country. Would have loved for you to have driven about 20 minutes down the road from Newnan to my hometown of LaGrange, a truly beautiful small town with a wonderful/beautiful fountain on the square. Check it out if you’re that way again!

    Reply
  17. Peggy - March 9, 2019 2:00 pm

    I read The Other Side of the Bay and loved it! You are an excellent writer. Looking forward to reading Lyla next. Write more novels!

    Reply
  18. Bo Brown - March 9, 2019 2:02 pm

    Sean, you capture the essence of humanity and put them into words. You put the corn on the floor where a hog like me can get to it. Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Debbie Britt - March 9, 2019 2:05 pm

    See…. you made it!❤️

    Reply
  20. Robert Chiles - March 9, 2019 2:07 pm

    If you think you’ve got ear hair now, just wait till you’re in your 60’s. And your nose, too. Keep writing Mr. Writer!

    Reply
  21. Terri C Boykin - March 9, 2019 2:13 pm

    Get used to it Sean, it’s only just begun.
    Love you much!

    Reply
  22. drgalloway - March 9, 2019 2:17 pm

    My parents relocated to Newnan after my dad’s retirement from Delta. I fell in love with downtown Newnan when I visitied…..something I wish I had had in East Point.
    I was the sports editor for the Suburban Reporter in the Tri Cities area, while I was in college at Emory. Loved writing and being on the inside of sports but had no clue that ESPN was on the horizon. I became lost in academia and in finding my circuitous way to God. Having read your blog, I launched my own a few months ago. it is called South of God. Check it out at http://www.southofgod.com . I am hoping to move it onto a podcast as well as i was a live radio host years ago in Texas. playing some eclectic Texas tunes. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply
  23. Shelton A. - March 9, 2019 2:21 pm

    You’ve made us all laugh and cry. You are a gifted writer in the way Lewis Grizzard was: you make us see the truths behind ordinary people…the truth that they are heroic, generous, and angelic. You show us we all have the capacity to be ‘that person/people’ you are writing about. That’s pretty special.

    Reply
  24. Connie Havard Ryland - March 9, 2019 2:25 pm

    You ARE a writer. You make me laugh and cry and think. That’s what good writers do. I imagine more people read your column than read books. I call that success. And, as a person who has listened to you in person a couple times, you give great hugs too. Keep on keeping on. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  25. Donald Watts - March 9, 2019 2:33 pm

    Sean,
    Enjoy your daily column because it is relatable in so many ways. I grew up in middle Tennessee and your story about visiting Monteagle and your adventures with the wine and iron skillet shopping has been repeated some time back by me and my wife. I believe the store in called Olivers.
    Now that I reside in Georgia, your column today about Newnan was another memorable trip for me. It’s so typical of the “good ole southern town.” Hope you had a chance to grab a piece of pie or a meat-and-three at Goldens–I’m sure you know the place.
    Keep it coming, wish I could write like you.
    Don

    Reply
  26. Darlene - March 9, 2019 2:44 pm

    Dear Sean, your daily bloo is like a breath of fresh air. It reminds me to slow down again. I go to Newnan every three weeks to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. It’s a great little town that I’ve become quite familiar with over the past four years. Thank you for writing about it.

    Reply
  27. Patricia Gibson - March 9, 2019 2:58 pm

    Love that theater and Newnan! I live in Peachtree City. Wish I had known you were there. Would love to meet you!

    Reply
  28. Linda Moon - March 9, 2019 3:33 pm

    Awwww……we’re so just proud of you, Writer.

    Reply
  29. Anne Trawick - March 9, 2019 4:17 pm

    Sean Dietrich, and the writer. Star of stage and page. You weave your tales about the struggling and lift us all up. Personally, I’d say that makes you a literary giant. No pun intended.

    Reply
  30. Donald L. Egan - March 9, 2019 4:35 pm

    Yer a goodun Seanboy …..

    Reply
  31. Jack Darnell - March 9, 2019 4:43 pm

    Good one my friend. I am trying to get thew address of the Belmont Banner to forward this to them. Our local paper back in NC.
    Good read. Yep the Movie marque signs did jump out at you.
    From Florida,
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  32. Christopher Spencer - March 9, 2019 4:53 pm

    Newnan was the nearest ” big city” to where the late, great Lewis Grizzard grew up in Moreland, but I’m sure you know that. I heard his museum had closed and I hate to hear that as I planned to visit it one day.

    Reply
  33. Judy - March 9, 2019 5:12 pm

    Sean Dietrich, Writer. Sounds good, doesn’t it?! Thank you for the sharing the joy each morning!

    Reply
  34. Jones - March 9, 2019 5:12 pm

    Yes!!!⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Reply
  35. Jane Wolf - March 9, 2019 5:27 pm

    The great Lewis Grizzard was from Newnan. I had never heard of Newnan until I read his books. He was a remarkable humorist and could write about pretty much anything and make you laugh. You remind me of him.

    Reply
  36. Pat - March 9, 2019 5:35 pm

    Loved the last paragraph!

    Reply
  37. Joretta Parker - March 9, 2019 6:06 pm

    Aww Sean this was so sweet it brought tears to my eyes when she hugged you! You have a wonderful gift.

    Reply
  38. Edna B. - March 9, 2019 6:24 pm

    These good folks are right, Sean. You are a writer! A very gifted writer, and I enjoy starting my days with your stories. You have a wonderful day, Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  39. Lana Jones Barbaree - March 9, 2019 7:06 pm

    I am so glad you share your thoughts with us. I usually start and end my day reading you.

    Reply
  40. throughmyeyesusa - March 10, 2019 1:30 am

    Sean,

    We are not distinguished by who we once were, or once had to do, or even how we struggled to get where we are today.
    We are identified by what we ultimately accomplish, who we become, and what we give back to the world.

    ‘It’s not what you gather but what you scatter that determines what kind of life you have led’.

    You may have “gathered” up years of tragedy, need, manual labor and low self esteem, Sean, but look what you have built of it all!
    And just look at what you are “scattering” in the world today through your writing and the person you are.
    You only need read the accolades above, today and every day, to know how many blessings you scatter every time you pick up your pen, or tap at your computer, and WRITE! Your gift feeds souls. Thank you.

    Reply
  41. Dorothy Smith - March 10, 2019 1:33 am

    I loved reading this! I adore Newnan and hope to live there someday soon. God bless you for doing all you needed to do to get to where you are today.

    Reply
  42. Angela Lane - March 10, 2019 1:44 am

    You should come to Vidalia! I think you would love it! 😊

    Reply
  43. Gayle M. Bailey - March 10, 2019 2:03 am

    It’s a good thing I read the other comments before I said something about you reminding me of Lewis Grizzard. I guess I’m not the only one who notices the resemblance. Truth is, you remind me so much of him that I almost don’t miss him any more.(That is meant as a compliment, in case it doesn’t come across that way.). Another compliment: you’re the second author I’ve ever written to in my l-o-n-g life. The first was Lewis Grizzard. I love your quiet, happy reminders of life as it is. Thank you for drowning out all of the negativity around us for a little while.

    As everyone else has reminded you–you ARE an author. A good one!

    Reply
  44. Ann Marie Bouchet - March 10, 2019 2:13 am

    Whether you believe it or not, you are a GREAT writer…..you touch our hearts with every column. Thanks for not giving up on that dream

    Reply
  45. Kathie Kerr - March 10, 2019 4:43 am

    I really miss the stories you do on other people.

    Reply
  46. Charaleen Wright - March 10, 2019 4:55 am

    Reply
  47. Estelle Sexton Davis - March 10, 2019 5:30 am

    My mother and father bought a small town newspaper in 1940. It had a big 4 pages. By the time they retired It had grown to 20+ pages. It had a column called personals. In it was Jo and George visited their children in Nashville Tennessee. While there they went to the Parthenon and picnicked in the park. And they got to go to the Grand Ole Opry. Roy Acuff was there that nite. A good time was had by all. Of course the also ran engagement pictures, then the wedding pictures. This was done for free. Obituaries were also free. People had been our subscribers for over 30 years. Papers sold for 5 cents st the beginning. By the end it was up to 25 cents.
    My sister and I carried a few papers to the post office for 2 cents a load. The were small bundles going to far away places like Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and etc. we were about 5 years old. It taught us you had to work to get the money to by a 5 cent ice cream. It was a wonderful time.
    I’m glad you have a column & blog to write. You do a wonderful job. You bring a lot of memories back to us. You are a GOOD writer and you have lots of readers. I love your words.

    Reply
  48. Doyt Richardson - March 12, 2019 12:40 pm

    Newnan, Moreland and Lewis. Golf on, Sean.

    Reply
  49. Kay Alina - March 14, 2019 4:33 pm

    Sean Dietrich, you are one of the finest writers I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I started reading before Kindergarten because my mom told me it was a rule to go to school. Thank goodness for Dr. Suess. My mom was quite confused about the rules, her being drunk most of the time, but the skill opened doors I desperately needed to escape into so I’m grateful for that mistake. I’ve read comics, cereal boxes, and Homer’s The Odyssey along with thousands of other things in my 59 years on this wonderful planet. You’re a gifted and talented writer. During the last few weeks of being introduced to your work, I now want to move to the south. You have and will continue to make my life a better place and I thank God you were born and I have been blessed to find you. Thank you for being you.

    Reply
  50. Gale Smith - April 6, 2019 7:11 am

    You are the real deal, Sean….a very good writer.

    Reply
  51. Alice Grimes - April 6, 2019 9:59 pm

    Now uou’ve gone and made this old woman cry!

    Reply
  52. Allen Berry - April 18, 2019 6:31 pm

    Dear Sean,

    Don’t worry about not writing literature. Nobody is. Literature is writing plus time. What is literature today was popular fiction when it was written or even unpopular fiction. In time I suspect that your work will enjoy shelf space with Faulkner, Lee, and dear old Miss Eudora. Larry Brown is heading that way if there’s any justice, and if there’s any justice you are too. Just give it time… although, with lit, you might not be around to enjoy it.

    But hey, writing is just words that stay. That’s what it’s all about.

    Best regards,

    Ph.Dude

    Reply

Leave a Reply