It was a weekend. A lot of people were there. And by “a lot,” I mean folks were standing two or three deep.

It’s one of the most popular sites in D.C. Maybe the hottest spot in the whole town period. The tourist magazines don’t tell you this, but it’s true.

You can keep your trolley tours. Each year, about 5 million people visit 5 Henry Bacon Drive NW to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Otherwise known as The Wall.

They come in throngs. You see all kinds. Average suburban Midwesterners, Northern tourists and people with Florida tags, all doing vicious battle over precious parking spots.

People crawl out of trucks, SUVs, and rust-covered economy cars. Old men in battleship hats. Harley guys with military patches. School buses full of kids.

The first thing you’ll be greeted with are signs telling you to download the Wall tour mobile app. Which you’ll want to do. Because, chances are, if you’re here, you’re looking for a name on this Wall.

Last time I visited was six months ago. I was

in town for work. I toured in relative silence, reading the names of the fallen.

There, I met a guy who was praying at the wall. He was tall. Skin like mocha. Wearing a white clergyman’s collar. He was crossing himself.

Catholic, I was guessing. Maybe Episcopalian?

He was placing little pink flowers against the wall.

“Lot of people forget about the chaplains in the Vietnam War,” he said. “I come here to honor the chaplains. There are 58,000 engraved names on this wall. Sixteen are chaplains.”

He crossed himself then used his phone to locate the next name.

Meir Engel was the name. A Jewish chaplain who died at age 50.

“He must’ve been like a grandpa over there,” said my new friend, searching for the name. “Fifty years old, dealing with teenage soldiers. They were babies.”

The youngest serviceman to…

There is a Superman statue on my desk. I’ve had it for years. It always sits beside my computer, staring at me intently as I write mediocre columns.

The statue is 14 inches tall and expertly painted. Superman’s abs look like a No. 9 washboard. He has arms bigger than my thighs. Supes is striking a mighty-man pose. Fists clenched. Stern expression on his face. Eyes like narrow slits. “I got this,” Superman is saying.

I’ve had this statue since I was 11 years old. I look at it every single day of my life.

At age 11, my father was freshly dead from suicide. I was a wayward kid.

One afternoon, I went to the mall with my mother to buy school clothes. And I really hated buying clothes because I was a fat kid.

For many years I have called my childhood self “chubby” because this sounds so much better than “fat.” But the doctor actually called me fat when I went in for my physical.

The doc said, “For

heavensake, this boy is fat.” Then he paused, and lit another unfiltered Camel.

So anyway, one day my mother and I were going to the Sears to buy specially designed fat-kid pants for an 11-year-old chub. Sears was the only place you could buy such special jeans.

These uniquely tailored trousers were called “Husky” pants. And these pants are responsible for most male psychological problems in this country.

On the way into Sears that day, my mother told me to wait on a bench while she went to get high on scented Yankee candles. And I spotted a comic book store.

I wandered into the store. And that’s where I found this Superman statue. I stood before the figurine, staring at it, caught in a kind of transfixed wonder.

Superman. He was unbreakable. Unstoppable. Unbendable. And all the other un-words you can think of. Everything I wanted to…

“I started choking,” said Jennifer Yakubesan.

It was a typical evening. The family was eating supper before church, somewhere in the wilds of Macomb County, Michigan. It was spaghetti. The flagship food of functional, happy families everywhere.

“I couldn’t get it up…” says Jennifer. “I looked at my husband and my son, and I started to make this kind of patting on my chest.”

Enter Andrew. Thirteen years old. Tall. Baby face. Looks like a nice kid. A Boy Scout.

Jennifer was about to lose consciousness when she felt her son’s arms wrap around her. He wedged his fist below her sternum. He began squeezing.

The Heimlich maneuver is not simple. It requires strength. Place one clenched fist above navel. Grasp fist with other hand. Pull fist backward and upward, sharply. If this doesn’t work, go for chest compressions. If this doesn’t work, slap victim between shoulder blades.

If this doesn’t work, begin praying the Rosary.

The Heimlich didn’t work. So Andrew slapped his mother’s back. It was a hail Mary pass, but it saved her.

“I think someone was with

me there,” said Andrew. “I don’t know if it was God—or something.”

Andrew was given the National Merit Award by the Boy Scouts.

Meantime, approximately six states away, Boy Scout Troop 1299, of Allen, Texas, was on a bus trip to Wyoming. Going to summer camp.

The boys were doing what all boys on buses do. Laughing. Hanging out. Making powerful smells.

They had a few days to kill in Yellowstone National Park. They had seen most of the park except a portion of the northern loop.

Which is where they were when it happened.

“We were on our way to lunch,” says Brian, an adult volunteer. “We were passing by these falls, and we were like, ‘Let’s just stop real quick and let the adults take some pictures,’”

They parked. Deboarded. Everyone’s dad stretched his respective lumbar region.…

“Who is your favorite author?” the TV host asked me on the air.

I just blinked.

“My favorite author?”

Radio silence.

Sometimes, as a writer you will find yourself as a guest on TV shows and radio shows promoting stuff.

You’ll be on a television set that is an exact duplication of a family room. Except, of course, this family room has nuclear studio lights that cause third-degree sunburns and damage to the human cornea.

Beside you is a perky female morning host whose sole job is to promote your book on the air. These hosts, amazingly, manage to promote hundreds of books just like yours without having ever read a single sentence in their lives.

They do this by asking questions which make it sound as though they’ve read your book. But you know better.

Namely, because when they shake your hand they say in a sincere voice, “Thanks for being our show, Randy,” even though your name is, technically, Sean.

A favorite questions TV hosts often ask writers is: “Who’s your favorite author?”

Which is

a solid TV question because, in most cases, your answer will buy the host a full three minutes, which allows them time to check their phone, scroll Instagram, and think up other insightful and intelligent questions such as, “How old are you?”

Usually, I reply that my favorite author is Gary Larson because I am a perpetual 10-year-old boy, and I think Gary Larson is a genius.

My response often causes television personalities and English majors to furrow their brows, because most literary folks can’t place the name Gary Larson.

Gary Larson is the illustrator and creator of “The Far Side” comic strip, once syndicated in 1,900 newspapers in the U.S. He is not often paired with Steinbeck and Hemingway.

Which is why the talkshow host simply smiles at me, then moves on to the next guest who will talk in-depth about stir-fry…

It’s only college football. It’s not real life. It’s just college-age kids on a field, wearing shoulder pads, trying seriously to give each other concussions. It’s just a game.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Because a few days ago, the University of Alabama, one of the winningest teams in football history, lost to LSU. I was watching the game alongside my uncle, Tater.

Tater is a longtime Alabama fan, a retired marine, and a former paper-mill worker. He has a tattoo of coach Paul “Bear” Bryant on his upper thigh, and he wears houndstooth underpants.

It was the only time I’ve seen him cry.

When LSU intercepted the ball, my uncle began to exhibit signs of a nervous breakdown. His vision started to dim and he had trouble breathing. He almost blacked out. We had to revive him with Busch Light and Camels.

I won’t recount the game here because, honestly, who cares? As I say, it’s just a game.

Then again, this is what all the losers say. “It’s just a game.” And I

know this because for years the previous losers have been saying this same phrase to us Alabama fans.

And all these years we smug Alabama fans have responded by patting our unfortunate friends on the shoulders and giving our best patronizing smiles.

“It’s only a game,” we agree in a pious way, although secretly, deep inside, we are singing “We Are the Champions.”

Shameful. I’m asking for forgiveness for our past arrogance, because now I know the biting pain of loss. Now I know what it feels like to watch your team fall on their own spears.

After the shocking upset, my uncle Tater had to be admitted into urgent care with chest pains. He was babbling in strange tongues, carrying on about past Alabama defeats.

“Punt, Bama, Punt,” he mumbled when they rolled his bed into ICU. “Kick Six,” he babbled…

Eclectic, Alabama. Lake Martin. The sun rose over the distant tree line. The sky changed from pink sorbet to the same blue as my aunt’s ‘62 Eldorado, a car roughly the size of a Waffle House.

I heard a common loon. The birdsong bounced off the smooth water, and I was all smiles.

I haven’t heard a loon since I was a boy. It was such a lovely song that it was almost eerie. A lonesome sound. The sound of the lake. The sound of bygone memories. And most importantly, the sound of expensive lakefront real estate.

I’m getting closer to the age my father was when he died. And this feels weird because, in my heart, I’m still a puppy.

I’m not a boy, of course. Not even close. I don’t remember becoming middle-aged. But it happened. There are slight wisps of white in my beard. And when I wake up most mornings I feel like someone has beaten me with a length of rebar.

But deep inside, my childhood isn’t that far away. I

can still remember wearing clothes with my nametag sewn into the collar. I still remember damming creeks and building forts.

Swinging from rope swings. Jumping from branches. Riding bikes down impossible hills and trying seriously to give myself a subdural hematoma.

I remember each dog who slept at my footboard. I remember how my mother made Spaghetti-Os on a stovetop, long before microwave ovens ruined the world.

I remember Swanson TV dinners in tin trays, cooked in range ovens. The mashed potatoes were always partially frozen, and the apple cobbler was boiling magma.

I remember playing in the woods until sundown, listening to loons on the creek. I remember smelling like dirt and sweat and stale Kool-Aid.

We lived outdoors as children. We stayed in the woods until everyone’s mothers emerged from tiny, distant houses and shouted out their nightly songs.

You’d hear Mrs.…

Today is National Redhead Day. I’ll bet you didn’t know we redheads have our own holiday, but we do. And it’s an important day.

Because countless redheads throughout history fought so that we, as a nation, could observe this holiday in freedom. Our ginger ancestors died protecting precious rights that many of us redheads enjoy today.

Such as the right to wear orange or burgundy; the right to be cast as the little orphan Annie in the school musical production of “Annie”; and the right to get free beer on Saint Patrick’s Day.

You probably know a redhead in your life. And speaking as a genetic minority, we ruddy complected persons could use your support right now.

Because redheads are disappearing.

That’s right. Modern research shows that the number of those carrying the recessive gene causing red hair are declining.

The percentage of redheads has dropped steeply within the last few years. At one time, the earth’s population of redheads was about 19 percent. Today it’s down to 2 percent. That’s barely enough to

form a jayvee basketball team.

We are diminishing in huge numbers each year. And each time we die, we take our genetics with us.

If this trend continues, by the year 2100 there will be approximately 3 redheads left including Willie Nelson.

I am a longtime redhead. My hair turned strawberry in my teens, but I was born with hair the color of Ronald McDonald.

I was also a jaundice baby, which means my skin was the color of sickly urine. My mother said I was also born with a pointy head. “You looked like a No. 2 pencil,” my mother recalls.

My mop of hair, however, was the main attraction in the delivery room. The first words of the nurse who delivered me were, “You know what they say about redheads and preachers…”

Unfortunately, nobody ever learned what they say about redheads and preachers because…

One of the first official dates with my wife took place at her parents’ house. That night, her extremely nosy parents promised not to eavesdrop, nor bother us, nor hide behind the sofa and wait for us to kiss.

Her parents agreed to let us have the entire downstairs to ourselves. And I was nervous. What would we talk about? What would we do? Would her parents leave us alone, or spy on us?

My story takes place in an era when VHS cassettes still roamed the earth. My date and I decided to rent a VHS movie. Although as it turned out, we were so timid we couldn’t actually decide on a movie.

HER: Which movie do you want?

ME: Oh, anything you want.

HER: I don’t care, I’ll watch anything you wanna watch.

ME: Makes no difference. What do you wanna see?

HER: Whatever you wanna see.

ME: I don’t care.

HER: Neither do I, you choose.

ME: No, you.

HER: It’s up to you.

ME: No, it’s your call.

And so it went. Because all young lovers are afraid

to come right out and say something like, “Darling, I do believe I’d prefer to watch something produced by the genius that is Monty Python.”

We had the same hem-hawing conversation about which restaurant to choose for dinner. And in the end, we went hungry because we never settled on a place. We ended up driving in circles for three hours constantly saying, “Where do you wanna eat?” “I don’t care, where do YOU wanna eat?”

Eventually we returned to her parents’ house and spent the rest of the evening trying not to exhibit symptoms of dangerously low blood-sugar.

As it happened, our date night got worse. Because the movie we rented turned out to be the foulest, most inappropriate skin-flick Hollywood ever released. It was so bad we could not watch it.

Five minutes into the film…

First off, I’m thankful for long drives in the country.

If there is anything better than a leisurely drive through America’s hay bales and cotton rows, I don’t care to know what it is.

When I was a kid, we used to take Sunday drives. Around sunset, we’d all pile into the family Ford and drive. Windows down. Shoes off. Farmland whipping by our windows at 45 mph.

Mama sat up front, reading “Good Housekeeping.” Daddy spit sunflower seeds. “Unchained Melody” played on the radio. My sister and I counted cattle.

Times have changed. Today’s families don’t take many leisurely drives. When they do, the kids are busy checking TikTok while Mama keeps one finger on the wheel and snaps selfies.

I’m also thankful for Smucker's peanut butter, 22-year-old F-150s, Levi’s, Folgers, East Bay oysters, national parks, onion rings and stop signs.

I’m thankful for babies, who erase sadness from our world. For clean public bathrooms. I’m even thankful for fools. Without them, the rest of us would never succeed.

I’m particularly thankful for old churches. I love old

churches with old preachers and elderly congregations.

If you’ve ever felt like the world is turning to rotgut; if you’ve ever lost faith in your fellow human, go visit an old church. It will change your mind.

I’m thankful for animal rescues. Approximately 4.1 million dogs and cats are rescued each year in the U.S. And each year, approximately 810,000 strays who enter American shelters are reunited with their owners. Say what you will about this nation, but we rescue more animals than Europe, Asia, or any other continent.

I’m grateful for Pepé the horse. Pepé’s previous owner beat him and dragged him behind a vehicle for several miles. He is missing part of his face, and he’s mostly blind. He was rescued by a 26-year-old woman who adopted him, who sleeps beside his stall each night, lying in a cot,…

I am not sure whether you understand English, but I’d like to think you do.

I’d like to think that you know exactly what I’m saying to you. I’d like to think I speak fluent dog.

Heaven knows, I speak to you non-stop. Because you’re blind. Because you need me to keep talking. When I talk to you, you don’t feel so disconnected. That way you’re always part of what’s going on.

So I’ve been talking a lot since I brought you home. I say anything and everything to you, so you feel involved.

I tell you when I’m going to the bathroom. When I read a book, I read aloud. When we go for walks, I describe what I’m seeing. I talk to you about the green crabgrass, the particular shade of blue in the sky.

Yeah, I know it’s silly. You probably can’t understand me. Although sometimes I’m not sure.

Sometimes I think you actually know what I’m saying. Because there are occasions when I tell you how much I love you. And when you hear this, you sort of

lean into me like you know precisely what “I love you” means.

Other times, when I tell you “It’s going to be okay,” after something frightens you, you tuck your head into my chest because I think that, on some level, you know. You know what I mean.

I can only imagine how scared you get when a loud sound occurs nearby. I can only guess at how disoriented you feel when you stumble off the curb.

I owe you an apology. I’m sorry. I don’t know how to teach a blind dog. I am learning as I go. I have so much more to learn. I’m reading books. I’m watching videos. I’m trying. I promise you, I am. But I am an inadequate trainer.

Any troublesome issues lie within me, not you. You’re doing perfectly. You have…