Tallahassee

Tallahassee. I’m about to make a speech to a group of ladies at a luncheon. But before I do, I’m stopping at a barbecue joint for necessary fuel because this isn’t my first women’s lunch gig. I know from experience that finger sandwiches don’t fill me up.

I like visiting Tallahassee. Always have. The colossal oaks, the Spanish moss, the old homes, it’s perfect.

When you arrive here you immediately sense the energy of a college town. And, of course, since Tallahassee is also the state capital, the downtown has the uptight vibe of a city that suffers from severe gastrointestinal distress.

But it is this combination of youth, academia, and state politics that gives this place a uniquely diverse feel.

Take this barbecue joint. At the table behind me is a frat boy with shaggy hair and flip flops. He sits directly beside a guy who looks like a wealthy congressman. The frat boy smiles at the congressman and, without a shred of awkwardness, elbows the guy and says, “Yo. Pass the barbecue sauce, bro.”

That’s Tallahassee.

The strange thing is, I’ve always had bad luck in this town. I don’t know why. Don’t get me wrong, I love this city, but I have history here.

It all started when I applied to Florida State University several years ago. At the time, I was an adult student with little more than a GED and a smile. I freely admit, as a high-school dropout I wasn’t exactly Mister Academic. But, hey, I was trying to make something of myself.

My dream was to earn a degree from a State-U. So I rented a nearby apartment and enrolled in an arts program. I met with the professors and basically begged them to let me into school. I vowed to work hard, and I promised to bring the teachers lots of apples.

But the professors never let me finish my interview. I was promptly rejected. FSU told me to go home. Game over. Thanks for playing.

That same afternoon I sat in my Tallahassee apartment and cried. I looked out my window and saw all the 18-year-olds strutting to class to study English, music, or art, and I knew that would never be me. I was a grown man, and I felt like a big, dumb hick.

Fast forward a few years, after I had completed my modest community-college degree, suddenly I had this fledgling writing career. Surprisingly, I was invited to speak at a Tallahassee literary festival.

Me? There must have been some mistake.

I was very excited. I thought my fortune was about to change in this town. Namely, because the festival was a swanky event that featured nationally known authors and famous speakers. I was so flattered to be asked to participate that I almost ruined my trousers.

More than anything, I think I just wanted to prove to to myself that those professors were wrong about me, I was not a nothing. I mattered as much as anyone else.

But when I arrived at the festival I knew something was wrong. After I checked into my hotel, the event person showed me the venue where I would be speaking. I was crestfallen.

My area was an outdoor public pavilion that looked like a prisoner interrogation facility in northern Kuwait. The shelter had graffiti-covered picnic tables, and someone’s dog had pooped on the floor.

“This is where I’m speaking?” I asked the event person.

The event person smiled. “That’s right, Sam.”

“My name’s Sean.”

She glanced at her clipboard. “No, it’s not.”

“But wait,” I pointed out, “there’s no microphone. What am I supposed to do, yell at everyone?”

She shrugged. “I can get you a bullhorn.”

It was the day from hell. And it got worse. My pavilion was located next to the beer tent, which featured a rock band with enough sound equipment to stage a Who concert. I had to scream over the music until the veins in my neck popped.

Then it rained. And this was no minor rainstorm. This was a Biblical rain from the fifth chapter of Genesis. My three-person audience was getting drenched. Everyone was miserable.

Nobody ever cleaned up the dog poo.

The high point of the afternoon was when, in the middle of my speech, the rock band played “Hey Jude” at a volume loud enough to liquify earthworms, whereupon I just gave up and quit talking.

When the festival person later asked whether I had fun, I told them the truth: “I don’t think this town likes me.”

The volunteer touched my arm gently and looked me in the eyes to say, “Don’t say that, Sam.”

Even so, a guy can’t hold onto past failures. He’s got to let them go. He’s got to keep trying. A man must embrace hope and trust that his destiny will someday change. Today, before I make my speech, I am choosing to believe that my luck in this town is about to improve. This could be the fateful day it all turns around. So keep your fingers crossed for me.

And pass the barbecue sauce, bro.

38 comments

  1. Norma Den - July 22, 2021 7:52 am

    Please Sean let us all know how the speech went. No matter, you’re worth more than any stupid professors think. The joy you bring with your daily stories is worth more than gold to your readers. Bless you.

    Reply
  2. robert ross - July 22, 2021 8:50 am

    A friend sent me one of Sean’s columns, and I laughed, giggled and even snorted! I have read 3 so far, and this guy is unique, hope he keeps his odd, crazy vibe, it makes my day. Bob Ross

    Reply
  3. Ed (Bear) - July 22, 2021 8:52 am

    Unfortunately there’s a lot of people who don’t believe in second chances. Thank goodness perseverance pays off in the long run!

    Reply
  4. Steve Watkins - July 22, 2021 10:17 am

    Welcome to the state capitol of COVIDIOTS.

    Reply
  5. Donna Rotenberry - July 22, 2021 10:40 am

    Start my day each morning with Bible study and your wonderful uplifting daily writing. Please keep it going, I am fighting depression and your experiences lift me up for the day.

    Reply
  6. Bill Harris - July 22, 2021 10:44 am

    Thank you Sean

    Reply
  7. Jimpa - July 22, 2021 10:56 am

    As someone who was born and has lived in Tallahassee all my life, I truly am sorry for the way you have been treated. Between politicians and students, we have more than our share of idiots.
    Please update your Events Calendar. Would have loved to know you were in town.
    God Bless.

    Reply
  8. Kris - July 22, 2021 11:16 am

    Jim & Milt’s?

    Reply
  9. Karen - July 22, 2021 11:17 am

    It seems to me they missed out on a jewel of a student.

    Reply
  10. Suellen - July 22, 2021 11:40 am

    We don’t all fit into their cookie cutter molds and that’s what makes life so interesting and why we love you. I’m so glad they didn’t get a chance to change you into something else. All of your life experiences converged to make you YOU.

    Reply
  11. pyrthroes - July 22, 2021 11:46 am

    As a duly credentialed gentry-arian, combining lyric composition with quant-model consulting, may we just say: Avoiding today’s smarmy, witless “Cult of the Degree” is a blessing, not a curse.

    In retrospect, everything we learned at fancy schools was solely due to personal curiosity and interest; academic verbalizers contributed precisely nothing.

    Sean of the South brings tears. Write on!

    Reply
  12. Liza Bragg - July 22, 2021 11:59 am

    Excellent article, bro!

    Reply
  13. Cathy - July 22, 2021 12:17 pm

    Well, I guess you showed them, big guy! God had another plan and we are all grateful

    Reply
  14. Debbie g - July 22, 2021 12:24 pm

    “Success is not final Failure is not fatal
    It is the courage to continue that counts “
    Reckon Winston Churchill has been there too 😀keep on keeping on. We are truly blessed that you didn’t give up
    Where would we all be ❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  15. joemizereck - July 22, 2021 12:34 pm

    Fingers crossed, Sean.

    Reply
  16. Paul McCutchen - July 22, 2021 12:40 pm

    I know the feeling. I applied to a local college later in life and after the interview was asked to come back on a later date in the afternoon for orientation. I got there and noticed everyone had a packet but I never got one. They just said “sorry our mistake you were not accepted”. Went to a tech college that was genuinely glad to have me and graduated.

    Reply
  17. Christina - July 22, 2021 12:43 pm

    I have a feeling those luncheon ladies will turn your luck around, Sam. 😉

    Reply
  18. Suzanne Cahill - July 22, 2021 12:58 pm

    Please let us know how it went!

    Reply
  19. Tammy S. - July 22, 2021 1:00 pm

    🤞🏼🙏🏼

    Reply
  20. Tammy S. - July 22, 2021 1:01 pm

    🤞🏼🙏🏼

    Reply
  21. Cynthia Russell - July 22, 2021 1:02 pm

    YOU’VE GOT THIS!!! LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR COLUMNS ALWAYS!! Thank You!

    Reply
  22. Ann Robbins Phillips - July 22, 2021 1:05 pm

    Please tell me it got better. 😁

    Reply
  23. Hope Ewans - July 22, 2021 1:07 pm

    Well Sean, how did it go?

    Reply
  24. Sallie Snyder - July 22, 2021 1:33 pm

    So, how did it go?

    Reply
  25. Shelton A. - July 22, 2021 1:36 pm

    Have a great speech, Sean! God bless you, Jamie, and your pups.

    Reply
  26. Eleanor Dietrich - July 22, 2021 1:59 pm

    I hope today goes better for you, and don’t forget you have a nice distant cousin here with whom you all had a pleasant visit, as did I.

    Reply
  27. Mary Graddick - July 22, 2021 2:15 pm

    SEAN!!! Come by the Car Museum…I’ve invited you before. WE WILL TREAT YOU RIGHT! You will love it. Jaime will love it, too.

    Reply
  28. Rhonda - July 22, 2021 2:19 pm

    The trick is to stop caring

    Reply
  29. Rhonda - July 22, 2021 2:21 pm

    I posted the above comment at 9:18 am. Not sure why it says the time it does

    Reply
  30. Elizabeth M Smith - July 22, 2021 2:23 pm

    I hope you were exaggerating your horrible treatment. And I hope today goes well. Would love to hear you speak sometime.

    Reply
  31. Kate - July 22, 2021 3:32 pm

    Some one once told me college professors know more and more about less and less. I thought it was funny and true. Some may know a lot about a few things, but so many do not know about so much. Everyone has a body of knowledge that is different from what others know. That is why everyone is valuable, and unfortunately some who think they know a lot and know very little, like for some reason, try to make others feel dumb, unworthy, or inadequate. If everyone would realize everyone has a body of knowledge that you do not have, and respect them for that, life might be a little easier for some. I value so many people that have talents and skills that I do not have.

    Reply
  32. C - July 22, 2021 4:24 pm

    Having lived in Tally off and on since the 70s…we are losing most all that was good about it. It’s getting more of metro vibe vs the smaller ruralish one it used to have. We’ve lost red & sam’s, brown derby, silver slipper, sids 😊 mom and dad’s, and a LOT of beautiful timberland to sprawling development way to over priced. We wish we knew you were around. Would love to see you. You have to do the Sopchoppy Opry sometime….maybe during the worm grunting festival …. Some good things still remain.

    Reply
  33. Peggy ALEXANDER - July 22, 2021 6:06 pm

    Praying for you DONNA. Trust GOD🙏

    Reply
  34. Linda Moon - July 22, 2021 6:25 pm

    My fingers will cross for you after I finish typing this comment here. You made something out of yourself, Mister Writer You. I didn’t get to college until the age of 29, and it was community college. Two degrees later, I “made something out of myself”, and I’m so very glad your education led to your writing career. I think us late-bloomers in education do better than some younger-sprouts, because we already went through more days of LIFE and common-sense learning… in my adulthood that was 10,585 days prior to college, so do the math to find your days, too!

    Reply
  35. Steve McCaleb - July 22, 2021 7:44 pm

    I’m afraid your experience with the college professors was more the norm than the exception. Waaay too often a handful of arrogant academic 💩heads are allowed to decide who gets an opportunity to succeed and who spends the rest of their lives working at the local park and rec riding a lawnmower. And PLEASE….don’t think for a minute that I think there’s anything wrong with that line of work. All I’m saying is this……standardized tests and 5 minute interviews can’t measure heart, ambition or good-old American want-to. Know why California leads the country in college professors and New Jersey leads in number of toxic waste dumps ? Jersey got first choice. Just one man’s opinion.

    Reply
  36. cthillbilly - July 23, 2021 2:21 am

    Glenn Reynolds (Insta-Pundit) lead me to you. I’m grateful for his good advice, even more delighted by your wit and gravity. You’re a man of uncommon common sense. Lead on!

    Reply
  37. Karen Snyder - July 23, 2021 2:24 am

    Thank God those professors didn’t get their hands on you! In more cases than not, what our institutions of “higher” learning have been churning out cannot hold a candle. Hope the luncheon ladies were as appreciative as we are.

    Reply
  38. Camilla - July 23, 2021 11:25 am

    ‪Buz Aldrin quote: “As a young man I applied to be a Rhodes Scholar twice and was turned down both times. Just think how different my life would have been if I’d been accepted. ‬I’m sure I never would have become an astronaut much less walked on the moon. Sometimes your greatest disappointments or failures lead to your greatest success. So just remember, failure is always an option.”

    Reply

Leave a Comment