Whistling Dixie

Sean of the South: Whistling Dixie
© 2015 Sean Dietrich
198 pages

A few weeks back I read The South’s Okayest Writer, a collection of articles by Sean Dietrich. Whistling Dixie is very similar in content and in theme, as this also collects a few score of his short pieces.   Okayest Writer had a more intense theme of people creating beauty and connection despite of, or because of, their suffering.   While that theme echoes often here, there are more miscellaneous pieces as well,   some about the South in general – reflections on southern dialects and euphemisms, for instance.  As with his prior collection, this is fairly intimate:  the shadow cast over his life by his father’s suicide comes up quite a bit. One of the more touching stories in that vein is his recollection of how his boy self fled the funeral and retreated to the back,   taking off his father’s tie and throwing it away.  He was found by another of the men, who – removing his own tie –  ministered  to him in a way that only a man who has also lost his father can.  Several of the pieces are also written in loving tribute to his wife, Jamie, and to the Waffle House.  (He really likes the Waffle House.)   As a whole, the collection is perfectly sweet, though I shouldn’t have read it so close on the heels of The South’s Okayest Writer.

Kindle Highlights

“I look at things,” Jon said. “And I realize I take it all for granted. And then I say to myself, ‘This was it, Jonny boy, this was life, and you missed it. You were too busy paying bills, doing whatever everyone said you SHOULD be doing, instead of all the things that matter.’”
“Like what, Jon? What things matter?” Jon thought for a moment.
“I don’t know. People. Nature. Stars. I mean, look at that moon.” He nodded toward the sky. “It’s so pretty and far away. I never stop and look at it. But it’s right there. See it?” We both got quiet for a few minutes. I couldn’t hear anything but the sound of crickets coming from the woods behind the gas station. I thought about how quick a year goes by. About how fast wrinkles form on the corners of your eyes. About friends who’ve died. About those still alive. About my wife. About the moon.
“Well,” Jon said. “We’re really looking at it now, aren’t we?” Yes. And I think that counts for something.

“Jeezus, Bryant, and Saban,” said the man beside me. “What does my FryDaddy have to do with anything?”

Life is not about fame and fortune. Some folks crave it, but some of the saddest people you’ll ever meet are the ones who attain it. Don’t let that be you. You were made to help.

But if you want to touch something bigger, if you want to know what it means to taste gladness, or understand this thing we call life, well then start right now. To hell with success. Go love someone.

“Dating is about hugging and kissing, and stuff,” remarked five-year-old Bradley. “That’s what girls do, when they finally get boys alone.” And then he squirmed like he’d just eaten a live lizard.
“Have you ever kissed a girl?” I asked. Bradley wrinkled his face and shook his head.
“Why not?” He clutched his mouth.
“HEY!” shouted Beau, an eight-year-old wiseman in the back. “Girls only want your money, and for you to fix their stuff. My dad says all he ever does is fix stuff and lose money.”

Six-year-old Margaret, sneered. “Y’all are just being stupid…”
“Honey,” I interrupted. “We don’t say ‘stupid.’ It’s not nice.”
“Sorry,” said Margaret. “Y’all are being dumb asses.”

Hell is a remote-control away, you can see it any time you want. Which is probably why folks think there’s more hate out there than love. Well, who knows, maybe they’re right. But. I know a Labrador who believes otherwise.

You think about how happiness is a lot like a houseplant. No matter how much you water it, nothing lives forever. Everything is on temporary loan—that includes people.

My Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Reginald—whose beehive hairdo was tall enough to register on most air-traffic radars—had her own thoughts on God. “He’s all-knowing,” she said, looking straight into my eyes. “And he KNOWS who put those frogs in the girl’s restroom toilets.” Maybe he did. But it sure as hell wasn’t Bobby Davis, Robert Laurels, and Sean Dietrich. Because we put them in the sinks.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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