What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Harbor Town Lighthouse

WILD BLUE: While having lunch with my wife in the magnificent Harbor Town Clubhouse, I learned that my literary agent closed a traditional publishing deal for my first novel, Wild Blue: Saving the World with Duct Tape and WD-40 . . . to be published this Fall. Please stay tuned for more details. Woo-Hoo!

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RED EYES: I learned how to stay awake all-night on a redeye flight from Palm Springs to Savannah. Here’s the secret: merely sit in front of a five-year-old screamer who apparently hates your seat because she spends all night trying to kick it to death.

My airline also kindly allowed me to add on (at no extra charge) the late-night travel option of a right-across-the-aisle-crying-baby.

These both worked great for me.

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SAVANNAH, GEORGIA: I learned this beautiful Old South city is the home of both Forrest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Before we did our Segway tour of historic Savannah, we had breakfast at the café where Forrest’s girlfriend Jenny worked. Very cool. No, actually … very hot and humid.

I learned a Segway is a two-wheeled person-mover kept balanced and upright by computers. (And, in my case, frightened prayer.) The Segway is great fun, but I am a clumsy dude who doesn’t even have good balance when merely walking. So they gave me their only Segway with large, knobby, off-road tires. This provided the stability I needed to safely roll over minor obstacles and small children. Our Segway tour group trekked single file along the crowded narrow streets of Savannah passing by scores of historical places, most of which I did not see because I was busy trying not to die.

We stopped at the house where Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman set up his headquarters. Next door to that house is St. John’s Episcopal Church, where genteel southern ladies purposely tormented General Sherman by ringing the church bells every fifteen minutes, twenty-four-hours a day.

Sherman retaliated by removing all the bells. The ladies complained and negotiated, whereupon the General promised to rehang the bells, which he did. Right after he removed the clappers. Then he rehung the bells. Upside down. This is a true thing.

We finished that day with dinner at Paula Deen & Sons restaurant. Good food, but the gift shop is the funnest part. My wife got a shirt with this on the front: I don’t have an accent. Y’all do.

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NEWT GINGRICH: I learned that our former Speaker of the House is an awesome writer. I bought his political thriller novel, Collusion, to read on vacation. A great read! Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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OFF THE BEATEN PAST: I learned that getting lost—or ignoring your GPS because you desperately need a pitstop—can be a blessing. So don’t sweat it. Even if it is unbearably hot and humid.

Case in point: We ended up in little Cheraw, South Carolina where a banner with a portrait of a black man and a strange horn dangled from the light post. We had accidentally found ourselves in the birthplace of Dizzy Gillespie, the charming musical genius known for his bent trumpet and cheeks puffed out so far it appeared painful. I felt humbled to share his hometown for a few minutes.

“Mutual respect is so important because as soon as it disappears in relations between you and the next person, there’s trouble.”

“I don’t care much about music. What I like is sounds.”

“The idea of life is to give and receive.”

— Dizzy Gillespie

(Jazzman Extraordinaire)

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REUNION SPOT: I’m from the small desert farm town of Blythe, California, the place from whence I and most of my relatives have escaped. All us Blythians have a reputation for not being too swift. Our family last name could easily have been Bumpkin. We all have varicose brains.

Well … I’m always on the lookout for a suitable location, and I think I found one while driving near Tommy Jefferson’s place. We didn’t actually take the exit, but the sign told me enough to know this would be the perfect spot for our next family reunion.

“I apologize for the interruption, Unk, but we have a medical situation here in Washington D.C.”

Well, okay, Trever. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s our roving political reporter, Trever Nump. What’s going on, Trever?

“Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Abdullahi Omar have both come down with something terrible.

“Oh my gosh. What is it?”


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APPOMATTOX: We ambled through Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park where Lee surrendered to Grant. I learned that our marvelous country was saved by Grant, acting on behalf of Lincoln. All Confederate soldiers were given printed pardons for their treasonous acts right there on the spot. In virtually any country at any time in mankind’s history, such rebels would have been executed. But Lincoln and Grant didn’t want to punish. They wanted to heal. Defeated rebels were allowed to keep their horses, and even use Union trains at no cost to go back home. Amen.

While touring the village and grounds, we visited the old general store. We bought three old generals.

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SOUTH CAROLINA: I learned they have amusing farmers with entertaining billboards promoting roadside produce stands, including:

Peas Be With You

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Peas On Earth

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True Grits

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I learned about Southern cookery when we stopped at a quaint roadside shop where I quickly consumed a cinnamon-bourbon scone while my wife bought two home-canned things in mason jars: Sweet Potato Butter and Spicy Pickled Garlic. We buried those jars deep within our biggest suitcase, hoping they would pass TSA inspection on our flight home. I had sampled the pickled garlic and learned it was explosive.

Speaking of which, at our motel breakfast buffet I learned that warming a peeled hard-boiled egg in a microwave makes it explode. Not the microwave. The egg. All over the place!

Correcting my life-long misconception about Hilton Head became my biggest surprise of the trip. I always thought a Hilton head is a bathroom in a fancy hotel.

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Oops… almost forgot…  back in Savannah, I learned that Congregation Mickve Israel, organized in 1735, still meets in their old, rare, Gothic-style synagogue. You can visit their synagogue gift shop and buy a hoodie which has this message on the front:

Shalom Y’all!

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