Dear Smiley: When my niece Breck graduated from high school, she asked her parents to celebrate the occasion with an at-home dinner party (this was before COVID).

She told her parents matter-of-factly to serve chicken, sausage and andouille jambalaya with white beans.

When asked who would prepare the food, decorate the venue and provide entertainment, she listed her grandparents, aunts and uncles, with Uncle Chuck as head cook. She also named him to handle the recorded music and the fireworks display.

After three days of toil, all was going well until the wee hours of Saturday, when the kitchen choppers realized containers in which to soak the white beans were limited. Improvising, they pulled from the kitchen cabinets any size bowl available, filling each with water and beans.

That morning when Chuck arrived, he marveled at the beautifully decorated venue, laughed at the expanded white beans scattered on the kitchen floor below every container, and found his staff asleep!



Invisible author

Dear Smiley: I was saddened to learn of the death of author Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove," "The Last Picture Show," etc.).

I always hoped he would be there so we could chat when I visited his Archer City, Texas, bookstore, Booked Up, which at one point encompassed four buildings, including one adjacent to the ruin of the little movie theater that was remembered as the home of "The Last Picture Show."

He was quite unpretentious. During one visit to Archer City, I was talking with McMurtry as he shelved books in the foreign language section, wearing a polo shirt with a Dr Pepper logo while kneeling on the floor.

A couple entered, and the man said they were excited to be in the store, having heard Larry McMurtry on an NPR program that afternoon.

McMurtry softly said, "That's me. I'm Larry." The man, totally oblivious, continued telling what he had heard McMurtry say, beginning, "He said…"

After finishing the retelling, he asked where to locate a certain section, and McMurtry directed them and off they went.

I wondered if they later told friends, "We went to McMurtry's bookstore, but he wasn't there."


Baton Rouge

That white stuff

Dear Smiley: I've been grounded for a year, but I've used up four passports traveling back and forth to China visiting my wife's family over the years.

Your columns on grits led me to issue this warning: Do not carry grits to the Far East unless you use the original packaging.

If my wife hadn't been waiting for me, two Ziploc bags of grits and I might still be in China.


Las Vegas

Just take it

Dear Smiley: As your recent articles show, it’s pretty easy to get into a vehicle without a key.

My dad never locked his car. “If someone wants to get in, they will get in. Why have to replace a window?”

He also figured that nobody would want to steal his old clunker — or the empty potato chip bags and soda cans.



Useful jewelry

Dear Smiley: Reading tales of locking keys in cars reminded me of my mom. Her only vehicle was a camper van. She traveled nationwide in it.

After being locked out once, she had an extra key made, with an amethyst stone attached. She wore it on a nice chain around her neck.

Far as I know, she was never locked out again.



Elusive dealers

Dear Smiley: The tale of trading a gas cap for a Yugo jogged my memory.

My brother and I went into an auto-parts store to get a tire valve cap.

In response to the customary questions, we told him we wanted metal caps for Schader valves. Type and year of car? Studebaker, 1939.

He told us without blinking that was a dealer item.


Tylertown, Mississippi

Sports stars' treks

Dear Smiley: Even though I understand the concept, each time I hear some athlete has "entered the transfer portal," I visualize that athlete in a spacesuit, standing in a light ray saying, "Beam me up, Scottie." (I'm sure they wish it was that simple.)



Write Smiley at He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.