Monday Morning Coming Down

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, October 21, 2019, 12:57 p.m.

Let’s just say I’ve been in a pensive mood since I got home from Greenville Saturday. It was windy and rainy enough at Furman for me to feel cold all night, and the football game was even colder. By this morning, I was down to one K-Cup tub of coffee, a single can of Diet Dr. Pepper, four slices of bread, and two eggs, so I watched a funny James Cagney movie, shaved, showered, stopped by Steamers for breakfast, and soldiered off to Ingles for a heap of groceries.

The satellite radio was playing Johnny Cash singing “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” and it was perfect for all except it being Monday. I appreciated the simple pleasure of walking into a cafe on the Square for breakfast and not even saying a word when Debra brings coffee and automatically puts in an order of the “meaty breakfast.”

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You wanna go where everybody knows … your name. Duh-duh-duh-duh-DUH-duh.

I played my usual game of trying to buy as high a percentage as possible of items discounted with my Ingles card. The latest bargain tryout is of some kind of microwaveable breakfast. While I was loading the truck, a fellow I know but haven’t seen in a while stopped by to chat about politics. I try not to volunteer my vast array of opinions unless someone asks me, and he did, so we talked a couple of minutes about how crazy the president is, and he walked on into Ingles.

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I was thinking about the absurdity of getting tired hauling the groceries in, and, over the weekend, I had done what old friends always do, which is size up one another, and it occurred to me that when someone asks me about my health, I should reply, “I’m 61 years old, overweight, and my knees are so arthritic that if I walk more than a half mile, it hurts to get out of bed the next morning. What do you think?”

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I didn’t have time last week to put together an original YouTube video, so, on Sunday, I started rummaging through my laptop for old video footage and found clips of me performing 10 years ago at a barbecue joint in Richmond, Va., and I put together one song of mine, “The Way I Do,” that I had almost forgotten writing, with a song of Kyle Petty’s that he came up onstage to perform that long-ago night. Here’s the link.

I was happy that I don’t look too different, other than the fact that 10 years ago, my hair was still mostly dark brown, and now it’s gray-headed-white in a hurry. I don’t mind … much. I look distinguished.

And I believe it’s time for me to write a new song.

Working title? “What Do You Think?”

 

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

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The Wreck of an Edmund Fitzgerald

I took this at a high school game Friday night that came out much better.

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 20, 2019, 8:32 a.m.

Monte Dutton

The Citadel looked exactly the way The Citadel ought to look. They wore plain, white uniforms without any noteworthy stripes. The numbers were light blue without trim or shadowing. The helmets had block C’s on the sides. The Bulldogs wore uniforms like this when Bobby Ross was the coach.

They came up to Greenville and kicked the Paladins’ asses, and these opening words make it sound like I don’t despise The Citadel. That’s because I also respect them, and I wished I didn’t after they spoiled a day that was already trying hard to be.

Fortunately, I love Saturdays at Furman so much that the 27-10 loss won’t faze me. I hope to be back when the Southern Conference’s other militarist, VMI, comes to visit Paladin Stadium in three weeks. The game was played cold and windy, and I’m currently hoping that my Furman baseball jersey and Red Sox hoodie aren’t smelling moldy right now in the back seat of my truck. If they are, it’s understandable. They were fortunate to be wet. Otherwise, I might have burned them when I got home to collect other obituaries, list the arrests, and throw something together about Presbyterian’s 55-10 loss to Kennesaw State.

It was homecoming both places. I felt cold all night, and it wasn’t the flu.

Paladin Paladin, where do you roam?

I went up early and mingled heavily. My buddy Steve Bishop came all the way from Ft. Myers, Fla., for the second time this season, and I sat through the game sitting in the stands with fellow football pedestrian David Snipes among some of the erstwhile heroes: Stan Stanley, Danny Gleason and Bobby Woods. Many others were nearby, most nervously and grumpily pacing the walkway between upper and lower levels.

The weather – and a half dozen games on TV – keeps fans away more than it used to. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the rivalry was played in front of packed houses. The Citadel didn’t bring much of a crowd, either. Being from Charleston, its cadets probably knew more about the remnants of a tropical storm than ours did. There might have been more students watching the club rugby match that was going on across the street from the football stadium. I also remember when the entire corps bused up from Charleston to watch the football platoon mostly lose at Furman.

It was a bad day for alums to gather but a good day for bellhops to dance.

Mike Hembree, Steve Bishop and a fat guy with three layers of clothing.

Bish and Mike Hembree got together. Hembree wrote about Furman for the Greenville News in the late 1970s and early ’80s, when I worked in the Furman sports information office. A decade later, I joined Hembree on the NASCAR beat. He asked me who that guy in the tan jacket was, and I told him it was Bish, and Mike said he’d like to talk to him. He told Steve that, many years ago in weather that was far worse than Saturday, he got one of his favorite quotes after a hard-earned Furman victory.

“We came up here,” Bishop said, “and beat them on their home ice,” and Hembree said it was all he needed to write the tale. Then Hembree retired to the press box, and I watched the debacle from the stands because I truly had no business being in the press box. I rarely see either one, and I haven’t seen them together in nearly 40 years.

All is not lost. The Paladins, who entered the game ranked eighth in the Football Championship Subdivision, can ill afford another Southern Conference loss, but they’re 3-1.

But The Citadel. Sparta to our Athens. El Cid. Bellhops, preceded by a vulgarity. Right before the kickoff, we all drank our purple Kool Aid, a fortified variety, and dutifully ambled into the stadium to meet our doom. All that unites Furman and The Citadel is Pat Conroy, whom Bulldog grads now admire because he went there and Paladin grads admire because he wrote about it.

The Houston Astros knocked the New York Yankees out of the World Series. The night was a little better than the day. I needed something. I haven’t felt so bad leaving a stadium since the national semifinals at Appalachian in 2005.

Even with the weather, it was a great time, absent a football game.

My latest YouTube video is here.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Can’t Help Myself

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, October 17, 2019, 12:36 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I am reminded this morning of the line of actor Jeff Goldblum in The Big Chill. It was something to the effect of … aw, hell, I’m a journalist, let me look it up:

Michael: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

Sam Weber: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

Man, that was true then, but it is standard operating procedure now.

I was angry when I awakened. Almost every night I fall asleep with the television on. The only time I don’t is when I’m really tired. Usually, concentrating on the TV dialogue puts me to sleep. I don’t use it when I don’t need help. By turning sideways after I’m not even conscious of it, I muffle the sound with one ear. I’m sure someone is going to tell me that something about that is unhealthy, because, today, everything is. I always think that getting all stressed about it is unhealthy, too.

A rationalization.

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Moving right along, I awakened at about 6 to hear news of Rep. Elijah Cummings’ death, and I thought about President Trump’s tweet some time back – time flies since he’s been president, and we forget outrages a week after they occur because no man has a mind capable of keeping up with them without the internet – in which he practically waved a pompon at news that Cummings’ home had been burglarized. As I spent the next 90 minutes in fitful slumber, I thought, or dreamed, or a bit of both, about how I hoped the President wouldn’t say a word because I’d rather him be a thug and a liar than a hypocrite.

Of course, he never fails to disappoint. Someone wrote a suitably insincere tweet for him. Someone is going to say that I would have been just as angry if he hadn’t said anything, but I wouldn’t have. I was already on the record with myself.

I was already troubled by that photo the President tweeted of Nancy Pelosi standing up with her finger pointed at him in a room full of grumpy white men.

Yes, I am a grumpy white man, especially right now.

I got up, saying “damn it” under my breath. I don’t know why. I was the only person in the house. I could have screamed if I wanted to, but I try to follow some modest decorum when the audience consists only of God, in the unlikely event that He is interested.

I clicked up Facebook and got angrier, so I called my mother because she is adept at settling me down.

But I needed to write this blog, anyway.

When it is over, I may play my guitar a little and sing a Don Williams song because his words calm me, too. I will definitely bury myself in tedious work, not the creative kind. Oh, goody, there’s a City Council meeting to write about later today. My goal is to get out of this funk by then.

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Yes, I detest President Trump. It’s as much personal as political, although I certainly disagree with him there. I just think he’s a pompous, disgusting, exaggerating when he’s not lying, claiming everyone else is doing what he is, egomaniacal, selfish, America exists for me, not much of a man.

I wouldn’t like him if he was a barber, and I’m satisfied he’d be better at it.

But I’ve got to hand it to Trump’s army of unruly supporters. They will follow their dream wherever their dream may lead (paraphrasing Elvis), right into the swamp they think he is going to drain.

My latest YouTube video is here.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Taking Ball Four a Second Time

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 13, 2019, 12:19 p.m.

Monte Dutton

Let me begin with two reasons why this book review should be better.

I like to write a review when the book is fresh in my mind. I like to finish the last page and start a review. The hectic nature of my life these days makes that hard sometimes. There’s just no telling when there’s going to be a fatal crash near Cold Point or a body found in the woods back this side of Tip Top.

It’s not often I read any book a second time. There are just too many good ones out there for me to revisit one I already loved. The only ones I can think of are The Last Picture Show, Summer of ’42, The Winter of Our Discontent, and, now, Ball Four, which I’m guessing I read when I was about 15.

I remember that Dick Young, my least favorite sportswriter, said it violated “the sanctity of the clubhouse.” That was enough for me to check it out at the public library.

When the author, Jim Bouton, died, I decided I wanted to read it again and revisit the madcap antics of the Seattle Pilots, Joe Schultz, Mike Marshall, Tommy Davis and, most of all, Bouton, trying to make it as a knuckleballer after the youthful heat died in his arm.

Another reason was, reading Bouton’s obituary, I read that Ball Four had been the only sports book listed as one of the 100 best books of the 20th century.

I didn’t remember it as that good, and, to be truthful, I still don’t see it that way. It’s a long series of irreverent observations, strung together by a sportswriter named Leonard Schecter, but it stands out for its unremitting honesty and perspective.

In my mind, Ball Four is not one of the top 100 books, but it is damned good. I supposed I should have been shocked way back in the 1970s, but I wasn’t. I didn’t expect men who were great athletes to have great character. It’s good when they do, but I don’t see many men or women who do anything to have great character. It’s also good when they do. I wanted insight into what great athletes were like. Ball Four fills that purpose to near perfection.

Hunter S. Thompson made me want to be a writer. Frank Deford made me want to write about sports. Bouton gave me insight I needed, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

The Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros of 1969 were good guys, but they had their faults, and they were often outrageous ones. They were products of their time, but so were the folks who ran the grocery stores then and run the meat markets at Food Lion now.

The rich folks have taken over everything.

The Kindle edition I read also included a lengthy postscript of the author’s further reflections 10, 20 and 30 years after the original edition. The editor, Schecter, died in 1974, so I suspect the postscript demonstrates how much Bouton evolved from more athlete than writer to more writer than athlete.

No one ever gave up sports more grudgingly.

My latest YouTube video is here.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Making Light of Myself, Etc.

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, October 7, 1019, 9:38 a.m.

Monte Dutton

This blog is an intangible. I derive no tangible income from it. I hope it has some promotional value, but mainly I write it to get things off my chest. It’s therapeutic in its way.

Sometimes it’s a warm-up, like playing scales, I guess, if I could play scales. The closest I come is putting together a chord progression that lyrics will fit. At the moment, I’m not quite up to finishing the 20th chapter of my next novel, and I’m not sure today will provide the necessary spare time. The morning is a good time to collect a few thoughts and disseminate them.

As John Belushi said in Animal House, “Grab a brew. Don’t cost nothing.” In the absence of a brew, I start writing. When was the last time I drank a beer before noon? Uh, it was at the Furman football game two weeks ago. That was also the most recent time I drank a beer.

The late humorist Tim Wilson, who went to college here, had a routine about a man stopped by a cop in a city where learning was held in disrepute. What was the punch line? I think it was, “Officer, I been readin’ but I ain’t runk,” but I’m not sure after watching a live performance on TouTube. I enjoyed the show, though. One more brick in the “I won’t be writing fiction today” wall.

Huh. Funny I should mention YouTube. My latest amateurish attempt at both commentary and music is here.

My recent days have been spent describing high school football – it’s not like the old days when one could just write; now many of us are amateur photographers, too – as well as a barbecue festival, taping the aforementioned amateurish video, and watching one hellacious heap of football, NASCAR, and playoff baseball.

Furman clobbered Samford in far Alabama. VMI upended The Citadel on local TV, which was roughly half as sweet as the Paladins’ victory. Let me pause for a moment as I knock on wood; The Citadel is coming to Greenville in two weeks. Clemson and South Carolina were idle, as the Gamecocks often are. Kyle Larson won the race in Dover, and I didn’t pick him on the radio because I have fruitlessly predicted wins by him so often that, on the radio, I compared it to a heroin addiction, which was irresponsible because I’ve never had one and cannot authoritatively write of such horror. This irresponsible attempt at humor undoubtedly contributed to Larson’s victory.

I almost picked Joey Logano, whose axle broke before the race started. I picked Chase Elliott, whose engine expired about five minutes later. It’s been so long since I’ve picked a winner that I don’t remember who it was. I’ve gotten seven right this year. I’m batting .233, or roughly the same as Jackie Bradley Jr.

The best thing about weekends is they get my mind off the country.

 

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

The Heat Is On … in Every Way

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 4, 2017, 12:06 p.m.

Monte Dutton

The forecast says the heat wave is ending tonight. It might rain late next week. Actually, it might rain a little tonight, hopefully not when I’m walking the sideline of a high school football game. Three weeks ago, it didn’t rain in Simpsonville, but nearby lightning strikes delayed the Laurens-Hillcrest game for about an hour and a half.

A year ago, the South was being washed away and the West was on fire.

Could the craziness of the weather and the craziness of the rest of the world be related? It seems as if there is eerie synchonicity at work.

People tweet and post so much, they can’t talk to each other face to face. The country – hell, the world, too – is divided into technologically warring camps.

I’m not sure whether spending most of my time within the boundaries of Laurens County is a good or a bad thing. My three best recent days have all been at Furman University in Greenville County, but maybe that’s just a coincidence.

Lately, the best part of the job has been taking pictures of cute kids running around at community festivals and the like. I’ll get that chance later today – it’s Squealin’ on the Square weekend in Laurens – if not too many people got arrested and I can get out of the house in time. From the Square I’ll go to the stadium, and I like writing about football games, too.

What goes up / Gotta come down / Spinnin’ wheel / Spinnin’ ’round.

I thought baseball died with the Red Sox, but I’m still watching baseball, or at least it’s on TV while I’m working. Spurred by the Paladins of Furman, I’m deeply into college football, but for some reason consciously unknown to me, I haven’t been able to get excited about the NFL. I keep seeing what’s on TCM. I enjoyed The Wheeler Dealers, with James Garner and Lee Remick, yesterday. There’s a programming void where the Red Sox were. The Country Music documentary filled in the blanks for a while.

Ah, hell, this blog ain’t no count. It’s all about me. I am only important to the extent that my experience resonates in others. That might be my problem. Not enough people are like me.

I reckon it’s therapeutic, though.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Another Ken Burns Masterpiece

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Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, October 1, 1:10 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I had to write about Ken Burns’ Country Music series of documentaries, which ran their course last week. I just haven’t had the time until now.

I love them all, but Country Music is right down Broadway, the one in Nashville where I have spent many hours.

Most of the songs I knew. I enjoyed the rare stories that I didn’t already know. For instance, I knew of the Maddox Brothers and Rose, but I didn’t know much. It’s impossible to put together a comprehensive series without slighting someone. In my view, the most notable omission was Don Williams. I’d have liked to see more about Jim Reeves, and Robert Earl Keen, and at least a little Vern Gosdin and Billy Joe Shaver.

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But I was wanting it customized for me, and the documentary was crafted for everyone.

I’ve always considered Connie Smith to be the most underrated woman singer. One of the great stories was about how Marty Stuart, as a teen, saw Smith in concert, had his picture taken with her, and vowed on the way home that he was going to marry her. He did so 25 years later.

That right there is a country song, just like the life of George Jones.

I think journalism is a combination of providing what people want and what they need. The world needs to know of Connie Smith and Marty Stuart.

Charley Pride

I love Charley Pride, Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Loretta Lynn, Roger Miller, Buck Owens, Townes Van Zandt. and Guy Clark. Jerry Jeff Walker was only mentioned briefly, but his photo, usually sitting around with other outlaws, popped up repeatedly. Every time I hear Patsy Cline’s voice, I get chills. Yesterday, I was driving from Waterloo back home and heard “Shoes.” It was like cold water ran down my back.

I often think of the Jimmy Buffett lines: With a head full of feeling higher / And an ear full of Patsy Cline / There is just no one who can touch her / Hell, I hang on every line.

The fourth episode made me emotional. I knew Cline’s plane was going to crash. I didn’t know Miller was going to find the wreckage. My favorite Cline song has always been “I Fall to Pieces.”

Buffett was unmentioned, but he’s a country music hybrid who may have his own genre, somewhere out past Kenny Chesney and Larry Joe Taylor.

The joys far outnumbered the disappointments. More got their due than didn’t.

Hank Williams

My favorite observation was that rock ’n’ roll was the blues’s child, but the daddy was a hillbilly.

Just as a songwriter deserves credit for a great song that someone else recorded, Dayton Duncan masterfully wrote the scripts that Burns directed. The episodes took the story along its way, but each was a coherent yarn of its own. Elements that seemed disparate came together at the ends.

Moe Bandy, himself overlooked, had a song, written by Paul Craft, also overlooked, titled “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life.” With their lives, Jones and Van Zandt wrote it another way.

It could have been the name of the whole series. It was the middle ground between “The Wild Side of Life” and “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”

Jimmie, Johnny, Carters, Merle, George, Monroe, Waylon, Willie, Kris, Acuff, Hank, Hank Jr., Garth … I didn’t even mind that the story ended 20 years ago.

History requires a bit of perspective, and perspective gets lost in the present.

 

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.