Really Stupid from Time to Time

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 15, 2019, 11:55 a.m.

Monte Dutton

I’m a volatile combination: meticulous and, yet, absentminded.

I’ll go through a news release and change every “8:00 PM” to “8 p.m.,” but I’ll write “it’s” when I know damn well it’s supposed to be “its.” I have to edit myself as much as the releases.

Occasionally, I think I might be starting to slip into the cool water of dementia, but then I rejoice in the knowledge that I have been absentminded all my life. To my credit, I’ve mainly made catastrophic mistakes only once.

Only once did I leave a piece of medical equipment on a bench when I boarded an airport van to take me back to my car. (When I caught another van and returned, miraculously, it was still sitting there.)

Only once did I empty some brush, stumble on a slick spot, brace myself against a tailgate that wasn’t securely closed, and crash down the walls of a ravine. All it cost me was 12 stitches.

Only once did I grab a large black suitcase at the luggage claim, roll it about a quarter of a mile to the National lot, open the trunk, hoist the bag … and realize it wasn’t mine, and, further, only once did I drag it back to the luggage claim, there to see my bag going around and around, and a man standing there waiting for the one I had. I told him if he punched me in the mouth, I wouldn’t say a word, but he was a nice fellow, it was in Elmira, New York, and he probably had some sympathy when he realized my dialect was Southern. Never, in all the years since, have I purchased black luggage, and I gave what I had to the Salvation Army, whose patrons are undoubtedly traveling constantly.

Only once did I lock myself out of a car, and that was way back when coat hangers still worked.

When something unexpected suddenly happens, I typically get addled, and when I’m addled, I’m prone to stupidity. I am a creature of habit. If I put my left sock on before my right, anything might happen.

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The incidents recalled above occurred when I was 50, 17, 45 and 20. I am now 61. I was due.

On Tuesday, I got caught up early – the county arrests were light for the daily report – and decided to return a favor. When someone does me a favor, I try to return it. Sometimes I forget, but I try. On an assignment, about six weeks earlier, I had eaten supper – a meal that still exists in my generation – with workers because they had bread, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, crackers, etc., and they assured me there was more than enough to go around.

I dropped by a bakery and bought blueberry pound cake. It cost something and 91 cents, so I started to use my debit card, but then I realized I had a pocket full of change, so I handed the lady some bills, sat my wallet on the counter and counted out the 91 cents.

Then I drove toward Laurens and, still having time to kill, decided to get a haircut. Afterwards, in order to pay, I reached for the wallet that had last been seen on the counter of the bakery, and there, presumably, it remained. The bakery is run by religious people – Amish, maybe, or Mennonite? Surely not Rastafarian or Zoroastrian – and they occasionally do business, apparently, with others who are absentminded. I’m glad it wasn’t the Family Dollar or the DMV.

Meanwhile, I raced back to the bakery, which closed at 4, and it was 4:30, so I had to get a pal at the nearby office supply to spot me a 20 so I could go back to the barber shop – okay, it was a Great Clips – and pay for my haircut.

I was so addled at County Council that I briefly mistook a city council member for the police chief.

The nice young woman from the bakery had left me a message when I got home – Imagine! She apparently looked in a phone book! – and, even though I had pound cake (I’m so glad I bought two) and coffee for supper, on Wednesday morning, I went back to the bakery, paid back the 20, and became economically viable again.

After a Meaty Breakfast at Steamers, I was back on track.

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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Adventures with Freddy, Part 3

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Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, August 11, 2019, 2:45 p.m.

In Part Three, suspicion begins to intrude on the traveling camaraderie between the driverless SUV “Freddy” and the passenger “Horace.”

Monte Dutton

It felt odd to become friends with a machine, but Freddy and I were getting along famously. We traveled all the way to Oregon and back, taking our time, stopping off at places like the Bonneville Salt Flats and Crater Lake because I had never seen them before except from above. I’d slept on couches and spare bedrooms frequently in my life, and the Trek’s seat was comfortable when reclined. Occasionally, we stopped for the night because I needed a genuine bed when my back got a bit stiff. I spent the night in Kansas City on the way out – the Cleveland Indians were in town – and Nashville on the way back.

Gradually, my machine took human attributes in my mind. Freddy took good care of me, but there seemed to be little I could do for him. When I slept and “he” needed me, Freddy gently adjusted the temperature on the seat, raising or lowering it depending on the weather conditions. In the mountains at night, he lowered the driver-side window.

“What? What?”

“I will soon be due for an oil change,” Freddy said.

“I’m guessing there is no opportunity at three in the morning.”

“No. However, a certified service facility is located in Twin Falls, Idaho.”

“Fine,” I said.

“I just wanted to clear it with you. It opens at eight. I wanted your permission in the event that you are asleep when we reach the destination.”

“Find me a good cup of coffee when you get the chance, Freddy.”

“Yes, Horace. Are you not in need of sleep?”

“Nah,” I replied. “I want to talk.”

Allegedly, I was in luck. The truckstop had a neon sign in the window that read “Move Over, Starbucks,” and I thought, well, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Coffee is coffee. At a truckstop, at least it’s reliably strong. I filled Freddy’s tank, checked his oil, and bought a container more vat than cup and an apple fritter that was tasty and fresh. Sugar and caffeine. That would do me.

I thought a while and finally brought up the subject that had intrigued me for a while.

“Freddy, do you have opinions?”

“I have analysis,” he said. “You have analysis, too, but humans have opinions. I draw conclusions.”

I thought for a few moments.

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“You’re Mister Spock,” I said.

I thought I could feel Freddy whirring.

“Spock S’chn T’gai.” The words he displayed on the video screen.

“Say what?” I asked.

“Mister Spock is a character in the Star Trek media franchise. S’chn T’gai is his Vulcan family name.”

“And Freddy is a character in the Trek SUV franchise,” I said.

“True.”

“The coffee kicked in.”

Silence.

“The stimulation,” I said. “It made me able to come up with a clever observation. A joke. You are a Trek, not a Star Trek. Get it?”

Silence.

“You meant your remark to signify irony,” Freddy said.

“Yes,” I replied. “I didn’t do it very effectively. That’s because you analyzed it.”

 

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.

Adventures with Freddy, Part 2

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Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, July 31, 2019, 12:15 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

When last we checked in on Freddy Frost, he and “Horace” were becoming well acquainted.

As in the words of Johnny Cash, by way of Shel Silverstein, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July, and before continuing on to Nashville, after a day of writing in collaboration with an associate and chum, I decided to have a brew or five. Jed McCloughan made a few calls, and two others showed up at a sports bar where Jed knew the owner, and since it was a Wednesday night and no entertainment was scheduled, we congregated over in a corner, backed up against the plate-glass windows, and commenced to playing musical instruments and singing as we ate hot wings and shared pitchers. Jed and I played acoustic guitars. Jed’s wife, Ingrid, brushed on a snare drum, and another fellow whose name now escapes me had a harmonica he could make wail. It was a nickname, Sonny or Shorty, maybe, and I knew it when we were playing. It just disappeared amidst the suds.

I was unworried. I had my electronic chauffeur, Freddy, to move me along to Nashville and then Louisville. This was to be a trip of great merriment, wrapped around the signing of a new and improved contract in Music City.

Jed and I played lots of new material, some of which we had written that very day. He sang some more of his, and I sang some more of mine. Our guests played instruments that didn’t require much prior knowledge of our work. “Sonny” (I think that’s his likely name) could do it professionally. I remember he ran a music shop, so, in some small way, he did. Jed said they got to know each other when both lived in Nashville. He and I fled the songwriting factories when the Internet made it possible, and when Jed landed in Gatlinburg, Sonny was already there. Jed said he stayed sharp by playing for tips at Sonny’s music shop on Thursday nights, and if I’d had a day to spare, I would have joined him.

At eleven, the owner dimmed the lights, and because all good things have an ending, I put my guitar in its case and climbed into Freddy, who obligingly popped his back gate before I got there. I reckon Freddy never sleeps. He remains active even when he’s inactive.

“To Nashville, Freddy!”

“Yes, at once, sir.”

“Freddy?”

“Yes, at once, Horace.”

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I needed to sleep but couldn’t. Fun often leaves me that way. I felt exhilarated, not particularly drunk, though I had every right to be. As Freddy bypassed his way around the northern skirts of Knoxville, I wanted to talk, and I had enough truth serum in me to do so frankly.

“Freddy, what are the limits of my ownership?”

“Could you be more specific?”

“Okay, you monitor me, correct? You knew I was approaching with my guitar because you obligingly popped the lid.”

“That’s correct, Horace.”

“Is all the information you acquire private? Is it available to outside parties?

“Not as a rule,” he said.

“What exactly does that mean?” I asked.

“The information is not utilized in a specific sense. At regular intervals, general information regarding uses, miles covered, destinations, time frames … shall I continue?”

“No, I get the idea. Can I give you a hypothetical example?”

“As you wish.”

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“For instance, what if I violated the law, and you had knowledge of it? Would you be obligated to furnish that information if it was wanted by, say, the cops?”

“Is there something I should know, Horace?”

“No, no. I was just thinking about it,” I said. “What if, right now, I had a large bag of marijuana stashed in my guitar case? Would you have knowledge of that?”

“Not unless you revealed it.”

“You couldn’t x-ray the contents?”

“No.”

“Is there a way an outside party could access your data base by plugging into it?”

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“In some cases,” Freddy said, “it could be accessed by a certified Trek mechanic, but I know of no existing means for law enforcement personnel that could plug a device into my database directly.”

“In other words, Freddy, I do not have total control of a vehicle I own.”

“May I ask a question, Horace?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a large bag of marijuana in your guitar case?”

“Of course not,” I said. “I said it was hypothetical. It’s just the first thing I thought of.”

“Yes, Horace.”

“I just wanted to define the parameters of the relationship between the two of us.”

“You could change the default settings.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Here’s a check box,” Freddy said. “By using the cursor with your finger, mark ‘hide personal information.’”

The check box interfered Seth Meyers’ monologue. I checked the box.

“Now hit ‘complete’.”

I did so.

“Very good, sir. Horace.”

“And, now, it’s inaccessible?”

“It’s more difficult to acquire. If you want to erase that information totally, it could be done, but I do not recommend it.”

“Why?” I asked.

“One reason would be that you’d find me considerably less intelligent,” Freddy said.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to stunt your growth.”

“Pardon me.”

“It was a joke, Freddy.”

“Yes. I see.”

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“How could I dump the information in an emergency?”

“I recommend that you select a word that would begin the protocol. The checkbox would then come up on your screen, and you check it and hit ‘complete,’ and it will dump the personal database.”

“What if, say, I used the word ‘dump’?”

“Would you like me to set it up?” Freddy asked.

“Okay. What if I said ‘dump’ unintentionally?”

“The screen would come up, and you could check ‘cancel’.”

“Do it,” I said.

“As you wish.” I thought I detected a note of disappointment. Freddy thinks Daddy doesn’t trust him.

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.

Adventures with Freddy, Part 1

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Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 17 2019, 1:15 p.m.

I haven’t written a short story in quite a while, so I decided to work on this one in installments. This fiction takes place in the not-too-distant future.

Monte Dutton

The idea grew out of my increasing hatred of air travel.

For twenty years, I flew in those godforsaken airliners, and the service got worse every year. No leg room. Predictably regular delays. Once, on a trip to Kansas City, canceled flights on the way out and the way back led to the realization that I would’ve been better off driving. What started as a joke told to myself evolved into a personal plausibility study.

Driving, unfortunately, is exhausting. It makes no sense to me that I can sit on my ass for twelve hours and arrive home feeling as if I’ve been jogging. I don’t understand it. I guess that watching the road takes a hidden toll. I guess the concentration required, however minimal, taxes the psyche.

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Oh, I tried to beat the excruciating system. I flew on other airlines and found them equally maddening, so I went back to the one where most of my frequent-flyer miles were deposited, but less loyalty meant a lowering of my “gold” status to “silver,” and first-class upgrades became as unlikely as lottery winners.

Coincidentally, I was pondering all this on a short flight from Richmond to Charlotte, so I started researching the matter online. While I was reading consumer satisfaction (or lack thereof) surveys, the guy in the seat ahead of me abruptly let his seat back and nearly sheared the screen right off my laptop. The screen went blank briefly. I took a deep breath and tapped the shoulder of the guy.

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“Sir, I would appreciate it if you’d give me a warning next time you let your seat back,” I said. “You might’ve just killed my laptop.”

“Well, bub, you probably needed a new one, anyway,” he said. “Me taking a nap is a right. You using your computer is an option and a risk.”

Not so much as a “sorry, but …” I wanted to strangle him, but I just settled for the last word.

“I appreciate your reading of the Constitution,” I said. If he’d replied, I might have advanced to the strangulation option, but he let it go.

Miraculously, my Toshiba started right back up, and I went from airline options to travel options, in general, and the research continued when I got back home and the next morning, as well. I couldn’t figure a way to make passenger trains cost-effective unless I wanted to sit upright for nineteen hours, and I didn’t.

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Driverless cars. I’d never put much thought into them. I figured if I was going to die in a fiery crash, I wanted it to be my own fault. The problem with long trips is all that driving time. What if I bought a car that did the driving for me? No canceled flights. No delays. Legroom.

If I bought a driverless car, it had to be top of the line. It had to be durable, and I decided that, over a two-year span, it had to pay for itself. I was surprised to learn, after I estimated liberally the costs – insurance, fuel, service, tolls, depreciation, repairs – it could pay for itself. I work for myself. I needed no approval. I had to file no paperwork. My flights were booked two months ahead. I decided I would do more research, with the goal being to buy a car and put it in service during that period.

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For years, I’ve been playing the stock market. My strategy has always been simple and patient. I’d do the research, buy a stock, set a target, and sell it when it reached the target. I’d had a few losers. They were still there in my portfolio because I refused to sell any at a loss. For a month, when I sold a profitable stock, rather than reinvesting, I transferred the money to my checking account. I spent a little over a hundred grand on a Trek DL-8, a sport-utility vehicle, smoky silver, with plenty of room for my bags, golf clubs, ice chest, and guitar.

Guess what? I didn’t have to pick it up. It drove itself to my house. What will they think of next? A lot.

First I set the Trek on manual override and shook it down on a short trip to Asheville, two hours up Interstate 26. On the way back that night, the Trek spoke to me for the first time.

“Pardon me, sir.”

I was taken aback.

“That was awfully polite of you.”

“Yes, sir. I just wanted to inform you of a considerable traffic stoppage about ten miles ahead. Would you like to reroute?”

“What do you suggest?”

“Perhaps you would like me to handle this?”

“How?”

“Disarm the manual override, sir. I will be pleased to take over the navigation.”

“Okay,” I replied. “Do you have a name?”

“You may give me one.”

“Let’s see. You have a female voice, so I guess I should give you a woman’s name.”

“If it pleases you, sir, I can change my voice to a masculine timbre.”

“All right, I’ve taken you off manual. How about Freddy?”

“Very good, sir. Is this voice satisfactory?”

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“You sound like Henry Fonda. That’s not bad,” I said. Freddy, by the way, is negotiating a winding mountain road with extraordinary verve. It brings James Bond to mind. “How about an English dialect? I like English golf commentators.”

“There are many English dialects.”

“Well, certainly not Cockney. I’d never understand you.”

“No, sir.”

“How about something similar to David Frost?”

David Frost

“One moment,” Freddy said. “Frost, David Paradine (1939-2013), media personality.”

“That’s it,” I said. “Vivid. Expansive. Easy to understand. ‘Dahee-vid Frahst’.”

“Very good, sir,” said Freddy Frost.

“Call me Horace,” I said.

“But your name is Chris.”

“I know. But we may as well carry the charade to its natural conclusion.”

By the time we completed a two-week trip to Dallas, then Phoenix, then back home, I thought my name was Horace. Freddy drove around the clock. All I did was sleep, pump gas, and pay at the drive-through.

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.

Adventures in Technology, Breathing, and Breathing Technologically

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 18, 2019, 11:18 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

This is the first blog in a while. I’ve been busy. My home wifi went out, and I couldn’t schedule a technician until Tuesday. While I was spending time at the local library and McDonald’s – two locations conveniently nearby – someone hacked my Facebook account, and dozens of “friends,” Facebook variety, sent me messages that they had received new “friend requests” from me.

My CPAP (“continuous positive airway pressure”) machine died. I’ve been using one to sleep for 15 years or so now, and it’s been so effective that I am almost unable to sleep at all without one.

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On Monday, I was preparing to drive over to Union to get a CPAP replacement when I decided to call ahead, which was fortunate because there was no place in Union to call. That company has merged with another, and the nearest office is now Greenwood, not Union. Supposedly my records were in Greenwood, too, but, no. Since my CPAP with the broken motor had the name of the old company, the friendly fellow there provided me with a loaner. They only difference is that, when I put on the mask, I don’t have to turn the machine on. It starts up as soon as I inhale.

A CPAP machine is wonderful. It is also addictive. I can barely function without it.

The most aggravating part of getting the wifi – and land line – repaired was the ordeal of having to spend an hour or two of talking to someone whose dialect I could barely decipher and having him tell me to try things I’d already tried half a dozen times. One cannot just make an appointment. One has to have the fellow on the phone decide an appointment is needed.

“I think we will have to schedule a visit by one of our technicians.”

“I expected as much, Sherlock,” replied I.

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Sunday night at McDonald’s on the interstate. Monday afternoon at the library, where I was pleased to see that four of my novels and a collection of short stories was on the shelves. Tuesday morning photos of high school football teams playing pitch-and-catch. McDonald’s to crop and dicker with those photos and write a text to accompany them. On the way home, the technician calls, and we arrive at the house at the same time. His equipment tells him my line is out 405 feet away. While he goes 405 feet away, I fold clothes that had been left in the dryer. He tells me that the last time a technician visited, a year or so back, he ran a new line down the edge of the road to my house and sent in an order that it needed to be buried. The memorial service was never conducted. The line had been going in and out – usually the wifi would fail, I would see that the phone had no dial tone, and it would come back in five minutes or so. It went out on Saturday morning, quite likely because the man cutting my grass and trimming the grounds ran over it with something that had blades. It was neither his fault or mine because the line had never been buried and neither I nor the man on the mower had any way of knowing this.

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I hurriedly piece together the daily arrests report for GoLaurens/GoClinton and drive to Laurens for a City Council meeting. Then I pick the photos, write the story and edit half a dozen releases that have arrived in my email while I was otherwise occupied.

Wednesday wasn’t too bad. I got caught up. I played a little guitar. Read my Kindle a while. The Red Sox won.

I’ve spent a lot of time on hold this week. When I called my doctor’s office and tried to explain that the relationship with my CPAP provider is, uh, complicated, I found out he could work me in on August 1. Super.

All is now well, or at least manageable. I can both work at home and sleep here again.

If technology makes my life any more convenient, I won’t have any time at all.

 

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.

Back in the Roots of My Raising

(Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 12, 2019, 1:28 p.m.

Monte Dutton

My mother, 79 years young, and I chat on the phone most days. It is my theory that the relation between generations is all mathematic.

When I was born, Betty Davis Dutton was not quite 18. When I was 4 and she 22, we were miles apart, thought certainly not in love and devotion. For a kid who’s 4, those who are 5 are in an entirely different social stratum. They’re just 80 percent alike. When the kid is 16 and a high school sophomore, seniors are not too different and almost approachable.

Now I am 61, and my mother’s 79, and I’m as close to her in terms of knowledge and maturity as to a 5-year-old when I was 4. I have friends 10-11 years younger and older now. Beyond a decade, they’re friendly acquaintances but not really friends because that’s an exclusive category. Friendly acquaintances are to friends what traditional friends are to Facebook friends.

As one gets older, he or she must appreciate the positives because the negatives grow.

Ella, my niece, with “the Betty” (Monte Dutton photo)

Yesterday Mom told me she had bumped into Shirley Jenkins, who’s a city councilwoman – in Laurens they are all councilors but in Clinton, they are still -men and -women. They worked together at Whitten Center, the state mental retardation, no, handicapped, no, special, no, challenged, facility in Clinton. Mom told me that Lula, a babysitter of ours when my two sisters, brother and I were growing up, was Shirley’s grandmother.

“Lord, we gave that woman hell,” I said.

“You sure did,” Mom said. “When y’all were little, you bragged about it a good bit.”

The grandmother of my mother’s friend was one of my babysitters during the years when my parents ran a steakhouse in town.

Yeah. I’m old.

Clinton is a provincial little town. I sometimes tell people it’s not that I love it, but, rather, that I know it. Back when I traveled the country writing about NASCAR, I didn’t really live here. I just paid bills, washed clothes and cut grass here. Then it was off to the road to, say, Martinsville, or the airport, on Thursdays, and back home on Monday nights.

People used to ask me, “What are you doing in town?”

“Well, I live here,” I’d reply.

This is the seventh year since I ran away from the circus after running away with it 20 years earlier, and I’ve become a Clintonian full-time again. This morning I drove as far away as Greenwood because my Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine conked out after 10 years. When one is accustomed to the CPAP, it’s hard to sleep without one. I slept very little last night and have been guzzling coffee since I awakened. Greenwood is only a half hour’s drive, but it was grueling.

The company that provided me the CPAP and supplies for it has merged with another company to form a larger company, and it’s fortunate that I called ahead because I very nearly drove to Union, where there is no place now to provide my needs. Also, with the new provider, my records never got transferred. The fellow at the Greenwood office provided me with a loaner for now, but next week I’ll have to get my doctor to call so that I can get a new one.

See what happens when I go out of town?

In my present job, which requires me to keep up with whatever is shaking in Laurens County, I am still learning Laurens, the county seat, but I know Clinton. I have grown to appreciate little charms of the area. I like to hang out in places like L&L Office Supply, Sadler-Owens Apothecary and Steamers, where I have breakfast when I have a morning appointment and thus a reason to “power down” the laptop. Debra Mann knows that I want the “meaty” breakfast, eggs over-medium with grits, sausage, bacon and sourdough toast, unless I tell her different, which I have done once in the past two years when a taste for pancakes interceded. I cook almost the same exact breakfast at home, too, on the days when I have no reason to get out until afternoon.

Clinton does not provide that much variety, but life is reliable.

(Monte Dutton photo)

The news and sports beats keep me attuned. I often take pictures of little children running around; it’s probably the part of the job I enjoy the most. Since I got back from Greenwood, I’ve been editing obituaries. It’s a little early yet for the arrest report.

This is home. As noted earlier, I know it, and I’ve gotten old enough to appreciate it.

On Wednesday, I was taking photos of the Clinton Red Devils and Laurens Raiders playing summertime catch – 7-on-7s, they’re called – and the Laurens football coach, Chris Liner, noted that I was standing on the Red Devil sideline.

Corey Fountain (Monte Dutton photo)

I told him I had been on the Raider sideline earlier and was wearing a Furman T-shirt in the name of local impartiality.

“I don’t blame you,” Chris said. “If I’d gone to Clinton, I’d be on that sideline, too.”

He’s one of my favorite people in the county. I like the Red Devils’ new coach, Corey Fountain, a lot, too, but we’re still getting acquainted.

Chris Liner (Monte Dutton photo)

I hope Laurens wins every single game but one, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I’m not sure what separates Clinton from Laurens in the bloodstream or water supply, but it’s just a little different. Clinton is where the roots of my raising are anchored in the soil.

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.

Independence with a Little ‘i’

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 6, 2019, 1:49 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I’ve restrung two guitars this week during the time I could spare from work. I also worked on my next novel on consecutive days for the first time in at least six months. Independence Day gave me some time for independence.

I had a few local government meetings to attend. A wreck at 2 in the morning claimed a life. Last night it was raining here, in Detroit where the Red Sox were playing, and in Daytona Beach, where the NASCAR undercard was playing, or, rather, wrecking, out. On the Fourth, the president got discombulated and said the Army regained control of the airports during the Revolutionary War, and confused that war with the one that began in 1812, and blamed it all later on the Teleprompter going out. The Muppets were on one side of the National Mall, and Trump was on the other, and I could only tell one from the other because the Muppets were amusing.

My wi-fi is out, which is the principal reason I am writing this. I’ve reset the modem to no avail, and I’ve learned the best thing to do is wait a while and see if it takes care of itself.

Ross Chastain, the newest tiger unleashed in NASCAR, won a race marred by as many bloopers as Trump’s speech. The Red Sox won once the game in Detroit resumed. They’re still exciting to watch – in almost every game, they either come from behind or blow a lead – but the magic of 2018 is gone. I still watch when I can, often fiddling with photos or writing at the same time, hoping vaguely that I am wrong.

The highlight was Wednesday night’s Riverfront Freedom Festival, held each year in Laurens to ensure further freedom on the Little River. I really enjoy training my camera on little kids running around, making their mamas and daddies uneasy, with snowcones getting spilled by the kids and daddies consuming hot dogs in three bites before they get spilled, too. Free music and fireworks bring the people together, all sizes, ages, genders, races and income levels. I talked about high school football with a deputy, gossiped about local politics with a politician, and snapped away, trying to time the explosions of the fireworks because the lens I needed was back in the truck.

Most of the time, I think of photography as a necessary detriment to my writing, but it’s growing on me. I always enjoyed it when I wasn’t writing, but I’m starting to complement one with the other.

If that high point doesn’t seem that high, well, it was on the banks of a river. Three freight trains came by while I was there.

The local CBS affiliate has been off since a company called NexStar declared its independence from DirecTV on the Fourth of July, too. I’m missing the 3M Open right now. Boston at Detroit is at 4, and it might be timed perfectly for the Monster Cup race in Daytona Beach, which comes on NBC at 7:30. The Twins lead the Rangers, 5-0, in the fifth inning, and the Orioles are ahead of the Blue Jays, 2-0, in the fourth. The Red Sox games is only minutes away.

Meanwhile, I’m on standby, waiting on calls from two beauty queens and a fire chief. Separate stories, mind you.

It’s been the usual blur, just a slightly different one, and undoubtedly difficult to notice from a distance.

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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.