Peeking Outside

A six-o'clark start in Hickory, and a seventh-inning departure, got me home at a decent hour. (Monte Dutton photo)
A six-o’clark start in Hickory, and a seventh-inning departure, got me home at a decent hour. (Monte Dutton photo)

Man, oh, man. My life has changed.

For twenty years, I flew about fifty thousand miles in each, writing about stock car races all over the country. On Friday, I will walk onto a plane for the first time since November 2012.

I used to write columns. Now I write blogs. I used to write non-fiction. Now I write fiction. I used to have an expense account. Now I have tax deductions. I used to have free motel breakfasts. Now I have almost the same breakfast every morning.

Not everything has changed. In many cases, the same has become different. The pattern used to be: pay bills, pack up, leave on Thursday, go to the track, go to the track, go to the track, write up until checkout on Monday, hurry home or to the airport, unpack, wash clothes, start all over.

Now, most days, the routine is get up, drink coffee, start writing, fix breakfast, write some more, read a while, watch the Red Sox. Sometimes I mix in music, or accounting, or bold plans to advance my career, most of which don’t wind up being that bold.

Writing about writing gets old. When I “slip out,” it’s priceless. I need observations. I need to watch people, whether they are waitresses, ballplayers, fans, friends, other writers, tinkers, tailors, candlestick makers. I don’t really know any of the last three, but I know clichés very well, even though I try not to be seen with them.

The road is nice, particularly now that I don’t see much of it. I like signs, and sometimes I don’t even want to know what they mean.

Golf Appreciation Night I get. I don't know the Beatles fireworks, though. (Monte Dutton photo)
Golf Appreciation Night I get. I don’t know the Beatles fireworks, though. (Monte Dutton photo)

Yesterday I awakened at about four a.m. so that I could go to an old haunt, Martinsville, Virginia, for a book fair at Binding Time Café. I chatted with other authors, signed books, plunked away at my guitar, and, because I don’t own a pop-up tent (yet), turned a brighter shade of red. When I left southern Virginia, I sought out adventure, which, sadly, at this stage of my life, involves watching a minor league baseball game. I instructed my phone to plot me a course to Hickory, North Carolina – I considered Asheville, but I’ve seen games there – with the understanding, between Siri and me, that if I started getting tired, I’d just go on home.

I got to L.P. Frans Park with close to an hour to spare and was amazed at the early-arriving crowd. Little did I know that the Christian rock band Kutless was performing after the game between the Hickory Crawdads and the Delmarva Shorebirds. I had never heard of Kutless. In fact, I assumed it was Cutlass. Both my brother and sister drove Cutlasses at one time. They were Olds times. I drove a Skylark for a while, and then one day the engine blew up on the Spartanburg Highway, about halfway to Cross Anchor, but that’s not important. It is merely an aside.

Beautiful L.P. Frans Field, recently renovated. (Monte Dutton photo)
Beautiful L.P. Frans Field, recently renovated. (Monte Dutton photo)

The kids to my left were from Lincolnton and loved baseball. They invariably cheered and clapped when the scoreboard instructed them to do so. To my right, and also behind me, were race fans, which I discovered when I mentioned in passing that I used to write about them (mainly the racing, but sometimes the fans). They wanted to talk about (a.) Tony Stewart, (b.) Dale Earnhardt the first, and, (c.) the Jarretts, who are from there. Also, I recall a brief mention of Conover’s Morgan Shepherd.

With the Crawdads safely in front, I left after six innings, well in advance of Kutless, because I had started yawning a lot. Siri sent me down to Gastonia, rather than through the country to Gaffney, and I dutifully followed her suggestion because she assured me it would take twelve minutes less. I got home in time to see the last four innings of the Houston-Boston game on TV.

Now, having “marked as spam” the 222 rogue comments posted on the website, I’m ready to get back to being a reclusive author again for a few days.

Read my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope. They’re better than this.


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