A Perpetual Edge Inevitably Dulls

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 10:27 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

The world is in a haze, and it has nothing to do with the West being in flames.

The West is always in flames. It’s the figurative and literal reason for the haze. I have become inured to wildfires.

I’m inured to Russian interference, cops shooting the wrong guy, powerful men trading assistance for sexual favors, mass shootings, around-the-clock news and sports, and The Simpsons on TV somewhere.

Nothing surprises me except the strangeness of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries showing one Christmas movie after another in the middle of July. Hallmark must have gotten inured to replays of Columbo, Diagnosis: Murder and Monk.

Our current president has become so unpredictable, it’s predictable.

The summer haze is a short social-media video that keeps running over and over. Soccer players grimacing. Politicians screaming. Farmers Insurance knowing a thing or two because it’s seen a thing or two.

That’s my me, too movement. So many things matter that nothing matters.

Madness has become normal. If you don’t believe me, read your Facebook feed.

(Monte Dutton photo)

It’s hard to maintain passion because passion has become normal.

All of a sudden, little things mean a lot. Last night I was editing an obituary that had a small typo. The deceased reportedly once enjoyed riding around the county with her husband in their motorhome. Apparently they were as close to homebodies as travelers can be. I changed “county” to “country” and laughed for thirty seconds.

If the government put puppies and kitten in cages, no one would stand for 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.

(Steven Novak cover)

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

The new novel, my eighth, 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 Word Around Here

I sketched this back in the old days when the USA made it. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 3, 2018, 8:56 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

When I was growing up, many local businesses closed on Wednesdays. That gradually diminished over time – for a long time, some still closed on Wednesdays at noon – but most locally owned businesses are closed for at least a day each week.

Some restaurants that used to close on Sunday are now closed on Monday. Undoubtedly, the ones that draw a Sunday crowd are more inclined to take Monday off.

You ask why I ponder such matters on this bright morning?

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Well, I’m cultivating within me the inspiration to write something more weighty. This involves sipping coffee, checking the email and social media, and playing a little guitar as a further means of getting the cobwebs out by trying to remember the words to songs I haven’t played in a while.

Normally, I fix a nice breakfast at home, skip lunch, and either nibble at night or go out to eat at a favorite haunt. When an evening assignment takes me to Laurens, I eat at a place there that we don’t have here.

This guy looks nothing like me, but he does like coffee. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Mondays are often relegated to a chain restaurant because so many local joints are closed. Last night I tried the new Arby’s, using a coupon I got in the mail. I was impressed by the speed of the drive-though. At local places, I usually eat in. That way I can read a book on my phone while awaiting the chow.

I managed to squeeze six paragraphs out of the most droll of topics.

My good knee’s been acting up. Perhaps it’s making a transition to being my bad knee. I should put ice on it. Maybe during tonight’s Red Sox game. It’s hard to write with ice on the knee. It falls off too easily.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Now that I’ve started editing obituaries, I’ve become a valuable source of information for my mother, who has occasionally lamented that half the time, she doesn’t know someone has died until he or she is already buried. It’s bound to be a vibrant part of our daily phone conversations.

Sweden is about to play Switzerland. I can’t help saying Sveden versus Svitzerland in my head.

Velly eenteresting.

I’m also thinking about considering Sweden as UCLA and Switzerland as Stanford. It appears the refs are wearing light blue. Advantage: UCLA! The teams are emerging. Sweden is wearing darker blue. California, then. The World Cup version of The Big Game! Switzerland’s red is too bright for Stanford, which, of course, is cardinal. I just can’t get into Cal versus Wisconsin, though.

Soccer, or futbol, or World Football, or whatever, is a solid accompaniment to writing. There’s that nice drone, that hum, constantly in the background, and the mad eruption when a goal is scored, or even when some chap untidily crashes to the turf. I pay attention for a few minutes and then go back to typing.

I watched the Russia win over Spain pretty closely. A mistake. The last time I rooted for Spain that much, I was reading Hemingway, and even then, it was a civil war.

It’s time to have breakfast and then be somebody.

 

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.

(Steven Novak cover)

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

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

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

When the Roll Is Called in Homeroom, I’ll Be There

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 30, 2018, 4:02 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’ve been working my ass off. No, that’s not right. I’ve been wearing my ass out. Mainly I’ve been sitting down.

I’m in the process of learning how to manage the county website. It’s not the official county website. It’s a news site, or two that are intertwined, GoLaurens.com and GoClinton.com, because Laurens County has two towns that are roughly the same size.

I’ve been learning how to lay it out. How to place photos. How to put together the police reports and the obituaries.

“Putting on the Hits” in Joanna a while back.

This reminds me of the late David Poole, who, when a race-car driver proclaimed that David had no business writing about racing because he’d never driven a race car, would get the look on his face that basically told the world, Thank you, God, and reply by saying, grandly, “I’ve never died, but I’ve written many an obituary.”

Now David has died. Everyone does. In the hereafter, he certainly doesn’t have to write obits.

I don’t write them. I just compile and edit them.

In this new job, my perfectionism works against me. I’ve spent a lot of times the past few days, changing numbers into numerals and numerals into numbers, making “style edits,” and I have concluded that Piedmont Technical College writes the best releases in the area.

State Rep. Mark Willis talking to kids at a local museum’s history camp.

I haven’t actually done my first crime report yet – I expect it’s a bit early with a Saturday night bearing down – but I’ve read the instructions. I scheduled one announcement on the site. It was an upcoming talent contest at a nearby church.

Without question, I write a bit too much news for my taste. I’ve done it before. I’m competent at it, but I’ve always enjoyed sports because the human emotion is so obvious. Lots of public officials are prone to choke at the corresponding free-throw line, but often they manage to do it behind closed doors.

My boss, predecessor and mentor has a sports bent, too. I’m fortunate to have him handy. I might be a tad hardheaded and independent for local tastes. I like a perspective that is different from others, and the freedom to pursue it is greater than it was in NASCAR, where the job has become a contest of competing versions of the same press conferences and transcripts. This week I wrote a story about a woman who won big on The Price Is Right, and I was proud of the tale I got.

A Little League fan from Greenwood accosted me last night. I was taking photos through the opening in a chain-link fence, and I told the man sitting there that I’d only be there for a few moments because I was taking some photos of the Laurens pitcher. I did not know that his grandson was batting. He said okay.

“Hey, buddy.” People who call me “buddy” or “brother” usually aren’t, the same way that people on social media always write that they “love” something they don’t. “You need to get your ass over on the Laurens side.”

I explained to him that I did not know that and would have waited if I had. I’m pretty sure he thought the pitcher and I were related. He cooled down after I politely defended myself, and another Greenwood fan told me he thought that fellow was “way out of line,” but I really didn’t think it was that big a deal. I never think things are as heated as those who watch them do. I’ve had shouting matches with Dale Earnhardt before, and having a shouting match with him was the best way a reporter could possibly get along with the aptly named Intimidator.

Now I’m briefly caught up, but I’m hoping to hear word of how the second game in the state championship Little League series* came out. I’m sure the Greenwood fan’s foul mood had something to do with Laurens scoring three runs in the first inning while hitting exactly three balls in fair territory, thanks to a fumbled bunt, three straight walks, a dropped third strike and other misplays that were too many to mention. Laurens went on to prevail by a 17-7 count.

Then I edited dozens of stories and either placed them on the site or scheduled them for later. Some Italian students have been visiting one school, and another school held a forensics clinic for high school kids interested in being the next Barnaby Jones. Leadership Laurens County graduated its latest class, and the Chamber selected its small business and small businessman of the year. I know where the bookmobile is headed and how Clinton is changing its garbage collection on the week of the Fourth.

I’m a regular fountainhead of information.

There is probably more potential inspiration for the next novel than there ever was in the infield media center.

*Laurens won, 11-4.

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.

(Steven Novak cover)

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

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

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

Ain’t No Need to Sit and Wonder Why

The view from here. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 8:07 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I haven’t had a day like this since my daddy died.

They happened all the time when I was a kid, and he was in his natural prime. Daddy would ask me to help him with a couple things, say it wouldn’t take 30 minutes, and he would proceed to kill the whole afternoon. I didn’t say anything. I’d just mope. I didn’t want to give him an excuse to get all bent out of shape, but I wanted him to know he was ruining a perfectly good sunny day.

I got a Nikon camera / I wanna take a phhhhhotograph / Oh, Daddy, don’t take my Kodachrome away …

Apologies to Paul Simon. In the song, it was Mama. In the song, there was Kodachrome. Now it’s all digital.

(Monte Dutton photo)

The first task of the day was to get my ailing printer working. It’s not old. It just stopped running. It won’t turn on. It hasn’t been mishandled. It hasn’t been overused. There’s just some poor connection. I talked to a fellow on the phone who said bring it up.

He looked at it and said, “No, this doesn’t have a brick.”

A brick. I felt like the kid in the insurance commercial who doesn’t know what a lug wrench is.

“I can’t do anything with this. I’m good working on laptops.”

“I might bring one to you. It’s the little one I take on the road,” I said. “It’s a tablet you plug into a keyboard. The touch screen stopped working.”

“I don’t know anything about tablets,” the man said.

Get ready. Here it comes. I hear it over and over.

“If I was you, I’d just run up to Walmart and buy me a new one.”

I don’t go to Walmart. It’s against my religion. I walked around the corner and up the street to buy a new printer. I got a better deal than Walmart would have offered.

Down the rabbit hole, or headed that way. (Monte Dutton photo)

Task two. Get the mower running. This required buying a battery. The right-rear tire was slack. In an incredible stroke of luck, I had a fix-a-flat can that wasn’t empty. I used it to pump up, and theoretically fix, any leak. I made it two times around the yard, and the tire went completely flat.

I own a small air tank. I may not have used it in 10 years. The amount of dust on it was incredible. I took it up to the place where, minutes earlier, I had purchased the battery. Back in the work bay, a man said he’d be glad to fill up the tank. I told him I had to settle up on the battery, anyway, so I’d come back and get it. When I came back, I couldn’t help but notice that either the gauge was broken or the tank was empty. The fellow said it wouldn’t take air and that he’d put 100 pounds in it, and it ran right back out because it didn’t matter which way he turned that red screw, it didn’t keep the air in.

I took the air tank up to True Value Hardware and said it wouldn’t work. Three people said they didn’t know where they had the … apparatus? … valve? … whatchamacallit is what one said … that would replace the whatever it was that was already on it. I left the tank there and asked them to look at it all they wanted, and I’d check back tomorrow.

I have a new printer, a new battery, exactly two rows of the yard reclaimed from wilderness, and, quite possibly, tomorrow I shall have a new portable air tank.

 

(Steven Novak cover)

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 are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

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

As the Thunder Rolled and the Lightning Struck

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 2, 2018, 11:02 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I thought I had plenty of time to get to Clinton High School’s graduation ceremonies. I got my hair cut, and I didn’t make myself an appointment online, and the lady said it would probably be at least a 40-minute wait. Haircuts are spur-of-the-moment decisions for me. I can’t imagine making the call with time to make a reservation. I read a novel on my phone while I waited.

Then I decided to use an Arby’s coupon and eat before the assignment. While standing in line, I heard the manager say they were out of roast beef.

Arby’s. Out of roast beef.

I went back to the truck and fetched another coupon. It took what seemed to me an unbelievable amount of time for my food to be prepared. This led to my latest blanket observation. Alleged “fast food” joints have diversified too much. Employees whose wage is for making burgers – or roast beef sandwiches – have a hard time adjusting to what is sometimes absurdly referred to as “artisanal” food.

An artisan is a worker in a skilled trade who makes things by hands. Artisans don’t make minimum wage, and the trade should be more advanced than sandwiches or anything deep-fried.

On Thursday, I had a hamburger steak plate at Wilson’s Snack Bar. That’s the way fast food is supposed to be prepared and served. Damn coupons. I’d probably never go to food franchises if coupons didn’t exist. I can’t remember the last time I ate at Hardee’s without using a coupon.

Five paragraphs ago, I set out to write about a high school graduation.

I barely got there in time for the ceremony and was just ahead of a fierce thunderstorm that started pelting the parking lot as soon as I got under the roof out front of Clinton’s gymnasium. At first, I couldn’t remember whether I’d been at a high school graduation since I was in one, but then, I instinctively walked past the band – I guess when it’s a commencement, it’s an orchestra – and in front of the grandstands, and I got a sense of deja vu because I sat in exactly the same place I had sat when I wrote about the ceremonies a year earlier. I started chatting with my old football coach and the daughter of my old line coach, who has died in the intervening year, and this was exactly what I had done the year before, as well.

A senior named Kymaih Cherbrell Fant sang the national anthem with the orchestra’s accompaniment, and at precisely the time she sang about “the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,” thunder from outside rumbled and led me to think of Garth Brooks singing about when “the thunder rolls and the lightning strikes.”

Were I a Clinton High senior now and not 42 years ago, I would probably consider that some kind of omen. What kind of omen, I would have no idea, but I would have thought there was something significant to it.

The valedictorian and salutatorian wore white “stoles,” and the high honor graduates wore gold ones. When I wore a gold one, I didn’t know it was a stole. I might have called it a sash. Now it looks more like a tie President Trump might wear, lying over his shoulders until he ties it.

I studied my program. For a moment I thought one of the graduates was named Converse “I Can” Grant, but then I realized that was a grant from Converse College earned by Ny’Kera Hall. Among the graduates was an Elizabeth Jones and a William Scott, but also an Aerial Nicole Pagano and a Markevius Dyshavion Dandy. The class had a Kayleigh, a Haleigh and a Hali. I wish there had been a Rayleigh because my class had a Ray Lee. Other notable names were Janevelyn, Jermainia, Vontavius, Ta’Volice, Deopaleak, Quintarius, Jamieyon, Aquivius, Jaqueria, Adre’vious, Tyrekkus, Clairemeshia, Tytrevious, Rodkeidrick, Marke’Quis and Myasia.

Sportswriters, in particular, take note of exotic names because they have to type what are known as box scores. These kids have to write their names most every day. The least journalists can do is get them right once.

In spite of the fact that high tech in my high school years was a pinball machine at the bowling alley, I somehow feel as if I can relate to seniors of today. Observing them at close range leads me to believe that kids really only change about 10-20 percent from any given generation to another. The difference is exaggerated in the idealized vision each generation has of its own.

I want these kids to hustle it up. I want them to take over the world. They can’t possibly screw it up as much as we did.

Here’s the story I wrote at GoLaurens/GoClinton.

(Steven Novak cover)

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 are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

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

It’s Only Words, and Words Are All I Have …

The Gateway Arch. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 25, 2018, 10:01 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I drove past a message board that read:

FREE BLOOD PRESSURE!

If your blood is running low, they’ll pump it right up.

A government office has a sticker in the window of the front door.

NO CONCEALABLE WEAPONS

Forget about hiding a derringer in your boot, but if you’ve got a rifle that can’t possibly be concealed, come right in.

This is the curse of a writer. Such silly little misuses of the language bother him. Most people don’t put a second thought into flammable and inflammable meaning the same thing, or regardless and irregardless. They’ll nod politely, all the while thinking to themselves, I could care less.

They couldn’t care less. If they could care less, they probably would.

It gets dark later because of Daylight Saving Time. It’s not Daylight Savings Time. Daylight is not a bank.

Few are the times that it is necessary to utilize. Except in rare instances, use works fine. Most people say utilize because they want a bigger, not a better, word.

I hate signage. I prefer signs. If I go to a burger joint and the smallest drink is a large, and medium is big, and large is jumbo, well, the burgers better be good.

It’s a curse, this excessive attention to words. It makes watching sports on TV distracting.

Did you see that catch?

Yes, but the guy who caught it can’t literally fly.

Huh?

He can figuratively fly. If he could literally fly, he would be soaring around the light poles, squawking with the seagulls.

Whatever.

People say whatever to me a lot.

 

(Steven Novak cover)

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 are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Around these Parts, Things Are Roughly the Same

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, April 18, 2018, 1:45 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Baseball season has begun. Tax season has ended.

The Red Sox are off to the best start in team history. That’s good. My taxes are filed. That’s good, too. When the federal refund crackles across fiber-optic lines into my bank account, it will be better.

A website for which I write crashed for four days. That was bad. It’s back up. That’s good.

On the local front, Phillip Dean, who once worked for me in the Furman press box, is moving to Spartanburg to be principal of Reidville Elementary School. Clinton won the annual county track meet with Laurens. The Red Devil tennis team is strong, as usual. The soccer team pulled off a big 3-2 upset in Newberry last night. I had a great time at a fundraiser for Clinton’s youth tennis programs on Saturday night. It was the first time in quite a while I played music on a stage, but that was truly the least of it.

The weekly Facebook Live, after Monday’s rain-delayed Bristol stock car race, drew a surprisingly large number of viewers. Per spectator, it was probably the best NASCAR race in decades.

The Red Sox and the team they are currently visiting, Anaheim, are the hottest teams in baseball. The Braves are hanging in there. The Dodgers and Cubs have been slow to get going.

If President Twitter were any crazier, he’d be running a cut-rate electronics showroom. Syria just bombed Syria, so we bombed Syria to stop Syria from bombing Syria some more. The president is turning a porn star into Clara Barton and her lawyer into Clarence Darrow.

I guess the world has been crazier, but the law then was west of the Pecos.

 

(Steven Novak cover)

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 are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.