Anger Cuts Either Way

Pixabay

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, December 13, 2018, 10:44 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I was on the way to the Laurens Commission of Public Works meeting and thought it was going to make me late. I am obsessively punctual and often fret about being late for meetings, so much so that invariably I wind up being there 20 minutes early, anyway. This wound up being such an occasion.

It was a simple trip through the drive-through. I knew that, when the meeting was over, I’d race home, process and crop the photos, write a story about it, and edit whatever releases had arrived via email. If I didn’t eat on the way to Laurens, it would be peanut butter and crackers while watching a late-night talk show.

I was watching the car in front of me. The girl in the drive-through handed some change out the window. The driver of the car fumbled the change. Several coins fell to the damp pavement. The woman in the car started yelling and waving her arms.

Pixabay

“I’m not about to touch that pavement to pick up that change!” she screamed. “You hear me? Give me my money again.”

The girl did so. The woman pulled ahead to the second window. I pulled my truck to the right, away from the window, got out and picked up three dimes off the pavement, which I handed to the girl along with my debit card.

“I was watching,” I said. “It wasn’t your fault.”

I pulled up for another long delay. The woman was demanding to see the manager.
“You ought not allow that stupid girl to be in there!” she yelled.

I waited.

The woman suggested that her food ought to be free. If I’m not mistaken, I think she finagled an apple pie out of the deal. I wondered if that was her intention all along. She received a small drink and a small bag that I imagined contained a small hamburger. The angry woman, who was driving a car so large they don’t build them anymore, kept on yelling. I was starting to feel like cutting loose myself.

When she finally moved on and I pulled up, I said, “I saw what happened. That little girl didn’t do one thing wrong.”

(Monte Dutton photo)

I was in the same situation the next night, fancying that I was running late but not really, on the way to a basketball game. The same girl was taking money at the drive-through.

“You were working last night, too,” I said.

“Yes, sir.”

“I was behind the woman who started yelling at you about dropping her change.”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “You got out and picked up the change. You might’ve saved me.”

“I told them up ahead you hadn’t done a thing wrong,” I said.

This wasn’t important. It was just one of the random, unpredictable incidents that careen into life every day. As I was driving to the game, I realized that the incident had been almost completely racial. The mad woman had been of one race and the girl in the window another. If they had been of the same race, the woman wouldn’t have gotten mad. She would have let it go. If the races had been reversed, the same incident might have happened. The woman would deny that. Racists always do.

The largest gulf between people rests in the dark waters of the mind.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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)

 

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.

Advertisements

Stop the World and Let Me Off

(Pixabay photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, November 8, 2018, 1:14 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

So much is going on that I can’t decide what to write. I’m suffering from information overload. I’m drowning. Either that or I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

It’s impossible to keep up. With politics. With technology. With violence. With anger. Do this. Don’t do that. Can’t you read the signs?

It’s more difficult to have conversations. That’s why people text and post and tweet. I’m not sure whether lack of conversation leads to tweets or tweets lead to lack of conversation. Last night I ate out. All four people in the booth across from me were texting, regardless of age. I wonder if they were texting each other. That might work at a public library. Then again, someone nearby might text, Shhhhh.

I yearn for the insignificant day.

It would be nice to awaken briefly at 4 a.m., most likely because nature calls, discover, as usual, that I fell asleep with the TV on, and not learn that some nut has shot up a nightclub in California. The darkness of the room is ablaze with the flashing lights of police cars on the news.

Since the World Series ended, it’s been difficult to watch other sports. I half-watch everything. I haven’t seen a basketball bounce yet.

It’s almost as if everything else has become a sport I watch instead of actual sports. Elections are a sport. Politics is a sport. In fact, someone needs to come up with another term for people who hold public office because the world is making politicians of us all.

I watch the weather more, too. Twenty years ago I heard someone say The Weather Channel was MTV for old people. That was before a hurricane started rolling through the neighborhood every few weeks.

President Twitter is the political equivalent of marijuana. He causes short-term memory loss. I can’t watch coverage of the latest crisis without losing touch with the last one. Recently President Twitter couldn’t tell the truth when he was asked about telling the truth.

I’ll probably be tweeted over this. It’s okay. Social media is just freedom gone wild. It’s a crowded theater full of people yelling “fire!”

Before Tuesday’s elections, I knew that things would either get slightly worse or a lot worse. At the moment, I’m leaning toward the latter.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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)

 

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.

Things that Are Close and Things that Are Far Away

Pixabay

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, November 2, 2018, 9:56 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Election Day is Tuesday, and I can’t remember the last time I ate a McRibs. I don’t think there is any relation between elections and McRibs except that both are being enthusiastically advertised.

The best meal I’ve had in the week to date was a hamburger steak at The Hub in Laurens on Wednesday night after taking photos of trick-or-treaters at “Boo in the Park.”

(Monte Dutton photo)

My viewing habits have changed suddenly this week on account of the end of baseball. From April through October, I watch the Red Sox … a lot. Now, all of a sudden, I’m choosing between old movies on TCM, around-the-clock news, documentaries on PBS and reading books. It’s never a good sign to realize that, while editing news releases, the Accuweather Channel has been droning in the background for an hour.

More changes will occur after the election. In the short run, I anticipate that things will either get a little worse or a lot worse. That’s why every vote counts.

I wondered what it would be like if Oprah came to my front door, and I decided that, after coping with the initial surprise, I’d reluctantly have to tell her this is the wrong state.

(Monte Dutton photo)

High school football is almost over. There are no playoff games tonight. The devastating effect of Hurricane Florence on the lower half of the state caused the High School League to postpone the playoffs for a week so that game that were literally washed out can be made up.

Laurens District High is the only county team that made the playoffs. The Raiders play in Rock Hill next week. The county has been historically successful in football. This year LDHS, Clinton and Laurens Academy combined to go 9-21.

I feel confident in proclaiming that basketball will be better.

A major goal between now and Christmas is to complete the first draft of my next novel, which is about an ex-major league baseball player and scout who finds an extraordinarily talented young prospect and tries to turn him into polished player. Clyde Kinlaw and Taiquon Wattson are presently en route from South Carolina to Texas, where Taiquon is going to play for a semipro team known as the Sherman Bucks. The working title of what will be my ninth novel is The Latter Days.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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)

 

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.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 17, 2018, 10:54 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

This morning I learned about the wet-bulb thermometer. So enriched was I that I moved on to wet-bulb temperature.

Am I a man of boundless curiosity? I’d like to think so, but the short-term answer was that I was trying to figure out why Clinton High School’s first football game is going to start at 8 p.m. instead of 7:30.

A wet-bulb thermometer is one in which a wet rag, draped over a thermometer and engulfed in air, enables the apparatus to measure the air temperature, based on wind, humidity and solar radiation.

Presumably, it is more accurate than a regular thermometer. Surely, it is more complicated than wrapping a wet wash cloth around a standard thermometer. In fact, it costs from $100 to $500, and every member of the South Carolina High School League is required to have one, so that athletes are not allowed to practice when it is too hot.

Pixabay photos

When Laurens visits Clinton on Aug. 24, it is likely that the wet-bulb temperature will be greater than 82 degrees at 7:30, and thus did the school’s officials conclude it would be prudent to shoot for 8. The school’s state championship relay team will receive rings at 7:30 because receiving rings do not qualify as “regular activities” in an athletics sense.

This is fine. I’ve no interest in writing about heat prostration. I worried I was experiencing it while taking pictures of seven-on-seven games of throw-and-catch earlier this summer. I can’t afford a wet-bulb thermometer of my very own.

Knowledge is good. The way it is processed is sometimes bad, but in the medical community, the people who process it are still the ones who are trained to do so.

For now.

Even I am torn.

One side makes the inevitable lament of the aging. Back in my day, when men were men and brains were damaged …

The other side, though, is the sigh of relief. How in the world did any of us survive?

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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)

 

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.

Even as the summer swelters

(Pixabay photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 26, 2018, 2:25 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I was out working on a feature for the GoLaurens.com website until almost 8 on Wednesday night.

When I got back home and turned on the TV, I discovered I had missed two innings, five runs and three homers in the Red Sox game in Baltimore. History missed them, too. It was raining and didn’t stop. All that offense was washed away with the rain, and J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi will never receive credit for their power. The game will begin again when it’s restarted later in the season.

Orioles Park at Camden Yards

I spent the rest of the evening writing the feature and waiting for a Little League baseball game in Taylors to show up on a web site so that I could post a story about the ending of the Laurens Majors’ season. Northwood of Taylors won the state championship, 10-7, and the game ended with a force play at second with the bases loaded.

High school football practice begins in the morning at Clinton and Laurens District high schools, and Laurens Academy begins on Monday morning. I expect I’ll ramble around the county in the morning to take photos of the Red Devils and Raiders starting to prepare for a game against each other on August 24.

My upcoming baseball novel got its 13th chapter on Wednesday morning. This morning I edited some releases for the web site after awakening late due to working into the wee hours the night before.

Now the Diamondbacks and Cubs are playing at Wrigley, and I watched parts of several old movies that were bad enough to be amusing for a while. It’s too early to check on the local arrests and obituaries. I decided to write the blog because I’m not quite ready to embark on the next chapter of fiction, and neither the guitar leaning against the couch to my left nor the Kindle balanced on its ledge seems more appealing than just randomly assembling thoughts.

Maybe a mug of coffee is in order.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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.

Another Day, Another Fifty Cents

Retiring Gwen Kinard gets a Key to the City from Laurens mayor John Stankus. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 28, 2018, 10:14 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

It’s going to be another week that was. By definition. To quote one of my songs, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

This one, though, has been particularly enlightening.

I’m making a transition into a job running the county’s news site, GoLaurens.com, which also has within it a GoClinton.com because Laurens County is one of relatively few counties with two towns of roughly the same size. Laurens is the county seat, and Clinton is, oh, where the college, the Presbyterian one, is. The relationship requires some customizing. The short explanation above is absurdly simplified, but the purpose here isn’t a detailed analysis. I’ve been writing stories for GoLaurens/GoClinton for quite a while, but I haven’t ever done layout.

(Monte Dutton photo)

I’ve got to make plans and have meetings and learn all the facts and figures I didn’t know. My crowded life is getting more crowded, but that’s a familiar story, and perhaps now it will pay for itself again.

Wednesday was extraordinarily productive. I spent the day juggling, which sounds like fun, and is, but the balls in the air weren’t literal. I was writing, researching, editing, interviewing, picture taking, and updating as everything came in. By day’s end, I had five stories ready to go.

The best was an inspirational tale about a woman who miraculously made a small fortune on The Price Is Right.

Catie Rawls, who is in the Miss South Carolina pageant.

Another was about a Laurens girl who is, right now, competing in the Miss South Carolina Pageant.

Two more were about the all-star play of Laurens baseball in Little League and Clinton in Dixie Youth.

One was about the retirement of the much-respected City Clerk and Treasurer of Laurens.

Part of the reason all these stories converged was that I wanted a healthy variety to place on the site. This did not work out because the access I was granted did not give me enough of it to do any actual work. I spent a while on the phone with a company that administers web sites, only to find out that someone else has to grant me such access, and that person thought it was already done, and he’s a busy man, and he’s trying to get it straightened out but hasn’t yet. I held back one story and I’m hopeful that it will be the first one I truly take from start to finish.

This shouldn’t be hard for anyone to understand. Modern life is filled with such aggravations. Most days are not filled, as John Denver thought his were, with “easy country charm.” The country is considerably less charming, even for those of us who are out in it.

Personally, I think it’s one reason why so many people on social media stay ticked off all the time.

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.

A Man Must Carry On

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 9:49 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

How the mighty have fallen.

Okay. I was never that mighty. And I haven’t fallen. The last time I fell was on the sideline of the Clinton High School spring football game in 2017.

On Tuesday, I merely wilted.

On the practice fields, a half mile or so from Wilder Stadium, the current Red Devils were hosting a round-robin scrimmage of pitch-and-catch (7-on-7, it’s called) that also included Laurens, Daniel, Emerald, Ninety Six, Union County and Woodruff.

Chris Liner

It was hot. It was humid. All I had to do was stand around, take pictures and chat with players and coaches. I’m old. At the end, as Andrew Webb was talking to his team, I looked into the players’ eyes and realized I was worse off than they were. I interviewed the Red Devil coach. Then I walked over to the next field and interviewed the Laurens coach, Chris Liner, and then I looked off in the distance. Heat waves twitched between me and my truck, which was up a hill, across a road, maybe 200 yards away, and I realized the last time I was this exhausted, and this hot, and this dehydrated, was also when I was on a different practice field, in this town, 43 years ago.

Mistakenly, I thought such days were over.

Oh, I trudged up that hill. In the old days, it was a rule that I had to jog up another hill, and I couldn’t take off my helmet, and at the top of the hill, the rest of the way to the locker room was slightly uphill, and many were the days I was just as parched, just as exhausted, and, in 1975, I’d had less water than Tuesday because, in those days, they thought water might give me cramps. In fact, before I showered, I swallowed a fistful of salt tablets because, in those days, they thought salt would prevent me from getting cramps.

Much has changed, the most pertinent being that I am old and fat and no longer play football but write about it. The sole progress is that I write about it a good bit better than I ever played it, which isn’t necessarily saying much.

I got back to the truck. The interior made me think of a live volcano. I pushed a button that opened the windows. I cranked the truck and its air conditioner. It took a while to get up the energy to drive.

To drive!

When I got home, water sure tasted great. It took a while to get up the energy to write.

To write!

I processed these photos, which were better than I thought possible because I do much better taking photos by looking through the camera than by holding it away and shooting via the video display. Looking through the camera had been impossible because the humidity had turned the viewfinder into a fog. Then I wrote two stories, one about the human drama of the athletic competition and another about Laurens’ summertime workouts in general. I had already written such a story about Clinton.

I’ve written faster in my time. Many nighttime sporting events come to mind.

Eventually, I felt fully recovered, shaved, took the day’s second shower, and headed up to Laurens to write about City Council in action. It was cool. The only problem was the air conditioner made it a little difficult to hear what people were saying. A minor annoyance. It was much easier than feeling faint as my mind processed the events of farflung games of catch.

I’m not as good as I once was. In fact, I’m not even as good once as I ever was.

(Monte Dutton photos)
(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.