This Was a Friday Night that I Ain’t Got No Money

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, April 14, 2018, 1:30 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Friday was incomplete on the sports front, that is, unless going to a gathering to support youth tennis counts as sports.

It didn’t seem particularly sporting. The food was great. A bunch of people got together to play their guitars and sing songs. I talked with people I don’t see very often. Chuck Waldron, who loves tennis as much as I love writing, asked me to participate, and I’m going to the fundraiser tonight with my guitar and some signed books for the silent auction. I’ve known Chuck and his brother, Glenn, for my whole life, or, at least, since I started going to school.

You’ll have that if you live in your hometown.

I took some photos of the soccer match between Mid-Carolina and Clinton at Wilder, a stadium that yawns for soccer matches. (I don’t mean that the crowd was quiet, but rather that the local football stadium affords plenty of room for a spring sport.) It’s a better place, though, than the other field used for soccer on the Clinton Middle School grounds.

The reason I watched soccer was that it started earlier than baseball, and I had someplace to go. Mid-Carolina won, 3-2, but it was exciting, and I stopped in a parking lot to talk on the radio on the way to the barn out in the country where the ribs, tenderloin, Frogmore stew, cake, brownies, and guitars were. Some people brought beverages.

As it turned out, the local website (GoLaurens/GoClinton) for which I work crashed, rendering local news effectively less worthy, and it messed up the timing of a story I had written earlier in the day and made the soccer match and baseball game less pertinent, particularly since, at this moment, the website is still down.

Dr. Steve Gaines and I talked about our days as football teammates, and I watched some kids from the Clinton High tennis team play pool. Outside, I played a couple of my songs to Lynda Mills, who taught me high school math. She left early because she was planning to play tennis this morning.

This environment was conducive to hearing slightly familiar people say, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“I recognize you, but I can’t remember who you are.”

Next are the hints I don’t get.

“Seriously, who are you?”

It’s impossible for this to be comfortable. Then I found out the other fellow was combining me with my brother, which is hard to do.

I got home and learned with great satisfaction that the Red Sox won again.

(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.

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Run Along, Nothing to See Here: Just Random Thoughts

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, March 16, 2018, 4:15 p.m.

Trial and error. Risk and reward. Deadlines and commitments. Random meetings.

By Monte Dutton

A few nights ago, I bumped into a man I grew up with at Dollar General. I bought some soap and a box of Raisin Bran. Even though I live in a small town, and I haven’t made a trip that was even mildly ambitious in over a year, I don’t actually see everyone. I hadn’t seen this guy in ten years.

He was aware I write books. He’s still in town. He looks a bit the worse for wear, but I do, too. I knew his mother and father had died. I wasn’t sure he hadn’t. He looked a little pale, but I’d be very surprised if he was a ghost.

Some people I bump into a lot. Some people I wish I didn’t.

Such meetings are awkward. Time has too many gaps. Both parties are ill at ease because they’re worried they’ll say the wrong thing. Being ill at ease is what leads one to see a grieving person at a funeral home and ask, “How you been doing?”

And it leads to another lie. “I’m fine.”

Mayor Bob McLean welcomes eclipse celebrants to Clinton.

I’ve talked to the mayor, the city manager and a councilman today. Pretty soon, I’m liable to start thinking I’m somebody.

It is popularly believed that I love Clinton. I don’t. I just know it. Over my life I’ve gradually concluded I’m unfit to live anywhere else. As we used to sing when the band played the occasional knockoff North Carolina’s fight song: “We’re Clinton born and Clinton bred, and when we die, we’ll be dead as hell.” It’s the Clinton Red Devils. Get it?

Clinton High School opened a baseball-softball complex in 2017. Between the two diamonds is a building that provides concessions and relief for both. They share a flag pole, too, which means that when the national anthem is played, everyone at the baseball game stands at attention facing uphill and over the top of the grandstands. It sort of makes me feel as if the flag is gallantly streaming o’er the ramparts.

Sometimes I wish I could use a dial phone again. Not all the time. Just occasionally. For old times’ sake. I’d gladly give up Facebook direct messaging. If Twitter wants to go back to 140 characters, it’s fine by me. All it would do is shorten my book promos. I’d rather social networks didn’t give me enough rope to hang myself. What’s a click between friends?

I like the first week of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament better than the last one. I’m fond of upsets.

It is time to get the taxes done. Damn it.

I find baseball relaxing. I do not find walk-up music relaxing.

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.

Join me live on Facebook after the NASCAR race. I’ll play songs, shill my writing, and engage in a discussion about the Fontana and whatever else you’d like to ask. It’ll start a few minutes after TV network coverage ends on Sunday evening.

Just Can’t Wait to Get on the Road Again

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 12:03 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

As the Statler Brothers used to sing, don’t tell me I’ve nothing to do.

As I peruse events in faraway Daytona Beach, I’ve been busying myself writing about local matters.

At the monthly meeting of the Laurens Commission of Public Works, a dozen or so citizens came to tell poignant stories of how impossible it is to pay their utilities. I felt their pain. So, too, did the commissioners who, with the those payments, have to pay their own bills.

CPW general manager John Young tries to explain.

CPW spent almost $1 million apiece on electricity and natural gas. January was excessively cold. The commissioners warned a week month earlier it was going to happen. That was the first meeting about which I wrote. I was naive. I thought, the weather is cold. Bills will be high. Duh. As it turns out, I buried that first lead.

Matthew Turner is about to be sworn in as the new Family Court judge. I remember when his father, Mike, was the bright, new lawyer in the county and was on County Council. I remember when the Family Court judge was Bill Craine, whom I helped in an unsuccessful bid for the General Assembly when I was a teen-ager. Bill was two judges back. Matthew says he still plays a lot of tennis.

Last night, the Clinton High boys opened the Class 3A playoffs with their best performance of the year to date. The Red Devils thumped Seneca, 70-47. J.D. Payne, who had been hampered by a sprained ankle when Newberry won the Region 3 championship in a tie-breaker game last week, had scored three points in his previous two games combined. He came out and scored seven in a row to start out and finished with 19. Jahleed Cook was the catalyst of the second half, finishing with 17. Now Clinton (16-7) must travel to faraway Camden, though that burg isn’t so far when compared to Daytona Beach.

Skip Lax, who was in my graduating class at Furman, now oversees the state’s officials for the High School League. He was at the Clinton High basketball game, which was a bit opportune because I was writing a story on Sam and Truman Owens, who are quite possibly the most distinguished set of brothers ever to referee, umpire and otherwise arbitrate sporting events in these United States. They’re being inducted into the Laurens County Athletic Hall of Fame next month, and I’ve been writing bios of them, as well as Red Devil legend Kinard Littleton, Laurens coaching great Bobby Ivey, and probably the best Raider ever, Rickey Foggie, who played quarterback for Lou Holtz at Minnesota.

Sam died in 2007. Truman is 86 and umpired a little softball as recently as last year. They officiated their 500th, 600th and 700th high school football games together, and the totals reached 795 when Sam died. In their spare time, Sam wrote a book on the history of Clinton, and Truman spent 41 years on City Council. Now that he’s curtailed his officiating, Truman shows up about every time the Red Devils take a floor, a field or a diamond. In the winter, Truman wears a stylish country gentleman’s hat about everywhere he goes. When it warms up, he’ll wear his Yankees cap. I fear that small towns don’t produce men like Sam and Truman Owens anymore.

“We loved every minute of it,” Truman said. “Sam and I worked together for about all our days.”

When I got home, I discovered an interesting coincidence. On Friday afternoon, Laurens Academy’s No. 1-ranked Class A private school girls’ basketball team, is playing a first-round playoff game in Sumter. That night, Clinton High’s boys are playing at Camden, a little over a half hour’s drive away. Destiny is such that I might just be able to travel way down there and write about both games. I’m not sure whether I look forward to that or dread it. It’s going to be a tough trick to pull. I’m a bit run down, owing to the sniffles and a cough, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it.

I’ve just got a hankering to get out of the county. I should be home by oh-dark-thirty or so after I file from some McDonald’s, where wi-fi is reliably available until midnight.

Newberry College

This morning, though a bit under the overcast skies, I drove over to CHS to watch Mark Wise, the county’s football Player of the Year, sign up to play football for the Newberry College Wolves, where he will join teammate Kody Varn. Mark, who played both ways for the Red Devils, wants to major in graphic arts. As three other members of the local media asked him about his decision, someone suggested that there might be a future in the media business. I told him don’t listen that nonsense.

(Steven Novak cover)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my NASCAR thoughts. 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.

My next novel is up for consideration and nomination in the Amazon KindleScout program. I’d appreciate it if you’d read about it and nominate it for publication here.

The Usual Ain’t Much Hap’nin’

There’s a chapter in there. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 11:18 a.m.

This morning I wrote a NASCAR column for the Competition Plus website, which I do every week and will be posted before this one is over. I played a little guitar, trying to make sure I remember the words to a few more songs I might play online tomorrow night, when I go live on Facebook to sing and talk about whatever the people who join in want to discuss electronically. I’ll try to get people to support my writing through my Patreon page, and try to get people to buy my books on my Amazon page, and try to get people to nominate my next novel for publication on the KindleScout page.

To summarize … help!

By Monte Dutton

Yesterday I got this laptop working again by reinstalling everything. The downside is that programs I installed since I bought it have to be installed again, and I haven’t yet found the Microsoft Office CD, but it will probably turn up, lest I have to buy another one. I paid a few bills, and some others will have to wait until some more money comes in. No one goes to the mailbox with a greater sense of urgency than I, but many do the same. The upside is a heap of those programs didn’t do anything but take up space, and like most people, I need my space.

I bought groceries at the Dollar Tree, which is a good place to go if you’re low on money, and I’m low on money a lot. Things are getting better, though. I’m just going to be playing catch-up, and using ketchup, for a while longer.

Tonight Clinton High School plays its final regular-season basketball games, but both the girls and the boys are going to make the Class 3A playoffs, and there’s an excellent chance that they’ll have to play an extra game to determine the seedings by breaking Region 3 ties. With a victory, the Red Devil boys will play Newberry for the region title because they are both almost sure to finish with identical records, and each won once when they played the other.

I read a chapter of a novel last night while the usual earth-shaking news was on TV. I need to finish writing the first chapter of a new novel because, by the time I finish one, I’m like a bucking horse waiting to get out of its stall to write another.
This morning so far, I’ve been half writing and half watching two fine movies, Save the Tiger and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. I’m half watching Alaska: Fire and Ice right now.

Last night I cut down on the channels I get on DirecTV. I assume Clemson defeated Wake Forest. The channel it was on turned off with about a minute to play. I’m going to have to settle for Weather Nation instead of The Weather Channel. I’ve got weather on this laptop, so I doubt I’ll be caught unawares when Mother Nature gets riled.

Other than that, to quote my buddy Jimmy Mac, ain’t much hap’nin’.

The Fog of Doom Descends

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, January 12, 2018, 10:37 a.m.

I have started to confront the possibility that the world has passed me by.

I am losing touch.

By Monte Dutton

When I write about high-school sports, it makes perfectly good sense that I don’t understand the kids. Their music. Their clothes. Their tastes. Hell, I remember when the first pizza parlor came to town. I remember when every Braves game magically became accessible via the Superstation. I remember when we all sat in the porch swing at my grandparents’ house, watching all the people go by on the way back from town.

In the unlikely event that someone under forty is reading this, I’m satisfied he or she is chuckling.

I try, of course, to stay in touch with all the changes. It reminds me of what a colleague said when a race-car driver complained that he couldn’t possibly write about what it was like to race a stock car because he’d never done it.

The eclipse.

He replied that he’d never died, but that didn’t stop him from writing obituaries. Life is one long obituary.

In conversations, I’m constantly realizing that I’m talking about someone of whom none of the young folks has ever heard. I just rearranged that sentence to prevent it from ending with a preposition.

Nowadays, it’s not a problem.

I have devoted most of my life to writing for people who, more and more, don’t read. I keep on writing because it’s all I know how to do. More and more people write, and less and less people read. This creates a fundamental problem in market economics. It’s not exactly a boost to self-esteem, either.

The place this is most evident is right here in my hometown. Few read my books. Few care to listen to my music. I have no social life other than hanging out in stores and at ballgames. I think I’ve become something of an eccentric. They won’t love me till I’m gone.

The main reason anyone reads these blogs is when, by little more than coincidence, someone important tells them, via retweet rather than word of mouth (because hardly anyone talks anymore), that it’s worth reading. Over the weekend, thousands read a blog about Dale Earnhardt, principally because Dale Earnhardt Jr. retweeted it. During the same period, nineteen people stopped following me on Twitter.

I appreciated Junior’s endorsement, but ultimately, it just called attention to the problem.

Why would anyone pay for writing when so much of it is free?

Nothing. Ever. Works.

That’s my problem. Resistance is futile. Still, I persevere, knowing full well that the dwindling number of people who think I’m good at what I do are still worth serving.

I’m not giving up. I’m just resigned to relative failure.

Depressed? Not clinically. I’m depressed for a damned good reason. Changing times are putting me out of business. It’s not just being a writer. It’s not just living in a small town. The world is changing too fast for many people to keep up. We’re always behind the curve. The money has been made before we get there.

My training is in the description of what already happened. I didn’t major in prophecy.

If my pessimism hasn’t yet freaked you out, please consider becoming a patron of my work here.

In the off chance that you’d be up to reading my books, click here.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

 

Dreeeeeam, Dream, Dream, Dreeeam …

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, December 9, 2017, 9:20 a.m.

It’s been a week of boring days and exciting nights. I’ve spent most of my waking time proofing an audio version of my year-old novel, Cowboys Come Home, and there hasn’t been much sleeping time because my mind has been occupied with the financial difficulties that always seem to mark the holidays. I’ve tossed and tumbled and had what sleep there was marred by vivid dreams. In contented times, I don’t dream at all.

By Monte Dutton

Vivid though they may be, I don’t remember the dreams for long. Last night one was about playing golf and repeatedly screwing up this 3-wood – back when I played the game futilely, that fairway wood was my best club, meaning that it was most peope’s worst – on a long, narrow hole that was uphill and bordered on both sides by thick woods. A lot of the shots were good, but the imaginary hole – surely it was the thirteenth — required perfection, and perfection I could not muster.

From left, me, Robert Earl Keen and David Poole.

The other involved hanging out in the Texas Motor Speedway infield with the great singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen Jr. Even though it was in the infield of a NASCAR track, racing didn’t seem to have anything to do with it. I once interviewed Keen for a book, True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, and he played a prerace concert at that speedway, during which I had a picture taken with my old friend David Poole, now deceased, with Keen performing in the background.

We had all sorts of interesting conversations, Keen and I, and then I wondered over to a stage, thinking his show must have started, but when I got there, and after listening to several songs, I realized the guy on the stage wasn’t he.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

One of the first songs I learned to play on guitar was Keen’s “Corpus Christi Bay,” but when I awakened, the words to another song, Steve Earles’ “Tom Ames’ Prayer,” were running through my mind.

And you know I ain’t never prayed before / But it always seemed to me / If prayin’ is the same as beggin’ Lord / I don’t take no charity

I won’t want charity, either. Buying my books is, at least, a respectable form because you’ll get something out of them.

(Steven Novak cover)

Now I’ve got to get back to that audio book. Four chapters to go. An audio book is boring if you’re the author and it lasts nine hours and 23 seconds. This week I hoped to finish my next and eighth novel, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which won’t get its italics until it’s available for purchase, but those audio chapters arrived from my narrator, and the novel shifted to the back burner one more time.

Next I’m going to fix breakfast, try to finish proofing that audio book, watch some football, and go buy a Powerball ticket, because it seems right now that the odds of winning that are about the same as one of my novels making it big.

Writing is what I do, and it’s all I can do well at this stage of life, even though reading, and NASCAR, and everything else, have gone out of style.

This Too Will Pass … Or It Won’t

Clayton Kershaw. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, October 26, 2017, 11:03 a.m.

It was 100 degrees in Los Angeles for the first game of the World Series. The president is Donald Trump. A hurricane hit Ireland. Puerto Rico is still an American wasteland a month after Maria. I thought, oddly, about an old pop song.

Take a letter, Maria / Address it to my wife / Say I won’t be coming home / Gotta start a new life.

By Monte Dutton

Okay. So it’s not a precise match.

Did I mention the president is Donald Trump?

These times are affecting me. Last night the World Series game was a classic. Half of it I spent watching the news on other channels. Until recently, that would have been unthinkable. Until recently, I could depend on hell waiting ten minutes before it broke out.

Funny thing is, most of the constant motion is Trump running in place. Or tweeting in place.

I go about my business in grim resignation. I don’t think it’s going to get better any time soon. Genghis Don got elected. He’s in cahoots with Attila the Russian.

My Republican friends have gone soft on Russia. I never saw that coming. They engage in whataboutistry. Hillary did it too! They ignore all the facts that matter and ignore the ones that don’t. They have the permission of Kellyanne Conway to believe “alternative facts.”

I write. It’s all I know to do. I keep my head down. I try to stay out of trouble on Facebook by holding it down to a few comments a day. Sometimes I can’t help it. I like Twitter better because it doesn’t provide as much room for meanness.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.
(Steven Novak cover)

I’m winding down the next novel, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and I’m rewriting the ending to account for current events. I spent the first half of the year writing two fun, funny, irreverent, first-person novels about stock car racing. I sat Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell aside for them. Now I’ve edited, pared down, and proofread the first 39 chapters, and they’re ready to go. I’ve just got to finish the ending. It’s mapped out in my outline and clear in my mind. It’s a matter of doing it, and I’m saddling up my writing horse to gallop into Chapter 45 as soon as this blog comes to a stopping point.

Meanwhile, down the line, I’m pondering a baseball novel. Maybe a few more baseball fans still read more than 140 characters at a time.

Okay, that’s the stopping point. It’s the best I can do at the moment.

 

 

(Gabe Whisnant photo)

Most of my books — non-fiction on NASCAR and music, collections that include my contributions, seven novels, and one short-story collection — are available here.