Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 18, 2019, 12:02 p.m.
The end of the NASCAR season makes seven since my wings got clipped, and I don’t miss the flying a bit.
I miss going places but not by air. My friends assure me it’s only gotten worse every year since I left, just as it did every year while I was following the annual gypsy troupe.
On Facebook, I’ve been participating in this Motorsports Challenge thing where I was asked to post photos of motorsports memories for 10 days. I didn’t strictly follow the rules. I was too busy some days, and just this morning, I discovered I claimed Day 7 twice, so I’m really done, but I’ve got one more selected, so tomorrow there will be a bonus photo.
It was pretty hard because most of the photos I took in 20 years of NASCAR coverage were by me, not of me. I’ve never been much on selfies, or taking photos with my phone, for that matter. Part of my job is taking photos, so I prefer to use a camera that makes it easier to frame the photo and to look through the lens, not at a video screen. I can do it. I just don’t like to. The few photos I have are ones that were sent me by friends.
Had my job not been abruptly eliminated, I’d probably be out there still, but near the end, I grew more and more frustrated because it grew harder and harder to write about the sport in a way that was different than others. It became journalism by media conference for all but a few. Friends will recall that I likened it to entering the soil and water conservation essay contest in the seventh grade. Everyone had the same information, and it was a matter of who could write it the best. NASCAR was more interesting than soil and water conservation, but I wasn’t in the seventh grade anymore.
When I first joined the troupe, in 1993, it was great fun, at and away from the track. Newspapers were important. I loved working for the Gaston Gazette, and the Gaston Gazette loved me, mainly because it syndicated my stories and made money from them. I could cover racing the way I saw fit.
Things change. I found out the Gazette didn’t love me anymore on January 4, 2013, when it informed me my last day was January 4, 2013, and I haven’t stopped my vehicle in Gaston County in all the years since.
But I’m not bitter. Oh, no. Not me.
Free enterprise means that value is determined by the market, and the market for me is here in my hometown, working for the county website, GoLaurens.com, with an assist from GoClinton.com. I like it. I enjoy taking photos of little kids running around at Squealin’ on the Square. I enjoy talking to an 81-year-old woman who is studying for her GED. I like high school athletes and coaches. I expect to attend every Furman home football game for the first time in more than 30 years, and one other, which wasn’t so hot.
Digging up those few photos I have of me with others in NASCAR brought back memories of what I now watch only from a distance. It’s probably better up close, but those up close don’t see what it’s like from a distance, either. Most people here know I used to be somebody, and, by and large, they seem to love telling me how much they used to love NASCAR and how much they can’t stand it now. Most of the kids hardly know what it is anymore. There are a few who figure if I was any good, I wouldn’t be where I am now, but I still do what Paul Harvey told me to do in an autograph when I was about 12.
Aim high, Monte.
I still aim high. I still do it my way. I still don’t take my subjects or myself too seriously. I still try to be funny. I still try to have fun. I still chip away at fiction and songwriting, but I don’t have as much time to do it. My life is every bit as busy as it ever was, though not as profitable. As Jerry Jeff Walker wrote, “Gettin’ by on gettin’ by’s my stock in trade.”
The photos are like carbon-14 dating. I can measure my age by the lightening of my hair.
I still like racing. It’s still in my blood. All that smoke just isn’t literally in my blood. And my ears rarely ring.
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If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.
Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.
My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.
My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.