The Hometown Cuisine Helps

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My mother grew up on this street. It's changed. Then again, it's been a while.
My mother grew up on this street. It’s changed. Then again, it’s been a while.

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 4:57 p.m.

Maybe tonight’s Truck race on the Eldora dirt has made me more attentive to the rustic.

I had an appointment this afternoon and decided to have an early supper. I’ve got three of the peaches I bought on the side of road left, so maybe tonight I’ll cut one up and mix it with the rest of the cottage cheese. Fresh peaches and cottage cheese are a smooth combination. Today I’ve written part of a short story (the first two installments are posted at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com), mowed my mother’s yard, paid some bills, and completed some travel plans, and I’m feeling good about myself. Myself feels good, too, because I’ve been outside and sweated. The lady at the doctor’s office said I was good to go, so I didn’t feel too guilty about trying the smorgasbord at Trotter’s.

Trotter’s used to be about a mile from my house. That was when it served as the restaurant at the Holiday Inn, which became the Howard Johnson’s and then the Clinton House (and something else similar), and is now a half-torn-down eyesore that looks exactly like it would on the Gaza Strip.

The new Trotter’s, located in a building of its own, has been open a while, but it’s sort of out of the way for me, and I just hadn’t gotten around to trying it.

The barbecue joint closed a few months ago, and I miss it, but it’s good to have Trotter’s open again because every Southern town needs a place where a man can reliably find country-fried steak, squash casserole, steamed cabbage, and what we are fond of calling macaroni pie.

Sorry. I've just never been one to take photographs of food.
Sorry. I’ve just never been one to take photographs of food.

Outsiders tend to rename our foods. Growing up, I never heard of chicken-fried steak or pulled pork. We had country-fried steak, and our barbecue joints offered the pork options of chopped and minced. No one really ever pulled pork since health departments got so prominent. It’s chopped. Country-fried steak is a little different from chicken-fried. In Texas, they batter and fry the cubed steak (that’s the steak that’s been run through a cubing machine), cover damn near a whole plate with it, and pour gravy (here we call it “sweet-milk” gravy) over it. Country-fried steak simmers in a covered skillet, in the gravy, before it is even served, and the gravy is generally brown instead of gray.

I like them both, but I like our style a little better because that’s the way I was raised. Ditto our mustard-based barbecue. For twenty years, I traveled all over the country, homesick for South Carolina barbecue, and damned if Hickory Hills didn’t close down a year after I got back.

A friend once told me that I could never like what everybody else likes, because, if everybody else started liking it, I’d stop. I think that’s just indigenous to my native state.

Irony, Bonafide

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2008_0120Nashvile0111
Life’s a circus. Figuratively.

Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 7:16 p.m.

Sometimes I wonder if my vernacular has grown outdated, and unbeknownst to me, the meaning of “literal” has reversed and “ironic” vastly expanded. Those words, from the perspective of my outmoded brain, are misused about two thirds of the time by the general public and eighty-five percent by broadcasters.

This afternoon, though, I experienced old-fashioned irony.

I was paying bills and noticed I was paying for something I wasn’t getting. I thought seriously about strolling by the local office of this “provider,” but I’ve dealt with the constantly changing personnel there and knew no possible good could come of it. I also knew, when I called, I would have to navigate through a labyrinth of automated quizzes that would impress Maxwell Smart and Agent Ninety-Nine. Today every day is Get Smart, and every corporation is KAOS.

Remedying the problem took seventy-two minutes, fifty-six of which were spent on hold. By the time it was all done, and I could get to the post office to deposit mail that won’t go out until tomorrow, my cell was almost completely dead. I plugged it in, but within the next fifteen minutes, it rang twice because the company with which I’d just spent seventy-two minutes wanted me to complete a customer-satisfaction survey.

Hence the irony.

Through a process no one should have to endure, I managed to get the problem solved. First I was told that nothing could be done about it, and I pointed out that I could take my business to another company, and then I was told it would cost even more money, and I said, well, I reckon it will, and that’s when I spent my first twenty-seven minutes on hold, and then the lady, who was very nice and almost surely not speaking to me from Rangoon, returned to tell me she was trying to trick the system into reducing my rate, and that’s when I spent the other twenty-nine minutes on hold. The good news is that, bored, I searched for something to watch on television, and I found replays of early Brickyard 400s on ESPN Classic.

The lady fixed the problem and gave me a discount on next month’s bill because her company had been penalized for delay of game and unnecessary roughness to me.

Once it was proclaimed that “the customer is always right,” but it sure is a hell of a lot of trouble nowadays.

Take my book. Please. The doctor asked me when it hurt. I said when I do this. He said don’t do that.

Underload to Overload

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The first time I saw Chris Economaki, he was broadcasting from the roof of the Greenville-Pickens Speedway press box.
The first time I saw Chris Economaki, he was broadcasting from the roof of the Greenville-Pickens Speedway press box.

Clinton, S.C., Sunday, July 20, 2014, 3:45 p.m.

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!

Most of the time, the show was on from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays, as dependable as Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin and Carol Burnett during the week. I watched A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney win Le Mans via satellite black-and-white, Ken Norton upset Muhammad Ali, figure-eight stock cars race at Islip (N.Y.) Speedway, ice skaters jump barrels, and lumberjacks roll logs. How is it possible for there to be a hundred times as much sports on TV but no barrels, racing or jumping, anymore?

Today fans complain about too many commercials. Until ESPN came along, with cable TV, and the Atlanta Braves on “the Superstation,” NASCAR was a sport seen in person, listened to on the radio, and watched on TV via fifteen to twenty minutes of highlights interspersed with figure skating and cliff diving from Acapulco.

They always showed the wrecks.

One of my father’s favorite occasions to raise hell was when he caught me watching Wide World of Sports, and there was something he wished I was doing that he hadn’t told me to, and he was just in a mood to point out that I was “sitting on my goddamned ass watching the television.”

My father frequently used the Lord’s name in vain, particularly when he was sweaty, but he never dropped F-bombs. Today the reverse is more likely so; of course, my father was an influential man, and he is long dead.

It’s a different world. My life is closer to The Jetsons than The Dick Van Dyke Show. Even imaginary people have changed. Batman, for instance. That last fellow I ever expected to take a bullet to save someone’s life was Archie. What’s next? Jughead brings peace to the Middle East? Veronica and Betty get married?

The trouble, I fear, is that constantly spanning the globe serves the purpose of making everyone constantly dizzy.

In the 1970s, Jim Stafford sang about how he and his brother could “take a trip and never leave the farm.” Doing so today requires no “Wildwood Weed.” Today began at the Hockenheimring, then it was on to Liverpool, then Fenway Park and Toronto, with whistlestops at several other farflung venues during commercial interludes.

Why, I’m on a first-name basis with Nico, Rory, Big Papi, and Sebastien.

Yet I don’t feel like I really know any of them.

As old-fashioned as this is, I wish you’d try reading a novel, preferably one of mine. The Audacity of Dope is available for all you Jim Stafford fans out there, and The Intangibles is set in the 1960s. See how far you can stretch out your attention span. You’d be surprised, plus, it’ll be quaint.

Midweek Blahs

Sometimes I feel I too am in the twilight.
Sometimes I feel I too am in the twilight.

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Clinton, S.C., Thursday, July 17, 2014, 9:27 a.m.

This is an age of immediacy, short attention span, and instant gratification.

So I am writing 5,000-word short stories and linking to them via social media. If I were an actor, I’d be playing against type, like Tom Hanks in Bonfire of the Vanities. Surely I can do better than that.

I have my ups and downs. I had such a nice rationalization of why I got little work done on Wednesday. It was because I spent all day on hold, trying to get a small problem resolved. Small problems take two weeks. It’s how automated customer service works. The corporation saves money by making everything such a hassle that a significant percentage of customers just give up.

The customer is always right. That is so Twentieth Century.

One of my favorite ways to waste time.
One of my favorite ways to waste time.

In the cold, gray light of dawn, I realized that my rationalization was undermined by the fact that I played guitar for two hours in three installments and watched Elmer Gantry, Who’ll Stop the Rain, and Vanishing Point. They were all on DirecTV. I hate it when good movies are on. Bad movies I can just have on TV without paying much attention, like The Weather Channel. Damn it. When a good one’s on, I wind up watching it. Burt Lancaster was spellbinding. Tuesday Weld was gorgeous. Cleavon Little was unforgettable (as was Dean Jagger capturing rattlesnakes out in the desert).

Now the British Open is on. Peter Allis just said Tiger Woods is looking “dangerous and about.” It’s contagious. Scott Van Pelt added that Woods is just “three adrift of the lead.”

Last night President Harry Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur of his Pacific command. That was in my book.

Johnny Winter died at seventy. When I first heard him, he was about thirty.

The Boston Red Sox don’t play again till Friday. It’s a Sprint Cup-free weekend. I am about to lose my mind.

Losing one’s mind is not an altogether bad thing when writing fiction, and this blog occurred when its topic occurred right smack in the middle of the fifth part of my short story, “What I Ain’t Got.” Later today, unless Lawrence of Arabia or something is on, it will be posted at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. I encourage you to give my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, a look. I don’t ever plan to tweet them.

I’m Not Being Serious Here

Guitars don't kill audiences. Guitarists kill audiences.
Guitars don’t kill audiences. Guitarists kill audiences.

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Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 9:20 a.m.

On the one hand, I’m glad the World Cup is over. Watching it was amusing and educational, plus, I’ll be performing crummy impersonations of English broadcasters for weeks.

For instance, NASCAR’s recently retired Barney Hall, with an English accent:

“As Logano traverses beneath the flagman’s flowing green colors, they’re off, and I can’t but note for posterity the presence of a stirring array of cars that, together, epitomize the quintessence of this splendiferous sporting regime.”

It’s unlikely to get better. The British Open begins Thursday, the distinguished English being joined by wee Scots and saucy Aussies.

Then, I’m satisfied the eliminations for the 2018 World Cup will begin in a few weeks with the United States taking on Wake Island.

What? No race, either?  (Getty Images for NASCAR)
What? No race, either? (Getty Images for NASCAR)

9:37 a.m.

This week’s checklist for the Race Team Alliance: (1.) self-insuring through Blue Cross, (2.) endless appetizers at TGI Fridays, (3.) yacht discount cards, (4.) an “owners vote” for the Hall of Fame, and (5.) swift takeover of a Caribbean island.

That Rob Kauffman is a can-do guy.

9:46 a.m.

I hate the All-Star Break. Normally, here in exile, my daily schedule involves getting all my work done in concert with the schedule of the Boston Red Sox. It’s not enough they’re in last place. At the moment, they’re not even playing.

If I can make it through to Friday / everything’s gonna be all right, I know / It’s the dullest time of summer / And the Royals are the next tough Boston foe …

For now, my favorite sport is typing. My hobby is coffee.

9:56 a.m.

In West Virginia, TV tells me that “clean coal” is a big issue. I’d settle for “clean journalism.”

I wish I could go to Washington as a lobbyist for guitar rights. Or even Columbia.

Sometimes, while pecking away at this laptop, individual sentences from the nearby TV set pop into my head. Usually, these sentences are attached to the video image of Larry McReynolds, but just now I heard, “The Mexican government is finally going to do something about these train rides.”

The modern-day Woody Guthrie is Juan Gutierrez, I gather.

“See ‘em riding on them trains, D.W.? Them’s train riders.”

Did you get a few chuckles from this fiction? Imagine reading a whole book of it. My novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, are available at a bevy of fine bookstores, one office supply (L&L here in town), online at bn.com, neverlandpublishing.com and amazon.com, where Kindle editions are available at insanely low prices. Mail me a check (see “merchandise”), and I’ll even sign and ship myself. Oh, wait. I’ll sign and ship a book. Or two.

Things I Can and Cannot … Write

Remain calm. All is well. Mike Helton actually said, "We don't know any more than you do." Really? (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Remain calm. All is well. Mike Helton actually said, “We don’t know any more than you do.” Really? (Getty Images for NASCAR)

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Clinton, S.C., Sunday, July 13, 2014, 11:44 a.m.

The struggle is to write when I have something worth writing.

As I grow more distant, I feel less qualified to discuss some matters regarding my longtime beat. This varies from case to case. I learn a lot from watching NASCAR on TV, reading stories, and going through releases, but it’s not the same as being there.

The owners’ formation of an organization – they would prefer to compare it to Costco, while others liken it to the Comintern* – is an issue I can’t really analyze. I wrote what I thought I responsibly could earlier this week, relying on experience and information communicated by friends voluntarily, as in, they called me to gossip.

My first reaction was that it was much ado about nothing, but others tell me there’s more to it. I don’t see Rick Hendrick and Roger Penske as Bolsheviks, but, then again, I don’t see the Chinese that way anymore, either. When’s the last time you heard the term “Red Chinese”? You’d have to be my age. You’d have to remember a time when people thought fluoride in the water was a Russkie brainwashing scheme.

Personally, I wish RTA stood for Rural Transit Authority. Then I’d have options when I wanted to go to the grocery store. What’s it stand for? Race Team Alliance? Racing Teams Alliance? Bruton Smith might call it the UBA for “Ungrateful Bastards Alliance,” but Bruton has long been prone to hyperbole.

On Friday, Jimmie Johnson said a tremendous amount of nothing. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
On Friday, Jimmie Johnson said a tremendous amount of nothing. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)

Here’s what experience in NASCAR, as opposed to my history and political science degree, taught me. You can’t make this story real by relying on what’s on the record. Off the record, you might be able to find some small shreds of truth, whether you can write them or not. When the most valued voices in NASCAR, the drivers, are stuck in the middle between the Lords of Daytona and the despots who own their cars, candor is likelier from a pro wrestler, and the wrestler is going to be much more entertaining.

I can’t hang out in the garage area and chat with what few people there I trust. I have to sit here in the easy chair and wonder why Lug Nut is in Jeff Gordon’s “framily.”

I try to change with the times, and I express lots of controversial views, but I try to express them when I feel qualified to do so and secure in my convictions. I’m modern but not thoroughly modern. (Also, I’m Monte, not Millie#.) I try not to write like I’m there, even though, clearly, there’s a market for it. Who makes that call? I do. I’m the boss. I’m the king of eighty acres, and when I see fit, I can be the court jester, too. It’s good to hold down the payroll.

I sing lots of Kris Kristofferson songs these days.

*Communist International, which existed from 1919 to 1943.

#Obscure movie reference.

Why My Favorite Team Sucks

Rookie Mookie Betts
Rookie Mookie Betts

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Clinton, S.C., Thursday, July 10, 2014, 10:27 p.m.

I’m no sabermetrician, and I don’t have to be. It doesn’t take mathematics to see what’s wrong with the Boston Red Sox. Last year they scored runs. This year they don’t.

This is much easier to accept since the Red Sox are the reigning world champions. Never mind that the team’s record at the moment is worse, at this point, than when Rear Admiral Bobby Valentine ran it aground in 2012. At that point, I thought he’d relegated the Red Sox to Davy Jones’ Locker for the foreseeable future. Then, in an act of charity second only to the Jimmy Fund, the Los Angeles Dodgers took care of Boston’s payroll surfeit, thus enabling the Red Sox to rebuild rapidly. As 2013 began, I wasn’t expecting a World Series. I would have been happy with a winning record (as would I right now). I thought the Red Sox had reinvigorated their lineup with some quick fixes, which was true, and that’s part of the reason the fixes aren’t still working.

Here it is 2014, and everyone is a year older. Shane Victorino has barely played. Jake Peavy is a highly competitive bundle of nothing on the mound. Jonny Gomes staggers around left field like he’s on stilts.

Only Koji Uehara remains the same, though I fear John Farrell is using him too much, particularly when the game requires no saving.

In general, the pitching staff is still good enough to win, particularly the bullpen. Jon Lester and John Lackey are workhorses. The rest of the rotation is erratic, but Clay Buchholz might be okay the second half, and the young arms attached to Brandon Workman and Rubby de la Rosa are finding their range.

David Ortiz is fine. His batting average is down, but I chalk that up to the pure burden of being all four branches of the military for a good part of the year. Ortiz has lost innumerable hits hammering the ball into the teeth of the shift that greets him most at-bats, and I think the urgent need for runs has prompted him to try to pull the ball too much. Lately he’s been peppering the Green Monster again, and I think a healthier team is going to make his batting average healthier. Dustin Pedroia seems to be recovering from the same siege mentality, and I expect he’ll wind up hitting .300 again once the shock of the season to date diminishes.

Having been caught up in the type of front-office frenzy normally associated with the New York Yankees, the Red Sox have tried to be sensible, in general refusing to sign players for longer than their plausible usefulness. That cost them Jacoby Ellsbury, who performed roughly the same function in their offense as the spark in an internal-combustion engine. The Red Sox have a great farm system and committed themselves to using it.

This year, and I mean just this year, the club is a dysfunctional hybrid of too many players too old and too many too young. The only great success story is the excitable Mr. Fixit otherwise named Brock Holt. Jackie Bradley Jr. may be the best center fielder in the game, the position being narrowly defined as the time he’s actually tending that garden. He is so good in the field – so was Ellsbury, but Bradley’s arm is far superior — that it will be fine if he can learn to hit .250 reliably, but that hasn’t happened yet. Xander Bogaerts has been in a tailspin ever since they moved him from short back to third. It seems to be getting back in synch now. Daniel Nava is hitting again. Mike Carp drove in the winning run tonight, Holt last night, and Mike Napoli seems healthy, which in turn takes the pressure off Ortiz.

The only offseason move I hated was the signing of A.J. Pierzynski, to which I can now say good (and expensive) riddance. The bright young catcher, Christian Vazquez, has been handed the mitt. To borrow the archaic term, he dons the tools of ignorance.

Finally, there is Mookie Betts, who is supposed to be an infielder but has been refitted as an outfielder, not without some complications. He injects life into the offense, not yet like Ellsbury, but it’s coming.

In what I’m likely to remember as a wretched campaign, Betts made the play I’ll probably most remember on Tuesday night, when the Red Sox came from four runs down in the eighth inning to defeat the Chicago White Sox. Betts executed the rare infield double. Safe on a close play at first base, he took off for second because he happened to notice that no Chicagoans were in the vicinity. It was the best moment since Ellsbury beat the Yankees stealing home off Andy Pettite in, I think, 2011.

I’m not sure the Red Sox will finish above .500 this year, but I do think they’ll win more than they lose the rest of the way and be contenders again in 2015.

It’s my preference that the front office remain calm. They’ve got a plan. Stick to it. Stay the course. I don’t want the next American League powerhouse to look like the Red Sox with different uniforms.

You know. Like the Oakland Athletics.

If you’d like to follow my musings on other subjects, like, oh, fiction and songwriting, follow my other blog, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. And buy a novel, why don’t you?

Which Caesar Does One Render Unto?

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"So what are you gonna say?" "Umm, very little."
“So what are you gonna say?”
“Umm, very little.” (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 7:37 p.m.

I don’t think I can muster a blog on one subject tonight. My opinions aren’t strong enough, or at least I haven’t reached the stage where I can make detailed cases.

 

Atmosphere's a little different this year.
Atmosphere’s a little different this year.

The collapse of the Boston Red Sox is making me more literate. I wind up stanching the bleeding by reading books while the games are on TV. How bad are the Red Sox? I’m more than five hundred pages into William Manchester’s American Caesar. It’s not a light read.

Actually, I probably should write a blog about the Red Sox because I’ve certainly put lots of thought into why the fortunes of the World Champions have gone so bad so quickly. Maybe tomorrow.

 

The World Cup semifinals certainly dissented with the notion that all soccer matches are just alike. Germany embarrassed Brazil with a cavalry charge. Argentina and Holland dug trenches.

I’ve enjoyed it. What always impresses me about the World Cup – this is only the second I’ve really followed closely – is how all the teams are like I expect them to be. There’s a novelty song by a novelty group, the Austin Lounge Lizards, called “Another Stupid Song About Texas,” and following the premise of that tune and adapting it to international futbol:

Their Germans are the germiest / The Frenchmen are the wormiest / Their floppers are the laziest / Colombians cocainiest / The Belgians tend to waffle best / Brazil’s the humiliatedest / Argentina’s stripedest / While Holland’s the sunspottiest / Uruguay smokespottiest.

 

"What? Me worry?" (Getty Images for NASCAR)
“What? Me worry?”
(Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR’s owners are organizing, and it is altogether fitting that this sport would unionize at the level of ownership instead of labor. If there’s a Curt Flood, he’s a billionaire in this sport … and … guess what? … every other one.

I’m perplexed because all I know is what I read and see, and that’s just no good here. The “remain calm, all is well” chorus is so strong, it’s obviously a lie. This is one of those tense times when there is a vast gulf between on the record and off, and in the lines and between them. The same guy saying “no big deal” into the mic is saying “all hell’s breaking loose” when it’s off. A couple guys have called me as soon as theirs went off, probably because I’m not in a position to do much with it, and they have a misplaced desire to know what I think, but not with a live mic.

Part of it is a consequence of the very spin that is being generated now. The past couple years the spin on sagging attendance has been, “Hey, psst, between me and you, attendance doesn’t mean anything. We make so much money from TV that ticket revenue is getting to be a negligible part of the business. Sure, we’d like to draw a big crowd, but it’s really not a big deal.”

At some point, this led to an equal and opposite reaction, in which the tycoon car owners started saying of the tycoon track owners, “Hey, these tracks are getting rich, and I’m still trying to find $5 million from sponsors to make ends meet. How fair is that?”

To which others answered, “Not very,” followed by, “Hey, I really need someone to talk to, and do you think you could get dates for all my friends?”

Nothing raises temperatures in NASCAR like the suspicion that someone else might be making money.

When I was on the beat, my nickname for Fridays was Liars Day. That’s because the same people who say, “What I love about this track is how great the racing is,” on Friday turn into, “It’s ridiculous how hard it is to pass at this piece of crap” on Sunday evening.

Some of the pointed talkers are going to be at least frightened and at most catatonic Friday, pinned between the ruling body that owns them and the owners who own them.

An old album title comes to mind: Twin Sons of Different Mothers (Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg).

 

This kind of stuff happens in fiction all the time. Check out my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, at www.neverlandpublishing.com. Have Kindle, www.amazon.com will travel. If you’re here in town, The Intangibles is available at L&L Office Supply. Signed copies of both are at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., too. Or send me a check (see “Merchandise”) and I’ll ship one or both.

Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain

Dale Earnhardt Jr., during rainy driver introductions on Saturday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., during rainy driver introductions on Saturday.

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Clinton, S.C., Sunday, July 6, 2014, 12:03 p.m.

I’m a little late because I’ve been sketching again. Fortunately – wait, that’s not the right word, oh, maybe, opportunistically – it started sprinkling in Daytona Beach shortly after the Coke Zero 400 started, which is more than it ever did on Saturday.

12:16 p.m.

I looked up, and what to my wandering eyes did appear but a spinning Stenhouse with loathing and fear.

This one was a contender magnet. On the farm, they call it culling the herd.

12:46 p.m.

On Twitter, I’m getting Daytona weather reports from people hundreds of miles away. Like me, but I’m not tweeting weather. I generally leave that to the professionals, or at least someone in the area who can, oh, maybe see the clouds.

Maybe I’ll try my hand at World Cup weather. It’d be nice niche for me.

1:14 p.m.

All the racing was single-file. Then all the racing was two-wide. Coincidence? Or perhaps the approach of the halfway point had something to do with it.

1:27 p.m.

In spite of the attrition, I doubt there’s going to be a surprise winner. That was more likely with tandem drafting, when two cars, linked together could sweep into the lead from nowhere. Or even anywhere.

Most of the contenders that remain have been up front, and my guess is that’s the way it’s going to stay.

Aric Almirola (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Aric Almirola (Getty Images for NASCAR)

1:31 p.m.

Another apocalyptic crash. What I just wrote? Forget that. It now appears there will be a surprise winner. It now appears impossible there will be anything but a surprise winner.

Kyle Busch’s Toyota wound up on its roof. Adam Alexander said it wasn’t really a flip. “It was just a delayed reaction to the crash.”

They’re racing to the rain. They act like it’s a hurricane.

1:58 p.m.

Now it’s a rain delay.

This is the Strangely Unfulfilling 400.

3:03 p.m.

The winner is Aric Almirola. He won on account of wrecks and rain. It was No. 43’s eleventh Daytona victory and the first without Richard Petty in the seat. Petty’s 200th and final victory was thirty years, two days, ago. The first time I saw No. 43 win was at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in 1968. It was dirt. I was also there when John Andretti won at Martinsville in 1999.

Of course, I wasn’t there for this one.

Whoa. I remember that dude. (John Clark photo)
Whoa. I remember that dude. (John Clark photo)

3:38 p.m.

What do you know? Juan Montoya won at Pocono in a 500-mile race with twenty-one starters.

Roger Penske just said, “Those guys are racers,” which is what I expected.

A Slant on Racing, or Lack Thereof

Saturday went downhill in a hurry in Daytona Beach. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Saturday went downhill in a hurry in Daytona Beach. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

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Clinton, S.C., Saturday, July 5, 2014, 3:03 p.m.

So far I’ve finished off a short story (it’s posted at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com), and edited a little of what will eventually be my fourth novel. My nephew needs the money, so he’s been out in the yard, pushing a mower and clipping hedges. I half-watched Argentina beat Belgium in soccer, and I’ve got the Red Sox game on now. Lately I’ve been reading a biography of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and I’m thinking seriously about playing my guitar a while.

It’s the Fifth of July. It’s a double-points weekend that begins early instead of ends late. The fireworks will probably be going off again tonight, if for no other reason than folks having some left over from last night.

In the far pavilions of Daytona Beach, Florida, the fireworks show is tonight.

4:12 p.m.

It’s raining at Daytona International Speedway, and it’s dampened the spirits at a Tweet-Up. This is unsurprising. Having a night race there in July defines a threat of rain. It’s summer at the beach. Almost every day, dusk brings with it either a thunderstorm or a threat of one.

Sometimes they’re lucky. Maybe this is one of those times. Maybe it’ll be a long night, one better spent here at home than down there.

That’s just a coincidence, though.

5:41 p.m.

I’ve been around town running a few errands. Mainly I went grocery shopping, had the usual “hey, how ya doin’s” and “I haven’t seen you in forevers,” and listened to Sirius XM’s own stream of consciousness, the Claire B. Lang at the entrance to the drivers’ chatting with whoever hasn’t figured out how to duck her.

Back home, with the groceries shelved, I discover it’s nil-nil in Salvador and they’re going into extra time between the Netherlands and Costa Rica. Argentina eliminated Belgium earlier with a running, gunning 1-nil verdict.

Injured athletes often step “gingerly,” but they never show the ginger.

Eventually, this blog is going to be about NASCAR, though I will be checking on the Red Sox (twinbill; they beat the Orioles in game one) during the commercials, when all the crashes occur.

7:32 p.m.

Who says I don’t accentuate the positive? The silver lining around the Daytona storm clouds is commemoration of Barney Hall’s final race on MRN.

Two observations on Barney: I’ll remember him as one of the more pleasant people with whom to play a round of golf. I probably played with him a half dozen times, I enjoyed each time, and it’s doubtful it was because I played well, which I seldom did.

The other is that talking NASCAR with Barney off the cuff was different than listening to him on the radio.

8:32 p.m.

Not a lot of optimism in Daytona Beach. Orioles and Red Sox are scoreless at Fenway. I had chicken planks for supper. I might read more about MacArthur shortly.

It might stop raining in Florida. Stephen Drew just hit a home run in Massachusetts.

You’re not doing anything. Read the short story, “Scuppernongs and Muscadines,” I finished Saturday morning.