In and Out, Up and Down, Left and Right …

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 29, 2015, 10:29 a.m.

A few observations from Kyle Busch’s victory in Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, the road course in California’s Wine Country:

The chief question raised by the weekend is whether or not Kyle Busch can make the Chase. His Sonoma win was, of course, preordained by the vast number of observers who said he had no shot when he placed dead last in Michigan. That’s, in small part, because God has a sense of humor.

The out-again, in-again Kyle Busch celebrates his Sonoma victory.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The out-again, in-again Kyle Busch celebrates his Sonoma victory. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Now the chorus has moved from hopelessness to hope, from doom to destiny, and from “no way” to “he’s going to make it.” The numbers still don’t favor him. Precision is impossible because 30th place in the points is a moving target. The driver occupying 30th changes, but the best estimate suggests that an average of about 13th or 14th will get him in. It sounds reasonable, but his current average finish, even after Sunday’s win, is 20.0, and his average for the entire 2014 season was 17.6.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

As Joe Gibbs, Busch’s owner, said, “I think it’s a great sports story because, if you think about Daytona, and for Kyle to come back from, really, a broken right leg and a broken left foot, the race we were really worried about when he came back was this race because it was going to be, obviously, road racing. It takes a lot of pressure on your foot, so I think this is a great story for us.”

It could, of course, be the beginning of an even greater story.

Another major obstacle comes up right away. Anyone can crash at Daytona, and many likely will. If Busch finds trouble there, he’s right back in “no way” mode. The chorus will change for the third race in a row. Moderation is rare in the media center, TV booth, and grandstands, not to mention the social media and blogosphere.

Is the blogosphere social media? Or is it just yet another stakeholder?

Now, where does Busch go, now that he has a win under his belt? He could become cautious which will seem, in his case, like a lion cowering at a kitty cat, or he could press the advantage. Let’s say he crashes at Daytona, has another bad finish or two, in the 10 remaining races, but wins two or three of them?

The ball may wind up back in Brian France's court. (Monte Dutton photo)
The ball may wind up back in Brian France’s court. (Monte Dutton photo)

If Kyle Busch is a multiple-race winner but not in the top 30, it will be very difficult for NASCAR to let that lie. Brian France has already granted him one waiver. The old “EIRI” for which NASCAR is famous — “except in rare instances” — has never been truer than in recent years, when a previous Chase field was expanded from twelve to thirteen because the final regular-season race (2013) was determined not to have been on the up-and-up.

One of the intents of the current, bloated Chase field, and the maniacal rules governing it, is to get the winners in and let them prosper.

I think the NASCAR excitement manufacturers will sit back and watch, hoping Busch makes it on his own, but, if he doesn’t, they’re going to be powerfully tempted to blur the rules again.

For the first time ever, the brothers Busch finished 1-2  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
For the first time ever, the brothers Busch finished 1-2 (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

All right. Moving on, twenty years ago, coverage of races wasn’t quite so prone to overkill. Now it’s Kyle won, so let’s beat it to death. Let’s do what it takes to maximize the web hits. Kyle wins, and here’s what Junior and Danica have to say about it!

I remember when fellow could get his name in the paper by finishing eighth, as Kasey Kahne did at Sonoma. Now what papers are left don’t have much space, and Kahne gets on the web by having a girlfriend with a baby on the way.

Inquiring minds want to know!

Same season, different team for Carl Edwards.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Same season, different team for Carl Edwards. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Not only is it noteworthy that Kyle and Kurt Busch finished 1-2 for the first time in their careers, but that one race earlier they “bookended” the standings by placing first (Kurt) and 43rd (Kyle) in Michigan. The two have often been either close together or far apart, and it’s not chassis setups I’m noting.

Before the final restart, a social media acquaintance asked if I thought Jeff Gordon had a shot, as he was third at the time. I replied in the affirmative. Gordon finished 16th. Tony Stewart, who finished 12th, drives No. 14 and has led the same number of laps this year. I take no comfort in pointing out such details.

Clint Bowyer finished in the top five (third) for the first time all year.

Last year Carl Edwards somehow managed to win two races, and that’s how he made the Chase. This year, with a different team, he has already won but is 17th in the point standings, which, under the current format, is no more pertinent to the Chase than his 11 lead-lap finishes and his average qualifying performance of 9.6. In spite of switching from declining Roush Fenway to elite JGR, Edwards is having the same year.

No one is happier to be leaving California than David Ragan, in spite of the fact that Michael Waltrip had his back in the TV booth. The two know each other, I think.

“You have to hold your own,” Ragan said after being involved in two significant crashes. “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.”

Ragan wasn’t being facetious or coy. He was being honest. He has a reputation of being uncertain on road courses, and other drivers expect him to get out of their way. He’s got the best ride he’s had in a while. He’s trying to keep it. He did his best. It’s what we should expect.

Had the cards fallen a little differently, either Jimmie Johnson or Kurt Busch might have won. No change there from oval to road.

A.J. Allmendinger and Kurt Busch started on the front row. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
A.J. Allmendinger and Kurt Busch started on the front row. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

When I started writing about racing on a regular basis, road courses were often dreaded by fans who now adore them. When I started going to Sonoma and Watkins Glen, few were the drivers who could plausibly win. The biggest change is in the transmissions. The Jerico transmission showed up in the 1990s and made the footwork, the heel and toe switches from brake to clutch, two feet doing three jobs, unimportant. Changing gears is now greatly simplified. Now the road courses are such than most drivers, given track position, are capable of winning.

Guess who won last summer at Daytona? (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Guess who won last summer at Daytona? (Getty Images for NASCAR)

An obviously skilled road racer, Marcos Ambrose over the past few years and A.J. Allmendinger now, can surmount disadvantages in equipment that are apparent at other tracks, which, incredibly, is what last week’s Sonoma and next week’s Daytona have in common, not in terms of Allmendger or Ambrose, but in the case of other drivers who have exceptional skill at plate tracks.

David Ragan, for instance. And Aric Almirola, who just happens to be the winner of last year’s summertime race at vast, sprawling Daytona.

One final observation about both Sonoma and Daytona: These two tracks are bringing the fun back at a time when NASCAR desperately needs it.

 

For those of you obsessed by NASCAR, thanks for reading me here, but if you have other interests, if you actually still enjoy reading other things like short stories or books, give wellpilgrim.wordpress.com the occasional look. Better yet, consider buying one of the books of mine listed here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

The Mass of Contradictions

Even though there's a rainbow, it doesn't make me gay.
Even though there’s a rainbow, it doesn’t make me gay.

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 27, 2015, 4:27 p.m.

On social media, and particularly on Facebook, word spreads by angry ones. Twitter limits them to 140 characters. Facebook provides much more room to be angry.

The Supreme Court decision making gay marriage legal has caused faith to leap.

Some seem to think gay marriage is a threat to straight marriage. Many evangelicals seem to think gays are evangelists with some desire to spread their ways of life.

Obviously, it’s President Obama’s fault. He has flip-flopped. So has Hillary Clinton. Actually, the president has evolved, as have a majority of the American people. I have evolved.

There's a long road ahead.  (Monte Dutton photo)
There’s a long road ahead. (Monte Dutton photo)

I’ve never been able to relate to homosexuality on a personal level. I don’t understand why a man would be attracted to another man, or a woman to another woman, or why a man would want to be a woman, or vice-versa.

Yet, intellectually, I believe in a person’s right to live life as he or she sees fit. My ego doesn’t demand that everyone else be like me.

The Affordable Care Act has a personal impact, though. I had been worried about the implications of the Supreme Court striking down Obamacare because they would have implicated me.

On Friday morning, I had a colonoscopy. I recognize the need for going through that process from time to time because my father died of colon cancer. If not for Obamacare, I wouldn’t have gone through that procedure. My job of 16 years was eliminated two and a half years ago. I am responsible for my own health insurance. My monthly premium is less than half what it was two years ago. It’s about ten dollars a month less this year than it was last.

My home state refused to create its own health-care exchange, and, in response, the Obama Administration created a national program, the one that had so many problems at the outset, undoubtedly because the national government had to set up its own exchange for those who could not get it in their states. I waited out the problems and signed up without much trouble.

Charleston, South Carolina. (Monte Dutton)
Charleston, South Carolina. (Monte Dutton)

It’s not perfect. It’s just as good as we could get, given the powerful forces of opposition that watered it down. It’s not socialized medicine. It’s mandatory private medicine. Politics is the art of the possible. The Affordable Care Act was what was possible.

Even that was a godsend for me.

In other news, the president who detractors say is the enemy of God gave one of the finer sermons I have ever heard on Friday afternoon.

After the morning surgical procedure, drugged unconsciousness, and 36 hours without solid food, I wasn’t good for much on Friday. I felt incapable of doing anything that required as much thought as writing this blog. I spent the afternoon watching coverage of the commemorative services in Charleston, South Carolina, honoring the lives of the six women and three men murdered on June 17 at Emanuel AME Church.

In the past week, I’ve seen the Articles of Confederation, the ones the Constitution superseded, cited as somehow having something to do with the current rights of states. I’ve seen it claimed that the Confederate legislature introduced a bill to ban slavery in 1850 (11 years before it existed). I’ve been warned that soon gay marriage will be mandatory. Some apparently believe that, since the American flag once flew over a country where slavery was legal, then it should be taken down, too.

It's a desert. A painted desert.  (Monte Dutton)
It’s a desert. A painted desert. (Monte Dutton)

Then, of course, exists this overwhelming chorus that the Civil War wasn’t fought over the institution of slavery. People advise me to read the facts. So I read South Carolina’s declaration of secession, and a half dozen others, and the rhetoric of Southern politicians at the time, and the rhetoric of Southern politicians in most of the years since.

States’ rights? Sure. It was fought over the states’ rights to have slaves.

I should stop. I’ve already written a blog on this topic.

Why do so many people seem to think that one step means the ultimate is bound to occur? Can you name one example of that ever happening in this country? The enduring brilliance of the Constitution is that it enables the country to change with the times.

 

              My fiction is not as strange as current facts, but the novel that will be out soon is a fable on the absurdity of life. In the meantime, you can find my previous books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Up This Hill and Down

Its a merry-go-round, but, oddly, all they ever have is a Ferris wheel. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Its a merry-go-round, but, oddly, all they ever have is a Ferris wheel. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 25, 2015, 10:11 a.m.

The week brings with it a vague, simple optimism for NASCAR fans, beaten down by rain, strategy, and leaders who run away by virtue of somehow getting in front and pulling away via the vagaries of aerodynamics.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Sonoma is a road course, and a road course is something different, and something different is desperately needed in the NASCAR doldrums. The Sprint Cup Series needs some wind in its sails. Basketball and hockey are over. The Chase is out there on the horizon.

Road courses are rare. Both are in the summer. Twenty-five years ago, many fans dreaded the races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Now they adore them. Once the outcomes of those races seemed predictable, back when only a few drivers were winning them. Now the road courses seem more competitive than other races.

This week, drivers are saying “anybody can win.” They’ll say the same next week, too, because it’s summertime in Daytona Beach, featuring sun, fun, and aero conditions that enable passing instead of minimizing it.

Imagine. In the short span of two weekends, NASCAR might build some steam, gain some momentum, energize the fans, build its brand, address the stakeholders, and assorted other cliches of a cliche-ridden pastime.

Kurt Busch can spin 'em. Cliches, that is.  (HHP photo for Chevrolet)
Kurt Busch can spin ’em. Cliches, that is. (HHP photo for Chevrolet)

No one rides a cliche better than the incomparable Kurt Busch.

“Sonoma the race itself is a rhythmic balance that you get into,” said Kurt via media release. “You work all the corners [and] you try to tie them all together to create your lap time.”

Got it.

“Road courses are unique [in] how you get into that rhythm, and you don’t even realize that you are halfway through the race before you really even get settled in,” Professor Busch further stated. “Road courses are challenging in so many different ways.”

Kurt wasn’t alone in citing the alleged difficulty of racing in the season’s first road course without having an opportunity to try it out in advance.

“What is going to be tough about Sonoma this year versus years past? No testing. No road-course shakedowns, no ‘go to VIR (Virginia International Raceway) or another road course to get the car prepped. It’s going to challenge the drivers this year in a unique way,” he further opined.

“Fun,” as David Poole used to be fond of saying. “You can’t beat fun.”

“Normally we can go and run a road course around here for an afternoon,” said Kasey Kahne’s crew chief, Keith Rodden, “and that usually gives Kasey, myself, and the engineers some time to relearn turning both left and right. But this year we don’t get that, so it’s going to be fun.”

Gosh, have I turned both left and right in my passenger car or pickup truck lately? I believe I have. Whew.

What I had been awaiting, as I perused the emails, was what someone was going to say inevitably, because race drivers, particularly modern ones, love to say that one track is like another that would seem to be totally different.

Looking forward to short-track racing in Wine Country.  (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Looking forward to short-track racing in Wine Country. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

“It is more like a short track there,” said A.J. Allmendinger.

Careful study invariably yields drivers who say Pocono is like a road course, and it’s like Indianapolis, which thus is like a road course, but both are like Martinsville, which is as far from a road course as Capetown from Point Barrow.

Occasionally, a driver will say something that seems to make sense, such as allowing as how Talladega bears some similarity to Daytona.

On the other hand, drivers often say that seemingly identical tracks — Charlotte and Texas, say, or Auto Club and Michigan — are nothing alike.

It’s vexing.

The chorus further informs us that Sonoma is “more technical” than Watkins Glen and that the speeds of the two are “drastically different.” All the two seem to have in common is that “things can get crazy out there.”

Obviously, only a masterful driver of virtuosity and renown could ever win races at both places, except that whoever wins on Sunday will undoubtedly say, when August arrives, that his (or her) Sonoma victory gives him “a leg up on the competition” at the Glen.

Such is the nature of the beast that is the weekly media release.

Did I mention it’s “a finesse race track”? Or that it has “a lot of character”?

Tony Stewart intends to drive his car throughout the race. (John Clark photo)
Tony Stewart intends to drive his car throughout the race. (John Clark photo)

“Sonoma has a lot of character because of all the elevation changes,” Tony Stewart said, and later added, “You are always driving the car.”

If this is not the case at other tracks, perhaps it provides some insight into Stewart’s woes this year.

They all “like road racing a lot,” and it’s pretty much the same for “plate tracks,” concrete, short, intermediate, long, flat, banked, and equipped with “interactive fan experiences.”

It’s all technical, character-building, and balance-requiring. As any reader of driver quotes realizes, a car can be “too free.”

 

Have fun watching the all the colorful cars go “up this hill and down, and up this hill again.” If you think of it, check out my books, which are at least as different as Sonoma and Martinsville are alike. You can read all about them, and, preferably, buy one or two or five, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

For God’s Sake, Take It Down

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

I really should apologize to Mississippi, but I don't have a photo of the South Carolina Statehouse, and Mississippi's state flag includes a Confederate flag as an element, and it's time for that to change, too. I spent a couple days in Jackson a little over a year ago and visited the Statehouse because I like history. (Monte Dutton photo)
I really should apologize to Mississippi, but I don’t have a photo of the South Carolina Statehouse, and Mississippi’s state flag includes a Confederate flag as an element, and it’s time for that to change, too. I spent a couple days in Jackson a little over a year ago and visited the Statehouse because I like history. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 8:40 a.m.

When I was in college, during my junior year, I decided to add a second major. It was history, and I specialized in the history of the South. I took classes on the Old South and the New South. I read lots of books on the Civil War. Many years later, I visited the Shiloh battlefield, and that’s when I realized that it doesn’t matter how much one reads. In order to understand fully what happened, one has to walk the grounds.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

This led to visits to many other battlefields: Gettysburg, Antietam, Manassas, Cold Harbor, Fort Donelson, Franklin, et al. Then I got interested in the American Revolution and visited King’s Mountain, Cowpens, and one whose name I can’t remember when I was covering the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen, New York. I will never stop filling the gaps of my knowledge. World War I is the current fascination.

Never have I wished the South won. Never have I thought it appropriate that a Confederate battle flag belonged on the grounds of our Statehouse in Columbia. In 2000, the Stars and Bars were removed from the flagpole on the Statehouse dome, but they continued to fly over the Confederate War Memorial. I have no problem with there being a Confederate War Memorial, and I understand that it would be odd for an American flag to fly over a Confederate shrine, but I understand that, however regrettable, the Civil War is a part of our history. It wasn’t a Lost Cause: It was a Futile Cause, and a Tragic Cause, and another terrible example of young men being sent off to die for the greedy designs of politicians, plantation owners, industrialists, and schemers.

An argument can be made that a Confederate War Memorial serves as a needed reminder of a tragic past. In a free society, citizens can see it any way they want, but, to me, it is a reminder of tragedy, a tragedy that persists 150 years after Appomattox.

I want my great-nephews -- from top, Alex, Anthony, and Josh -- to grow up without hate in their hearts. (Monte Dutton photo)
I want my great-nephews — from top, Alex, Anthony, and Josh — to grow up without hate in their hearts. (Monte Dutton photo)

Furthermore, to make an argument for flying the flag of a long-dead, defeated country by citing history and heritage is absurd for one reason. That flag didn’t fly over the Statehouse after the war. It didn’t fly after Reconstruction. It was never raised until 1962, and when it was raised, I’m sure some justified it on the basis of history and heritage, and that was propaganda because the obvious reason was to intimidate black South Carolinians in their fight for civil rights and something not nearly as complex, that being basic, human dignity.

Last week, a pathetic, disturbed white man opened fire at a prayer meeting in Charleston and killed six black women and three black men. Dylann Roof has been apprehended. This state is reeling once again. It has often been a refuge for firebrands and extremists, dating back to its prominent role in the secessionist movement. It wasn’t religion he was trying to kill. It was black people. He is on the record. He scares us. No one saw him coming. He was that demented loner, apparently sent reeling further out of control by prescription drugs that bred irrational fanaticism and delusions of grandeur.

For all who make the ridiculous argument that racism no longer exists, this has been a bitter pill to swallow. After he murdered Abraham Lincoln in 1865, John Wilkes Booth expected to be greeted as a hero when he escaped to Virginia. Dylann Roof reportedly hoped his dastardly act would start a race war. It was a stated goal. Only a century and a half apart, the goals of Booth and Roof were similarly demented.

I’m thinking about printing a copy of South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession, the first that passed a legislature, in December 1860. I want to fold it and keep it in my wallet. That’s just for the next time someone tells me that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery, or that it wasn’t a civil war at all, but, rather, a War of Northern Aggression, so that I can say, “Here. Read this. Then tell me how the Civil War wasn’t about slavery.”

This Capitol is not without its shame, but it represents hope and evidence that we have succeeded in the past and are thus capable of solving our problems today. (Monte Dutton photo)
This Capitol is not without its shame, but it represents hope and evidence that we have succeeded in the past and are thus capable of solving our problems today. (Monte Dutton photo)

The world has too many people who read only what they want to hear. That was true in the 1860s, too, even without social media. The Civil War is far from the only example in world history of unspeakable acts being justified and rationalized on the basis of propaganda. This country tried its best to eliminate the natives who had been here for centuries when invaders landed up and down the country’s shores. Nothing has changed. Many Americans living today have never known a war fought for a decent reason.

Our history should not be suppressed, not the triumphs, not the failures, and not the tragedies that occurred in the interests of one issue or another. We shouldn’t forget what happened in the 1860s. Nor should we forget that it was a war fought ultimately over almost nothing. Slavery ended but was replaced by only slightly less onerous restrictions on black Americans. In terms of human life, the Civil War was the most costly of our conflicts, but, over 150 years, one would think it could be put behind, not in the journals of historians but in the hearts of Americans of all colors, opinions, economic statuses, and locations.

Take that flag down. It flies in Columbia like a witch. It’s an ancient curse that needs to be reversed.

 

A morning blog usually warms me up, but this one got me a bit overheated. Civil rights plays a prominent role in my novel The Intangibles, which is available, along with my other books, fiction and non, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Me and My Old Man: It’s Complicated

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, June 21, 2015, 8:59 a.m.

My father, Jimmy Dutton, will have been dead for 22 years in the fall. I miss him less than I think of him. He was a colorful, gregarious man, easy to like but hard to love.

My friends all loved him. They got angry at me when I rebelled. They liked him more. They didn’t have to live with him.

As time passes, memories grow warmer. The bad times have mainly passed in the wind, which I got from a song by Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. Daddy loved Waylon, not to mention Willie and the boys.

Storms never last, do they, baby? / Bad times all pass with the winds …

Colter, Waylon’s wife, wrote the song.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Some people called my father “the Colonel,” not because he was in the military but because that is also the title used by auctioneers, and he was one. Lots of people called him “Dut,” which is true in a few cases of me. Earl Pitts called him “Fatnin,'” and I never heard anyone else call him that. He called me “Tug,” and that never stuck except with a few of my high school football teammates who heard him call me that.

He was a talented man, but it was mostly wasted. He left me his musical tastes and a natural distrust of the high and mighty. I’m stubborn because of him. My work ethic came from his mother, who outlived him by just about a decade. All other virtues came from my mother, who is still going relatively strong.

My vices all came from peer pressure, of course.

Boston Red Sox? I got them from my dad.  (Monte Dutton photo)
Boston Red Sox? I got them from my dad. (Monte Dutton photo)

Daddy could finagle himself out of trouble as well as anyone I’ve known. Once my mother and I were talking about that, and I said that, if he were still alive, they’d have thrown him in jail.

My mother looked up from the Chronicle, our weekly newspaper, over the top of her reading glasses, and said, “They throwed you in jail back then, too. But not your daddy.”

Oh, no. Not my daddy.

When I was a teen-ager, we didn’t get along well. I could never talk with him unless he was drunk, and then he didn’t make any sense. We never really buried the hatchet until he was dying, and I’m glad we did because he showed more courage than I thought he had.

A boy cannot escape his father, and the goal must be to avoid his weaknesses and adopt his strengths. A boy is incapable of recognizing this until it is too late. If he’s lucky, he might feel his way through his crises with a certain resourcefulness. The Colonel did leave me that because, from the time I was 14, when I became his chauffeur because the state decided he wasn’t fit to drive for six months, our relationship became a series of getting into and out of the damndest messes, almost all of which were of his making.

No one loved the Clinton Red Devils more than my old man. (Monte Dutton photo)
No one loved the Clinton Red Devils more than my old man. (Monte Dutton photo)

I had a learner’s permit. My father had no license at all. I don’t think that was legal, even then, but had we ever been stopped, I’m almost positive Daddy would have talked his way out of it.

Not your daddy.

Here’s another lesson my father taught me. He never told me this, but I learned it on Christmas mornings, when he took me along to deliver smoked turkeys to the preacher, the sheriff, the police chief, the magistrate, and any number of other people who, at various times and for various reasons, let him slide. At the time, I thought it ludicrous and embarrassing, but the older I got, the more I realized that what he did worked. The difference in Daddy and me is that I usually reward someone after he (or she) has helped me. My father paid such bills in advance.

Now, as I try to adapt to changing times and regain my footing, I’m motivated by the sad image of my father and what might have been. I’m determined not to wind up like him. I’m haunted by his failure.

I never really understood my old man until I developed a taste for the novels of Wallace Stegner, who apparently had a father who was a lot like mine, and wrote a meaningful fictional treatment called The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Talent is not enough. It doesn’t matter how much. The world is full of people who try to make it on talent alone, and their lives are filled with futile pursuits of a success that doesn’t require hard work. Such a success doesn’t exist. People who seem to be naturals really aren’t. They worked hard for what they got. The world is full of talent but running out of success.

I never picked up a guitar until after my father died. I regret that. (John Clark photo)
I never picked up a guitar until after my father died. I regret that. (John Clark photo)

Daddy was the anti-role model, but he raised me to be smart enough to react. If, in any way, I am smarter than he was, it’s a result of the very resourcefulness that living in the same house with Jimmy Dutton required.

When I do something that reminds me of my old man, it makes me frustrated. As the TV sports anchor might say, You can’t stop Jimmy Dutton. You can only hope to contain him.

Damn him. He’s in me. I reckon it’s for the best.

At least he didn’t name me after him. Folks called me Little Jimmy anyway. It’s better than being a boy named Sue.

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m not a father, but I’ve got a niece who extends me that honorary title and three little boys who think I’m maybe a third or a half of a grandpa. I don’t see them as much as I used to, but I’m going to see them today.

Being Jimmy Dutton’s son meant I had to become a writer. He left me with more material than I could ever use. My books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

Matt Kenseth the Dad

Matt Kenseth goes to VIctory Lane like he's been there before. This was after a Gatorade Duel in 2012. (John Clark photo)
Matt Kenseth goes to VIctory Lane like he’s been there before. This was after a Gatorade Duel in 2012. (John Clark photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, June 19, 2015, 8:40 a.m.

The trucks are racing in Iowa. The Xfinity Series is in Chicagoland, which I think might include Iowa because Joliet is Chicagoland to the extent that there are tall structures in the distance.

They are silos.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
MonteDutton (John Clark photo).

The Sprint Cup Series is regrouping. Doesn’t it seem odd that NASCAR’s premier series races on Mother’s Day weekend but not on Father’s Day?

Golf is holding the United States Open. Now that makes sense.

Those of us who cling to racing as bees to honey will probably at least monitor the second- and third-tier races.

Personally, I also plan to make a house payment, fill out a tax form, pay DirecTV and Verizon Wireless, read a little, write a little, and play guitar a little. The Red Sox are in Kansas City. That may be more painful than the payments.

My NASCAR bright spot of the week was the classic bit of Matt Kenseth humor on a teleconference. Matt’s son, Ross, is making his Xfinity Series debut on Saturday in vast Chicagoland. The moderator — I just read the transcript — asked about how the elder Kenseth would feel not being “behind the driver’s seat.”

No way Matt was going to let that one pass.

“It would be hard to sit behind the driver’s seat,” said Matt, deadpan. One, one thousand, two, one thousand …

“That was a joke.”

Matt Kenseth knows what he's doing. (Getty Images for NASCAR).
Matt Kenseth knows what he’s doing. (Getty Images for NASCAR).

Matt Kenseth has this strange habit. He actually answers the question. He doesn’t repeat himself. He doesn’t adorn it.

I’m not sure I understand the question, from Matt, means, There really wasn’t a question, but I’m glad you got your soapbox speech delivered.

No malice. Dale Earnhardt would have chewed up heads and spat them back out.

Tony Stewart might have glared and replied with the same substance as Kenseth but spiced it with biting sarcasm.

Bobby Labonte would have rambled back in return. My take on Bobby was that every answer wound up being, Here’s what I think, or, perhaps, the opposite. He was playful that way.

The rest would have begun by saying, That’s a great question … because racers everywhere are now taught at a young age the great restorative value of kissing ass.

Ask Matt a good question, though, and he delivers.

“You know, for me, as a dad, I think you go through a little bit of a learning process,” he said. “I felt like, when Ross started driving late‑model cars, I’d go to the track with him a couple times. We tested together. It took me a few weeks to learn to actually close my mouth a little bit.”

Imagine that. Heretofore, I thought Matt knew that instinctively.

“I probably gave him too much advice in the beginning,” he said. “There’s certain things I think you have to learn on your own until you go make a mistake or see something. Oh, now I see it. It’s hard to learn that sometimes just by talking.

“But, on the other hand, I’ve always given Ross as much advice or as little advice as he wanted. I’m always there to answer any questions he has and help him, as much help as he wants.”

My father wasn’t like that.

 

Read my books, too. It’s the way I make a living. You’re bound to get some good out of it. Reading, I’ve heard, is fundamental. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puck Cleared, Sneakers Discarded

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Grady Little (Monte Dutton sketch)
Grady Little (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 8:40 a.m.

Parting is such sweet sorrow. (Gee. That’s profound. Wonder if anyone else ever wrote it?)

I’m a romantic at heart. That’s why I reserve such emotions for … sporting events.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The basketball and hockey playoffs arrived like nurses to a battlefield. I was reeling, staggering aimlessly in lock step with the Boston Red Sox.

The Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Tampa Bay Lightning lifted me up. The provided hope and the will to carry on.

Hosanna!

Now their work is finished. The Red Sox, unfortunately, endure like soap scum in the shower.

Why do I love the Red Sox? An ancient curse, passed from generation to generation so that dead fathers can at last laugh merrily in their graves.

But enough frivolity.

A word on LeBron: He gave it all he had, put that beleaguered, otherwise mediocre, team on his back and took it farther than anyone else could. Ever. It was a battle of attrition the Cavs could not win, but there was honor in the loss.

Stephen Curry is a little gangsta. (It’s the first time I’ve ever typed that word. I’m so proud.) He’s that kid in the gym, smiling, making the teens look bad, only now they’re some of the best in the world, and he still plays the same way, and just as effectively. Once he was the Beaver and took it out on Lumpy Rutherford. Now he’s the MVP, and Lumpy Rutherford is LeBron James.

I’ve only seen highlight reels of Bob Cousy, but I think of Curry as a cross between him and Pete Maravich, whom I did see. Maravich was a little flashier, but Curry is more … realistic. Maravich was ahead of his time. Curry plays a game his teammates can. He’s functional. Watching him stray from his man, sneak in from the blind side, steal the ball, and fire it downcourt to a streaking teammate is breathtaking.

Every year, hockey snares me during the playoffs. I’ll watch part of a Blackhawks game, if they’re on NBC or NBC Sports, or maybe the Hurricanes for a while, but I never watched anything approaching a full game until the playoffs started. Since Chicago won, it made it better, but I always watch the playoffs.

The Lightning* is so fast, so talented, so young. I didn’t think the Blackhawks could beat them. They did because they are loaded down with talented veterans who know how to win. The Stanley Cup finals were every bit as fascinating as the NBA.

Plus, the NHL has Doc Emrick. No one calls him Mike but himself. Gosh, he’s old school. Sometimes he reminds me of Jack Buck. Sometimes he reminds me of Joe Friday. I started narrating my life the way I thought Emrick would.

Circling smoothly in a crisp, counterclockwise fashion … considers cutting the front yard first … but, no, opts for the back … avoids the roots around the pine tree by lifting the blade smoothly … takes a hit from an overhanging branch! … just shaken … shakes out the cobwebs … notices a dandelion he missed … circles back around …

I’ll miss Doc referring to Hjalmarsson, Toews, Johnny Oduya, and, of course, Duncan Keith. Ohhhh! And Crawford makes the save! Puck’s out … but Marian Hossa clears it …

On the NBA telecast, Mark Jackson gracefully handled the task of analyzing the Golden State team he used to coach. Mike Breen doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Jeff Van Gundy is crazy in a good way. He announces the way Curry plays.

Or, perhaps, I just loved the telecasts because Michael Waltrip wasn’t on them. No one yelled “boogity, boogity, boogity” or called Curry “that 30 player.” Watching NASCAR may have made me enjoy all other broadcasting on earth more.

Don and Jerry. Kruk and Kuip. Vin Scully is like hearing the Dodgers described by Claude Rains. Or maybe Claude Rains learned to act by listening to Vin Scully, who’s been around a while. Rains didn’t die until 1967.

I’ll survive. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013. Sure, they declined faster than Herman Cain in the years since, but there are still good players in Boston, mismatched though they are.

This sums up my feelings about the Red Sox. They have two players, Pablo Sandoval and Shane Victorino, whom they signed to be switch-hitters. Victorino, who can’t stay healthy for more than two weeks anyway, decided it hurt too much to hit lefty. It gave him “a twinge,” which he probably also gets from cracking eggs. Sandoval started out hitting lefties with all the verve of Jon Lester, so he decided, well, I’m just going to bat lefthanded from now on.

Whatever.

*Since I don’t have to go by ridiculous rules anymore, I consider Lightning singular because I write in English instead of Sports.

My new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, will be available for pre-order soon and for actual reading in less than a month, allegedly. Until then, read my short stories at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and that will undoubtedly make you interested in reading my books that are already available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Rain Flexes Its Michigan Muscles

This is how they finished -- Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin Truex Jr. -- but not this closely.  (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
This is how they finished — Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin Truex Jr. — but not this closely. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 15, 2015, 8:49 a.m.

What are you going to do? The race at Michigan International Speedway may have quickened loans, but it didn’t quicken the pulse.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It rained. Mother Nature cannot be stopped, only contained. At best.

It’s a lovely song, sung in my mind by Jimmie Dale Gilmore but written by David Halley:

Rain don’t fall for the flowers if it’s raining / Rain just falls.

Kurt Busch won the Quicken Loans 400 by being in the right place, ahead, at the right time, which was the end of 138 of a scheduled 200 laps. Kyle Larson must have felt like Agent Maxwell Smart, in the unlikely event that the 22-year-old ever heard of Get Smart.

Right place. Wrong time.  (HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Right place. Wrong time. (HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Missed it by that much. Three laps. Five minutes. His kingdom for some gas. Which came first, the kingdom or the gas? On Sunday, neither.

“Yeah, we could see weather coming there off (turn) four and just praying it would get here in time for me to stay out and be in the lead when the rain hit,” Larson, as hungry for victory as a 22-year-old can be, said. “Hey, I applaud my guys for trying.

“We are pretty deep in points, so we have to take risks like that to make the Chase. I’m happy with the call, just wish the rain would have come three laps sooner.”

Larson made the right call, but he and the rain were improperly calibrated, and it’s hard to calibrate rain because it won’t let anyone in this world know what it’s doing.

Larson probably hasn’t heard of Dr. John, either.

I was in the right place / But it must have been the wrong time …

Kurt Busch had to get out of the rain to hoist his second trophy of the season and 27th of his career.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch had to get out of the rain to hoist his second trophy of the season and 27th of his career. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

It cannot be said that Mother Nature loves the Busch family. She smiled on Kurt, and she sneered at Kyle, who may have crashed because a bit of rain fell when the field was taking the green flag way back on the 52nd lap, which was early even by the standards of this race. Kyle didn’t finish. He placed last, a Chase-killing 43rd that brought a grand total of one point with it.

It can be said that Mother Nature is fickle.

The race was book-ended by Busches.

The announcers kept talking about how the teams were “racing backwards” with their strategy, and that’s the way it is with Mother Nature. The difficulty is that it’s tough to race backwards without knowing where the end is.

Because rain … just … falls.

I’ll have a new book out soon. It’s called Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’re going to love it. In case you have your doubts, read one of my other novels, which you will find, among others, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

The Serfs Are Restless

Kevin Harvick is second, and the Michigan race hasn't even started. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick is second, and the Michigan race hasn’t even started. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 13, 2015, 11:40 a.m.

I used to be there, man. For 20 years, I was “at the track” most weekends of the NASCAR season. Some years I went to every race. The last few years of my tenure, I started going to about 75 percent, which was plenty, and I was only too happy to take some time off, and the place where I worked was even happier.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It was simple. I just wrote what I saw. I didn’t write stories about drivers, or crew chiefs, or owners, or anyone else, because it was their turn*. I just wrote what interested me, figuring that if it interested me, it would undoubtedly interest others.

Now I get surprised more often. I read the transcripts, but I don’t see the expressions on the faces. I depend on what TV chooses to show me because I have no other choice. I just do the best I can, but I don’t get the same perspective. I can read the lines but not what’s between them. I don’t get to ask the questions, and I’m astonished at the ones that don’t get asked.

All in all, this doesn’t displease me. I get to write as much or as little as I want. It’s the same in that I still write what I see but different in that I don’t see as much. I don’t think I’ve changed, but what I write isn’t a quota of stories to be filed each day (“the budget”). The blog is just for when I have something to write, and that’s still fairly common. The weekly free-lance column at Bleacher Report keeps my attention focused.

I’m more likely to be wrong. NASCAR used to seem more predictable. In general, whenever I wondered what NASCAR would do, I just assumed the worst, and it was what happened on a regular basis. The madness is still there; there’s not as much method.

This could be the week for Kasey Kahne. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
This could be the week for Kasey Kahne. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

For instance, this year NASCAR, being ruled by France, after all, has moved from a revised English system of justice to one more based on the Napoleonic Code.

Let’s see. There was Napoleon Bonaparte France. Then there was Napoleon Jr. Now there’s Brian Zoroaster France.

If that’s not the truth, it ought to be.

In other words, violations have been codified, allegedly, meaning that drivers, teams, crew chiefs, owners – anything but, God forbid, sponsors – can be punished for receiving two “written warnings.” NASCAR officials who used to defend their strange decisions by saying each case would be considered on an individual basis, without factoring in past actions, are now pulling those dreaded “permanent records” we all thought we escaped with the completion of high school.

Sometimes it seems the Soup Nazi is running things.

“You! Go to the back of the line!”

“No practice for you! … But, hey, you be good boy, maybe I let you go on track after 15 minutes, no? How’s about you think before you talk next time!”

What hasn’t changed is that NASCAR officials still set their trial balloons loose, see if they fly, and then, if they don’t actually fly very well, they can say what they technically did was fly even if only briefly, like Howard Hughes managing to get the Spruce Goose off the surface of the water for a few exciting seconds.

This week’s trial balloon is the notion that NASCAR may change the rules for one race, the one in Kentucky next month. Previous balloons in this extravaganza were: (1.) Wait till you see our new rules package! (2.) This rules package is pretty good, but the real changes are going to be next year! (3.) Maybe we’ll just keep these rules next year! and (4.) We may just test next year’s rules this year!

The reason for the fourth balloon is that the first three were greeted with various synonyms of “Bullshit!”

Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson are undoubtedly quite pleased with the season to date. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson are undoubtedly quite pleased with the season to date. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Empty seats and declining TV ratings must be having a panic-inducing effect. Isn’t it amazing that the regular season is so extraordinarily unimportant that an official race can be conducted as a test session?

Just a little R&D. They’ll love it in Kentucky. I mean, what do they want? The traffic’s better.

I didn’t see this coming. Of course, I didn’t expect NASCAR to allow its world’s most affluent slaves to speak out of turn, either. NASCAR, since its founding, has been predicated on the great notion of “Big Bill,” William Henry Getty Napoleon Bonaparte France, that as long as all the boys in the garage were doing a little better this year than last year, and the fans weren’t slap broke, no one would mind if the real money was safely tucked away in the Daytona Beach, Florida, vault.

Y'know, it might not be a bad time for Jeff Gordon to step aside.(Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon’s timing might be really good. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Placate the stakeholders, lest they decide to start nailing people up with them.

Beware the fate of dictators who loosen their iron grips. It’s unlike NASCAR to let freedom ring, and no one believes it. These guys have been hiring crooks and making them inspectors since 1949. Now they’re hiring image specialists. That’s worse.

As Mark Twain allegedly said on Twitter, “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”

Someone will say to me, “Hey, smart guy, you think you could run this sport any better?”

I think to myself, well, anyone could.

Here’s a start. Stop trying to dictate what people think. They can think on their own. Try to reflect those thoughts, not shape them.

Even the early Bonapartes knew that, and they were ornery as hell.

*Except on the syndicated race page, where it was necessary.

My blogs that are fiction, about fiction, and about writing and things literary, are at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and most of my books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

While the Red Sox Are Away …

Yes, it's early, but it sure looks like the sun is already setting on the Red Sox. (Monte Dutton photo)
Yes, it’s early, but it sure looks like the sun is already setting on the Red Sox. (Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 11, 2015, 8:59 a.m.

In lieu of the Boston Red Sox, my excitement has recirculated. Borrowing from the regrettable jargon that flows from this laptop behind which I spend an amount of time many would deem unproductive, I’ve had to reload so that important updates may be installed. So frustrating has been the performance of a baseball team that I have turned away in disgust on many evenings like the most recent one.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The Red Sox are mismatched in luxury items. When in the field, most parts are of the replacement variety. It seems as if every baseball player in Boston can play a variety of positions, none of them well.

I will continue to watch, of course, just as I did with the woeful teams of 2012 and ’14. In between, a world championship occurred, one that apparently must sustain me for a while.

Last night the entire difference between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, 5-2 in more precise measurement, was simple, fundamental soundness in the home team and impetuous aspirations in the visitors.

So far, the season has consisted of two parts. At the beginning, the Red Sox could hit but not pitch. Now they can pitch but not hit. The defense has been a sieve throughout.

Oh, for a team of Pedroias!

More and more, I watch but not with much interest. I read a book and look up when Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy get amused or excited about something. Baseball is a good background. Vin Scully’s melodious tones often help me get to sleep.

What I’ve really watched – with interest – are the fascinating confrontations that will put basketball and hockey fitfully to bed.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

Okay, so it's Clemson, not Cleveland. It's the biggest basketball place I've visited lately. (Monte Dutton photo)
Okay, so it’s Clemson, not Cleveland. It’s the biggest basketball place I’ve visited lately. (Monte Dutton photo)

LeBron (most seem to think his last name unnecessary) is a man of indomitable spirit, capable of taking as much punishment as any sturdy NFL tight end. Curry is evocative of that little kid in the gym who begs his way into a game with the teen-agers and then shames them, only now Curry is 27 and somehow he still shames the big men exactly the same way. LeBron is a force of nature. Curry is the butterfly whose gossamer wings provide the first impetus of what becomes a tornado.

When Curry was at Davidson, I watched every time the Wildcats were on TV. Now I’m rooting for the Warriors, and to their credit, they almost always come from what seems to be hopelessly behind in the fourth quarter, and the game comes down to a tense conclusion, two of the first three having fallen the Cavaliers’ way.

Until now, I’ve thought it ridiculous to compare LeBron James to Michael Jordan, and I still think there are many forms of comparison, tangible and intangible, and Jordan was extraordinary in every part of his game. What I must grant LeBron is that he is carrying Cleveland on his ample shoulders in a way I don’t think Jordan could manage. That’s just one measure, but it means a lot in my eyes.

What I must also grant LeBron is that Curry being the NBA Most Valuable Player seems absurd when one watches both on the same court.

Oh, I catch the occasional minor-league game. (Monte Dutton photo)
Oh, I catch the occasional minor-league game. (Monte Dutton photo)

When I watch these games, I can savor what happens because I have no deep rooting interest. When the Red Sox lose, and leave 14 on base, and hit .082 with two out and runners in scoring positions, well, that’s when I really need Scully’s soothing Dodger tones to get some sleep.

On the other hand, I have a deep rooting interest in the Chicago Blackhawks but not as much a love of hockey itself. I like hockey. Chicago became my favorite team when I was about 10, and there was a weekly game of this curious sport on CBS every Sunday, and I thought, well, those are the best-looking uniforms I’ve ever seen. Also, Bobby Hull was then known as the Golden Jet, and that was a cool nickname for a 10-year-old.

I watch a little hockey when the Blackhawks are on NBC Sports during the regular season but don’t get excited until the playoffs. It’s a popular cliché this time of year, but there’s nothing like playoff hockey. I certainly can’t read a book. Triumph or disaster always seems a split-second away, particularly in overtime when there’s no room for the slightest imperfection.

Mike “Doc” Emrick, the hockey broadcaster, is so good that I envision his commentary while I’m doing other things.

Picks up a dangling participle … crosses over and avoids ending with a preposition … whirls just past the blue line and finds Simile streaking for the goal … fumbles it in search of Metaphor … a shift change, and Onomatopoeia checks in … settles down the puck …

Even a novice such as I can determine that the Tampa Bay Lightning is the better team. They are so fast and athletic. The Blackhawks are great stick-handlers, and theirs is a fine cohesion and knack for drama, but the Lightning seems (I hate when singular sports teams insist on being referred to as plural without regard for grammar, so, this being my blog, I won’t do it) to be playing on a higher speed setting.

Inexplicably, the series is tied at two games apiece. The scene shifts back to Tampa next. Basketball’s Game Four is tonight. Meanwhile, the Red Sox try to salvage a game in Baltimore.

Sigh. Basketball and hockey aren’t going to last much longer.

Now, having completed the morning warm-up blog, I’ll move on to other pressing matters such as the approaching publication of my third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes. Until then, here’s where you can find the books – fiction, non-fiction, NASCAR, music – I’ve already written: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1