In Daytona Beach, Fla., Danica Patrick is starting NASCAR’s biggest race out front. She is –gasp! – “seeing” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer hang out with P Diddy but not each other. As a practical matter, and in comparison with the past, newspapers are dead, or at least on life support. NASCAR officials publicly decry and, I suspect, privately chortle.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting in my living room wondering if Carnival Cruise Lines has permanently altered the meaning of the phrase “carnival atmosphere.”
It’s not really that bad. For 20 years, I arrived home from NASCAR for the holidays and, for a short while, enjoyed something of a life familiar to others. After a few weeks, I’d develop some wanderlust born out of the habits of a transient lifestyle. I’d just take off somewhere. Since Jan. 4, I’ve realized that vast mobility is but a memory, and, lo and behold, I’ve adjusted to it. This morning I paid some bills. On Monday, I’m going to the dentist. A year ago, I was probably wondering if I needed to have my head examined.
If there was ever anything I enjoyed more than writing about NASCAR, it was writing fiction. I’m doing lots of that. I’ve got one novel, The Audacity of Dope, on the market; another, The Intangibles, on the way; and a third, Crazy by Natural Causes, in progress.
Instead of covering Friday night’s Truck Series race – if this was last year, I’d force myself to write out Camping World Truck Series – I’m going to play music at a local Mexican restaurant. I’ll probably be able to catch a replay later (the racing, not the singing). On Saturday, after the Nationwide race, I’m going to see The Citadel play Presbyterian College in men’s basketball. I’m reading a book on songwriting. On Monday and Tuesday, NASCAR held short-track races at Daytona International Speedway, which, until this year, seemed like quite the oxymoron. On Monday here in Clinton, my mother and two nephews were in a spectacular crash that worried me more than anything in Daytona Beach. My mother’s fine, but the boys remain sore physically and shell-shocked mentally and emotionally.
It’s different, not worse. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to going on the road, but the road is going to end at book stores, not speedways. I can’t wait for the opportunity to talk to readers about my book instead of fans about stock car racing. My apprehension is over whether or not I can manage to make a living with my writing, not who’s going to win the Daytona 500 and the Sprint Cup championship.
Thank goodness the racing has actually begun, or else I’d be reading stories online concerned with the possibility that Danica might grow bangs like Michelle Obama. Somewhere I read that the Las Vegas odds rank her chances of winning the 500 at 18-1. That’s a bad bet in my estimation. If you’re a bettor – and I’m not – I wouldn’t touch her for less than 50-1, bangs or not.
I wasn’t there for Media Day, but I did see “Casablanca” on TCM. I didn’t get to see Danica win the pole, but I saw PC upset Coastal Carolina. I’m not there for the Duel that is really dual, but I’m working on my income taxes. I didn’t catch Haddock Night at Alfie’s, but a high-school teammate and I ate hot wings at the House of Pizza. I can’t see the Atlantic Ocean from the condo, but the house in Clinton hasn’t been burglarized.
It’s not the same, but it’s not bad, and I think I’m getting used to it.