Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 22, 2017, 11:15 p.m.
I’ve about got the reacquaintance out of the way. Last Saturday and this Thursday have exceeded my Charlotte Motor Speedway budget for handshakes.
Huh. It just occurred me. No one bumped fists. High school athletes bump fists regularly.
The famous line from The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes to mind. It was the slogan of Chuckles the Clown:
A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down the pants.
I find myself seeking out some and avoiding others. I remember the time, a little over four years ago, when my job was eliminated. Many peers rushed in to offer their encouragement. Others haven’t communicated as much as a word in all the time since. Some probably saw my plight as an unpleasant sign that the same fate might befall them. In the intervening years, it has happened, in many cases, but those people aren’t at the track now. Writing as a way to make a living has become a trip west on the Oregon Trail, and the business is run by Injuns. My dried-up skeleton is a symbol of impending woe.
I walked through the garage on Thursday at the end of Monster Cup practice. Many of the drivers retire quickly to their motorcoaches or the lounge in the transporter, or somewhere away from the madding crowd.
Lots of looks said, variously: (1.) “Don’t I know that guy?” (2.) “What’s he doing here?” (3.) “Is he still covering racing, and I just haven’t noticed?” and, of course, (4.) “He’s baaaaack.”
Hey, there, buddy?
How you doin,’ sport?
What’s hap’nin,’ big time?
Hot shot, didn’t you used to be somebody?
Then there are those who are vaguely aware of something about me. They might ask if I’m still playing guitar. When I say yes, they might say, “I heard you was.”
It’s been four and a half years.
Len Wood waved at me, but he was talking to someone who must have been important because they talked and talked. He smiled when he saw me, though.
I chatted with Ryan Newman a little, told him he ought to read my racing novel. I managed to squeeze that in several times. It was pretty easy because people kept asking what I was doing now.
I’m sure a few may have scratched their heads and asked somebody else, “Seems like I recognize that old fat-ass. What’s his name?”
“Well, it ain’t David Poole. Remember him? I think he died.”
That was in 2009. David and I used to keep tabs on how many times people thought he was I, and vice-versa. A heap of people think fat folks look alike.
There’s so much to learn about those who have advanced since I retreated. The only times I’ve asked Kyle Larson questions were in media conferences. Ryan Blaney? I think the world of his father.
Chase Elliott? I feel like I know him, but I don’t. When I met his father, Bill was a big star. When I met his mother, Cindy was a photographer. I see Chase, from a distance, as a combination of his father’s skill and his mother’s pragmatism. Had Bill understood NASCAR, the media and fans as well in 1985 as his son does now, gosh, he’d probably be in the Hall of Fame. Oh, yeah, he is. Bill was Bill, still is, and his son came along in a different world, the same way Davey followed Bobby, Kyle followed Richard and Junior descended from Senior.
Unlike north and south, and east and west, the twain often meets in NASCAR. Take that, Kipling.
Here’s the column I wrote on Thursday at jeffgluck.com.
Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.
Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.
If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.
Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).