The Very Best of Clinton’s Greatest Hits

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

DSCF2865Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 9:54 a.m.

Happiness, happiness. Everybody’s looking for happiness.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

As I looked around the perimeter of The Sponge, Clinton High School’s beloved field of dreams and antiquity, that’s what struck me.

Lots of smiling faces / Little children running around / Everybody’s somebody in this old Hill Country town. — Viva Luckenbach! Jerry Jeff Walker.

Cameron Bishop (left) and Chandler Todd.
Cameron Bishop (left) and Chandler Todd.

When I attended the local high school, The Sponge was just the field. The ball field, maybe. Next year a new one will open at the high school, across the ring road, and it is rumored to be outfitted with a grass infield and bullpens that are actually a part of the design and not carved out of the pine trees behind right field. The old Clinton High School is now the new Clinton Middle School, and athletic facilities are slowly migrating into the 21st Century.

Davis Cunningham has the wingspan of a condor.
Davis Cunningham has the wingspan of a condor.

Maybe they’ll call it the Baseball Complex, which is what Presbyterian College calls its field, even though there’s nothing complex about it. It’s complicated to find a place to see the whole field, but not complex.

Anyway, The Sponge, so named, I’ve been told, because its hard, sandy, clay infield drains well after thunderstorms, is going out in style. The Red Devils (22-1) won their 19th game in a row Monday night, 3-0 over Eastside (17-8), one of Greenville’s almost innumerable suburban schools. Technically, the Eagles are from Taylors, which is named after Andy, Opie and Aunt Bea, or that’s what I prefer to believe.

J.P. Duncan
J.P. Duncan

The Red Devils are a club that pitches well, bunts with a maniacal persistence, hits towering drives occasionally when its batters swing away, and seems to play better as pressure increases. They possess a never-say-die mentality that occasionally inspires a game in which they give up six runs in the top of the first and wind up winning, 10-6.

At some point in almost every interview I conduct with head coach Sean McCarthy, he says, “They’re a special bunch.” Far be it from me to quibble.

Brayden Gibbs
Brayden Gibbs

On Monday night, Clinton had 19 at-bats. Eastside had 26. In part, this was because the Eagles batted once more. In part, it was because the Red Devils sacrifice-bunted four times and tried five. Once this year, they executed three squeeze plays in a single game and two in a single inning.

Tristan Smaltz
Tristan Smaltz

In two playoff games so far, Clinton pitching hasn’t allowed a run, and Clinton fielding plays a considerable role in the stinginess. Tristan Smaltz and Davis Cunningham have combined for 21 strikeouts in 12 innings. Smaltz is small and lefthanded. Cunningham is a tall righty. Aaron Copeland chipped in two thirds of an inning to nail down a 2-0 victory over Daniel. Cunningham went the distance in the 3-0 decision over Easley.

Todd greets Peyton Spangler, now playing at Newberry College.
Todd greets Peyton Spangler, now playing at Newberry College.

It’s such a pleasant crowd. Until this year, Clinton hadn’t won its region in 22 years. Sure, the fans are loud and feisty, their spirits kept high by public-address announcer and Voice of the Red Devils Buddy Bridges, but mostly, they are delighted. Bridges was back last night, having missed the Daniel game because his son was getting married, and I half-expected the fans to give him a lemon pound cake or something.

The foes on Monday from Eastside.
The foes on Monday from Eastside.

McCarthy is nervous and superstitious before games, in marked contrast to his players, who are as playful as baseball players are wont to be, and one of the reasons he seemed panicky before the Daniel game was that he didn’t get a chance to hand the lineup card personally to Bridges. I lean more toward the players than the coach while wandering around the field taking pictures, and this makes McCarthy uneasy, and it makes me chuckle, which makes him even more uneasy.

DSCF2868Afterwards, he has recently succumbed to the coach’s habit of answering every question with the same answer, and I don’t mind because his team has given me more than any writer can ask, that being a good story to right night after night. Whatever he asks his players to do, they do, and McCarthy deserves lots of credit for teaching them how by instilling in them guts and a penchant for glory.

Aaron Copeland
Aaron Copeland

On Friday, they can nail down their district, which is a unit I didn’t know existed until I started following these proceedings closely by word and presence.

Two teams, Daniel and A.C. Flora, will face off to determine which gets to take on the Red Devils on Friday night. I’d like to see the big dogs hunt a little more at the plate, but I ought not complain because what a writer likes is a good story, and these Red Devil baseball games write themselves.

 

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleMy book of short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, is called Longer Songs, and you can buy it here.

The Audacity of Dope is a tale about a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who becomes a reluctant national hero. He prevents someone from blowing up the plane he’s on, and both hilarity and drama ensue. My first novel is an irreverent, fun read.

The Intangibles is my most personal. Set mostly in 1968, it draws on memories from my childhood and teen-aged years. It’s a story of civil rights, bigotry, and high school football.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Crazy of Natural Causes has a main character who is an outrageous football coach at the beginning, loses everything and has to start over. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

TrespassesCoverForgive Us Our Trespasses is a yarn about a corrupt, ambitious politician who wants to be governor and will do anything to achieve it. It has a parallel story of a good cop who’s trying to stop the monster and another of kids gone wild.

To peruse all my books, including most of the non-fiction ones from my NASCAR years, click here.

 

In the Absence of Cam Newton

Alex, in plaid shirt, with his friends. (Monte Dutton photos)
Alex, in plaid shirt, with his friends. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, January 18, 2016, 3:12 p.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

What do you know? It was a Sunday with the NFL playoffs going on, and I watched precious little football.

My great-nephew was celebrating his 13th birthday at a bowling alley in Cayce (Columbia suburb), I don’t see Alex Montgomery Howard as much as I used, and neither does his great grandmother, and so my mom and I traveled to Park Lanes to see Alex and his younger brothers Anthony and Josh.

Josh. Full of mischief.
Josh. Full of mischief.

When I left, I felt grateful to the Carolina Panthers for taking a 31-0 halftime lead over the Seattle Seahawks. As it turned out, there ended up being a reason to listen to the end of the game on radio.

Anthony. Wide open.
Anthony. Wide open.

Once there, courtesy of my phone’s directions,I tried to be useful, so I prevented Josh and Anthony from rolling another ball down the lane and, most likely, into a gutter, before the pins were cleared. Kids were allowed to use a metal frame, was similar to a miniature ski jump, in order to roll the ball down the jump and then the lane. I proved adept at studying the roll of the balls enough to align the jump for the purpose of making the occasional spare possible for a kid who needed my help to hoist the ball into the jump. Anthony wasn’t satisfied with gravity, so he kept shoving the ball down the jump so hard that it left the tracks before it reached the lane.

Linda and Herman Mcaulay.
Linda and Herman Mcaulay.

It’s the first time I’ve seen Alex socialize because some of his school friends showed up. With his glasses and stocking cap, I thought Alex looked like Waldo, and, like Waldo, he was frequently hard to find.

Ella and her grandmother. The generation between took the photo.
Ella and her grandmother. The generation between took the photo.

In the video room, Anthony and I steadfastly opposed the advance of frightening mechanical monsters with our trusty firearms. The difficulty wasn’t really reloading in time. It was popping quarters into the machine before the monsters got us. Thankfully, it was just a game, more interested in gobbling quarters than devouring players.

DSCF1665I also raced my Dodge Challenger against Josh’s Chevy Camaro through city streets, tunnels, a desert, and a dirt trail. My Challenger had really stiff shocks. That way I was able to soar over jumps that magically took me from the outskirts of Paris to the cactus-strewn desert of Arizona. I won the head-to-head and finished third overall to Josh’s fifth. When he asked me to slow down and let him catch up, I laughed maniacally.

DSCF1664They’re all happy kids. Josh is the charmer with the twinkles in his eyes. Anthony is a perpetual-motion machine. Alex is veering into adolescence but still at least seems astonishingly sane.

The grown-ups all sat around and swapped charming tales of the kids. I ordered some boneless wings for myself and a two-corn dog plate for Mom. That’s what she wanted, and it may have had something to do with it being among the menu’s least expensive items.

DSCF1667

On the way home I listened to the radio account of the Pittsburgh-Denver game while pretending to listen to my mother’s review of the party, and how precious the kids are, and how “Ella looks good, doesn’t she?” and that she thinks Tony, Ella’s husband, looks like Tom Selleck when he was younger.

I gave Alex cash, because it had been so long since I’d seen him that I no longer had the slightest idea what he was interested in, and I certainly didn’t want to bring him something related to his obsession of six months ago. I figure there’s a good chance the money will be spent at Game Stop.

DSCF1662I had some flashbacks to a time, not so long ago, when Ella was the age Alex is now, and I took her on trips to places she may never get to go again. She’ll be 32 next month. I can’t see her as much in her children’s personalities because they are all boys, but, of course, I can see her in their faces.

DSCF1653When Alex was born, I told her that his birth was one more chance, in our maddening and dysfunctional clan, to “get it right.”

So far, so good.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

The editing process is complete, and I’ll let you know when Forgive Us Our Trespasses is available for download from Kindle Publishing. It’s a tale of crime and corruption, young and old, good and bad, cops and robbers, etc.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Meanwhile, Crazy of Natural Causes, set in Kentucky and concerning the reinvention of a football coach, was published late last summer, and, if you haven’t read it, I’d appreciate it if you’d give it a look here: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

My second novel, The Intangibles (2013), is about a high school football coach and his players trying to cope with rapid change in the 1960s South. http://www.amazon.com/The-Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=pd_sim_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51JrJlU8vKL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR107%2C160_&refRID=0AD3V83MM7SDKFNKQ5YB

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

The first, The Audacity of Dope (2011), is about a pot-smoking folksinger who wants no part of being a national hero. The accidental hero learns how to be a real one. http://www.amazon.com/The-Audacity-Dope-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B006GT2PRA/ref=pd_sim_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51zCT-MrcFL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR105%2C160_&refRID=09V773T1A5GZXP96KS3Y

My short stories, book reviews, and essays are here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton. I’m a tad more irreverent @wastedpilgrim and a little more literary @hmdutton. I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Um, I think that’s it. Oh, yeah. Google+. I’m on there, too.

 

Building My Inventory

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, November 5, 2015, 10:34 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

No overarching topic exists for me to write about this morning. No. One exists. It just eludes me.

This is as it has been for several days. Oh, I’ve been writing. The current crisis in the Third World kingdom, Nascaria, led to several unexpected assignments in the free-lance realm.

Then, of course, was that post-baseball onset of weeknight games from the Mid-American Conference, and no one misses those. Did you know Toledo lost?

So much is going on that it’s easy to be bogged down.

My next novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, a crime thriller, is up for publication at KindleScout, where Crazy of Natural Causes was e-published. I’d like for you to consider it, and, if you like it, click “nominate” and that will help demonstrate to Amazon popular support for my next novel. If Forgive Us Our Trespasses is published, you will receive a free download.

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/A20FEF33PZP1

I’m writing a fifth, Cowboys Come Home, a modern western about a pair of Texans coming home from World War II.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes sold well during October, when it was promoted by Amazon and sale-priced at $1.99. Now that it’s back to an exorbitant $3.49, you can still buy it and I will make slightly more from your purchase.

http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

Though I’ve never fully understood why, this is what is probably called “a housekeeping blog.” When I’m at some gathering, and the speaker says, “But, first, a few housekeeping items,” I always expect to hear vacuum cleaners switching on.

By now, many of you have read at least one of my novels. More have read Crazy of Natural Causes than the two that preceded it. I want you to feel so entertained by my fiction that you just can’t pass up the chance to read the rest of it.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Here is a brief description of each:

  1. The Audacity of Dope (2011): A pot-smoking songwriter, Riley Mansfield, reluctantly becomes a national hero and doesn’t much like it. Powerful forces want to make sure Riley doesn’t know the whole story.
  2. The Intangibles (2013): A Southern town and its high school football team try to deal with integration, bigotry, and corruption, circa 1968. Blacks and whites stand together and apart.
  3. (Melanie Ryon cover design)
    (Melanie Ryon cover design)

    Crazy of Natural Causes (2015): A good cop takes on a ruthless prosecutor with political ambitions. The solicitor, Denny Frawley, is headed to the governorship if he can offset an alcoholic wife, conniving mistress, and drug-dealing twins. Hal Kinley doesn’t just want to stop Frawley. He also wants to save his son.

For many years, I wrote non-fiction books, most about NASCAR, which was mostly a different sport then. You can find those books here.

http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

What I’m Expecting Is the Unexpected

Enough about Joey Logano, already? Hey. He's starting out front and probably spend a good bit of time there. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Enough about Joey Logano, already? Hey. He’s starting out front and probably spend a good bit of time there. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, March 1, 2015, 12:28 p.m.

Good afternoon, everyone. Most of the time, I place links on social media (Twitter, Facebook, the occasional Google+ item) several times so that you’ll come across my blogs whenever you sign on, or in, or however you sign. I apologize if I trick you into clicking on them several times. It’s not for money, and I hope I’m not taking advantage of my more loyal readers, but my intention is to make sure you don’t miss them if, indeed, you want to read them.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m just going to post this one once because it will shortly be obsolete. The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is scheduled to begin soon, and it appears likely it will be completed today even though rain is going to be cropping up and dissipating as rain is wont to do. My guess is they’ll get it in.

This should be a fascinating race. It could be a very good race. New rules are in place. The cars have less horsepower, which theoretically makes them a little easier to handle, and downforce, which theoretically makes them harder. The countervailing changes are supposed to make the racing better, and we know that because it would really be silly to try to make it worse.

Nothing conclusive is going to happen today. It will take time to determine whether NASCAR has made some progress or it’s just another example of going one way and then back another.

A year ago, I thought the season’s early races were exciting, and I couldn’t understand why NASCAR, which had just made radical changes to the cars, had apparently decided to redraw again after the 2014 season.

Then, in the summer, when the Chase started growing near, it seemed as if more and more races were runaways, particularly on tracks like this one, Atlanta, and those tracks are very important because about 40 percent of the schedule is contested on them.

When I refer to “tracks like this one,” I’m not limiting it to the “mile-and-a-halves.” I think the two-mile tracks in Brooklyn, Michigan, and Fontana, California, are in the same category. I’d look 1.5-to-2.0, moderate banking, and call them “intermediate.”

Anyway, during the spring of 2014, I was sort of confused. During the summer, I got a bit conspiratorial.

It occurred to me that, during the first half of the early races, there might be a bit of what I’ve always called “formation flying” going on. In other words, early on, when the race is far from being decided, everyone is relaxed, patient, and anxious to make the sport look good, so it’s give and take, ah, you want the lead, go for it, I’m not going to get in your way, and it may have made the racing look better than it really was.

Once the Chase drew near, everyone got a lot more serious, and mean, and ruthless, and no one could afford to play nice anymore.

We don’t want racers to play nice, but I don’t want this to sound like more than it is. I don’t think the early races of 2014 were artificially contested. I just think they were more leisurely.

The test of whether this rules package is better will be when the competition gets more heated, and that may be a while.

In the short run, one unique aspect may be the large number of big names driving fast cars who are starting deep in the pack. This is a result of rampant problems getting new cars with new rules through new inspection processes, and that domino tumbled into more than a dozen cars not being approved in time to participate in qualifying.

This was a disaster.

Or was it? It would be a disaster if it happened every week, but just this once, it might give us all something extra to watch during the early going.

Thanks for reading me, folks, and I hope you’ll check out my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and once you read those, you’ll actually want to pay a modest amount (particularly if you own a Kindle) to buy my books, most of which are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Christmas Eve at Bi-Lo

The beloved Pawless was in the front seat the whole time.
The beloved Pawless was in the front seat the whole time.

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, December 24, 2014, 12:47 p.m.

About two weeks ago, the proprietor of a local store, with whom I do a modest trade, and I were talking, and I asked him if he was opening on Christmas Eve. He said, yeah, he’d probably knock off at noon, and I asked him if he’d like me to come up there at about eleven and bring my guitar, and he said, that’d be dandy, and, against all odds, I remembered it this morning and lit out for uptown.

“Lit out” is Southern for “went there.”

When I got there, it was dark, and the “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign was in the window. It was also raining and miserable, and I’d thought about calling up there and saying, what say let’s do this on New Year’s Eve, but, fortunately, we had the same line of thought, and the fellow who runs the store, a friend of mine, looked at the other fellow who was working there, and said, ain’t nobody going out in this mess, let’s head to the house. I was thinking the same way. I just wasn’t communicating.

Merry Christmas, and, looking ahead, Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas, and, looking ahead, Happy New Year!

Ah, well. I needed to go buy groceries, anyway, and I should have done it Monday, and then Tuesday, but things came up, and, as a result, I nibbled on peanut butter and saltines last night, watching Navy beat San Diego State, and reading a book, and, occasionally, checking on the Charlotte Hornets’ game, which they won.

Grocery shopping here on Christmas Eve is nothing like Black Friday, though all I know about that is the horror I’ve heard. My Christmas shopping was no more nettlesome than having to type in my card number a second time.

I used my tried-and-true method of shopping, which is to roll my cart idly up and down rows, hoping the items will remind me of what I need. It’s not really efficient. I have to double back numerous times. I have been known to target certain items based on current deals in the Bi-Lo Bonus Card program, which recently led to my buying gasoline at $2.01.9 per gallon.

It’s crowded at Bi-Lo, but everywhere people are talking to each other.

Making a return trip to the deli to pick up the smoked chicken breast I had earlier selected for slicing, I was daydreaming, and my buggy crossed the path of a woman even older than I. I sheepishly apologized. Five minutes later, I emerged from an aisle, and there was the same lady, eying me warily.

“Please go ahead,” I said. “I cut you off up yonder.”

“Aw, that’s awright,” she said.

A heap of Merry Christmasing ensued, and I bumped into one old friend, and all I could come up with was noting that his brother’s birthday was in the last few days, and that I knew that because we were Facebook friends.

From the end of one checkout line to the front of another: “Hey, Darlene! Have you seen Irene?”

Darlene turns around, waves, and says, “Hey! No, sure haven’t,” and then she presents her Bi-Lo Bonus Card to the girl behind the register.

I asked the cute checkout girl when she got off – that was as in, when do you get to go home and celebrate Christmas with your family? Not, as in, hey, good lookin,’ what you got cookin’?, and, yes, I am sufficiently old to be inoffensive – and she said two. I said, great, nobody ought to have to work all day on Christmas Eve.

The presence of my guitar caused me to take an inordinate amount of time loading my groceries in the truck, and I had to fumble with the keys and get the back opened, and, naturally, the rain was pelting, but then I got home and fixed myself a nice fried-egg-and-chicken sandwich, and I’ll be darned if another bowl game hadn’t come on. The Hilltoppers are taking on the Chippewas with fish-and-game rights on the line.

I hope the holidays are joyous for everyone. I appreciate you taking the time to read my silliness, but if you’re a glutton for my tripe, read my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, as well. Somebody’s got to do it.

I Shot a Day Just to Watch It Die

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

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

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 10:17 p.m.

It’s a miracle. I’ve gotten this contraption to work. Another contraption might soon be working better. It is, however, a long story. Yesterday, I wrote a blog on my “writing” (as if I don’t write here) site, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. Most of the time, I’m more of a sportswriter here. I’m more of a novelist, short-story writer and songwriter there. Anyway, yesterday morning, I was attempting in vain to be funny, as usual, and wrote about my increasing frustrations with my balky keyboard. Then I started working on my manuscript (finished, at last, the 38th chapter), and it stopped being funny.

mug Dutton Monte 2_WEBIt requires (and still did when I left my Sony laptop at the Best Buy in Spartanburg) great effort to get the “U” to work, “Q,” and, most damnably, “C” are also tiresome, “E” a little. I finally got fed up with it and set out to: (a.) get it fixed (I’d already tried); and (b.) get a new one. The Sony has been a wonderful workhorse but it’s aged, and I’d like to turn it into an apparatus that fills the function a desktop once filled, parked in my “office” (I do virtually all my writing in the living room) and connected to the big printer (that also isn’t working properly) and the backup drive. Then I’d get the best deal I could on a new one. The old Vaio has a power outlet that could fall off at any time, this the result of being carted around on too many airplanes and in the trunks of too many automobiles, and so I resolved to let it sit idly in stately semiretirement.

First, I made the mistake of attempting to service it locally. During an hour’s consultation, I talked with a man who would agree to do nothing I wished done but made a great show of telling me that almost everything in Laurens County and beyond – loss of privacy, domestic violence, traffic tickets, Ebola, ISIS, a local murder case, and barbecue in other places – is a result of “socialism.” He didn’t want to work on my laptop, and he didn’t want to work on my printer. He reminded me of a shade-tree mechanic in the age of sensors and diagnostic computers. I concluded that he didn’t know what to do with anything that didn’t have a floppy disk.

I tried. Really, I did.

It was off, reluctantly, to Spartanburg, where I thought past affiliations with the Geek Squad might give me an edge.

Now, briefly, I’m fairly modern. I’ve got a tablet that plugs into a keyboard. Perhaps there live those who can write something as brief as this and as long as a novel by pecking away at tiny video keys, but I’m not going to let the diligent work of Mrs. Savage, teaching me how to type in the ninth grade, go to waste.

If you’ve been wondering why I wrote this blog, it’s to get myself accustomed to this contraption. When I got home, I couldn’t get the keyboard to work. I now believe it’s because this sleek little number wasn’t fully charged.

The Geek Squad has the workhorse. I’m picking her up on the way to Gaffney Saturday.

Tomorrow I’ll try to perform the daunting task of installing some stuff from the aforementioned backup drive. Then maybe subsequent blogs will have photos and/or illustrations in them again.

Thanks to my new investment, it’s never been more important that you definitely buy, and preferably read, my novels The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope. Tell amazon.com Monte sent you.

 

Twisting and Turning All the Way

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Monday, December 9, 2013, 2:31 p.m.

I might write a song … about writing a novel.

I still like to play my songs, but most of the time here lately it's been at a fishpond instead of a honky tonk. (John Clark photo)
I still like to play my songs, but most of the time here lately it’s been at a fishpond instead of a honky tonk. (John Clark photo)

Maybe I can find common ground. I’m not going to plot a song. I’m just going to make some rhymes on how characters develop from taking parts of different real people and incidents and combining them. It’s about mixing and matching in a plausible way.

Well, I say I’m going to write a song. I’ve been saying it for several weeks, just like I’ve been going to write a friend a letter, and put my guitar on my back, take a walk on the farm, sit down on a stomp, sing to the birds and see if I can get the birds to sing back to me.

Today, of course, it’s raining, as it was yesterday and, quite possibly, tomorrow. Good excuse.

The Intangibles is set in Fairmont, which is based on Clinton. Crazy by Natural Causes, the next one, is set in Elmore, which isn't based on Clinton.
The Intangibles is set in Fairmont, which is based on Clinton. Crazy by Natural Causes, the next one, is set in Elmore, which isn’t based on Clinton.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been living in blissful solitude, tweeting and posting and reading and, this very morning, writing the first two chapters of what I hope will become my fourth novel. I’d tell you its name if it had one. As soon as I get through with this blog, I’m going to, uh, freshen up a bit, then go to the post office to ship someone a copy of The Intangibles, my second novel. From there, it’s the grocery store. Most every day I work all morning and half the afternoon, venture outside for a few errands, and return home to watch sports or a movie and read, the amount of the last dependent on how entertaining the sports or movie is.

I’m slowly printing out the latest incarnation of the third novel, several chapters at a time, so that I can have someone read it as soon as I get it all together. This is something I’m going to be doing off and on for several days.

I went over to Presbyterian College on Saturday night, but that was only to watch a basketball game, so it’s not like it was something new and completely different.

I’m not complaining. I enjoy writing more than anything else, which is why I’m … a writer.

I like writing novels. I like writing songs. I like writing blogs. Why not write a song about how I write novels? It’s not going to be for the purpose of showing how I write. It’s more likely going to be for the purpose of being funny. Given the shrinking ranks of writers – the few, the proud, the destitute – it had better be funny to more than the literary community, much of which doesn’t realize I’m a member.

So I think I’ll write about how a party with college friends turns into a football team shindig, and how the rival coach isn’t really based on who you’d think, and how the guy who committed suicide wasn’t really the school principal, and how Fairmont in The Intangibles and Henry in The Audacity of Dope are a lot like Clinton, but Clinton isn’t a whole lot like Elmore in the next novel (Crazy by Natural Causes).

Riley Mansfield isn't based on any one person.
Riley Mansfield isn’t based on any one person.

I might even write about how about a dozen people have allowed in confidence as how they realize they were the real Riley Mansfield, and I never even thought about a single one of them when I was creating him. I can’t tell you upon whom Riley was based because, in my mind, he looks like one person I know and acts like another. Well, he acts like him a little bit. Riley is as close to an original as this novelist can concoct.

That’s why it’s called fiction.

[cb_profit_poster Acting]

Fear & Loathing In The Aisles

Charleston,S.C.
Charleston,S.C.

[cb_profit_poster Beer1]Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 1:30 p.m.

My Friday is going to be colorless.
My Friday is going to be colorless.

We got our 30 minutes of snow today, which was great because that gave everyone a chance to observe the tradition of racing to the supermarket for bread. There was, of course, no way it was sticking. I think the weather has cleared out altogether now.

Bi-Lo was a bit impolite. It seemed as if everyone was in a hurry. People who would normally wait for a moment while I tried to pick from all the Bi-Lo Bonus Card specials were doing the old Bugs Bunny “excuse me, excuse me, pardon me, coming through.”

It reminded me of Larry Woody, one of my funnier friends, at the race track, voice dripping with irony, “All right, look out, working press, coming through …”

I did buy a loaf of bread, but not because it was momentarily snowing outside. I was picking up football-game-watching provisions, mostly for a pot of Texas chili. The beef is in the slow cooker now, and late tonight I’ll season it. Then I’ll get up early in the morning to taste it and make final adjustments for a long green-flag run.

1:50 p.m.

It looks like I’ll be here at the house for the next couple days, watching football games on TV. On Saturday, I’ll hit the road to Orangeburg to watch Furman play South Carolina State in the FCS playoffs. I should be home in time to watch most of Clemson-South Carolina.

Thirty-one years ago, the two schools faced each other for the first time in Greenville. It was Furman’s first playoff game ever in what was then known as Division I-AA. This was in no small part because it was Furman’s first year in I-AA.

The Bulldogs would win that game and the next one – the rest were in the regular season – but the Paladins have won 10 of the 12 since. They were already scheduled to resume the series next year.

When I was growing up, South Carolina ETV had an afternoon show known as “The Job Man Caravan,” which consisted mainly of music videos years before MTV. The host, Bill Terrell, would list job openings across the state interspersed with film clips of rhythm-and-blues artists, some of which were from South Carolina. In particular, I remember Moses Dillard and the Tex-Town Display, but Terrell also showcased James Brown, the Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, etc.

He’d always refer to the show as “The Job Man, Uhhhh, Caravan!”

In 1982, I was assistant sports information director at Furman, and I discovered that Terrell was the Voice of the South Carolina State Bulldogs. His voice reminded me of Tom Hawkins, who once teamed with Curt Gowdy on college-basketball telecasts. I imagined Terrell saying, “Back to pass, Desmond Gatson, looks right, throws left, complete! First, uhhh, down!”

When I met Terrell for the first time, I had a bit of difficulty keeping a straight face.

2:18 p.m.

Black Friday means nothing to me. I’ve never bought anything on the day after Thanksgiving more significant than a six-pack or a dozen eggs. The idea of lining up in the cold so that I could participate in a stampede of bargain hunters makes no more sense than going to Pamplona to try to outrun a herd of bulls through the streets.

I don’t see shopping as a competition. I can’t imagine elbowing my way through a crowd to a table stacked with gaming consoles.

It strikes me as evidence that some people will do almost anything if television commercials tell them to do so.

If I had a store – and wanted to boost business on Friday – I’d offer free Prilosec.

Next year clinics should offer colonoscopies at 20 percent off … on the day after Thanksgiving. The pre-op – the, uh, cleansing – now that would make it a national day of excitement.

Happy Thanksgiving, all. What I’m thankful for is your continued support.

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Words for the Ages, Notably this One

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, S.C., Sunday, July 14, 2013, 12:58 p.m.

Sometimes I sit behind the first-base dugout at a baseball game and wonder why it is that all the people around me can see the strike zone better than the ump standing directly behind the plate.

I’m not going to make that mistake in regard to the George Zimmerman case. What little I watched of the trial annoyed me. I followed it a bit because it was just about impossible to avoid. I don’t know what the jury thought. I don’t know what went on in their deliberations. I don’t know as much about the case as they did.

It saddened me, though, because what I did see suggested an overlooked tragedy. It seemed to me that the one on trial, as a practical matter, was the one who was dead. I don’t fault the defense for trying Trayvon Martin instead of their client. I blame the prosecution a bit for letting them get away with it.

It seems to me that the defense was able to paint a portrait of Martin that was mainly uncontested because the boy wasn’t there to defend himself. He went from being a kid wearing a hoodie and carrying an iced tea and a bag of Skittles home from the store to a menacing hoodlum obviously “up to no good.” I expect he was neither as innocent as the former nor as sinister as the latter. The world has few saints and sinners. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

I didn’t know Martin and don’t know Zimmerman. I can’t say what really happened, but I’m a bit offended at the demonization of a dead kid.

What I really kept thinking about last night, though, were the words of Robert F. Kennedy following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Kennedy arrived at a campaign stop in Indianapolis, where he learned that the civil rights leader had been slain. He then spoke extemporaneously, from a flat-bed trailer, to a mostly black audience. The eloquence of his words was extraordinary, and Indianapolis was one of few major American cities not wracked that night by violence, looting and fires.

That was April 4, 1968, four days before I turned 10, but I still remember seeing the excerpts on TV. I’m going to print part of RFK’s words, but I don’t think you get the full effect unless you watch the video:

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/rfkonmlkdeath.html

Here’s how Robert F. Kennedy, who would himself be murdered two months and two days later, began his speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some — some very sad news for all of you — Could you lower those signs, please? — I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black — considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible — you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization — black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with — be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.

These times are not unprecedented. We have endured hardship before. I grew up in the 1960s and ‘70s. When I was about five years old, my mother and I were watching newsreel footage of black men and women being beaten by mobs and having fire hydrants turned on them by white policemen.

Watching this, my sweet little mother said something that caused my eyes to grow as big as saucers. She said, “They’d better be glad I was born white, because if I was black, I’d be the worst militant of them all.”

I couldn’t believe it, but I never forgot it.

I don’t know what went on between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, but I’m very sorry it happened, and I hope it can cause good, not bad, to happen in its aftermath. I hope we as a country can learn to find more common ground and not be divided by hatred and jealousy.

I’m sorry to report that there is still a need for Bobby Kennedy’s words.