I Don’t Never Have Fun Like That No More

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 4, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

In the early 1970s, the banks of the Little River overflowed in Laurens. A photo on the front page of a newspaper is etched in my mind. A rowboat was making its way through a parking lot, with Edwards department store in the background. I don’t remember if Edwards ever reopened, but if it did, it didn’t stay around for long.

By Monte Dutton

Laurens is the county seat. I live in Clinton, eight miles away. On Monday night, I took in the Laurens Riverfront Freedom Festival at an amphitheater situated along the banks of the Little River, which has an apt name 99 percent of the time. Levees have been constructed along the banks. A few other floods have occurred over the years, but no one’s had to row around a shopping center.

The flood, well over 40 years ago now, is indirectly responsible for the existence of Little River Park, Laurens Amphitheater and the Laurens Riverfront Freedom Festival. Laurens Sings, a competition whose finals took place, would probably be held in an auditorium or a sports facility now. On the eve of The Fourth, families brought their kids and tried in vain to keep them under control. The members of a triumphant Little League baseball team scurried around collecting contributions to pay for the state tournament. A rising Laurens District High School senior, Malashia Cain, was judged the singingest singer in the county and earned a gigantic $1,000 check for kicks and a normal one she plans to use for a downpayment on a 2009 Malibu. She sang a song, “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess.

I haven’t seen that kind of joy since a kid won a go-kart at the Easter Egg Hunt at Cavalier Ballpark in Clinton. That was even longer ago than the Little River flood. Besides, I couldn’t enjoy it because I wanted that go-kart.

When I was in college, others used to ask me what there was to do back home. I said, well, sometimes we’ll get a lot of beer, and we’ll go park in the edge of the woods, and we’ll put some music in the tape deck, and sit out in the moonlight on the tailgate or hood of my daddy’s pickup truck, and we’ll sing along with the music, and drink the beer, and talk about life.

My friends would say, “My God.”

And I’d say the funny thing is I don’t ever do anything I enjoy that much anymore.

In a small town, little things mean a lot. Even a Little River.

I watched little girls who were much more adept at raising money than their brothers on the ball team, who basically wanted to wear their uniforms and let everybody know they were district champions. Other little girls wanted to teeter and totter along the little granite walls that separated the terraces in the viewing area. One daddy came over and said, “Nikki, git! You git back over there where me and your mama are a-settin’.” To which Nikki replied, “Noooooo!” She pointed. “You git! You git back over yonder. Me and Britney’s having fun.”

Somehow, Daddy didn’t tan her little hide. Fifteen minutes later, Nikki was hugging him, and they were both trying to convince the other than each loved the other better than vice-versa.

The names have been changed partly to protect the innocent but mainly because I don’t know them. It was sweet. And funny. And wholesome. And small-town American.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

There wasn’t any drinking. If people wanted to smoke, they could go over to the bridge, where, according to the master of ceremonies, sand had been “put out,” apparently so cigarettes could be put out.

They had food trucks just outside the gates, and snow cones next to the inside concession stand, which was only barely farther away than the gates. I watched the main show, by a local classic-rock band named Outshyne, from behind the crowd, and then I bought myself a smoothie, which cost a dollar less because I didn’t want anything uber-healthy like kale in it. Just regular healthy things were fine.

It all ended with a fireworks display, but I slipped out early to beat the traffic. The adventure was figuring out a way to get out of the parking lot, which was something of a maze. The best move was going left instead of right, and driving up the hill past Smith Chevrolet, which used to be Smith Brothers long ago when a fellow could buy something called a Pontiac. That way I didn’t have to interrupt the folks smoking on the bridge.

Then I processed some pictures, and wrote a story about the evening, and it took as long for email to move my photos as it did to write the story, and the Red Sox won in 11 innings in Texas, and Dustin Pedroia made an amazing, wildly unusual play in a moment of Boston need, and I ended up going to bed earlier than usual because the late-night talk shows were all reruns, and until now, I haven’t done much today other than look at social media and fix breakfast.

Which is fine.

 

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

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.

(Steven Novak cover design)

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.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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.

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

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.

(Joe Font cover design)

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.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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).

It Happens Every Spring

Thanks to the Crusaders, I've got one game left. (Monte Dutton photos)
Thanks to the Crusaders, I’ve got one game left. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 10:13 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s a strange sensation for this time of year. I mourn the loss of baseball.

Oh, the Boston Red Sox are playing a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals this very day. Late last night, I switched back and forth between a baseball game and election results. The television season is young.

I’ve written about high school baseball and softball since the weather started warming. Mostly baseball. Clinton, Laurens and Laurens Academy all had successful season. The Crusaders are still having theirs. They play in Lexington Thursday for the SCISA (South Carolina Independent Schools Association) Class A state championship against the Holly Hill Academy Raiders. Last night I watched LA force a third game by defeating Holly Hill, 6-5.

Shortstop Nick Johnson
Shortstop Nick Johnson

It’s been whittled down to a nub, though. I’m going to miss the ping of the bat.

I like TV. I’ve grown adept at reading while it’s on, not to mention writing this. It’s no comparison to being there. TV does not provide enough stimulation to the senses.

On TV, I do not sit in a press box on the roof of the visiting dugout, trying to figure out of whom the burly man bellowing below reminds me.

DSCF3128
Ryan Sneed

Eureka! It’s Robert Duvall in The Great Santini!

Even with high definition, I don’t bother to trace the slow degradation of game-tattered uniforms, partly because major-league uniforms are seldom tattered and soon replaced. By season’s end, the white trousers of Clinton’s Brayden Gibbs were sliced open across the right leg, and the red pinstripe down the side was disconnected and hanging at the top. The Red Devils were winning. Gibbs wasn’t about to complain about an old set of togs.

Josh Urwick
Josh Urwick

I arrive home and follow a standard routine. Put some coffee on. Fire up the Surface. Hook up the camera. Download the photos. Get the coffee. Edit and crop the photos. Send the best ones in. Make sure the scorebook adds up. Write the story, transcribing in quotations on the fly. Proofread. Send in the story. Wait for it to pop up online while watching late-night baseball or talk shows. Writing, and perhaps the coffee, leaves me unready for sleep. I read to relax and work my way slowly toward a mindset conducive to sleep.

Holly Hill's Jem Mott makes a pitching change.
Holly Hill’s Jem Mott makes a pitching change.

I’m going to miss the reaction of kids being interviewed who aren’t accustomed to it. Some are wonderfully spontaneous. Some are wonderfully scared. Sometimes I yell or motion to a player that I’d like for him to hang around for a while so that I can talk to him, while at the same time recording what his coach has to say.

This warning gives him a short period to think about what he’s going to say. He might think of how much he wants to credit his teammates even for deeds he performed alone.

Will Price
Will Price

“What were you thinking as you waited for the pitch you hit to the opposite field for the game-winning double?”

“I was thinking about my teammates who supported me.”

Really. I thought you might be thinking about how you should stay back and wait for a fastball on the outer half. Perhaps I should try another question.

Price went 2-for-4.
Price went 2-for-4.

Sometimes I feel stupid listening to the harried questions I asked as I transcribe the tape. I listen to my mumbling questions, wondering how anyone could possibly understand them and realize why the kid tried to turn the attention to the team, because there’s no “me” in team even though there is an “m” and an “e.”

Next year Clinton High will open a new baseball field, one with a grass infield and a press box. Obviously, this will prevent being rained on because, in every season, some rain must fall, but I’m going to miss sitting at a folding table directly behind the plate of The Sponge, trading remarks with scoreboard operator Zack Wofford, public-address announcer Buddy Bridges and assorted others, primarily because it offered such a great view of the pitches. I learned more about the Red Devil pitching staff than I ever would have from a higher vantage.

Hanks Avinger hit a three-run homer but also took the loss.
Hanks Avinger hit a three-run homer but also took the loss.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to sit down there at the new place. Even a shabby home is a home, though. I’ll miss the interaction with the fans and watching them sometimes as much as the game.

At LDHS, I’ll miss the conversations with athletics director Mark Freeze about anything and everything. Almost all of it was off the record by assumed agreement. Besides, my baseball stories have no convenient place for ruminations about bluegrass music and stock car racing. Except this one.

DSCF3102I probably won’t miss music blaring from speakers almost painfully nearby. I’ve grown accustomed to it, though.

I’ll miss the experience of watching a kid win the game while his father is announcing it on the P.A. I’ll miss watching the flight of a long fly ball to right field, with the bases loaded and the outcome riding on whether or not a streaking kid can intersect it. I’ll miss the cries of fright and then relief when he can.

Baseball on TV is slightly artificial. The heart of baseball is in its roots.

TrespassesCoverMy new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a story of politics, corruption, drugs, mistakes of young and old and crime.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that began in songs I wrote.

Crazy of Natural Causes is set in the hills of Kentucky. Chance Benford is a football coach who has to reinvent himself in the aftermath of disaster. It’s a fable of coping with the absurdity of life.

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

The Intangibles is a story of the South, high school football, civil rights and desegregation, set mostly in the late 1960s.

The Audacity of Dope is the story of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who accidentally becomes a national hero and is thus forced to act like one.

Some Time a Ball Team’s All a Man’s Got

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, April 9, 2016, 7:20 p.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

When I look back on my 58th birthday and its aftermath, all I can make at this point is what, all too often in my life, one I’ve been unable to make.

Thank goodness for the Boston Red Sox, who came from five runs down last night to win and then backed it up with another victory over the reigning American League champion Toronto Blue Jays today.

They'll be here Monday.
They’ll be here Monday.

Now it’s a matter of seeing if the Red Sox can come up with more pitching at the start of each game. David Price? So far, so great. Clay Buchholz? Lord, have mercy. Joe Kelly? Uhhhh. Rick Porcello? Not bad.

John Farrell is nothing if not a player’s manager. He rested several cogs in the lineup and still won comfortably this afternoon. He’s seeing immediate results with the position players and bullpen.

All right. It’s early. You’re probably not that interested in the above, but wait till you see where this blog goes from here. You don’t care about my problems. I just feel as if it might be therapeutic to get it off my chest right now. It is an anvil, and I need this to settle me down.

I can’t remember the last time I failed to complete a writing assignment. I’m sure there’s another example, but I can’t recall it now. Life’s just too short. This day is one where lots of tiny frustrations have boiled over. I’m not even going to mention them all (believe it or not!).

Bailey Memorial Stadium
Bailey Memorial Stadium

I went to the Presbyterian College spring football game and enjoyed spending time with friends I haven’t seen since the last game of last season, but I had to leave long before it was over to work on a story about a local athlete who’s trying to make it big. He told me to text him at 12:30, which I did, and he replied that he’d text me back as soon as he checked into his hotel.

I waited. And waited. And texted, Long trip? Then a longer what’s the deal? text.

Five hours after we were supposed to talk, he wrote back that things came up, and he hadn’t had any time, and maybe we could do it Sunday night. I texted back that his time was too pricey for me, and I was sure someone else would be assigned to the story, and that I was sorry he hadn’t had time to text “can’t make it” so that I could have done something important like mow the lawn.

I had spent the time watching the Red Sox, reading a book, setting up a giveaway of my new collection of short stories, tweeting, posting, drinking coffee, getting hungry and mad.

Here’s a link to the giveaway.

I finally left for the McDonald’s drive-through, the better to drop everything to talk with the athlete because, at that point, I hadn’t gotten to the “hell with it” stage. At McDonald’s I ordered a salad, and the metallic voice in the speakers, which grew less metallic at the former window because she was live and in person, asked me what kind of dressing I wanted, and I said “blue cheese,” and “ranch” popped up on the screen, and I drove around, and I asked the lady if they didn’t offer blue cheese, and she said that was right, so I said, “I’ll take Southwest then,” and she said, “That’s what I gave you,” and I told her the message said she was giving me ranch, and she said, “Oh.”

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico. I feel like a rock.
El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico. I feel like a rock.

I picked up the bag at the latter window, and then, halfway home, I discovered that the bag didn’t contain the wrap for which I also had paid, and so I turned right back around, marched inside, and a fellow looked up and asked, “You the one who got the wrap?” and I said, “Not no more.”

It took a while to get my money refunded, because they said there wasn’t enough money ($10) “in the drawer,” and I came close to saying keep the money and ram the food … well, you get the picture. I thought about it, but Mama raised me slightly better, so I just started over and went to a nearby sit-down restaurant, where the salad (blackened chicken Caesar) was much better but the service only slightly. I needed to sit there a while, though, and calm down, so I commenced to reading so that now I’m no longer furious, just neurotic.

I calmed my murderous outlook enough to leave a tip that was modest where it had been tiny.

The NASCAR race is about to start, except, of course, it’s a bit delayed, so I decided to write this to put out the fuses that lead to the bombs in my brain.

I feel better now. I need to wipe the slate clean and start over. Can I be 57 again? Just for a day?

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

It’s out. $3.49. You can’t afford not to!

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell eight months and eight days after the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. Apparently, my speed is about eight months. It’s a good pace I’m setting. You can order Trespasses here.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them. Soon a print version of Crazy will be released for those of you who eschew the Kindle, and a Trespasses edition is on the way soon, too.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs …

Business is booming at the Slander Resort. (Monte Dutton photo)
Business is booming at the Slander Resort. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 30, 2015, 11:48 a.m.

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

I haven’t felt the urge to blog lately. I’ve been working on a novel called Cowboys Come Home, trying to sell one called Forgive Us Our Trespasses, and trying to get you to buy one called Crazy of Natural Causes (and also consider The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles).

I’ve been reading, watching the World Series and football games, playing guitar, watching old movies, and attending the Thursday night middle-school and junior varsity games at the high school.

While doing all these other things, I figured out a subplot in Cowboys Come Home, well outside the outline, and I’m about to start writing it.

 

The reigning champion still advances, by hook or crook. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
The reigning champion still advances, by hook or crook. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

All week long, I’ve been reading stories about the latest NASCAR debris left over from Talladega, and I’ve been pondering. Not passing judgment. Just pondering. Pondering is something most people do too little and I do too much.

 

I watched more of the Republican Debate than I did the World Series because I thought it was more of a ballgame. Politics is too important to be a ballgame, but that’s what it is. Each side has fans, and they hate each other.

I guess it’s gotten to where it’s all we know.

 

I try to resist being drowned by my generation. I pay attention to people of other ages. I write a lot about young people in my novels.

But this year has been a crusher.

I miss David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Don Orsillo, Bob Schieffer, Jon Stewart, Don Imus, and several others. None has died. They just moved out of my view. I fear for the health of John Farrell, Vin Scully and Jimmy Carter.

I scare myself. The other night I was listening to the theme song of Late Night with Stephen Colbert, and I couldn’t think of the Letterman theme. I kept drifting into the theme of Boston Red Sox Baseball on NESN. Orsillo! Remdawg! Damn it!

 

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Football blues.

I’m getting more understanding. A side of me hates this.

Furman’s football season is currently going downhill, though still salvageable. Presbyterian’s year has been miserable. Clinton High has won three games.

Yet I’m having a wonderful time going to the games and writing about them.

Something is definitely wrong.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Thanks for keeping my sales high during the entire month Crazy of Natural Causes has been on sale for $1.99. If you’d still like to buy it for that rate, time is running out. Then you’re going to have to make me rich and pay $3.49 again. 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

My crime novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is up for consideration in the KindleScout program. Take a look at it, sample the text, and if you like what you see, you can nominate it for publication. It takes two clicks. Here’s the first: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/A20FEF33PZP1

 

Fashion Cents

So long, A-Rod. Ya whiner. (Monte Dutton photo)
So long, A-Rod. Ya whiner. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 10:04 p.m.

Over the years, it’s been my observation that most fans think their favorite (driver, athlete, politician, etc.) is the only guy who tells it like it is, and their least favorite (driver, etc.) is a whiner.

I miss the hoodie.  (Alex Howard photo)
I miss the hoodie. (Alex Howard photo)

I really think it’s terribly unfair for the first round of the baseball playoffs to be winner-take-all, but I didn’t burn as righteously last night when the New York Yankees were being eliminated.

They’re just whiners.

At the moment, on my high-def screen, the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates are massing at home plate in an anticlimactic scrum precipitated by a Buc plunking the Cubbies’ ace, Jake Arrieta.

As my late father was fond of saying, “Chaps love to play.”

With the 2015 Red Sox already a memory, and not a particular fond one at that, I am a bit of a disinterested observer. I’m wearing my standard baseball-watching gear — sweats and a tee shirt — and the top of the stack this night was a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs gray that is exactly like what John Travolta wore in Pulp Fiction, only I bought it in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District before the movie came out, which was in 1994.

I watched it in February 1995, with Mike Hembree, at a cineplex near Daytona International Speedway. Seeing Vincent (Travolta) wearing my tee shirt was one big surprise. The other was when Vincent plunged the needle into Mia’s (Uma Thurman) heart, which may have been the last time I jumped and left the ground.

And I was sitting.

I have lots of really old clothes. This occurred to me when I looked at myself in the mirror with the UC Santa Cruz tee shirt on.

Damn, this thing is more than 20 years old!

I’ve got a Fairmont State shirt I bought when I was at that West Virginia college broadcasting a football game more than 25 years ago. It was white with glow-in-the-dark orange lettering. Now it has a slight cream tinge to it because I unwisely wore it to a dirt track once.

I have caps that are easily that old. The Watkins Glen Senecas cap is going to disintegrate any time now. I’ve started to upgrade a bit. The age of the cap I was wearing at a high-school scrimmage actually became a topic of discussion in the stands. It’s black with “Clinton” in script on the front in red and white. It’s from sometime in the 1980s. I have a red cap with CHS across the front that is from the ’90s. About a month ago, I bought a new cap that is gray with a red bill and a red block C on the front. It might well be the last one I’ll ever own. Clinton one, anyway.

Just yesterday I bought a new hoodie because from now until next spring, it will be my most commonly worn item of the clothing that isn’t on my feet. Hoodies don’t last long. I always leave them somewhere. When I left my beloved Red Sox pullover at a rained-out Presbyterian College baseball game, well, I hope whichever PC student picked it up is actually a Boston fan.

Yes. I still have a couple of my old football jerseys in the closet.

Some people love their pets.

 

(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

The tee shirts come in handy when I’m writing fiction, too. My latest, Crazy of Natural Causes, is a KindleScout winner that is on sale for $1.99 right now. You say you don’t read books on your phones? What’s $1.99? Give it a try. 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

 

Potentially a Time for Progress

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 27, 2015, 10:18 a.m.

No race this weekend. Maybe I’ll go to a ballgame.

This is going to be — knock on wood — the least busy weekend for quite some time. The Greer at Clinton high school football game is the only item on my slate. It will be a good weekend to dive back into some fiction, both reading and writing.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

On Sept. 4-6, I’ll be at Clinton High on Friday night, Furman University on Saturday, and in my living room Sunday night, writing about the Bojangles Southern 500 based on information gained from my own two eyes, social media, and emails. Those three assignments will informally acclimate me to West Coast Time. I’ll have Time Zone Fatigue without leaving the Eastern.

A week later, a friend and I are going to watch Presbyterian play at Charlotte, but we won’t have long afterward to visit because I’ll have to race back home in time for the Richmond race to start. What a break. The Blue Hose and 49ers kick off at noon.

This weekend, though, I’m going to chill. Or, at least, it’s an option.

Play a little guitar. Watch the Red Sox. For a last-place team without a bullpen, they’re pretty fun to watch.

Mow the lawn. Trim the bushes. Write a song.

I’ve got to do something to jumpstart my book sales, which have lagged a bit this week (though they took a jump this morning). I can check the sales several times a day, but I really shouldn’t. The numbers bounce constantly. It’ll lead me to some hare-brained scheme and take me away from what I ought to be doing, which is preparing a fourth novel for publication, finding a suitable place for it, and working diligently on a fifth.

It’s an assembly line, whether it’s late at night, waiting for the next transcript to arrive, or writing a high school gamer, or trying to move the process along with a novel called Cowboys Come Home.

In fact, it’s an assembly line of assembly lines.

So many rats are in the races that they’ve had to divide them into classes.

(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Hey, here’s an idea. You like what I’m doing, right? I mean, you’re here. We’re (Facebook) friends. You’re following me on Twitter. Maybe you don’t read many books, but you like my writing.

Give it a try. Download it in your devices (but, first, if necessary, load the Kindle apps), and Crazy of Natural Causes, or The Audacity of Dope, or The Intangibles, will all be nestled snugly at your disposal, in your music player, or your tablet, or your laptop, or your cell phone while you’re waiting for a friend to meet you for dinner.

 

And let’s say my new novel isn’t worth $3.49 to you (or $2.99 for Audacity, or $4.99 for The Intangibles). You know someone who’ll like it. Recommend it. It could be that these shameless pleas of mine have run their course with this set of acquaintances. You’re my most loyal. Help me spread the word even if you don’t care to read the words. 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

 

A Time of Fulfillment

Bay Side Inn, Alton, New Hampshire (Monte Dutton photo)
Bay Side Inn, Alton, New Hampshire (Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 11:46 a.m.

The week started out unevenly, but, at the moment, the uncertain seems at least normalized, and I’m in a mood of fulfillment, and fulfilled is about the best I get these days.

I even played a little music last week. (Rhonda Beck photo)
I even played a little music last week. (Rhonda Beck photo)

It’s way too early for any declaration of success, but the new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, has gotten nothing but praise in the early customer reviews, and I’m flattered that those who got copies of it in advance (by virtue of nominating it for publication) seem to think it’s better than I do.

We authors can be hard on ourselves.

Here’s a “showcase” on Crazy of Natural Causes kindly presented by fellow author Jim Jackson,

Monte Dutton – Guest Author

Today we welcome author Monte Dutton whose Crazy of Natural Causes won a Kindle Scout nomination. He describes himself as opinionated, stubborn, independent, gregarious and intuitive His writing is honest, conversational, irreverent, satirical, and evolving. I have a feeling you’re ging to enjoy reading his other answers.

I’m happy about baseball because the Red Sox aren’t currently playing it. They’ve worked themselves back to the cusp of contention, but it’s the All-Star Break, and they dropped two out of three to the Yankees at home, leaving the Carmines six and a half back going into tonight’s ballyhooed exhibition in Cincinnati. I’m proud to say I only watched a little of last week’s Home Run Derby, the contest annually held to determine which slugger is only going to hit five more dingers the rest of the year.

The Red Sox are playing better on the road than in at the Fens. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Red Sox are playing better on the road than in at the Fens. (Monte Dutton photo)

Last night’s surprise was that, for the first time, I watched the old Albert Brooks/Brendan Fraser flick The Scout, which was a flop two decades ago but I found moderately entertaining. I didn’t turn to watch Todd Frazier edge Albert Pujols and listen to Chris Berman squawk until the movie was over and Steve Nebraska safely on the ground. And mound.

Without the distraction of baseball games on television, I’ve jumped back into the next writing project, a crime novel called Forgive Us Our Trespasses that is about halfway to a polished draft. I need to get it ready, but there’s plenty of time. It probably wouldn’t be wise to foist another novel of mine on the unsuspecting public before it has had time to digest the craziness of Natural Causes.

For the first time this year, or at least the first time since they actually began running races, I’m optimistic about NASCAR. The blind hogs seem to have found some acorns.

Jamie McMurray leads Jimmie Johnson last year at NHMS. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray leads Jimmie Johnson last year at NHMS. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

My weekly Bleacher Report column has been widely read, and last week’s was a record-setter (my personal record book), and the new weekly column, at competitionplus.com, seems to be hitting the target.

This week’s Sprint Cup race is in New Hampshire, which was a place I enjoyed visiting back when I visited lots more places than I do now. “Live Free or Die” never seemed like much of a choice to me.

 

This novel is mainly the way I make a living nowadays, and I’d appreciate it if you’d consider ordering it in advance. It’s just $3.49 in advance, and that’s cheap enough for even an author to buy. 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

If you like it, you can also buy my two other novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, as well as my NASCAR and music books, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Well, That’s Baseball!

Opening Night for the Greenville Drive at Fluor Field. (Monte Dutton)
Opening Night for the Greenville Drive at Fluor Field. (Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 10, 2015, 9:20 a.m.

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

I was thinking on the way home last night, trying to remember if I had ever been to a professional baseball Opening Night.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I wrote about quite a few, but I couldn’t remember going to a team’s first game as a fan.

A notable Home Opener is rooted deep in my memory. My 16th birthday was April 8, 1974, and in one of the spur-of-the-moment decisions for which my father was famous, I was in Atlanta (later Fulton County, too) Stadium on the night Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run. That was a memorable night for Duttons as well as Aarons, though not entirely for the same reasons.

As a general rule, I’m the kind of fan who waits to the second game, when it won’t be so crowded and there won’t be a traffic jam, but, as luck would have it, an old college friend called – no, of course, he didn’t call; this is 2015; of course, he sent a message – and asked me to go with him and his father, whom I hadn’t seen in decades, to watch the Greenville Drive take on the Augusta GreenJackets.

We met at a sports bar near the park, and, naturally, Steve Grant, my friend, asked if I’d heard who was leading the Masters, and I thought, well, the tournament’s in Augusta, but the GreenJackets are here.

Later on, I found out that Jordan “I Before E, Unlike Keith” Spieth had, uh, carded a 64.

The Drive edged the Augusta GreenJackets, 3-2. (Monte Dutton)
The Drive edged the Augusta GreenJackets, 3-2. (Monte Dutton)

The first time I ever saw Lou Grant, he was pushing a rack of furs at his business in the Garment District of New York City. His son, who played first base at Furman, lived in Paramus, New Jersey, and I spent most of a week at their house the summer after we graduated in 1980. That was my summer of being a bum, knowing I was taking a graduate assistantship in the fall. I made some cash money driving used cars that had been purchased in auctions down south to dealerships up north. Sometimes I drove the car up there and took a bus home. I could make some of what seemed like serious money at the time if I could find a car somewhere around New York or Philadelphia to drive back home.

When I visited the Grants, I decided I’d wait a few days to see if I could find a car to drive back to South Carolina. It was a time of freedom and risk. That summer I took buses and trains, and made plans on the fly, and even hitchhiked across New Jersey once and happened upon an alumni celebration at Princeton in which the Ivy League nobility wore cheap slacks with growling tigers running across the fabric and drank heavily to the glory of Alma Mater. They were nice to me and even got me drunk, though I stuck out in that particular crowd.

“Bernice, come here! I want you to meet my new Southern friend!”

Good crowd on hand, though not a sellout, which I couldn't understand because Pabst Blue Ribbons were a buck apiece. (Monte Dutton)
Good crowd on hand, though not a sellout, which I couldn’t understand because Pabst Blue Ribbons were a buck apiece. (Monte Dutton)

I watched Lou play fast-pitch softball in a summer league and met one of the players who just happened to be the brother of Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. It was long ago. It only seems like yesterday.

Even though it was Opening Night, it was also Dollar Beverage Night, and the dollar beer was Pabst Blue Ribbon, and a friend of Steve’s who joined us kept coming back from the concession stand with two. This contributed to my boisterous singing along with “Sweet Caroline” – the Drive is (they would prefer “are”) an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, whose affiliation I enjoy as a fan – in the middle of the eighth inning, just like at Fenway.

Steve and Lou are Yankee fans, but they don’t hold it against the local minor-league affiliate.

Lou and I talked old-time baseball, mostly about players he saw and I read about. We talked about Hank and Ted, and how I worry about the Red Sox’ fielding because they have too many players mismatched with their positions, and Lou offered his opinions of Joe Girardi, and I chimed in with mine of the New York general manager, Brian Cashman, but a lot of the names were relatively obscure, at least to the fans of today: Camilo Pascual, Joe Foy, Tom Tresh, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, and a shortstop named John Kennedy who played five games for the Phillies the year before I was born.

“Who was that third baseman for the Red Sox in the Sixties?”

“Joe Foy? Dalton Jones?”

“Before them.”

“Frank Malzone?”

“That’s the guy.”

Steve and Lou left with the score tied, 2-2, after a first-round draft choice from Marietta, Georgia, named Michael Chavis cleared the Fluor Field center-field wall in the bottom of the seventh. It was a blast, a missile of four hundred feet.

Me, I can’t leave a tie game, and the old satirical cry from my days on the minor league beat occurred to me: “We are going nineteen!”

Thanks to Chavis, though, the game ended an out shy of regulation. He knocked in the winning run with what was almost a second homer. It bounced about a foot below the top of Greenville’s Green Monster clone, and the Drive won, 3-2.

I drove home, searching the AM band for some ballgame somewhere, not knowing that all the big-league action was already over. The best I could do was listen to a bit of the post-game talk from Philadelphia, where the Red Sox had taken two out of three from the Phillies.

It’s the time of the year when almost every question can be answered, “Well, that’s baseball.”

I’ve written a couple baseball-themed short stories at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, by short fiction depository, and I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1415634579&sr=1-1

 

In Sports, I’m No Revolutionary

When the lights go down. (Monte Dutton)
When the lights go down. (Monte Dutton)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, March 20, 2015, 6:45 p.m.

I’m stodgy. Always have been resistant to change where sports is concerned. I’m not that way in other areas of life, but, in sports, I might as well be a cranky old man yelling for the kids to get off my property.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I love the Boston Red Sox. Watching them on TV will take up too much of my time over the next half year, but if I were the commissioner of baseball, there would be no designated hitter, and I cling to this view in spite of the existence on earth of one David Ortiz.

I make my stand on principle. Principle!

I think football was better when offensive linemen didn’t get to use their hands. I was once an offensive lineman who didn’t get to use my hands. Defensive linemen used to be allowed to pummel me in the head with their forearms. I’m not calling for that.

Me? I see all the big games. (Monte Dutton)
Me? I see all the big games. (Monte Dutton)

I like my home teams to wear white and my visiting teams to wear gray. I think the home jersey should have the nickname and the road jersey the town. At home, the fans all know where they are.

I wish even little leaguers still played with wooden bats.

I like natural surfaces, outdoor stadiums, and day games. I don’t have a bit of a problem with penalties for excessive celebrations. Act like you come from good people.

Get a fight song, but not if you’re going to play it through a P.A. system instead of with a band. I am all in favor of graceful and rousing dance routines, and I like gymnastics, but part of what cheerleaders do should also be to cheer.

I haven’t liked the way a golfer dressed since Sam Snead.

You realize, of course, that when you start reading a blog, and the writer unleashes a litany of philosophical beliefs, then what is on the way is a …

I was a regular visitor to Blue Hose home games. (Monte Dutton)
I was a regular visitor to Blue Hose home games. (Monte Dutton)

… But.

Something’s got to be done about college basketball, not to keep my attention, because, I’ve had basketball played on a never-ending loop in my living room for what seems like forever. Little Champions’ Week, all the Woffords and Robert Morrises punching their respective tickets to the Big Dance. Then Big Champions Week with the hyperventilating Dick Vitales, the Roys yelling dadgums, and the Caliparis saying with straight faces that undefeated teams aren’t really all that impressive.

“We’re just starting to come around.”

God help us.

Now it’s March Madness and maybe even the NCAA Basketball Tournament. They’ve already played four in, and now they’re about to advance from the Round of 64, which was not a very difficult level to reach since sixty had already, uh, punched their tickets, to the Round of 32, and next week it all gets lofty … Sweet Sixteen … Elite Eight … Final Four … and The Final.

Lately the superlatives haven’t seemed as super. Or even as lative.

The college game is becoming a blur of leading scorers averaging 14.2 points, every play aiming to penetrate the middle and kick it out for a three, and a lane that needs only ropes and turnbuckles. Everybody talks about triple doubles and double doubles, and various other In-N-Out Burgers, and what I look for is the Triple Scroop, which involves double figures in turnovers, missed free throws, and pulling up for a trey when you’re the only guy in the forecourt.

I keep myself busy by fretting about the Red Sox. (Monte Dutton)
I keep myself busy by fretting about the Red Sox. (Monte Dutton)

There’s a widespread call for a shorter shot clock. If there exists a person who read what I wrote thirty years ago, he (or she, as it could be my mother) knows I was opposed to there being a shot clock at all. I thought basketball needed the diabolical precision of Dean Smith’s Four Corners stall tactics.

I was wrong. And Dean’s gone.

I now think a 35-second clock is fine. Predictably.

Some say let 'em play. I say let 'em ref. (Monte Dutton)
Some say let ’em play. I say let ’em ref. (Monte Dutton)

I miss going to basketball games to watch one or two stars just fill it up. It seems to me that modern college basketball has stifled the creative impulse.

I think the referees could bring it back. I think it might help if they put the walk, the double dribble, the palming, and the three seconds back in the rulebook. I’m sure no referees have been fired recently for ignoring them. They all have great insurance. I know that. At the end of Madness, they all have to have all those whistles they swallowed surgically removed.

I think what’s her name – ah, Katie Nolan – is right!

I’m in the midst of a short story about crazy college kids and stodgy alums over at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and after I draw you into my web of intrigue, I hope you’ll consider some of my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

The Giants and I Go Way Back

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Little joy at Fenway this year. (Monte Dutton)
Little joy at Fenway this year. (Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 17, 2014, 9:51 a.m.

In the first major league baseball game I ever saw, when I was eight years old and the Braves moved to Atlanta, Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants hit a home run, which is why, for most of my life, the Giants have been my favorite team in the National League. I’ve never favored them over the Boston Red Sox, even though I never saw the Sox play in person until 1983, when I was out of college. I’m a legacy. My father rooted for the Red Sox. He spent parts of the summers of 1950 and 1951 visiting relatives in Boston. Uncle Cas was in the Army, stationed at Fort Devens.

Had Jimmy Dutton become a fan of the Boston Braves, it would have been so much more convenient, because they would have moved to Atlanta, after a little over a decade in Milwaukee, in 1966. But he didn’t. He idolized Ted Williams, and later I came along to idolize Carl Yastrzemski.

As Willie Nelson wrote, "Sad songs and waltzes aren't selling this year."
As Willie Nelson wrote, “Sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year.”

For most of those years, the exception being the time between when I saw Barry Bonds hit a grounder to second base and never leave the batter’s box and the end of Bonds’ career, my favorite National League team was the Giants, and that is the case now. Writing about NASCAR gave me a chance to see the Giants play at both Candlestick Park, their frigid former home, and the more temperate AT&T Park, which, like everything else in the San Francisco Bay Area except Alcatraz Island, is absolutely beautiful.

By the way, even though I wasn’t a fan of Bonds, he did hit one of the three tape-measure home runs I’ve seen in person. It was at the middle Yankee Stadium on a Pocono race weekend.

The other two were by Joe Charbonneau of the Cleveland Indians, also at Yankee Stadium in 1980, and Willie McCovey, who hit one into Atlanta Stadium’s upper deck at a Sunday doubleheader in 1969.

The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. The Red Sox won it in 2013. I’m on quite a roll because the Giants are there again.

I also like the Kansas City Royals, by the way. NASCAR also took me to Kansas City, and I remember once when, late in the season, I watched a horrendous game between the Royals and the Detroit Tigers in which both teams had lost a hundred games, and I thought it possible that the two teams would finish with double figures in runs, hits, and errors.

Apparently, that was in 2002, the most recent season the Royals and Tigers both lost in double figures.

I’m rooting for the Giants, but, if the Royals win, it won’t bother me too much. That’s the difference between a Series involving my favorite team, the Red Sox, and one involving the one I like the most in the National League.

It is my studied opinion that Giants manager Bruce Bochy is baseball’s best skipper. Years ago, when I covered and scored minor league baseball, I knew Royals manager Ned Yost a little and liked him. I say I knew him a little because, twenty-five years ago, I think he knew my name. Here’s my one anecdote about Yost.

The late Jim Beauchamp, one of my favorite sports personalities, managed the Greenville Braves. Hank Aaron was the Atlanta organization’s Director of Player Development. Due to an injury, the G-Braves needed a catcher. This was Beauchamp’s account of a telephone conversation with Aaron.

Aaron: “Hey, Beauch (Beech), I found you a catcher!”

Beauchamp: “Oh, yeah, who’d you sign?”

Aaron: “Signed Eddie Yost.”

Beauchamp: “Little old, ain’t he, Hank?”

Eddie Yost last played for the Los Angeles Angels in 1962. Ned Yost was the Greenville Braves’ new player-coach. Aaron misspoke in the same manner that people older than me here in Clinton often refer to me as Jimmy.

I’ve written a couple baseball-themed short stories at my other blog site, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. My latest is set on a car lot. I appreciate your consideration of my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, both available in softcover and Kindle editions at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Monte%20Dutton&sprefix=Monte%2Cstripbooks.