When I Get Across the Desert, I’ll Look for an Oasis

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, February 12, 2016, 5:42 p.m.

This is really a question I ought to be able to answer, but I don’t live and die on the minutiae as much as I used to, and, surprisingly, I couldn’t find much by googling and the like. Sometimes I bing. Sometimes I just type a phrase where the web address goes. Sometimes I just don’t go through the trouble so that, if I’m lucky, I can fall for some fake news.

By Monte Dutton

Why is the Daytona 500 three weeks after the Super Bowl? Am I alone in watching the end of the NFL’s day of commercials with a football game scattered about, and thinking to myself, Self, now it’s time for racing!

Three weeks. I can write 20,000 words in a novel in three weeks. I can read a novel and write a review. I can write a song, though, apparently, not memorize it. I can watch a zillion old movies. Take a weekend trip.

Still, it’s almost dark, and the Daytona 500 is still two weeks away.

Nothing against Honeysuckle Rose – I hadn’t watched it in a while – but I wish I had an ARCA 200 or something. As my father used to say when he picked me up at the Broadway Theatre and took a little nip from the half pint under the seat, “I need a little something to knock the chill off.”

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

With the official start of the season still two weeks away – yes, I know, there’s a Clash, no, wait, it’s an Unlimited, perversely, it seems, because the field is limited – I feel like I’m staggering into it the way I stagger into this house late at night since the garage light burned out.

In February, there’s always a bit of a draft in the Daytona Beach air. (John Clark photo)

I’m vaguely aware that the mad scientists at the NASCAR R&D castle have issued some new alchemy to turn the racing into gold. The format has been changed in many ways, which, at this point, is about as predictable as a line outside Cameron Indoor Stadium on the day the Tar Heels visit.

At the moment, it seems as if more baseball players are warming up than racing drivers.

I wanted to pivot to racing, and pivoting is about as difficult for me as it is for President Trump. It’s all he can do to avoid being whistled for traveling.

Jimmie Johnson (John Clark photo)

It all seemed so orderly. Commiserate the death of football. Cheer up for racing. Grow happy when baseball starts, too. Get all the other writing – the stuff I make up – done in regular business hours so I can devote my full attention to the stock car races and Red Sox Baseball on NESN.

Hell, last year, it was probably a month before I got annoyed at Darrell Waltrip.

They’ve put segments in all the races, which means every race is like the All-Star Race, so what in hell is the All-Star Race going to be? Two segments racing backwards, and let them go frontwards but with the cars on fire for the final 10?

I read the stories. I tried to watch the cheerleaders talk about it on TV. I haven’t concentrated, though. It generally just makes me more pissed off. When the season gets here – if the season gets here – I’ll hear it explained so many times, it’ll remind me of those awful power-point presentations at the office, when I had an office.

Maybe keeping the slate relatively blank isn’t a bad plan. I can go in fresh.

No, I can’t. I’m going to hate it. Maybe I won’t hate it as much. Maybe I’ll watch the 500 and think, Well, it’s not that bad. It’s still mostly racing. Maybe I won’t give it a chance, but I’ll try to give it a chance. I’m human. It’s all I can promise.

(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.

(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.

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).

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The Grind Gets Better

Into the Smokies on the way home. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 10:58 a.m.

Let’s see. Today is the last day of the month, which means a download of my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will no longer be 99 cents. Good news and bad news. I won’t sell as many in February, but I’ll make more money on the ones I do. The idea behind Amazon’s 99 cents specials is that they give the book a boost. It’s already sold the most of my five novels. I should probably write another like it.

By Monte Dutton

Maybe I am. It’s not finished.

Tonight Newberry is visiting Clinton for a big night of high school basketball, and I’ll be on hand to write about it and take a few pictures. The Red Devils clobbered Mid-Carolina while I was away. Newberry is only 25 miles away. The two schools played in most every sport even before they were both aligned in Region 3-3A. They split earlier games, both in Newberry, but the overtime loss was in a holiday tournament, and Clinton won the one that counted. Tonight’s will, too. The Red Devils have an undefeated region record on the line.

Mike Reynolds

I’m just getting reacclimated with the world. I spent most of four days avoiding all that was going on around me. I checked the Twitter feed occasionally. I watched the second half of Kansas-Kentucky on a TV in a Kentucky bar where I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t hate Louisville. The Jayhawks won, and that probably increased sales while the Mike Reynolds Band rocked the night away.

I don’t party much anymore. As best I can tell, I came out of it relatively intact.

The trip: (a.) increased my interest in writing songs and drawing sketches; (b.) lessened my sense of disappointent; (c.) provided me with sustenance and inspiration; (d.) got me out of town; (e.) satisfied a growing wanderlust; and (f.) gave me a chance to play a lot of music and listen to a lot more.

I’m sure I could think of several more, but this blog isn’t for money, and I’ve got to get to some things that are.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

This week is the Super Bowl. I assume, sometime recently, there has been a Pro Bowl. I watched a little of the Rolex 24 over the weekend, mostly with the sound off, and I tried for a while to find the ending, but I am not adept at surfing the program guide of Dish Network, so I watched Virginia-Villanova, again with the sound off.

The Falcons are playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The only other time the Falcons reached the Super Bowl, I watched in a condo in Ormond Beach, Florida. All I remember is that it wasn’t much of a game. One year while I was in Florida early for Speedweeks, the Patriots played the Eagles in Jacksonville, so, when I went to see some friends play music in St. Augustine Beach, the bar was full of NFL fans. I wore a Red Sox cap because, well, I wear one a lot. When I got in there, it seemed as if everyone knew me. Some people were slapping me on the back; others just looked at me with scorn and derision. It hadn’t occurred me that a Boston cap would get me lumped in with the Patriots.

This shouldn’t have been so hard to figure out.

I’ve rooted for the Red Sox since I was seven years old, but it all started with Carl Yastrzemski, not Boston. For that particular Super Bowl, which the Patriots won, I just wanted to see a good game.

That’s about the way I feel about this one.

(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.

(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.

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).

Going with Carolina in My Mind

I hope Peyton Manning plays well, but I hope the Panthers win.  (Monte Dutton sketch)
I hope Peyton Manning plays well, but I hope the Panthers win. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, February 7, 2016, 10:47 a.m.

Super Bowl Sunday. Familiar. I think I’ve watched every single one on TV. I probably remember the first five — Packers over Chiefs and Raiders, Jets over Colts, Chiefs over Vikings, Colts over Cowboys — as well as last year’s.

Hmm. Wasn’t there a bad call and an interception?

I remember nothing about last year’s halftime show, probably because I didn’t watch it. I took a halftime break, too. I doubt I’ll watch this one, either. I might mute the TV and provide my own musical entertainment.

I hope the Carolina Panthers win, but I doubt I’ll get bent out of shape if they don’t. I like the Broncos, too, and I don’t think Peyton Manning winning a second Super Bowl would leave me devastated. On the other hand, he’s got one. The Panthers don’t.

This is more my speed nowadays. (Monte Dutton photo)
This is more my speed nowadays. (Monte Dutton photo)

I didn’t always like the Panthers. The last few years I was on the NASCAR beat, I often went to Bank of America Stadium to write columns at home games after the Chase for the Sprint Cup had run its course. I developed an affinity for the team. I found the media operations more organized and professional than NASCAR’s. It was reliable. I knew how it would be ahead of time. There were times in NASCAR when all bets were off. I didn’t know what I wasn’t going to get until I didn’t get it.

In those days, I wasn’t sure whether or not Ron Rivera was a great coach, but I did think he was a great guy. I found him forthright in his answers to my questions. I also liked Luke Kuechly before I really knew how good he was. Cam Newton? I liked him. When he was a rookie, he reminded me a little of a young Muhammad Ali.

Pete Carroll called a pass when a run would have worked just fine. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Pete Carroll called a pass when a run would have worked just fine. (Monte Dutton sketch)

It’s funny, getting older. In some ways, I get more stodgy. In some ways, I don’t. It looks like the Panthers’ merry band, led in hijinks by their modern-day Robin Hood, is having fun. When I played, hell, I wish I’d had more. Newton carries on a bit, but tell me it doesn’t warm your heart when he hands the football to the little kid in the stands.

For my entire career, I’ve heard coaches speak of the player with the mythical “nose for the football,” and it took watching Kuechly to understand what it means. Count the number of times he winds up where the ball is. No. You won’t be able to follow the game. Count the times he doesn’t wind up where the ball is.

I think big plays will determine the outcome because I don’t think either defense is going to give up many long, methodical drives.

The score? Don’t be ridiculous. My expertise is in the field of describing what already happened. I’m no prophet.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

It’s time, and if you, like me, do your own taxes online through H&R Block, you can buy my novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, for half price with your refund. http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html?node=10566987011

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

Crazy isn’t my only novel, and it’s far from my only book. Most of them are available here. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

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

Coming soon: my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, from Kindle Publishing. As soon as I have a release date, I’ll let you know.

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, a bit more irreverently @wastedpilgrim, and a mite more literary-minded @hmdutton. I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton, and I invite you to join The Audacity of Dope group. I’m on Instagram at Tug50, and look for me by name at Google+. I don’t expect you to follow me across the social media, but I’d appreciate it if you’d follow, or “friend,” me at whichever system strikes your fancy.

Starring Carroll and Belichick, Directed by Hitchcock

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Pete Carroll called a pass when a run would have worked just fine. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Pete Carroll called a pass when a run would have worked just fine. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, February 2, 2015, 9:45 a.m.

Many years ago, I was sitting on a bed in a motel room in Johnson City, Tennessee, waiting to take a bus to a basketball game between Furman and East Tennessee State, and watching a football game between Auburn and Alabama. It was a little over thirty years ago, the Iron Bowl of 1984.

Auburn, with Bo Jackson, faced fourth down and less than a yard to go, at the Alabama one. A chip-shot field goal would have given the Tigers the lead, eighteen to seventeen, but coach Pat Dye figured Jackson could make a yard against anyone.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I turned to my roommate, the head trainer – I was Furman’s sports information director at the time – and said, “Sometimes, if you make a call that stupid, God will turn on you.”

Jackson went left. The play went right, lost two or three yards, Alabama took over and wound up winning, seventeen to fifteen, though Auburn did have one more chance at a field goal, a long one, that curved left at the end.

What made me think of that long-ago afternoon? Why, of course, the ending of Sunday night’s Super Bowl. Coach Pete Carroll had second down and less than a yard to the end zone, with Marshawn Lynch in his backfield, thirty seconds on the clock, and a timeout left. Instead, the offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, called a pass that Carroll presumably approved, and the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler definitely intercepted, to seal New England’s twenty-eight to twenty-four victory.

Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were shocked. Former players now employed as analysts were shocked. Many Seahawks players were shocked. Sitting at home, I was shocked. Hundreds of millions were shocked. Many of those parked at the border of blue and green, where the Seahawks’ uniforms dwell, were shocked and enraged.

Kim Jung’un may have thought it a good call. He may have asked Dennis Rodman.

“Mr. Rodman?”

“Yes, Miss Tyler?”

“Brutal dictator, line two.”

“My man, Jung! How’s it hanging?”

As tempting as it is to expand upon my tweets at the time – “Somebody ought to check the air pressure in Pete Carroll’s head,” “The Seahawks didn’t run it. Anything to keep Marshawn Lynch from being fined,” “Little-known fact: 100 million Americans majored in play-calling,” et al. – a few other items occurred to me.

First of all, being a football coach isn’t a matter of playing the percentages all the time. Great coaches take chances at the right time, such as at the end of the other half, when Carroll, with only six seconds showing on the clock, passed up a field goal and opted for a risky pass that worked for a touchdown. I thought he was nuts then, but little did I know …

If the Seahawks had opted for a field goal then, the game would have been different. I don’t buy the ridiculous notion that it would have progressed in exactly the same fashion, and that Seattle would have been trailing by eight points instead of four, had the field goal been kicked and not the touchdown scored. That’s sort of like saying the pass at the end of the game would have been completed had Jim Zorn lived later, or, if Tom Brady had been drafted by the Seahawks, or if the receiver had been a tight end, or if Daniel Snyder didn’t own the Redskins, or if dinosaurs and humans had lived at the same time.

Right up to the time that Butler made the game-saving pick, it made no sense to me that the New England coach, Bill Belichick, was allowing the clock to run down. The Seahawks were at the one, thirty seconds on the clock, and Belichick put his team’s hopes on stopping Lynch from less than a yard on two plays. Miraculously, it wasn’t required.

My observation is that few coaches are geniuses. The best ones are the ones who can think clearly in an atmosphere where few can. The same is true of NASCAR crew chiefs. When a crowd is cheering, a band blaring, engines roaring, adrenaline rushing, five assistants screaming in the headset at the same time, it’s difficult for most humans to think clearly.

Try it sometime.

The best defense Carroll (and Bevell) are getting is “if the play had worked, no one would have said a word,” and that’s true, but people tend to talk, write, read, and think about what happened, not what didn’t.

What if Sid Luckman had quarterbacked the Seahawks? Well, he probably wouldn’t have lasted very long, what with the leather helmet.

It was a hell of a victory for the Patriots, one tough loss for the Seahawks, and a pleasure for most of the millions, or multimillions, or billions, however many watched it, and whatever percentage understood what they were watching. Down the road, time might just leave it at that, though, at the moment, relief is out of sight.

Pete Carroll is a fine coach who, at this moment, looks remarkably like General George Armstrong Custer with shorter hair and a different uniform. Carroll’s result was better. He will coach again.

If you haven’t already, I think you may enjoy the latest short story, which is shorter than most. It’s about some unfortunate bettors on “Super Sunday,” and is at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. My books are available online here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1