For Want of Coffee

Vince Pawless (left) and Andy Serna. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, December 13, 2016, 9:54 a.m.

The Patriots beat the Ravens.

I’m going out of my mind trying to sell my novels.

The new coffeemaker hasn’t arrived yet.

By Monte Dutton

Having to get up and drive out to the truck stop for a gigantic mug of Dark Roast is a chore, but now I’ve had it, and breakfast, and, inexplicably, I watched NASCAR shows on NBC Sports right up until Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe filled my high definition, and, now, thank God, Aerial America is coming on The Smithsonian Channel, and this blog will have a pleasant, soothing background.

Life isn’t exactly great, but it’s promising.

The Weather Channel has a live feed from Minot, North Dakota, and there’s a 30-percent chance of rain here. Just so someone else can write “we need the rain,” here it is. We need the rain.

Minor bowl games will begin on Saturday, and that’s a grand opening I’m probably going to miss because I will be out on free-lance assignment and hence unable to savor the New Mexico Lobos against the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. I might be home in time for the latter stages of Southern Mississippi versus Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

I don’t have a big rooting interest in those games.

Most weeks my novels sell better during the week than on weekends. This week, so far, is an exception. Cowboys Come Home, my western about a couple World War II vets coming home to Texas, surged over the weekend, probably in no small part because of its discovery in the part of the Lone Star State where the story takes place, and definitely in no small part because of the efforts of my friend Vince Pawless, who lives thereabouts.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes (2015) is on Kindle sale at a whopping $.99 until this year of my and America’s discontent finally ends. It’s about a football coach who loses virtually everything except his life (and damn near that) and mounts the big comeback in the most unexpected ways. In this one novel, I wrote about football, Jesus, music, weed, and sex, both hetero- and homo-. The central character, Chance Benford, is either a con man, a flawed hero, a man of God, a hypocrite, or, in the opinion of his creator (me, not God, Who would be his Creator), all of those things. In my view, Chance is basically a good man who does what it takes, however outrageous, to get his life back on track.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses (2016) is my best selling book to date. It’s been out since spring. It’s a story of small-town corruption that has the potential to burst out statewide. The man running for governor, Denny Frawley, has an alcoholic wife, drug-dealing kids, scheming mistress, brutal henchmen, and a taste for violence and cocaine.

Typical politician. The voters seem to think he’s a pretty good guy.

I’d like to think if you’ve read one, you’d like to read them all — the three above plus Longer Songs: A Collection of Short Stories (2016), The Intangibles (2013), and The Audacity of Dope (2011) — but my tales aren’t for everyone.

If you’re not sure whether my made-up adventures are your cup of tea — or vat of truck-stop coffee — sample them in Longer Songs. The short stories all started with songs I wrote.

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. Note that my third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is on Kindle sale at $.99 for the entire month. 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 the latest. It’s 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).

(Design by Steven Novak)
(Design by Steven Novak)

 

‘I’m Not as Good as I Once Was, but I’m as Good Once …

I spent much of the weekend here. This was from last year. THis year VISTO Days were April 14-16. (Monte Dutton photos)
I spent much of the weekend here. This was taken last year. VISTO Days were April 14-16 this time. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 18, 2016, 12:04 p.m.

I did something on Sunday — and quite a way into Monday — that I don’t think I could have done when I was younger.

This is encouraging. It might not have been wise, but I pulled it off.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

I left Gainesville, Texas, at 9:30 on Sunday morning and drove all the way home. I rolled in about 3 this morning. It wasn’t but 1,060 miles, give or take a few lane changes here and there. My phone kept telling me I was on the best possible route and that I was going to get home at 2:10 a.m. My phone changed it to 3:10 a.m. when I crossed the Alabama-Georgia line and the time became Eastern again. Though stupid about time zones, my phone was right about the ETA.

ETA is air-travel lingo for “estimated time of arrival.” I had informed my house-sitting nephew of my case of temporary insanity so that he would not come after me with a baseball bat when I walked in from the carport, dragging a suitcase, wearing a backpack, and carrying a guitar slung across my back.

My mother is at her house right now, expecting me home tonight. I’m about to call her and admit I’ve lost my mind.

I don’t often listen to a NASCAR race on the radio, but Carl Edwards led me and the Food City 500 across Louisiana. After it was over, I called a colleague to ask hinm what he thought. It always sounds more exciting on the radio, but I enjoyed the PRN broadcast, though. I just didn’t trust what my eyes couldn’t see.

Carl Edwards won the Food City 500. For most of it, I was driving across Louisiana. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Carl Edwards won the Food City 500. For most of it, I was driving across Louisiana. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

My timing was exceptional. Each time I filled up with gas, I also filled up with the boldest truck-stop coffee available. As the trusty Dakota ran out of gas, I filled up with coffee. Another tank of gas. Another trip to the restroom. Another tank of coffee.

I did not plan to drive all the way home. I just kept going. I never got drowsy. I never got jumpy. Satellite radio was my greatest ally. I sang a lot. I listened to a tribute to Merle Haggard and a replay of the Friday night Grand Ole Opry. While I drove through Jackson, Mississippi, I switched to local radio for the broadcast of the baseball game between the Mississippi Braves and the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts were leading, 1-0, when I drove out of range. I thought about stopping and watching the game. I thought about getting a room in Birmingham, Alabama, which is where I stopped the last time I made my annual Texas trip. By the time I got to Atlanta, I decided, well, I’ve gotten this far. I might as well keep going.

I had several such adventures when I was younger, but none was this long, and even though I may have been more, uh, vigorous and youthful, I had far less sense.

DSCF0021There’s a Robert Earl Keen live album in which he talks about joy-riding with friends to a bluegrass festival in Crockett, Texas, “armed with a case of Texas Pride beer and a handful of cheap amphetamines.”

I never fortified such a voyage with illegal pills, but once, I drove with a car full of friends from a basketball game in Charlotte to a football game in Cincinnati, through the night. We were armed with a diet supplement called guarana (NRGs, for “Nature’s Raw Guarana”) that consisted basically of a crushed-up plant, allegedly from the jungles of South America, rife with caffeine. We were popping those NRGs like candy and washing them down with beer. We also made up bawdy verses of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “The Authority Song.” We rolled into one Queen City, Cincinnati, after starting in another, Charlotte, and crossed the Ohio River as the sun rose.

Was that yesterday? No. It was over 30 years ago. As Tom T. Hall sang, quite possibly on my cassette player way back then, “Don’t forget the coffee, Billy Joe.”

Our friend, Stanford Jennings, then played for the Cincinnati Bengals. I’ve probably watched football games more attentively. About all I remember about this one is that it was cold. Also, we met Stanford on the morning of the game, and as I recall, he seemed mildly alarmed at our appearance.

Sunday’s trip was less exciting, but I expect I’ll remember it longer.

I’m a little slow getting started today. I ain’t a kid no more.

I also think I may lay off the coffee today. I got a bad taste in my mouth.

(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. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

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

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.

 

I Love This Week

Classic Recall (Monte Dutton photo)
Classic Recall (Monte Dutton photo)

Gainesville, Texas, Saturday, April 16, 2016, 9:20 a.m.

I don’t have too much to say this cloudy Texas morning. Everything went fine on Friday. Classic Recall, a local band of musicians who play rock and roll from the 1960s and early ’70s, got a good reception, most obviously from three tiny kids who danced nonstop during the two-hour set.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Today’s music begins at 5 p.m. This guy came all the way from South Carolina to be the emcee, and he’s opening the indoor acoustic show at the State Theatre with a mix of old country tunes and a few he wrote himself.

So as to stop referring to myself in the third person in a blog, I’m really looking forward to it.

Of all places for an emcee from out of state! Texas, where there’s a little bit of everything, and everything stretches for miles and miles.

Literally, a guitar shelf.
Literally, a guitar shelf.

One of the reasons I’m here is that Vince Pawless, maker of splendid handmade guitars, and I are friends, dating back to the music book, True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, which was published in 2007. While I was roaming around Texas, interviewing singer-songwriters, Vince, with whom I’d grown acquainted via our joint participation in an email exchange of Jerry Jeff Walker fans, offered to put me up for a night at his shop. We stayed up half that night talking music and guitars, and I wound up writing a chapter in the book about him.

NASCAR stuff.
NASCAR stuff.

That book, in turn, led me to teach myself how to play a little guitar, and learning how to play by ear led to the notion that I might be able to write songs myself. True to the Roots was also my last non-fiction book and the only one that wasn’t about sports.

People frequently tell me they like my songs. What I’ve been awaiting is for someone to say, “Hey, I’d like to record that song.” Lots of songs are out there, though. Most of those who like mine write their own.

More NASCAR stuff.
More NASCAR stuff.

Another reason I’m here is that, before this event is held each year, I write NASCAR contacts to ask them to donate items for use in the silent auction. It’s fun to look at all the other items up for charity sale. Two airline seats. An “Ornate Cross,” which I speculated onstage was a relic of the ancient Ornations. Paintings. Hand-painted chairs and benches. A year’s worth of farm-fresh eggs. Every item has its own story to tell.

Friday was the prelim, I suppose.

My job is to get the meter running, a little with my music but mostly with announcements and spontaneously witty remarks, the kind that may or may not actually be witty, such as my creation of the Ornations, who, in my imagination, lived in Asia Minor from the seventh through fifth centuries B.C. It was much easier than writing a novel about them.

Mexican food from the Shorty’s truck, parked out front of the theater, helped get me off my diet. Shorty’s is back tonight, so I expect I’ll stay off it until I begin the lonely trek home on Sunday. I doubt I’ll take my time. Traditionally, by the time this shindig is over, I’ve got a hankering for home. I may stop for yet another minor league baseball game. I doubt it, though. My definite intention is to be home in time to cover the Union County at Clinton baseball game on Tuesday night.

The faces are familiar. I’ve been coming to Gainesville a long time. My fifth novel, which is close to completion of its first draft, is a modern western set in a town a lot like this one. The Janus, Texas, of my story is the way I imagine this one at the end of World War II.

More Classic Recall.
More Classic Recall.

Following me onstage today is David Byboth, sound man and songwriter extraordinaire. Then Tom McElvain, who has historically made the biggest impression year after year, through Pawlessfest, the original name, Concert for VISTO at the indoor rodeo arena and now in the VISTO Days festival’s uptown locale, is sharing the State Theatre stage with Shayne Wimmer.

After I draw some pieces of paper out of hats, the concert moves outdoors, around the corner and down the street, for Bonedoggie and the Hickory Street Hellraisers, a group that is really original and uses instruments, such as the bazookie and the trombone, that are seldom seen in such affairs. Then it’s the rock virtuosity of the Oliver White Group. Oliver, by the way, is a fantastic performer and a great guy. I look forward to seeing him.

As a general rule, everybody gets along out here.

Several years ago, I wrote a song about Vince Pawless and his guitars: It’ll ring like a bell / Sing like a bird / Put in your hands / Be Merle Haggard …

Merle’s gone. Be whoever you want to be. Somebody’s got to take the reins.

(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. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

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

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.

 

 

White Lines and All Kinds of Stop Signs

Birmingham, Alabama (Monte Dutton photos)
Birmingham, Alabama (Monte Dutton photos)

Gainesville, Texas, Friday, April 15, 2016, 11:55 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s been a hectic, fun, and, of course, exhausting few days. I haven’t had a chance to write anything till now, and there’s a good chance posting on this motel wi-fi is going to be iffy.

You’ll know it’s on my site because, uh, you’re reading it now.

I’m the emcee of a charity event put on by VISTO of Cooke County, which, in turn, provides for needy kids hereabouts. I have participated in this for quite a few years now. It’s been in the fall and spring — last year it was in May — and gone from being Pawlessfet to Concert for VISTO, and now it’s part of a broader festival.

In addition to picking lucky numbers, introducing music acts, and the like, I’m scheduled to play a half-hour set on Saturday night at 5. I’ve many friends out here, and, as a general rule and now that NASCAR doesn’t bring me to Texas anymore, this is the only time I see them.

Many thanks to many of my friends in NASCAR for donating items for the silent auction. They are much appreciated and effectively used.

DSCF2548I like to have a 58-year-old man’s meager version of adventure on trips. I try not to do much in the way of planning. In past years, I’ve watched the Mississippi Braves, Montgomery Biscuits, and Frisco Roughriders in action.

This time, I drove from home to Birmingham, Alabama, where I saw the Barons and the Tennessee Smokies play a Southern League version of White Sox-Cubs — Smokies (Cubs) won, 7-0 — and, as seems to happen amazingly often in baseball, spectated something I’d never spectated before.

The dog was the Barons' MVP on Wednesday night.
The dog was the Barons’ MVP on Wednesday night.

In the fourth inning — by then, my scoresheets had been put away because it was lightly raining — the first Birmingham batter singled, stole second and was picked off second. The next Birmingham better also singled, stole second and was picked off second. They might want to pay attention to how that worked, you know, for next time.

DSCF2545I also enjoyed some ribs a few blocks from the stadium at a place called Rib It Up, and I knew I was going to be in business because I was the only white person in the joint. Because I am, at least passably on this trip, dieting, I ordered slaw and green beans on the side, and the man behind the counter asked me if I wanted cornbread, rolls or loaf bread. I should have said, “I’m fine, thanks,” but I said cornbread.

When the ribs came, he’d given me turnip greens instead of green beans, and, apparently, he read my mind because, ever since I’d decided to splurge on the cornbread, I’d wished I’d ordered greens.

It was a fortuitous mistake I’d made.

Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee

I decided to leave the game early because the rain was picking up, and I used my mobile phone to look ahead to Thursday’s activities, at which point I discovered that the game in Memphis between the Redbirds and the Oklahoma City Dodgers, a Triple-A game, started at 11:05 a.m. instead of 7:05 p.m.

DSCF2574Oh, boy. I drove part of way to Memphis through the rain and got a room in a place called Hamilton, Alabama, and all I know about it is the Days Inn. I got up and drove to Memphis, where I discovered that the reason it had a morning start was because it was a school kids’ game, as indicated by a fleet of schoolbuses impeding my path into a lovely stadium.

DSCF2570With school kids, you will find there is literally dancing in the aisles.

This Triple-A Dodgers-Cardinals clash was splendid. The Dodgers led, 2-0, from the third inning, until the home eighth, when the Redbirds tied it on Jacob Wilson’s sacrifice fly. Then OKC retook the lead on catcher Micah Johnson’s single.

DSCF2581The Dodgers’ fourth hurler, whose last name was Tsau, retired the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth, but Dean Anna walked, Matt Williams (no, not that one) singled, a pinch-hitter name Ohlman walked, third baseman Jonathan Rodriguez doubled, and that was all I wrote on my scoresheet and all she wrote, too, whoever she was.

DSCF2576Birmingham and Tennessee are in the Southern League, which makes abundant sense. Memphis and Oklahoma City are inexplicably in the Pacific Coast League, which I suppose makes the Pacific Coast the east bank of the Mississippi River.

“Goodbye, that’s all she wrote” comes from the Johnny Cash-June Carter version of “Jackson,” where two Southern League teams (Mississippi Braves and Jackson, Tennessee, Generals) reside.

Lest I forget, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood also cut “Jackson.”

When last I left Clinton High School, this was the scene. The Red Devils have since ran their winning streak to 14 games. Strangely, the rain seems to have accompanied me east to west.
When last I left Clinton High School, this was the scene. The Red Devils have since run their winning streak to 14 games. Strangely, the rain seems to have accompanied me east to west.

You can’t have too much adventure for me, though, so, even though I didn’t have to be in Gainesville until tonight, I took off across Arkansas at 3 p.m., stopped south of Little Rock at a huge buffet and general store where once, I noted from the photos on the walls leading to the restrooms, Billy Bob Thornton stopped to eat.

What a shame I didn’t bring any eight-by-10 glossies.

The Redbirds came back under the mascot's watchful eye.
The Redbirds came back under the mascot’s watchful eye.

U.S. 82, from just south of Texarkana to Gainesville and beyond, is a highway of innumerable changes in speed limits, ranging from 45 to 75, and I was strung out on coffee of the strongest truck-stop kind.

I started driving at 6:30 a.m., watched a ballgame in the sunshine, and checked into this motel at about 11 p.m.

Now that’s adventure.

For some reason, I can’t get the coffee machine in this room to work.

(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. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

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

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.

Trying to Get Reacquainted with the Old Microphone

Rhythms on Trade, Greer, South Carolina (Monte Dutton photos)
Rhythms on Trade, Greer, South Carolina (Monte Dutton photos)
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 10, 2016, 11:11 a.m.

The highlight of many recent years has taken place in Texas, hard against the Red River and the Oklahoma border, in a small city known as Gainesville, where my friend Vince Pawless builds his remarkable handmade guitars and raises money for a Cooke County charitable organization called VISTO.

Next month, when, by rule, my income taxes must be completed, I will likely make my lonely way across the South, gearing the route either south through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, or drifting north through North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Or some combination of the two. It may depend on which minor league baseball teams are playing at home. I’ve already uncovered possibilities in Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson, Tennessee. Two years ago, I watched the Mississippi Braves play near the other Jackson and the Frisco Roughriders north of Dallas, Texas, last year. Three or four years back, I saw the Montgomery Biscuits get figuratively slathered in molasses.

Gainesville, Texas
Gainesville, Texas

I will serve as the master of ceremonies for something known as VISTO Days 2016. I’m opening a concert on Saturday night in the State Theater.

I’ve been taking part in this hootenanny for enough years to have forgotten exactly how many. It started out in the country as Pawlessfest. For a year it was at an indoor arena at the fairgrounds. Now it’s part of a general festival that raises money to help kids in Cooke County. Playing songs for a half hour or so will be a minor part of the job. More important will be hyping the various activities, drawing tickets out of a box, or a hat, or something, introducing bands, and snapping the occasional photo or video from the wings.

My experience is that being an emcee requires a knack for keeping things on schedule while being as little of a jerk as possible. Last year wasn’t one of my better performances, but there wasn’t really enough for me to do. I was planning on passing it up this year, but Vince wrote me an email before I wrote him one, and realized I needed more to do, and promised me I would have it.

In other words, I’ve gotten what I wished for, also known as, possibly, enough rope to hang. Fortunately, I’ve been to rodeos before. It would be great if this was one.

Click right up. Read all about it: http://www.vistoevents.com/#!2016-concert-for-visto/c1fx5

DSCF2128Now that I don’t hop, skip and jump around the country regularly, I also don’t play as much music onstage. Back in the NASCAR days, I regularly played at little joints — barbecue, seafood, sports bar, combination of the three — near tracks, and a few people would stop because they’d heard of me or because they were fellow gypsies on the world’s fastest carnival circuit. Sometimes they’d even drink enough to think I was good.

It’s still over a month away, but, man, I’ve been planning. I’ve been taking breaks from writing things like books to play my guitar and practice songs and what I’m going to say while wandering among them. I felt like I needed to play music in front of people, so last night I drove up to Greer and played a couple tunes at Singer/Songwriter Night at a wonderful music venue known as Rhythms on Trade. The last time I was there, it was Rhythm & Brews. Undoubtedly, the new name has something to do with it being located on Trade Street, but a lot of people were there trading rhythms.

It was a talented 15-year-old, Zelena Hull, who I had met last fall there, who sent a social-media message out noting that she and her mother, Valerie, were going to participate. That was Monday or Tuesday. On Tuesday, I started thinking about it, and, on Wednesday, I decided to go, and I became sure of it when I got about 10 miles up Interstate 26 and had no defensible reason to turn back.

So, I had chicken wings and two Michelob Ultras, the latter being because I’m dieting and hadn’t had a beer at all in … months. The wings may have made me bolder, and the beer may have relaxed me, but I wasn’t aware of it. It wasn’t until I got through playing that I realized it may have been the first time ever that I played music in front of a crowd without being nervous. I was so relaxed, I didn’t notice it.

DSCF2130It was a nice crowd. Zelena has the youthful urgency of a kid who desperately wants to show the world how good she is. There was a rocker from Ohio, and several who’ve spent their entire lives in Greer or nearby, and a veteran musician who beat a drug addiction and decided, what the hell, sober I might be able to write some good songs because, hey, I got some real good material.

They were all right, which led me to say, several times, “All right!”

DSCF2133The other time I was there was last fall, and I didn’t remember what songs I played, but Zelena and her mother both remembered “Scuppernongs and Muscadines,” and though that memory proved that they liked it, I didn’t want anybody to say that I did all right but played the same two songs every time. I’ve got at least two dozen I could just play right off, and probably that many more that require a few run-throughs because I’ve damn near forgotten I wrote them.

I went with old standbys, though. I performed an inspirational song, “Your Independence Day,” and then hyped my novels, so that the patrons could understand I have more to fall back on than my idiosyncratic fingers bumping a row of strings. Valerie was kind enough to video my “set,” and I returned the favor by shooting Zelena’s. I got home and spent half the night editing the video on YouTube. Here’s “Your Independence Day”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooXMMkLcxr4

DSCF2135I finished with one of the first songs I wrote after I achieved the necessary goal of being able to play a guitar roughly halfway. The first verse of “There You Are” is made up of observations of people I used to encounter in NASCAR media centers. Then it moves on to various and sundry other foolishness.

Here’s “There You Are”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTRglclX0Xg

I’m quite pleased, which is unusual, because, ever since I wrote a book about musicians and songwriters, I’ve been painfully aware of how bad I am.

I was relaxed, though, not just acting like it. I’m good at acting like it. The sudden profusion of sweat keeps me from fooling myself. Last night, I was goose-like loose. Wait. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I wasn’t that kind of loose. I was relaxed, and, as a result, bold with my voice, and playing it, as an instrument, much better than the one hanging from my neck.

I might just go somewhere and play music tonight.

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

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, 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 (soon) four of them a read.

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

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

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.

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

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

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

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. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

The Rare Road Trip

Bugs on the windshield, sun in the eyes ... but at least I wasn't texting. (Monte Dutton photo)
Bugs on the windshield, sun in the eyes … but at least I wasn’t texting. (Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Bossier City, Louisiana, Thursday, May 14, 2015, 9:02 p.m.

Today I passed by hundreds of “historic” places of which I had never heard. Twice I got stopped dead in traffic, and neither was in a large city. I timed my trip around Atlanta perfectly, but it was before I got to Atlanta that I came to a near standstill twice.

I-20 is crumbling, especially around Jackson, Mississippi, where it’s a little like riding a roller coaster. The word is “undulations.” If an automobile race were held on that stretch of the highway, Robby Gordon would be the favorite.

I've been writing all along.
I’ve been writing all along.

I haven’t taken a long road trip in a while. I had barely gotten started before two casual drivers but serious texters put me in a bind. Exiting on I-85 near Greenville, South Carolina, a car in the right lane going about 40 miles an hour forced me to get on the brakes. When a line of cars finally roared by and I had enough time to move over without being overrun, I saw that a man driving a black Honda Civic was texting furiously but driving ponderously.

Once I was rid of him, I passed a woman, who looked like Sandy Dennis 40 years ago, only that I never saw the late Miss Dennis with a white dog in her lap while she texted earnestly and drove frivolously.

After that, I made a point not to look.

This trip was supposed to start on Wednesday, so I’m a little hurried. Once I planned to stop in Mississippi to watch a baseball game, but I’ve got a task to complete near Dallas on Friday, and a need to be up near the Oklahoma border on Saturday morning, and I had to put off my departure a day. I made it almost to Texas and would have had not rain appeared likely up ahead, so I pulled off, got a room, and played some tunes on my guitar for a family out by the pool.

Northern Louisiana is as flat as Kansas, but the road is, too, unlike Mississippi. In this age of neglected infrastructure, Louisiana’s stretch of I-20 seems to be in better shape than all the other states – South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi – that I passed through.

I’m going to be farther from Charlotte Motor Speedway in my mind on Saturday night than I am in distance. Here’s hoping the Sprint All-Star Race is an all-star race for a change. I’ll get my friends to tell me all about it.

Tomorrow I’ll see “Miles and Miles of Texas.” I heard the Asleep at the Wheel version today. I think I’ll cue the iPod in the morning and listen to Jerry Jeff Walker as soon as I cross the border.

Take a look at my books, fiction and non, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Chase of Fools

Jimmie Johnson coolly captured the race of No Limits. No one else was cool, let alone calm. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson coolly captured the race of No Limits. No one else was cool, let alone calm. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 3, 2014, 10:18 a.m. Okay, first things first. As to the sordid affair that occurred last night after the race in No Limits, Texas, let’s make a few points

A number of observers believe a typical short-track race is what occurs when NASCAR drivers who know nothing about dirt, race at Eldora, and for some of the observers, this is true because it’s the only dirt track where they have ever been.

It wasn’t typical of local short tracks, as my friend Rick Minter pointed out this morning. “There’s one big difference,” Rick said. “If you act like that at a local track, you spend the night in jail.”

The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977. He wasn't a fighter. He was a lover.
The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977. He wasn’t a fighter. He was a lover.

It wasn’t typical of the good, old days, either. If you think Petty, Pearson, Cale, Bobby, Fireball, and D.W. behaved like that three nights a week for two decades, you are sadly mistaken. That was an age in which drivers often had to fix what they tore up and, one way or another, pay for it.

The biggest reason was that they were working-class heroes, not rich punks. The reason the brawl at the 1979 Daytona 500 is remembered so vividly is that it happened infrequently, unlike the present wrestling circuit, where it happens twice in three weeks.

However, if the Etch a Sketch format had been in place, it would have happened more often “back in the day.” What is happening now is similar to the difference between Let’s Make a Deal and a video game. The championship that used to be behind Door Number Three is now a matter of avoiding the banana peels in Super Mario Karts. In other words, NASCAR’s Imperial Hierarchy is experiencing a great example of the old saying, “Watch what you ask for. You might just get it.” They didn’t know “have at it, boys” had a nuclear option, right up until they legislated it with the Etch a Sketch.

Brad Keselowski is under fire for shaking the Etch a Sketch too vigorously. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski is under fire for shaking the Etch a Sketch too vigorously. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Really, no one in the competing class is wrong, and no one is right. Everyone is out of his mind. Brad Keselowski, who must win in order to advance, did everything he possibly could to do so. He tried to bust through a hole that closed. When he said, “There was a hole, and I went for. It closed up, and we bounced off each other, and [I] kept going. It was just a battle for a win,” he was telling the truth. “I came here to race, not to fight. I raced as hard as I could, and these guys just didn’t like it.” Of course, they didn’t. That’s the plan.

Kevin Harvick has been known to stir things up. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick has been known to stir things up. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

“It’s being played rough,” said Kevin Harvick, who despite finishing second, is eighth going to Phoenix. “It’s one of those deals where everybody is trying to get everything they can. You just do everything you can do to do the best for your team.” Gordon’s hope of advancing is suddenly precarious. “I had to show my displeasure,” he said. “It got ugly down there, obviously, and, you know, that is all right. A lot of things are going to happen in the next couple of weeks.

Were you aware this man sometimes cusses? (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Were you aware this man sometimes cusses? (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

“It’s emotion that is a part of this Chase and this format, as well as towards people that make dumb decisions. He (KeselowskI) has been making a lot of them lately. That’s why people have been running after him and chasing him down. It’s why his team has got to defend him over there because of what he does on the race track.

“I am so proud of my team, and I’m proud of Jimmie Johnson for winning that race and not letting that little you-know-what win that race.”

“You know what” apparently translates as “dipshit” because that’s the word Gordon used on TV before he cooled down. “To them (NASCAR), I’m sure it’s a ‘racing incident,’ but, to me, it’s just a bunch of crap,” he also said, so he hadn’t cooled down that much, just enough not to say “shit” again.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Martinsville. Guess what? He no longer gets to shake the Etch a Sketch. Johnson won at No Limits. He’s out of contention, too. It works pretty well for them, other than, oh, the championship part. They’ve got no pressure, and most all the etchers and the sketchers are pissed off at one another.

Just what is NASCAR to do? Its customized Frankenstein is aliiiiiive. Someone at NASCAR should have watched Bridge on the River Kwai. It’s too late to say, as Colonel Nicholson did, “My God. What have I done?”

The chief influence on the Etch a Sketch apparently was Days of Thunder and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which was named for a track where there are no races at night and doesn’t have a ballad. Oh, I like them, but, as movies, not real life. I don’t really want to see Keselowski dancing around naked on imaginary fire. Most of the time, it ticks me off when every shoving match involving a couple overheated NASCAR drivers is ridiculed on all the shows, Today, Nightly News, Fox & Friends, Good Morning America, Letterman, Fallon, Kimmel, et al., that wouldn’t normally give either NASCAR or an NBA clash of elbows a decent mention.

But this! By God, they looked like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street just happened to schedule marches in opposite directions on the Gettysburg battlefield. Or the main drag in Ferguson. It’s a good thing they hadn’t unlocked the rifles in No Limits Victory Lane yet. It wasn’t tough. It was infantile. They’d better be glad it wasn’t the checkout lane at Walmart, or else they’d really have had a rumble on their hands.

I think I’m going to fiction because this is too strange. If you get a chance, take an occasional look at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com or shop for my books, fiction and non, at: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1414631316&sr=1-1

What I Didn’t Do

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 6:45 p.m.

I’m home again. It’s been nine days, mostly on the road. I spent seven nights in four hotels and one on a friend’s couch. I drove the following interstate highways: 26, 385, 185, 85, 75, 20, 59, 55, 10, 49, 30, 40, 440, 35E, 35, 24, 65 and the future 66. My pickup has 2,864 new miles.

I’ll fill some blanks as to what I did in the next few days. At the moment, what seems compelling is all I missed. I’ve had a lot of long, long days, the longest of which was serving as emcee at A Day & Night for VISTO in Gainesville, Texas. I also made a drive from there all the way to Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d make it all the way, but I’m glad I did. I spent two nights there and that was beneficial.

Hey, it's good to be back home again.
Hey, it’s good to be back home again.

Most of the long days were on the road. I watched two minor-league baseball games and listened to a fantastic college game (South Carolina-Vanderbilt) while driving across southern Louisiana. I sold a few books and T-shirts. I played songs, onstage and in a living room. Mostly, though, I listened to music, and while listening to music, I lost all touch with most of the pastimes I usually follow closely.

I know the Boston Red Sox have collapsed, but I lack the gory details. I know California Chrome won the Preakness and Jamie McMurray the Sprint All-Star Race. I know which teams are playing in the NBA and NHL but don’t know where the series stand.

It hasn’t rained much. When I was in Mississippi, it drizzled during a ballgame, but the only times the wipers were ever on in nine days were to clear bug wreckage.

In the last half hour driving home, I listened on satellite radio to the announcement of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame inductees.

The weather has improved enough for construction crews’ taste, and traffic jams in the middle of nowhere were common. I think Arkansas is bad luck for me, going back several years.

About my only creative achievement was the promising start of a new short story, composed on Monday morning in Nashville. (I’ve also got another short story to finish.)

Now that I’m back home, it’s going to be difficult to get back to writing. There are bills to pay, records to keep, lawns to mow, clothes to wash and dry, and trash to dump.

But it’s good to be back in this chair, behind this laptop, with the Red Sox on TV.

[cb_profit_poster Baseball]

Holding Things Together

Presumably, this is the home of the Fairmont Cyclones, though I don't actually know where the cover photo was taken.
Presumably, this is the home of the Fairmont Cyclones, though I don’t actually know where the cover photo was taken.
[cb_profit_poster Lotto]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 10:20 a.m.

Two steps forward. One step back. That wouldn’t have been acceptable to my high-school football coach. The slogans on Keith Richardson’s locker-room walls gave my latter novel its name. Those slogans were the original Intangibles.

Hit and Don’t Be Hit!

Any Old Nag Can Start but It Takes a Thoroughbred to Finish!

Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All.

If You Won’t Be Beat, You Can’t Be Beat!

This is where the Clinton Red Devils play.
This is where the Clinton Red Devils play.
It’s unnecessary for me to tell his former players that Fairmont High School’s Reese Knighton is loosely based on Clinton High School’s Keith Richardson. The stories aren’t the same – truth isn’t stranger than fiction here, though it was just as extraordinary – but suffice it to say that Knighton and Richardson would have liked each other.

Or they may have been bitter enemies. Richardson once told me that “the hardest thing in the world is being friends with those you compete against.”

There’s a little bit of that in The Intangibles, too.

On the other hand, Richardson wasn’t a head coach in 1968, and the schools here didn’t fully integrate until 1970. He never changed the uniform numbers to the ones no one wanted. He never went through a major controversy regarding a player deemed ineligible. A lot of The Intangibles’ major characters – Click Clowney, Preston Shipley, the Leverette twins, Ned Whitesides – were completely invented. A lot of them weren’t, but there’s not one carbon copy. Some of it is based on what really happened. Some of it isn’t.

Football is useful in life, but life isn’t as simple. Life isn’t a football game. It’s more a season.

Right now I’ve got my nose to the grindstone (yet it’s not bleeding). I’m writing as much as I can. I’ve got a third novel, Crazy by Natural Causes, standing on the sideline and hoping to go in. I’m working on a couple junior varsity novels, in progress, and I hope they’ll be ready for varsity play. I’m toughening them up. They’re getting there. Deadly Arrogance is the outrageous story of a good cop and a bad solicitor. (What we call solicitors here, others call district attorneys.) Cowboys Come Home is about what happens to a couple of heroes when they come home from the war. It’s a modern western.

The Audacity of Dope's plot is ignited by an incident on an airplane.
The Audacity of Dope’s plot is ignited by an incident on an airplane.
The Audacity of Dope’s main character, Riley Mansfield, lived in Henry, S.C., though he didn’t spend much time there. The Intangibles was set in Fairmont. Both towns are a lot like this one. Crazy by Natural Causes is set in the hills of Kentucky. Its home base, Elmore, is a bit more imaginary than Henry and Fairmont. Deadly Arrogance moves back to South Carolina, where it resides in Latimohr. Cowboys Come Home is set in a real town, Gainesville, Texas, though I never, for obvious reasons, spent any time there in 1945-46. It’s about a post-war conflict between oilmen and ranchers. As best I can tell, it has no basis in any real incident, and none of the characters is based on anyone real, or at least not specifically.

I really need to start chipping away at my taxes. I need to catch up on my accounting. A stack of bills needs addressing (no, I’m sorry, those are the envelopes). I’m obsessed about those two new projects, though. I’m writing this blog right now as a means of warming up for another chapter of Cowboys Come Home. Yesterday’s work on Deadly Arrogance accelerated the plot. What’s rattling around in my mind this morning is a really crucial chapter of Cowboys Come Home. It may not get done today, and it may take more than one chapter. That’s what happens when a very general outline becomes a first draft, not to mention a very detailed outline.

Unlike a football team, my sights aren’t set on a championship yet. I’m dreaming of having more money coming in than going out.

My whole life I’ve done what I loved and managed to make a living. It gets harder with time, though.

I’ve got a couple of book signings coming up, Shelby, N.C., on January 23 and Georgetown, S.C., on January 25. Give me a few minutes, and I’ll get the “events” on this site updated.
[cb_profit_poster Baseball]

A Wellspring of Soap

Montreal, Quebec, from a visit a few years back when I could afford to do such things.
Montreal, Quebec, from a visit a few years back when I could afford to do such things.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 10:15 a.m.

Hondo Crouch was the maverick who turned Luchenbach, Texas, into a delightful little meeting place for musicians. I learned about him because he was a pal of Jerry Jeff Walker, one of my icons. I even read a book about Crouch that I picked up at the Luckenbach gift shop.

 

I wish I had a photo of me playing at Luckenbach. This was at a coffeehouse in Belmont, N.C., back in 2009, I think.
I wish I had a photo of me playing at Luckenbach. This was at a coffeehouse in Belmont, N.C., back in 2009, I think.

Luckenbach is kind of a mecca for lovers of Texas country music. I’ve been there three times, once to see Jerry Jeff at the dancehall and twice to just sit around, have a beer or two and play my guitar. People do that at all hours of the day and night, or did when I happened by. I wasn’t near as good a guitarist then as now, which is kind of scary. Realizing my limitations, I was a bit bashful and sat on a bench outside, near the parking lot, and played a few songs that attracted a few passers-by. A friendly woman saw me, listened a little and said, “Come on back here in the back. Hell, you’re as good as them fellers.”

This is all just to lead up to why I’m struggling to get this blog written today. Hondo used to write columns in a local newspaper, and sometimes he closed by writing, “Oh, well, I’m out of soap,” or something like that.

I’m kind of out of soap.

Yesterday, I finished off the requirements for my upcoming “blog tour.” I’m going out on the road, too, to promote my novel, The Intangibles, but for the first half of December, various notices concerning my novel are going to appear on dozens of websites. This blitz means that I have to write background pieces, provide some short excerpts from the novel and conduct interviews. Yesterday I wrote a NASCAR blog for this site and, essentially, three more blogs about The Intangibles.

Hence the erosion of my soap.

10:32 a.m.

It’s said that an artist has to suffer. I tried to figure out who said it, but it became such a tangle over who said it first that I gave up.

It seems to me that the notion has fallen into disfavor, but insofar as my novels are concerned, the suffering of life has helped. Readers of The Intangibles will likely suspect this.

Sometimes a writer has to peer into the darkness.
Sometimes a writer has to peer into the darkness.

I didn’t have to suffer to write Postcards from Pit Road, my account of the 2002 NASCAR season. The suffering came when it didn’t sell better. I’ve known that brand several times.

If my fiction were different, maybe the suffering wouldn’t help. Maybe if I wrote historical novels in which all the characters were completely based on real people, I could approach it from a detached viewpoint. If I wrote by a formula of some sort, maybe it would be a matter of just cranking out the words and waiting for the check. Perhaps I might get more of them if I did it that way. Perhaps that would be possible if I weren’t so hardheaded.

Perhaps it’s a matter of what kind of suffering. I don’t suffer when I write. In fact, it’s just about as happy as I get. I love to follow my story line and try to think through the minds of the characters as I write about them. I get to know them as a means of making their actions plausible.

When I wrote The Audacity of Dope, I was imagining myself as Riley Mansfield, and it was a cool place to be. Most readers liked him, which was good to know because so did I.

But, no, I don’t have to write with a bucket of ice and a quart of bourbon at the ready. I’m positive that wouldn’t work for me. I’d undoubtedly write passionate, sloppy nonsense. I read a fair number of biographies, some of which provide at least as much horror as Stephen King. The vision of Tennessee Williams, staggering around his Key West cottage, drinking from the bottle and cranking out Orpheus Descending, is astonishing in one way but farcical in another. I imagine waking up with my head resting on the keyboard and “h” printed 300,000 times on the manuscript. I think headache. And nausea. I can’t see it working for me.

What I do believe is that it’s helped me as a writer to have lived through so much craziness. While writing The Intangibles, I remembered incidents that had been buried deep in my past, and some of them found their way into it.

Thanks to my life, and my times, there’s plenty more where that came from.

I appreciate your taking time out from your busy day to read what comes to my mind.

[cb_profit_poster Speak1]