I Feel Like I’ve Gotta Travel On

(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, January 13, 2017, 10:52 a.m.

I haven’t been to a race track since Homestead, Florida, at the end of 2012. On January 4, 2013, the Gaston Gazette informed that my position would be discontinued on … January 4, 2013. When I think about it, it still grinds my innards.

By Monte Dutton

It’s been a while. It shows. When Carl Edwards announced his decision to step away from NASCAR, it somehow made me think about stepping back.

I realized how much I miss by not being there. I’ve been writing from home for The Bleacher Report and competitionplus.com for quite some time now. I realized it was more difficult, but the Edwards incident underscored how much the loss of the intimacy of being there was costing me. Jeff Gordon’s gone. Tony Stewart. Now Edwards. A generation is changing, and it’s a generation I’m missing just by reading transcripts and watching TV.

It set me to thinking, and that is often a dangerous thing.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

I’ve decided I’m willing to go back, at least on occasion. That, of course, doesn’t mean I will. I must have said a hundred times on radio shows, discussions with friends, etc., that everyone seems to want me back except anyone who could do anything about it.

I am well aware that the business has passed me by. I’m not sure there’s a journalism market for me any more. That’s why I went home to anonymity in the first place.

So, as you may have heard someone say to you before, if you hear anything …

(Alan Marler/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Why? Why? Why?

I’m finally tired of home. For the longest time, the surprise was that I didn’t miss racing more. When I was on the beat, I used to say that I’d been a gypsy so long that I wasn’t fit for anything else. It finally hit me over the past few weeks. I’m tired of being nobody. In retrospect, the cockeyed version of normality in my life was three days at home and four on the road.

The words I can’t believe are coming from my fingers: I miss travel. I have, however, visited such burgeoning metropoles as Saluda, Newberry, and Seneca during 2016. I even drove through Clemson once.

(Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Writing fiction means observing things other than Andy Griffith reruns on Sundance TV. As the late, great Hondo Crouch once wrote, “I’m out of soap.” The context might be helpful.

I’ve loved writing about local sports. It’s drying up, though. I don’t know why NASCAR should be any different. As noted above, it could be I.

As this has always been too low a priority in my mind, I held it back. I could use the money to grease the rusty skids of writing fiction. The royalties are rather sporadic.

I’m tired of slow pay and broken commitments. Last summer, I took a part-time job covering Laurens County for a nearby daily. I was happy with it because it was just about exactly as much as I wanted to write. I took it with the agreement that it would be year-round, not just football. That’s right. When football ended, it was, “Let’s rethink this thing.” Now, of course, losing that gig made it difficult to regain others, in spite of claims to the contrary.

So … to quote an old Johnny Horton song (and wish the subject was his, not mine):

I’m ready / If you’re willing!

(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. Note that my fourth, and best selling, novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is on Kindle sale at $.99 through December 31. 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).

‘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.


Between Here and the Trip

Gainesville, Texas
Gainesville, Texas

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 26, 2016, 1:05 p.m.

Occasionally, I just want to scream. (John Clark photo)
Occasionally, I just want to scream. (John Clark photo)

Basketball is almost over. High school and college baseball is at its peak. MLB is just a little over a week away. NASCAR is off for Easter. It’s drizzling outside. The Red Sox are playing the Orioles in an exhibition game. My grass is freshly cut. My mother’s lawn awaits the next clear day.

Life goes on. Flowers bloom. I came across my favorite headline of the year so far: “Jesus Isn’t a Passing Fad.”

I can’t imagine anyone — not atheists or agnostics, or Muslims, or Jews, or ISIL, or Satan — who considers Jesus a passing fad. Fads cannot last for centuries.

Easter, for instance. It’s been around for quite a while.

This rugged hurler guards the entrance to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. (Monte Dutton photo)
This rugged hurler guards the entrance to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. (Monte Dutton photos, unless otherwise noted)

In a few weeks, I’m going on my annual trip. I’m going to watch some minor league baseball. I may visit the home of an author. I’m going to play some songs, and draw numbers out of hats. I’m going to listen to music better than mine. This trip used to be in September, back when trips were common. Then it moved to May, and this year it’s in April. It used to be out in the country. Then it moved to an indoor livestock arena. Now it’s right downtown, and there are baking contests and silent auctions, and it’s all to benefit the kids in a small county that I would know almost nothing about except that a great friend and lots of good ones live there.

Montgomery first baseman Cameron Seitzer, a couple years back in Jackson, Mississippi.
Montgomery first baseman Cameron Seitzer, a couple years back in Jackson, Mississippi.

Right now I’m planning for the trip by not planning it. I don’t like to head off across range that’s been fenced in. I could probably save some money if I committed myself right now to being in Jackson, Tennessee, or Jackson, Mississippi, or Shreveport, Louisiana, by Wednesday or Thursday night, but I I’d rather make up my mind as I go along. It’ll be lonely enough without being lonely by design.

I hope to see some sights that will provide the spark for fiction or music. The latter is probably more likely on the trip. Something about trips lead to songs.

I’ve still got two full weeks and half another. Major projects must be completed between now and then. The first draft of a fifth novel. Taxes. Getting novels three and four into print editions, where presently they only exist in electronic devices. They’re all major undertakings.

As singeth the Statler Brothers, “Uh, don’t tell me … I’ve nothing to do …”

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

The release date of my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is Tuesday, March 29. It will have been eight months and eight days since the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. You can order Trespasses in advance here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

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

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. 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. Crazy of Natural Causes is, at the moment, on sale for $1.99. Limited time only! It’s a download. Supplies are unlimited. Oddly enough, it goes off $1.99 sale on the date my new novel is released. I wonder if that was the plan.

(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.

(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.

For My Clemson Friends, Bound for Phoenix and Brimming with Dreams of Glory

South Mountain State Park, overlooking Phoenix. (Monte Dutton photo)
South Mountain State Park, overlooking Phoenix. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, January 5, 2016, 10:06 a.m.

Based on my social-media feed, I would estimate that approximately 10,000 people from here in town are going to watch Clemson play Alabama for the national college football championship in Glendale, Arizona on January 11.

Wait. Only 8,000 people live in Clinton. Okay, 8,000 people are going to Arizona. Well, 7,999. I’m not. It sure is going to be lonely.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Fortunately, I have been to Phoenix — Glendale is a suburb, a little to the west of downtown — both downtowns, since Phoenix has two — and then there are Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, and even Avondale, which is even farther west, little more than a crossroads, and where Phoenix International Raceway is located.

For twenty years, I wrote about NASCAR races at PIR. I started traveling out there in 1993, and the track started hosting two annual races in 2005. I don’t think I went to all of them, but I didn’t miss many. Twenty is a conservative estimate.

For a while, each year a friend and I had ourselves a little adventure by driving from the race in Fort Worth, Texas, one week, to Phoenix the next. They are back-to-back in the fall, and, one year, when the schedule fell the same way in the spring, I even made the trip twice. I took different routes. I stopped at national parks and monuments. I visited Billy the Kid’s grave in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, one year and had a hard time shaking Morman missionaries on the campus of New Mexico State in Las Cruces. I passed on the Book of Mormon but purchased a book on Billy the Kid. That was on one of the two trips I made alone.

It's a desert. A painted desert. In Arizona. (Monte Dutton photo)
It’s a desert. A painted desert. In Arizona. (Monte Dutton photo)

A few days ago, on Facebook, a “friend” noted that, according to his GPS, it was 1,981 miles from here to Phoenix. The reason he noted that was that the other time the Tigers won the national championship, it was 1981. Most responses assumed that person was himself driving to Phoenix. I hope not. If so, this blog is too late, unless, of course, he, family, and friends are presently able to get a signal between Midland and El Paso, where there are just a few more people than there are on the moon.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico (Monte Dutton photo)
El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico (Monte Dutton photo)

What I hope to do is give you — the many, the excessively proud, the members of IPTAY, which was originally “I Pay Ten a Year” but is now probably, oh, “I Pay Tenmillion a Year,” and it’s still IPTAY because IPTMAY is impossible for people who put a P in Clemson to pronounce — a few pointers for your Phoenix trip.

First of all, I hope it is better than my senior year in high school, when my entire family, and Big Don Fulmer, got up on Saturday after I had played football on Friday night, and drove to Tuscaloosa, in Granddaddy’s Cadillac, wearing a bumper sticker that read: CLEMSON-ALABAMA, THE DAY THE TIDE DIED.

That bumper sticker wasn’t on the Cadillac long.

What do I remember about that game? (1.) The Tigers spent much of the game in the shadow of their own goalpost; (2.) The Crimson Tide blocked Clemson’s first two punts; (3.) George Wallace was at the game and waved to the crowd from his wheelchair; (4.) The stadium’s name was changed from Denny Stadium to Bryant-Denny Stadium that night; (5.) Alabama eked out a 58-0 victory over Clemson; and (6.) After the season ended, Red Parker was no longer Clemson’s head coach.

Parker just died. May he rest in peace. I thought he did a great job running Tiger Football Camp, though it failed miserably in turning me into a blue-chipper.

That was a long time ago, and much has changed.

Sedona, Arizona. (Monte Dutton)
Sedona, Arizona. (Monte Dutton)

Regardless, don’t just go to Phoenix, Arizona, a unique part of America, and hang out with other fans and the Tiger Band, yelling cheers that you have been yelling every week, all year long.

Be careful, by the way. Imagine Buford Pusser (Walking Tall) being sheriff of a major city. That is Joe Arpaio, the 83-year-old law of Maricopa County. He is the most powerful figure out there. If you see him — let’s hope not — ask him. He’ll tell you how powerful he is. I heard him talk all about it one time after one of his deputies arrested Kurt Busch near the track.

Go see the Coyotes play hockey or the Suns play basketball. The hockey arena is near the football stadium. Or go see the Sun Devils play in Tempe. By all means, go to Tempe. Arizona State University has dazzling scenery, and most of it is human.

Because flying is better from a distance, I used to enjoy watching planes land and take off at Sky Harbor International Airport from South Mountain State Park south of Phoenix. (Monte Dutton photo)
Because flying is better from a distance, I used to enjoy watching planes land and take off at Sky Harbor International Airport from South Mountain State Park south of Phoenix. (Monte Dutton photo)

Many will tell you to go up north to Camelback Mountain, and that’s good, but my recommendation would be to take a drive in the other direction to South Mountain State Park. I think it can be directly entered by driving down Central Avenue from the city.

After winding up the mountain, near the summit is a vista offering a spectacular view of the valley below. It always reminded me of the scene from Patton when the general is watching the advance of Rommel’s tanks in South Africa, only the view from South Mountain is of skyscrapers, and airliners landing at Sky Harbor flying at a lower altitude than the adobe hut up on South Mountain.

Phoenix thoroughfares are mainly a grid. They are straight except when interrupted by hills rising up out of the vast expanse known as the Valley of the Sun.

All the latitudinal streets have names like Van Buren, Camelback, McDowell, Buckeye, etc. The one longitudinal street name is Central, which is apt. The streets to the west of Central are numbered avenues; to the east are numbered streets.

A scene from the road to Phoenix, southeast of Tucson. (Monte Dutton)
A scene from the road to Phoenix, southeast of Tucson. (Monte Dutton)

The Mexican food in Arizona is not that of which you are presently accustomed. It’s good, but it’s a little hotter, and the names are different. It is Sonoran, not Tex-Mex. On menus, there are no burritos. There are, however, “burros,” and you will be relieved to know they are not stuffed with meat that once brayed. This may make you a bit cautious in deciding whether or not to sample the cuisine. I recommend that you do. My favorite little hideaway is called the Tepee, and it is located at 4144 East Indian School Road on the east side of Phoenix. It’s nothing fancy, just family-owned and friendly. One memory of mine is watching Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M upset Alabama while sitting in a booth. Another time local Boise State fans were gathered there. The Broncos are considerably more popular in Arizona than in South Carolina, though I’m not sure why. Idaho is a long way from Arizona, and no crow would fly it without stopping.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico. (Monte Dutton photo)
El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico. (Monte Dutton photo)

Once I watched one of the more disastrous games in Atlanta Braves history on TV at another Mexican restaurant in the area, but I don’t remember where it is because that’s when I discovered that Phoenix also has lots of New York Yankees fans, and by the end of the game, I was drunk and don’t remember anything else.

My must-see (and dine) for Clemson fans is T-Bone Steakhouse, which is as close to an authentic cowboy joint as you will find here in the modern age. It’s way out in the country, south of town, not too far from South Mountain State Park. I’ve eaten there when quarter horses were lined up at a hitching post out front. The menu is limited. I’d pass if you are vegetarian or vegan or any other terms I have never fully understood. You can order the T-Bone, the Ribeye or the Filet, and I think there’s a chicken, and maybe a seafood, option. What you order will be cooked on an open grille out front, and there is a modest salad bar, and the meal will come with a baked potato, and they’ll bring a skillet of beans for everyone to share. The prices are quite reasonable, too, which is often a factor in my dining decisions.

After races at PIR, I used to meet friends at T-Bones, which isn’t too far out of the way if you’re driving back to the city from the track. It’s located at 10037 South 19th Avenue, meaning that is 19 blocks west of Central Avenue and 38 blocks west of 19th Street. If you get within a mile and it’s dark, you’ll see the amber lights of the parking lot if you look up the hill, a little to the left.

Got it?

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)

The good news is that many authors are adept at cooking. Also, you can download it for free. The bad news is that a recipe of mine is in it. http://www.amazon.com/KP-Authors-Cook-Their-Books-ebook/dp/B0175UM12W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452098248&sr=8-1&keywords=kp+authors

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

Most of my books — including the current novel, Crazy of Natural Causes — are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

By the time you’ve finished Crazy of Natural Causes, there’s a good chance the next one, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out.

Read my blogs on fiction, other books, writing, etc., at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com.

‘I’m Thankful That Old Road Is a Friend of Mine’ *

This rugged hurler guards the entrance to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. (Monte Dutton photo)
This rugged hurler guards the entrance to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. (Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 9:51 a.m.

The trouble with this road trip was that it started too late and ended too early.

I’ve been driving to Texas for an annual charity event for years. Normally, I take my time going out there. Last year, for instance, I watched minor-league baseball in Jackson, Mississippi, and visited the home of the great writer Eudora Welty. I’ve strayed over the years through Montgomery, New Orleans and Baton Rouge to the south, and Nashville, Memphis, and Oklahoma City to the north.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

This year, I discovered on Tuesday night that I wasn’t leaving on Wednesday, thanks to an unexpected development, and, leaving on Thursday, I had to rush to get to Texas in time to visit a friend on Friday.

This is the general pattern. I really enjoy the trip out, and sometimes I plan to take my time on the way home, but that never happens because, by the time the music stops, I want to go home as much as Bobby Bare in “Detroit City.” I always get home fast, and this time I might have kept right on, straight through, till I got to Clinton at 2 in the morning, but the weather got bad and I felt it prudent to call it a night just this side of Birmingham. It was just about the same as the way out, when I drove all the way to Shreveport, knowing I had to be near Dallas the next afternoon at 1.

This whole trip was too hectic. I like to wander a little and explore the curiosities I pass on the highway. For instance, I wondered about Poverty Point, a reservoir and historic site in Louisiana. As it turns out, it’s a prehistoric earthworks that was named for a nearby plantation. The name just intrigued me. I’d still like to take a look at it.

Corpus Christi Hooks at Frisco RoughRiders. (Monte Dutton photo)
Corpus Christi Hooks at Frisco RoughRiders. (Monte Dutton photo)

I did end up making one minor league baseball game, matching the visiting Corpus Christi Hooks against the Frisco RoughRiders. Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, northeast of Dallas, is surrounded by suburbia, right down to the fact that the buildings housing the various suites and boxes look like condominiums themselves. The park has elevated bullpens with grandstand seats above and below them, and also elevated prices at the concession stands and in the parking lots, but it’s a nice, prosperous ballpark, and the game I watched was a fine one. Corpus Christi won the Texas League contest, 7-6.

Downtown Gainesville, Texas. (Monte Dutton photo)
Downtown Gainesville, Texas. (Monte Dutton photo)

On Saturday, I spent the whole day hanging out in Gainesville, watching a pie-tasting competition, a silent auction and all sorts of other events leading up to an evening of music. I was very marginally the host, but the new format didn’t really call for one, and when I tried to host, folks mainly ignored me because I didn’t have any lucky numbers to draw from a jar. My leg was bothering me, and I didn’t get much relief until I drank several beers medicinally.

All the events of the VISTO fundraiser were moved inside in deference to the weather forecast. (Monte Dutton photo)
All the events of the VISTO fundraiser were moved inside in deference to the weather forecast. (Monte Dutton photo)

When I’m home, most of my music time is spent with my own, so I rely on driving, which I don’t do near as often anymore, to catch me up. Music took me a little over 2,100 miles over five days, all but about 500 on Thursday and Sunday.

As I crossed into Texas, I listened to Asleep at the Wheel’s version of “Miles and Miles of Texas,” and it occurred to me that, in the first verse, it would have been impossible for a boy to move from his Louisiana home into Texas across “that old Red River,” which mainly separates Texas from Oklahoma. It would have likely been the Sabine.

Then there was the matter of the oft-recorded Jack Clement song, “Miller’s Cave.” I’ve always known it would be unlikely for a Tiger Mountain and a Miller’s Cave to be located near Waycross, Georgia, which even the song notes is surrounded by “everglades.” Cowboy Jack just made them up, and I liked a quote “Alamo” Jones (AKA Chance Martin) used on SiriusXM 60. “Jack said he liked the song so much, he wrote it.”

Poetic license, I reckon. I’d never take such liberties with a song, but, then again, I’d probably never write one that good.

Twelve hours on the road in a single day leaves lots of time for rumination.

The days are winding down in the nomination process of my third novel, which, with your help, I’m trying to get published through Amazon’s KindleScout program. I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at Crazy of Natural Causes and, if you see fit, nominate it here before the 30-day nomination period ends: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1H8P26P38KYW8

*From Townes Van Zandt’s “Snowing on Raton.”

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


The Road Does Not Go On Forever, and the Party Sometimes Ends

Remember to take a hard right on I-95. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Remember to take a hard right on I-95. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 11, 2015, 9:02 a.m.

I feel fortunate this morning.

For some unusual reason, I awakened a little after six. I was going to try to go back to sleep, and I don’t know why I did this, other than fate, but I scrambled for the remote and turned on the TV, where, there to my amazement, was Robert Earl Keen Jr. and band performing on Imus in the Morning.

I turned off the TV in the bedroom, staggered into the living room, flipped on the TV there, walked into the kitchen to put on some coffee, iced down my aching back, which aches when I get up every morning, and commenced to perusing my social-media feeds.

The early-morning life ain’t normally my life, but it’s a good life. Today. Because of REK.

As is way too common, I digress.

Leaning on the old tires. (Monte Dutton sketch ... of Monte Dutton)
Leaning on the old tires. (Monte Dutton sketch … of Monte Dutton)

Today is when many of my old friends are, by some means, traveling to Daytona Beach, Florida, because Thursday is Media Day. When I attended this affair, it was a day of socializing and making plans, and seeing if there was any good music to go see, and whether the activities at the track would allow it.

By the time Media Day rolled around, I would already have all my preseason work done, so I covered it for whatever new information might be breaking, not to prepare for the season in general, as planned and intended by the Lords of Daytona. It was a relaxing day because most of the stressful work was done. It wasn’t exactly the calm before the storm, but it certainly wasn’t a nose-to-the-grindstone day. It wasn’t the type of day to shout out questions above the din of the mob.

Actually, I wasn’t about that life, anyway.

I’m not a press-forward-and-be-pushy kind of writer. I’m a hang-back, let-the-young’uns-think-they-somebody, then slip-over-after-the-mob-has-dissipated-and-try-to-get-something-different kind of writer. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. I’m selfish. My way was a lot more fun. The longer I wrote about racing, the more I cared about having fun, and I rationalized this by convincing myself – “Self, you need convincing” – that, if it was fun for me, what I wrote would be fun to read.

That was the story to which I stuck.

Not anymore, of course, but I think this morning of all those friends, making their way through airport security, taking their shoes off, putting them back on, checking the boards to see if their flights are still on time, and pecking away at their text messages and tweets. Others are driving for half a day on Interstate 95, the road where sheer boredom is interrupted mainly by traffic cones. I always drove because I was going to be down there for anywhere from ten days to two weeks, and I wanted to take items like guitars and ice chests and slow cookers. One year I even bought a small slot-car track at the Family Dollar, and we raced all month at the condo, too.

Robert Earl Keen, with me and David Poole in the foreground, back during the old days that seem better and better.
Robert Earl Keen, with me and David Poole in the foreground, back during the old days that seem better and better.

The Daytona 500 isn’t just the biggest race. It’s the most enjoyable. Not necessarily the race. It’s so time-consuming that there’s more time for consumption.

I’ve gotten to where I enjoy it from afar, too. Maybe even more. I can hole up in my house the same way I could hole up in the Ormond Beach condo. I can go to the Presbyterian College game, where once I might drive over to Deland to see Stetson play. Going to a basketball game was a me-and-David-Poole kind of excursion, and when David died, among many more significant losses were those trips.

I can watch a movie at home instead of the cineplex on Williamson, on the way back from the track. I can go over to Clinton High tomorrow to chat with Andrew Webb, the new football coach, instead of Tony Stewart while he’s waiting to get his picture taken.

Thanks for reading what I write, even though it lacks some of its former immediacy. If my non-fiction bores you, my short fiction is on display at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and the third step in my diabolical plan is for you to buy my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1


Fit for Rumination

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, S.C., Thursday, May 22, 2014, 11:09 a.m.

Hey, it’s good to be back home again / Sometimes this old farm seems like a long-lost friend …” – John Denver.

This was near the end of the journey, heading into the Smoky Mountains on I-40.
This was near the end of the journey, heading into the Smoky Mountains on I-40.

I’m not sure how much work I’m going to get done today, even though there’s lots of it. I’m not as much tired as ruminative. I feel like songs, short stories and blogs, whereas circumstance requires bills, errands, and accounting.

That stuff can wait just one more day.

I feel like I’ve been writing a new verse to Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”: I’ve been to (or by) Jackson (Mississippi and Tennessee), Saxon, New Orleans, Plaquemine, Lafayette, Alexandria, Gainesville, Nashville, Knoxville, Booneville, Jefferson City, London, Paris, Bonham, DeKalb, Lamar, Lincoln, Lewisville, Denton and Valley View, among a thousand others.

I came back home with a load that was a little bit lighter.
I came back home with a load that was a little bit lighter.

I spent thirteen hours walking up and down a ramp to a stage, keeping an eye on my watch, motioning to bands that they had one song left, reading numbers off raffle tickets, cracking jokes, reminding folks about silent auctions, barbecue and an autographed guitar, introducing singers and bands, and standing around behind the stage or in the audience, chitchatting with musicians and folks who know a lot about music.

And I played my own songs for thirty minutes. A Day & Night for VISTO, in Gainesville, Texas, took up just one of my nine days on the road.

If I applied myself and worked at it, I think I could make a living as an emcee. I hear it’s not that big a job market, though.

11:45 a.m.

One of the unexpected changes that come with playing music is it’s hard to find time to listen to it. It’s funny that the most enjoyable experience of the whole trip was listening for hours on end to music on satellite radio and my iPod.

Jamie Richards, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, put on a great show in Gainesville.
Jamie Richards, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, put on a great show in Gainesville.

When I got to Gainesville, I just checked into the motel and started planning for my stint as emcee at the festival. I thought about songs I would sing, jokes I would tell, contingency plans, how I would manage to keep the concert on schedule, etc. I practiced performing songs. When I finally went to bed, inexplicably, I didn’t sleep well. At about four in the morning, this song kept me awake, an old one by Lynn Anderson that I’d heard while driving through Louisiana. Just the chorus, over and over.

If you don’t want me, baby / If you’re not satisfied / If you don’t care, get on your horse / And ride, ride, ride.

I haven’t thought about it since.

Till just now.

It was a great experience, a communion with close friends I only see rarely. I seem to have pleased the concert organizers. I’ve done it before, back when it was called Pawlessfest (Vince is still heavily involved and the chief reason I go out there), but it’s moved from the fall to the spring and it’s at the fairgrounds, though only a couple miles away from the old site at Bob and Dava Brown’s place.

In Nashville, I roved around town, tending to a few things, had lunch with one close friend and dinner with another. Also, I went to see “Godzilla” at the movies. It was playing, and I had a little time to kill.

The next night, I sat around with a friend playing music in his living room, and then it was one more long drive back home.

Every time I take off on one of these adventures, I say I’m going to take my time and see the sights, but then I get out on the road and start thinking about needing to get to the next stopping point. This time I did at least visit the great author Eudora Welty’s home in Jackson, Mississippi.

I’d have liked to have spent more time in New Orleans. I’d have liked stopping off in Bonham, Texas, to find out more about Sam Rayburn. I’d like to drive the Natchez Trace and see more ballgames. En route to Nashville, the Jackson Generals were at home, and I was sorely tempted to stop as I drove by the park.

I’ll fill in all the blanks one of these days.

[cb_profit_poster Acting]

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]

Take a Trip and Never Leave the Farm

Alex Rodriguez batting against the Atlanta Braves in 2009.
Alex Rodriguez batting against the Atlanta Braves in 2009.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, August 20, 2013, 1:12 p.m.

The Boston Red Sox are on the West Coast, and when the Sox go west, in a sense, so, too, do I. They polished off the San Francisco Giants last night, 7-0, and I got through watching it on TV just about 12 hours ago.

Why did I stay up, fueled by coffee, for a game that was lopsided?

Well, a couple weeks ago, the Red Sox were behind, 7-2, and I switched over to watch American Experience on PBS. Naturally, they scored six times in the bottom of the ninth, and all I saw was the highlights.

Oddly, if the Giants had scored eight run in the bottom of the ninth last night, I’d have wished I hadn’t watched it.

Right now, I’m watching the New York Yankees. It’s not because I want them to win.

I love auto racing, football, basketball, hockey, golf, etc., etc. … but baseball is a separate category. It’s more like religion.

1:18 p.m.

I’ve been spending so much time close to the house that I’m starting to think of this town as Pleasantville.

The toothpaste in my suitcase might be dry. It may have gone from containing baking soda to being baking soda.

I own one vehicle that has a spider web running from the mirror to the passenger-side window, which was left cracked, thus facilitating the spider’s admission. A small wasp nest is above the opening. What makes this neighborhood so appealing to these creatures? I closed the crack in the window. The sun came out. They all perished. They were all so incredibly intelligent in one way and so incredibly dumb in another.

Like people.

1:26 p.m.

When my nephews were in grade school, it used to amuse me that they thought commercials were true. I’d try to tell them something tasted awful, and they’d say, no, they saw on TV where it was clearly superior to all other drinks by all recent taste tests.

When I tried to get them to watch the first three “Star Wars” movies on video, they thought they couldn’t possibly be any good because they had apparently been made more than a month ago. Then those movies showed up on TV because a “commemorative edition” had been released. In no time at all, it was “must-see TV” and I was having to moderate discussions on who was better, C3PO or R2D2.

So, now, I watch commercials and, in a slightly different sense, act like they’re true.

That next-door neighbor, the one whose friend is moving, tries to get out of a $500 debt by recommending DirecTV. I’ve got DirecTV. The commercial makes me want to get rid of it.

Flo has become annoying. Very few fans actually go to huge concerts carrying chests filled with Pepsi. Those are the hard-core partiers. The wholesome fans drink Diet Pepsi.

I can’t stand that guy in the Allstate commercials who’s always causing wrecks and falling through some poor guy’s attic roof. He’s my worst nightmare.

Now just how exactly am I different from my nephews when they were 10 years old?

1:43 p.m.

The Toronto Blue Jays scored four runs on the Yanks in the top of the second. No. 13, Alex Rodriguez, just came to the plate for the first time in his 13th game. He struck out.

Obviously, I despise the Yankees because I love the Red Sox, but in my earliest memory, I started disliking the Yanks first. My earliest baseball memory is of the 1964 World Series. I was six. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Yankees in seven games. I was sort of pulling for the Yankees. The pinstripes seemed intriguing, though, so, too, did the little redbirds on the Cards’ jerseys.

After the World Series, the Yankees fired their manager, Yogi Berra, and hired the Cardinals’ Johnny Keane. At six years of age, I thought, well that was dirty dealing, and I have disliked the Yankees ever since.

I didn’t really fall in love with the Red Sox until three years later, and when the Cardinals also won the 1967 World Series in seven games, well, I hated the Cardinals for a little while, too. I was happy Detroit beat them in ’68.

Now I’m older and more mature.

My next novel, The Intangibles, is scheduled for publication in the fall. If you’d like an autographed copy of the first novel, The Audacity of Dope, click on “merchandise” here at montedutton.com. I’ve also got some clever T-shirts to unload. They say “I Got Cash Money … and I’m Working Steady” because that’s the nameof one of my songs, and when I wrote it, it was true. Keep letting me know how you feel about what I write. Support the advertisers if they strike your fancy. Yada. Yada. Yada.

[cb_profit_poster Speak1]