MONTE DUTTON – THE PEOPLE AND THE PLACES
I’m fond of the occasional “travelogue.”
A travelogue, in my mind, is a reminiscence about the place, not the event, not the people but the scene. At other times, I write about people. This is because, as two decades of traveling to NASCAR races across the country grow distant, I most miss the people and places.
I still watch the races on TV. There is some truth in what the fictitious Cole Trickle once said:
Harry Hogge: “What do you know about stock car racing?”
Trickle: “Well … watched it on television, of course.”
Hogge: “You’ve seen it on television?”
Trickle: “ESPN. The coverage is excellent. You’d be surprised at how much you can pick up.”
Hogge: “I’m sure I would.”
Hogge’s view was the opposite of mine. I’ve never built race cars. I never picked cotton. Oddly, I just thought of that old Roy Clark song. But my brother did, and my mother did, and my sister did, and my daddy died young … workin’ in a coal mine. It must have been a rough part of the country to live, where people picked cotton and worked in coal mines.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been to all those races, and the experience makes it possible for me to glean more from the big-screen, high-def.
What do I miss about Michigan? Captain Chuck’s, the lakeside bar and grill where I used to plunk my guitar and sing. My Captain Chuck’s khaki cap is the go-to choice when I want to eschew partisanship in the form of headwear trumpeting Furman University or the Boston Red Sox. It’s sitting atop the exercise bike, now mostly used as a clothes horse. I’m looking at it.
I miss Ann Arbor, a great city, where I enjoyed live music at the Ark and had a lovely time watching the World Cup in a bar one Saturday afternoon. I was one of the few patrons not wearing the jersey of a foreign nation. Soccer fans are intense. They know a lot about the sport. They pay attention. People who know little of soccer find it boring. The same is true of auto racing and baseball. All those people are wrong. Everywhere one goes nowadays – and I don’t go far anymore – people don’t pay attention.
Maybe that’s the biggest reason NASCAR suffers.
I miss the vast dirt roads, remarkably maintained, around the Brooklyn, Mich., track. Back when many more people attended, and traffic was hellish, scribes in the know used to carry diagrams that took us here, there and yon through the country, so that we could achieve that nirvana of race-track entrance: “Drove right in, fellas.”
Even now, I doubt a Global Positioning Satellite would allow me to go to the track that way.
Recalculating route … recalculating route … recalculating route.
The people who worked the media center in Michigan were among the friendliest on the gypsy caravan. The state troopers directing traffic were among the meanest. Once I witnessed a photographer being arrested because he wanted to go left when the cops insisted he go right.
I moved up.
“You go this way! You understand?”
“Yes, sir, Officer.”
I’ve got picks and pans at all the tracks.
Sonoma? A little seafood diner on the coast we discovered because we figured any joint where a man was cleaning fish in a tub out front had to be good. It was. We went there on Saturday evening every year.
Chicagoland? First of all, if Joliet is in Chicagoland, I now live in Charlotteland. One time I miscalculated the location of Wrigley Field and had to take a two-mile, sweat-inducing walk to and from the yard. There GPS would have come in handy.
At the game, I sat two rows behind Jerry Rice, which I knew for sure because he was wearing a Cubs jersey with “RICE” and “80” on the back. He and I became friends.
When he walked up the aisle to get some nachos, our eyes met and I asked “hiya doin’?” To confirm our friendship, he replied, “Not bad.”
Rice probably doesn’t even go to baseball games anymore now that people take selfies.
Daytona? Oh, God. That’ll have to wait for a column of its own.