MONTE DUTTON – ESCAPING REALITY
I knew it was a dream even while I was having it.
When I traded the red Ford Probe with the sunroof for a similarly red Ranger, Ryan Newman was 15. The present version of Clinton High School hadn’t been built yet. But there we were, Ryan and I, sitting next to each other in the circular common, chatting about NASCAR and a crash in Daytona Beach. George Strait’s “The Cowboy Walks Away” was playing. Turns out that was from the classic country channel of DirecTV, which I had activated to put me to sleep. Ryan said he had never heard Lynn Anderson’s “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” before. It was released seven years before his birth.
We lunched in the CHS cafeteria, then headed out to the parking lot where the Probe was parked, and I tossed him the keys, which I doubt I would ever do to a race driver when the car was mine. But Ryan was calm and we continued our chat as he idled along Duval Street in Key West.
I feel I shouldn’t quote him as he and I were imaginary during the entire conversation. The last song before the visit ended and I awakened was John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” and I got up and filled up my senses with coffee.
This, in hindsight, was an allegory on life in the time of COVID-19. Lacking NASCAR or any other sport in real life, my soul fought deep sleep and conjured up a matter-of-fact illusion of racing, country music, a long-gone sports car, an updated version of my high school and a weird, delightful place I used to visit while on assignment in nearby Homestead. A onetime acquaintance and I tooled down a street where roosters wander and mingle with the congregating drunks.
Most of the fun has diminished. I am a sportswriter who has run out of sports.
It’s in me and it has to come out.