Thursday, February 04, 2010

Defending Old Montaneeeeee

Okay...this is kind of funny to me...but I guess I also need to vent a little.   I was recently talking to someone....blah blah blah...about this...that...and the other thing.   At some point I mentioned that I lived in Montana, to which they replied:  "You live in MONTANA?!"  This person was dumbfounded.  "You don't look like you're from MONTANA."  I explained to her that I grew up in California but moved to Missoula to go finish my degree.  "Oh, that explains it!" she said, and we moved to other subjects.  Now I'm not really sure what a Montanan is supposed to look like... obviously not me.  I suppose a native Montanan is supposed to look something like this
or perhaps like this
or this...always with a dead carcass of some sort

Now the truth of it is that there are places in Montana where the above photos might be relevant to this day...but then again I remember places like that in California too.  I have to be honest, though, before I moved here that I had the same perceptions....I thought the towns would look like something out of an old Western.  Interestingly though, people may perceive the State of Montana as being "behind the times" but remember the first woman elected to Congress was from my fair city of Missoula.
Jeanette Rankin

As for some ways it is a strange sort of anomaly...I think it to be the cultural Mecca of Montana personally...but I'm sure those from Bozeman or Helena might dispute.  Back in the day, Hunter S. Thompson  called Missoula the Hippies' Last Stand.
...which I believe that he wrote in the men's room of the notorious biker bar, Luke's. 
Someone got that chunk of tile when it closed.  

Yes Missoula has it's share culture and counter cultrure and of writers, actors, musicians and artists this is why I live here.  It is a vibrant art scene...not necessarily a lot of money for the arts, but a very supportive artistic culture.   All those years of struggling to make it as an artists could not have been endured but for comrades of artists who stood by each other as we traversed the sea of uncertainty.   It is a great place to be a struggling actually make the struggle worth it.   Perhaps you won't see the merits of this place at first glance.  Perhaps you have to "live it" to "get it" but I know that in many ways I don't think I'd be the artist I am today without a place as accommodating to the arts as this.   Will I spend the rest of my days here....perhaps not but it is a place that has served me well and I felt like I owed it some defense.

Last year a friend of mine passed away, Jim Crumley.  Some of you may be familiar with some his crime novels, such as the Last Good Kiss.  I came across a quote of his that I thought was pertinent for this little rambling I've been on about Montana:

“It's done. This may not be my final country. I can still taste the bear in the back of my throat, bitter with the blood of the innocent, and somewhere in my old heart I can still remember the taste of love. Perhaps this is just a resting place. A warm place to drink cold beer. But wherever my final country is, my ashes will go back to Montana when I die. Maybe I've stopped looking for love. Maybe not. Maybe I will go to Paris. Who knows? But I'll sure as hell never go back to Texas again.”

Teaching in Helena
Now it is not often that I teach workshops in the State of Montana.  Last year, however I did buzz down to Bozeman and also did a class in Missoula on an extremely cold day...think it was the coldest day of last year in fact.  This year I'm heading to Helena
to the Holter Museum.  
It will be nice, I've always liked Helena and haven't been back in a number of years.  I'm going to be teaching Chunky Loteria (Mixed Media Mexican Bingo Cards)


Kathy said...

I liked this ode to your home town of Missoula...I can completely get it. My main home is in Blacksburg VA...people think of folks from the western part of VA as hill billies. As always your pictures make me laugh. I'm also hearing an unspoken message in there...I'm sure you will reveal it to your fans out here in the ether. stay warm. kp

BoneFolder said...

Actually, the fact that you're based there with no plans to move caused me to shrug and decide that maybe Montana was different from what I'd imagined, which was indeed a land of "rugged individualists" -- that being a euphemism for people disconnected from modern American society, technology and culture.

--Mike Jennings

Brian K said...

I had to chuckle at your post! I am from Kalispell, Montana. I moved to Los Angeles, California in 1984. I live in Long Beach, CA now. I loved growing up in Montana. We did not lock out door until I was a teenager. It was a great place to grow up. I have to say I don't much miss the snow.

marianne said...

try esplaining to your blue state buds why you live in idaho...... missoula is great, but can't stand the weather- i would live in livingston in a new york minute if i could figure out how. or ennis. or pray. there is something in the land and the sky and the appreciation of the individual, a general willingness to live and let live (the old timers anyway) that is uniquely western.

Cindy Trobaugh said...

That sounds just like defending Tennessee--people just get notions in their heads and they stay that way forever.

Pam McKnight said...

Living in Idaho I could relate to your post and having moved here from Texas-even more! Looked up your workshop-even though we are "neighbors" it would be a 12 hour drive...hmmm...

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we fight against misconceptions only to find ourselves the advocate that damages the very thing we are fighting for. Enjoy your place don’t tell too many otherwise it won’t be so special anymore.

Steve Manning

JudyK said...

Michael..I enjoyed your post about Montana. I vacationed in Billings and it's beautiful. I loved the land...and the people I met.

deborah said...

i think eugene , oregon is the hippies last stand. more tie dye than you will see anywhere on earth. although so is missoula(i went to college in billings)....