Missoula Rabble

This is a book I picked up last week that I’d never even heard about before. It’s called Missoula Rabble, and it’s a compact little photo book by a woman named Ashley McKee, whom I’ve never met. We seem to know many of the same people, though, so it’s likely our paths have crossed before. The book just came out on the 5th, I believe, and she has since pulled up stakes and moved to Austin.

rabble

This from Ashley’s Facebook page devoted to the book:

Hello all! I have received many messages asking where one can buy Missoula Rabble since I moved away (I made it safely to Austin!) so I am posting a link to my website where you can order the book from me. If you are in Missoula you can buy it at Fact and Fiction Books, Shakespeare and Co., The Book Exchange, Butterfly Herbs, Rockin’ Rudy’s, and The UC Bookstore.

Missoula Rabble is a collection of portraits of Missoula folks — familiar faces, local “celebs,” even some of our homeless residents. With each portrait is a short story, anecdote, or quote from the person. It’s really cool. If you want a look at a certain side of Missoula, I highly recommend buying it.

Personally, I think it looks awesome and is a fantastic idea. I’m biased though. As I mentioned before, I’ve never met Ashley. However, a few years ago, when I was first getting interested in becoming a “real” photographer myself, I had pretty much the exact same idea. Every year one of our local bakeries has a call to artists to pitch ideas to them. If they like your idea, you have an opening on the First Friday of whatever month you’re awarded, then your work stays up in their common area for the entire month. I pitched this idea — portraits of local people, with an accompanying biography — but they shot it down. It was just a concept at the time and I didn’t have any photos that would be IN the show, just some that were kinda what I had in mind. They certainly weren’t as good as the work Ashley has in her book, otherwise it probably would have worked. Who knows.

I was bitter at the time that they didn’t like my idea. Eventually wisdom prevailed (as did my weakness for their baked goods) and I got over myself. I never pursued the idea either. I didn’t really take up photography with any seriousness for another year or two, but lately I’d been toying with the idea again because I love portraits so much. Seeing the project come to fruition now in Ashley’s work, though, gives me kind of a thrill of pride. Not because I had anything at all to do with Missoula Rabble, I’m just happy to see something I thought would be cool actually pulled off, and BE very cool.

So kudos to Ashley. I hope she does well in Austin.

 

Movies and Theaters

fox1959Over on his Post Modern Pulp blog yesterday my friend Jack Badelaire posted a great little video short called “Four Rules to Make STAR WARS Great Again.” Besides the video being awesome, it made me reflect back on the days when those movies were first coming out, and how cool they were to me, and what it was like to be young and enthusiastic and eager for them to be released. I’d never seen anything like them before, so it was all pure magic . . . which is really what movies are when they are at their best, isn’t it? Now as an adult, the case can certainly be made for why these aren’t “great films” but that’s beside the point. For a 10yo kid, which is how old I was when Star Wars was released, you could never have told me otherwise.

Game of Thrones author George RR Martin did something cool recently. He used some of his considerable largesse to purchase, restore, and reopen the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Sante Fe, NM. He wrote a short blog post about it when the news first broke, and it recently had its grand reopening. This from Martin’s blog:

I love movies and old movie theatres, and it broke my heart to drive past the Jean Cocteau for these past seven years and see it sitting there, dark and decaying. Bringing this beloved theatre back to life is my small gesture at giving something back to Santa Fe, the community that has been my home since 1979. Might be that I will lose my shirt… but, hey, I’ve been very lucky, I have other shirts.

I love movies and old movie theaters too. I regularly drive by the theater where I saw Star Wars in 1977 as well, which sits vacant and for sale on Brooks Street in Missoula. I have an emotional attachment to it, even though it is ugly and old and in no way a classic movie theater that warrants restoration. However, I drive by this site almost every time I go to Missoula as well:

If this just looks like a parking lot, it's because it is
If this just looks like a parking lot, it’s because it is

This is where the Fox Theater used to be. I used to go to this theater all the time, and the memories of some of my favorite movies are tied to it. I remember my mom taking me out of school to go see the original 1978 Richard Donner Superman movie. I remember standing at the front of the line to get in to see Schwarzenegger’s  Conan the Barbarian turn in 1982. I remember the tipis and Indians in mural on the walls. I have a vague recollection of the lobby. I remember dashing down the sloping aisle as a kid to get a seat.

I’ve certainly seen more movies now in the multiplexes we have in town, and there are a few memories tied to those as well. Waiting outside in frigid cold with my kid to catch the first showing of The Fellowship of the Ring, for example. But as great and treasured as that memory is, it isn’t really tied to the theater. It’s more about the excitement of the day, Sid’s enthusiasm, and the snow and cold as we stamped our feet in the parking lot.

Sadly, you can’t restore a theater that was bulldozed in favor of a stupid parking lot. Thankfully, though, we still have the Wilma.

 

Hip Strip Shenanigans

Technically, I suppose Missoula Downtown runs from the Clark Fork River north to I-90 along Higgins Avenue, as well as a couple blocks east/west along the same corridor. However, much as I love that part of town — and the fact that Missoula’s is so lively — most of my time (and damage to my wallet) is spent in the little area just south of the river, which is called the Hip Strip. Great shops like Betty’s Divine (where Julia puts in hours), Shakespeare and Co. Books, Ear Candy Music, Selvedge Studio, Bernice’s Bakery, KettlehouseLe Petite Outre, Big Dipper friggin’ Ice Cream . . . I could go on. Great stores, fantastic community members and, most importantly, in many cases good friends of ours.

For the last few years the strip throws an end-of-summer block party, where a couple blocks are shut down and everyone gathers for “a carnival of fun, games, live music, neighborhood food and beer, and the best damn fashion show in town!” The fashion show isn’t exactly haute couture, it’s for fun. And it’s pretty ridiculous. I grabbed my camera, took a position at the end of the runway and shot a few hundred pictures. It was a blast, one of the most fun new things I’ve done in a while. Here’s a gallery of just a few images; they can all be seen (140 total) on Flickr, if you like. Don’t these people look like they’re having a blast?

Missoula Safari

Wandered around downtown a little this weekend and shot a few images in Missoula (click an image to see a slideshow). It was a typical spring day: at times sunny, only to feel like a gigantic storm was imminent moments later. Was good to be out and about, though.

Gunplay

This article from last week’s Missoulian caught my eye. The gist of it is summed up in a couple sentences. First this:

Students at Missoula’s Lowell Elementary School were kept inside during afternoon recess Friday while police talked with a person who was carrying a holstered firearm in Westside Park.

Then this:

Police determined that it was legal to have a holstered firearm in the park and that the person had broken no laws. The situation was resolved without further incident.

If you do read the article, I’d recommend not reading the comments . . . unless you are a glutton for punishment and prefer to have your brains rendered to mush. Legal or not, one may question the decision to carry a gun near a school, but I suspect many folks who do carry would think nothing of it. It isn’t that big of a deal to me. I doubt someone meaning to be a menace would wander around with it holstered.

When we first moved back to Missoula, when my son was in 4th/5th grade, he went to Lowell, and we lived nearby. He used to play at that park quite often with his friends. It is of a type with one of those wooden structures on it, kind of like a castle, with slides and climbing poles and things like that. One night he was there with his cousin, who is only a few years older. They were there in the evening, and they were playing Star Wars. They had plastic guns, or water pistols, or something like that . . . and the obligatory sticks for light sabers.

Someone in the area called the cops and said there were people in the park with guns.

The cops came and accosted the boys. I don’t recall for certain the details, but I believe Sid said the cops made them get on the ground, and I don’t recall if the cops had their hands on their guns or had them drawn. The boys didn’t get in any trouble or anything once it was sorted out, but it scared the hell out of them. As for me, what did I do? Nothing. And the reason is because I didn’t hear the story until months later. Sid never told me, he said, because he was afraid he’d get in trouble. Nor did the cops call us parents to explain what had happened, a failure on their part. But that’s Missoula’s Finest for you, I guess. . . .

I still get a chill thinking about that, what could have happened. Then there’s anger at the paranoia of people living near a park who can’t recognize children playing.

Which brings me to the next phase of this post. The Missoula article/incident is somewhat related to this other article I read via Mother Jones a couple weeks ago, called, “Blam! These Tykes Got Busted for “Guns” Made of Legos, Pop-Tarts, and Paper.” This one is well worth your time (as is pretty much everything MJ puts out) to read. The opening paragraph sums it up nicely:

In the wake of the Newtown massacre and the NRA’s call for putting armed guards in America’s schools, some school officials have reacted severely to young kids’ play around the subject of guns. Recent cases have included the suspension of students as young as five years old simply for talking about playing with toy weapons. The offenders’ arsenal has included breakfast pastries, Legos, and Hello Kitty.

Man, when we were kids practically everything we played was some kind of adventure theme that revolved around running and jumping and (simulated) blasting away at each other with bows/guns/lasers/etc. Then there were games we played like “Smear the Queer.” That was one where a gang of kids would throw a football in the air and whoever caught it ran like hell, with everyone in pursuit, until the ballcarrier — aka the “queer” — was smeared. If you were afraid you could toss the ball away before being tackled, but the point was to see how many kids it took to bring you down. Back then “queer” meant nothing to any of us other than the kid with the ball. Nowadays, though, that would never fly, and in the latter case probably justifiably so. Still, these modern folks with their ridiculous rules and paranoias would probably have had us all either doped up or committed.

There was this TV show, SWAT, that had a popular theme song. My friends and I would put the song on, then act out the intro where dudes jump up out of their bunks to grab their weapons and go battle the perps. We used to use anything we could find at the elementary school playground as kind of a sawed-off version of parkour, just because that’s what we saw on TV and in comic books. We hurled ourselves up and down and off things that would probably cripple me these days.

We played versions of capture the flag out in the woods with toy guns, sticks, or anything we could get our hands on with which to simulate a weapon. I have a class picture from the 4th grade or so where I have (besides the shitty, Dad-given, out-behind-the-goat-barn-haircut) scabs on the side of my face from where I took a “grenade” (i.e. a very hard, green, spiky pinecone) at fastball speed to the side of the head. Those days were scraped-up, bloody, and often tear-filled, but also a friggin’ blast.

Our parents managed us with varying degrees of skill and involvement in our lives, and many of us had our share of problems, but none of us that I know of turned out to be murderous sociopaths. And that is even after we graduated to hours and hours of Dungeons and Dragons, a game guaranteed to turn us all into Satanists and perverts! I made it to adulthood just fine, thank you very much.

self_toys

Somewhere the plot has been lost when it comes to the causes for the violence we’ve seen with young men and guns. It isn’t how kids choose to play in the playgrounds, that’s for sure. These silly rules concerning paper and pastry shaped as guns are examples of band-aid solutions that I think are useless. And it bums me out. I’m glad I’m not raising a young kid these days.