Field Trip to Great Falls

Remember when you were in grade school and a couple times a year you’d get to skip out of the regular routine and go on a field trip? Julia and I did just that last week; she had the day off, so I took a vacation day and we blasted up Highway 200 to Great Falls, where we planned to see our friend Aaron Draplin of the Draplin Design Company deliver one of his “Tall Tales From a Large Man” presentations to a crowd of (presumably) eager designers and creative types.

It’s about a three hour (one-way) trip. We arrived in town and I was able to show Julia a couple of the shithole venues I’ve played shows at; she’d never been there before. We drove down a street (10th, I think?) which is kind of like all the worsts parts of Brooks Street in Missoula, or Speedway in Tucson. Every city has a stretch like this, crowded with pay day loan joints, shitty restaurants, run down strip malls, and ugly signage. It was actually kind of fun. I’m sure there are nicer places in Great Falls than this part of town; there has to be, doesn’t there?

We made our way to the Holiday Inn and found the conference room the event was being held in. First glance at the crowd and I thought, “Hmmmm. . . . ” Didn’t seem the type of folks Draplin usually addresses. These were mostly older people in respectable attire, not the tattooed and bearded hipster nuggets usually associated with such events. We found Draplin, exchanged burly man embraces, and discussed the event. He was already carving chunks of his presentation out, as he had limited time, and planned to excise all f-bombs and other such salty goings-on from his spirited presentation.

Lunch was served, then it was on. Draplin delivered, as expected, and the crowd seemed to love him. Afterward with a screech of tires we delivered him to the airport just in time to catch a flight to Seattle, as the man had another presentation scheduled that very night. I hope be fires his booking agent. We didn’t get to hang much, but goddamn it that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Julia and I then blasted across town (passed a cool dumpy-looking boxing gym on the way that was closed, unfortunately) to visit the Sip & Dip, a famous Great Falls landmark. It didn’t disappoint. Quiet in the middle of the day, they were set up to shoot three of the mermaids who usually occupy the pool for their 2014 calendar. The photographer was kind of surly. The girls were patient. The bar food was deliciously gross, and the beer frothy and tasty. I had fun trying to poach a few photos off to the side using the photographer’s light. I learned a lot just in how not to treat your subjects.

After an hour or so we bolted for home. It was a long day, but a great time. Glad we did it, would gladly do something like it again. Six hours and change ain’t nothing to drive to see a good friend and maybe have an adventure or two, now, is it?

Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

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