Cheater, Cheater, Chicken Eater

I was only in 7th or 8th grade when I saw my first bar fight. I was standing out front of the Double Front restaurant waiting for a takeout order with my friend Mark Cranston. It was a warm summer evening, so we were just hanging on the sidewalk, probably talking about soccer. Two men came tumbling out the open door of Al & Vic’s, a bar directly across the street. They were pummeling each other. One guy got the other guy down on the sidewalk and was banging his head against it. Then the roles reversed, and more mayhem ensued. Someone inside called the cops. At the sound of sirens, the two men stood up. By the time the cops arrived, the combatants were arm in arm, backslapping, and while we couldn’t hear the conversation, it was clear they were claiming something along the lines of, “Oh, no, officer, no problems here!”

That’s what I recalled when Scott McMillion, editor of Montana Quarterly, asked if I’d be interested in doing a piece for him about the Double Front, which has been in the same family now for three generations. I said hell yes I’m interested. The results are out in the latest issue of the magazine, just hitting shelves today. I wrote and photographed the piece. Besides leading me to go back and back and back eating more Double Front chicken than I have for three or four years combined, it was fun.

It’s my second appearance now in the magazine and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I love print, and I was a huge fan of this particular magazine before I ever started pitching magazine stories anywhere. It’s the best Montana has to offer. You should subscribe.

Oh, and for you trivia buffs, my author photo in the contributors section in the back was taken in the restroom of the textbooks department at the Bookstore at the University of Montana. It has these great white walls. During my time helping out there last summer I referred to it as “Studio C.”


One-Sentence Journal, Weeks Eighty-Two, Eighty-Three, and Eighty-Four

  1. 02/12/2017:  I thought I’d seen them a couple times recently, but this morning was the first confirmed sighting — and sounding — of red-winged blackbirds in my yard since last fall.
  2. 02/13/2017:  Dark gray sky in the morning and the rolling landscape of Grass Valley, the snowy hills shaped by wind, thaw, and re-freezing, actually looks like the still image of a restless ocean.
  3. 02/14/2017:  For once the delicious cooking smell in the neighborhood as I arrived home after dark was emanating from my house, courtesy of a crock pot that had been slowly about its business all day.
  4. 02/15/2017:  I’m certain the pristine condition of my shirts at the end of the day lately has more to do with my beard serving as catch-all than it does any graduation to civilized eating on my part.
  5. 02/16/2017:  The liberal moneyed class certainly keeps much of what I care about alive with their donations, but being in their presence — particularly large gatherings of them — trips most of my cultural alarms, and I’m at ease neither in their company nor in the company of my thoughts about them.
  6. 02/17/2017:  A couple hours spent with writer/biologist Doug Chadwick and I’m reminded all over again that I totally missed my calling.
  7. 02/18/2017:  Lamenting the current closure of my river stomping grounds, I nearly miss seeing a coyote out in the field if not for the quick eyes of a reliable companion in the passenger’s seat, and a quick u-turn saves the day.
  8. 02/19/2017:  Half a century of hard-earned wisdom and dignity, yet a well-recited fart story remains capable of nearly putting me to the floor in laughter.
  9. 02/20/2017:  An American Kestrel perches on a power line and tears bloody strips from the mouse dangling from its talons.
  10. 02/21/2017:  A day trip to the state capital to join the most righteous of unruly mobs, an event enjoyed, camera in hand, with an ear-to-ear grin.
  11. 02/22/2017:  Always seeming to be in one of only about three or four different places that comprise my world these days, I daydream about tossing a leather bag onto a motel bed, crossing a strange room to a window, and looking out onto an unfamiliar vista.
  12. 02/23/2017:  Hope may spring eternal, but pessimism rolls along like a  juggernaut.
  13. 02/24/2017:  One of those nights, at the deep-in-the-dark hour of 9:00 PM, where I nearly fall asleep in the time it takes my brain to send my hand something meaningful to write.
  14. 02/25/2017:  A day may come when reading a book where characters indulge at the table doesn’t inspire me to similar, ill-advised activity … but that day wasn’t today.
  15. 02/26/2017:  There are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than hanging out in a bookstore.
  16. 02/27/2017:  In a miscalculation of epic proportions, I learned that yesterday was the final opportunity to feast at Tower Pizza, my favorite local pizza joint since I was a child, and I missed it.
  17. 02/28/2017:  I scanned the writing I’ve been doing the last couple days for inspiration to something pithy and meaningful, and this is what I came up with.
  18. 03/01/2017:  I’m pretty certain the thickness of one’s skin is directly proportional to the amount of rest one has acquired recently.
  19. 03/02/2017:  Two old friends with guitars in hand and really loud amplifiers, in a room together for no reason other than to drink a couple beers and write some rock n’ roll songs.
  20. 03/03/2017:  The things the body is able to produce and purge without slaying the host never cease to amaze me.
  21. 03/04/2017:  Snow, slush, water, mud, and pine needles were all welcome surfaces my feet sauntered across this afternoon, and my heart, lungs, and spirit cheered them on with abandon.

In Praise of Long Sentences

From “Shortest Route to the Mountains,” the opening line from the first essay in the collection Wild to the Heart by Rick Bass, circa 1987, a collection I didn’t even know existed until I stumbled across it for a measly $1. I love this:

The trouble with buying a strawberry milkshake from the Lake
Providence, Louisiana, Sonic Drive-In on the left side of Highway 65 going north through the Delta, north to Hot Springs, Arkansas, is that you have got to tag the bottom with your straw and then come up a good inch or so if you want to get anything, the reason being that the Lake Providence Sonic uses real strawberries and lots of them in their shakes.

I like to throw out the occasional long sentence just to mix things up. Sadly, most of the editors I work with don’t share my enthusiasm for them.

And this book? Easily one of the best dollars I ever spent.


Photo Finish Friday

From The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie:

“Coyote, who is the creator of all of us, was sitting on his cloud the day after he created Indians. Now, he liked the Indians, liked what they were doing. This is good, he kept saying to himself. But he was bored. He thought and thought about what he should make next in the world. But he couldn’t think of anything so he decided to clip his toenails. … He looked around and around his cloud for somewhere to throw away his clippings. But he couldn’t find anywhere and he got mad. He started jumping up and down because he was so mad. Then he accidentally dropped his toenail clippings over the side of the cloud and they fell to the earth. The clippings burrowed into the ground like seeds and grew up to be white man. Coyote, he looked down at his newest creation and said, “Oh, shit.”