Gallery of Activity

It’s been a busy month; lots of stuff going on locally, plus trips to Detroit, Los Angeles, and Omaha. Hopefully this gallery of photos is worth a few thousand words, because I’m still too busy to type them. . . .

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?

A Kind of Homecoming

In 1986, fresh out of high school, a couple of my friends and I loaded up all we had and moved to the Seattle area to make it big as rock stars. We drove I-90 west to I-405, looped down and around the “S” curves and took the Renton Rainier Avenue exit. A right on Grady Way, then up the hill to the guitar player’s brother’s apartment, where we stayed a few weeks until we got jobs, got our own place, and got after pursuing our big dream.

Of course over the years life happened to all of us. We didn’t make it big. None of those guys who were so important to me then are any part of my life today, though they were some of the best friends I’ve ever had and if I don’t think of them every day, it comes pretty damn close.

A couple weeks ago my work took me to a customer site located in Renton. The address of the Holiday Inn where I registered to stay was familiar to me; we had driven right by it on that epic day 27 years ago. After checking in, from my room I could see into Renton, and could see the Kentucky Fried Chicken — brand new at the time — where we had taken jobs that led to our first apartment, and our first steps into manhood. It was kind of bizarre, really.

So the next morning I rose early and went exploring with my iPhone. I also drove up into the old neighborhood after work to see what was left up there. The following gallery is the result of those explorations. Probably not interesting to anyone but me, but that’s the nature of blogs, isn’t it?


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?