Saturday, July 29, 2006

Two of us wearing raincoats
Standing solo
In the sun

I am somewhat amazed that I haven't gotten bored or stir-crazy in Bozeman yet.

It's been 14 months since I moved.

And I have only made one friend (Double B) a couple of kinda-friends since I moved here. Kinda-friends are friends that you do something with every 6 months or so.

Of course, I had my built-in best friend, Bells, already here. Which is nice. (We grew up together in the Dam.)

Anyway, it's a small town (maybe 35,000 people), in a small county (maybe 70,000 people), in the middle of Montana. If you don't know what "in the middle of Montana" means, let me break it down for you:

We are two hours from Billings.

Yes, Billings.

It is the biggest city in Montana, at a whopping 150,000.

And when you get there, you may ask, "I drove two hours to get here?"

There are only 900,000 people in the entire state of Montana.

And it is a big state. 4th biggest, behind Alaska, Texas and California.

Let's break it down further....

If you aren't into Billings, which I am not, you can drive the other way three hours to Missoula.

(Disclaimer: The one friend I have made, Double B, lives in Billings. Trust me, his presence alone makes Billings a destination worthy of a two-hour drive.)

Missoula is about 55,000 people, and is a fairly cool town, in a hippie-writer-university-stoner-hard-drinking-killer-fly-fishing-mediocre-skiing kind of way.

Let us delve even deeper, and range out further.

A six hour drive will get you to Spokane, Washington, a hotbed of hills and, um, I am not sure what else, but I think it is bigger than Billings, so it's got that going for it.

Salt Lake is an 8 hour drive away, making it the biggest, closest city. And if you have been to Salt Lake, you are laughing right now at the prospect of driving 8 hours to go there fort any reason other than skiing. (Admittedly, my favorite skiing in the country.) But you can pick up another wife there.

I guess you could drive the 11 hours to Seattle, or the 16 hours to Minneapolis, but why the fuck would you want to do that?

But I digress.

If you're a cosmopolitan hipster who craves hustle, bustle, traffic, outlandish broadway productions, the smell of hot garbage and piss, high-rises, a cultural melting pot, concrete, 576 bars, 689 restaurants, 4 a.m. delivery of thai food and/or heroin, and noise.... Bozeman, Montana is not the place for you.

Don't get me wrong, it's a cool town. It is actually kind of hip in a lot of ways. There is plenty to do: music to see, art galleries, lectures. Fuck, there is even an opera and a symphony here. Not that I would go or anything. There are a half dozen good bars, a couple dozen good restaurants. (And a few great bars and restaurants.)

Truly, though, the fact that the town is cool is just icing on the cake. The cake being miles and miles and miles and miles of the most beautiful, (truly wild) wilderness, mountains, rivers, and forests in the lower 48. Fantastic skiing/boarding (this was the real hook for me), endless amazing hiking and mountain biking, great kayaking, the best fly-fishing in the world, climbing (not that I would know, beyond "scrambling")...

And most importantly, no fucking people.

Even the places that are considered "crowded" by Montanans aren't really crowded.

Take Big Sky, for example.

I snowboarded 30 days there this year. Excluding the tram,

I waited in a lift line exactly twice, for ten minutes each time.... on Christmas Eve Day and New Year's Day.

(The tram runs up to the peak. There are only two "cans" on the line. 15 people fit into the can.... so 15 people at a time. I waited in line there a few times, but it was always worth it.)

Anyway, I have spent more time alone in the last year than I ever have. (And this alone time will increase exponentially come mid-August.) I live in the middle of nowhere, far from any large outposts of civilization.

Oddly, I couldn't be happier.

It's not that I am anti-social. Far from it, in fact.

I was talking with Dawn, Dan-O's wife, and she commented that it seems like I am always doing something.

I thought about it, and in the last fourteen months, I have spent only two weekends doing nothing, sitting on the couch, watching movie after movie. That's 56 out of 58 weekends spent exploring, hiking, floating, snowboarding, biking, fishing, communing with bears, etc. (And, let's be honest, quite a few weekdays as well.)

I think it is all that activity that makes solitude a comforting gift, rather than a spiraling loneliness.

I'll have to make sure to keep doing things and adventuring in the upcoming months.

After all, there is such a thing as spending too much time in your head.

Especially my head.

It's not always pleasant in there.

Upon us all, a little rain must fall

The final guest blog from Quagmire.


Statistical Wrap-Up for July

Number of days in India: 31
Number of days in Mumbai: 25
Number of monsoon days: 24
Number of sunny days: 1
Number of feet of the deepest flood seen: 5
Number of seconds it takes to get completely drenched in a full
monsoon: 8

Getting Around
Number of traffic accidents involving a cab or rickshaw I was riding: 3
Number of pedestrians hit by a rickshaw I was riding: 2
Number of times I was hit by a rickshaw: 1
Number of times I was called a sister-fucker by an irate cabbie: 1
Number of times I was invited to remove myself from (read: got kicked
out of) a rickshaw or cab: 3
Number of times I was kicked out of a rickshaw on the night of the
bombings and had to walk to the University in the midst of a large and
palpably angry crowd: 1

Number of phrases in Hindi I can say: 6
Number of Hindi phrases I understand when spoken to me: 0
Number of Hindi phrases, when I say them, are understood by Hindi
speakers: 0
Number of times my cell phone was inexplicably deactivated: 2
Number of times it was just as inexplicably re-activated: 1
Number of rupees the re-activation cost: 151

Cultural assimilation
Number of head bobs required to imply "yes": 5
Number of head bobs required to imply "no": 5
Number of times I affected an Indian accent to help English language
comprehension: 23
Number of attempts to pass as Indian national to get the cheap price: 4
Number of successful attempts to pass as Indian national to get the
cheap price: 0
Number of encounters it took until I no longer noticed the men
carrying giant machine guns: 12
Number of Bangra dance moves I have mastered: 3
Number of Indians who now know how to play Sheephead: 4 (Inside joke
for the Wisconsin folk)

Number of religious riots: 1
Number of terrorist bomb detonations: 7
Number of Parliament ministers sighted: 1
Numbers of times I was lectured on how much better India is than the
US: 7

Number of elephants seen: 5
Number of elephants touched: 1
Number of times I was accosted by stray dogs: 2

Number of open sewers I fell into: 0
Number of open sewers my friend Aza fell into: 1
Number of hot showers taken: 2

Number of Immodium ADs taken: 0
Number of times I was convinced I contracted TB: 3
Number of times I was convinced I contracted leprosy: 1
Number of fevers exceeding 100 F: 1
Highest fever amongst my friends: 104 F

Well, I leave for NY tomorrow morning. Writing these emails has been
fun and a good stress reliever. Hope you have enjoyed reading them as
much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Take care,