Apologies to those following along on Facebook. Life in the gNash is a rural life. Mostly woods and weeds. We stay with clients that have room for us to park. Over the last nearly 10 years we’ve picked up a few creatures along the way. There was a gecko that made it from Mexico to Montana. Presently there is a yellow spider egg sac incubating on our ceiling. Something died in the truck vents once. The aroma took years to clear.
This month we’ve had a momentous family event. Some dear little field mouse boarded the truck and made a nest in the glove box (Compartment?). In NJ we said compartment. Somewhere, I think the south, I picked up box. I digress. Up at the Dearborn campout a few weeks ago I discovered the empty nest of shredded napkin and Elvis hair. Only Elvis sheds. It was empty and there was no sign of droppings. Being an optimist I removed the nest and didn’t give it another thought. I presumed the nest was made but we’d left the occupant behind. A week later I opened the box again and found a new nest. Still no sign of the critters. No droppings. Just a ball of shredded napkins and more Elvis fur.
Mice are a hazard. They do not creep me out. If I could I’d say, “The more the merrier.” But mice have diseases. Mice eat wires. Mice attract rattlers. Mice must disembark. So Burt got serious this week. He caught six mice in 24 hours. The last a two-fer. These two ate their trapped sibling so no sympathies there. One pup was flash crushed in the box door. Mom was trapped. A third pup was trapped and eaten as mentioned above. The fourth a pup also flash crushed by Burt’s lightening quick reflexes while its siblings scurried from the canibalistic buffet. And now these two. Are we done? No we were not. Two more caught over two more days. Grand total: 8 mice in the glove box. Three days and a few hundred miles have passed with no new victims. Perhaps this episode is over.
In other news I got a lifer bird the other day. I spotted a three-toed woodpecker. I wondered why the three-toed name? Silly me. It has only three toes. Most birds have four. You can see in the photo above there are only three toes. This was one of the easier IDs for me. I’m jokingly called it Burt’s spirit animal since he’s short a toe and woodpeckers are called carpenter birds in Mexico. He wasn’t amused. It’s better than the three-toed sloth, I lobbied. Still not amused.
Also in the news, get your skin checked. This is your annual reminder. I had two biopsies this year. Both bad but not cancer. This style of biopsy is a punch. They drill out a cylinder of skin. Sadly, even after two solid weeks in stitches my wound did not close. It’s a nuisance but it beats cancer. I try to remember these little pains are life saving interventions. Each one is removing something that might someday cross the line. Perhaps the skin cancer I was going to get is already gone? Maybe we’ll catch it early if I do develop a melanoma. Chances are extremely high. Melanoma in the family and a blue eyed, moley skin with waaaaaaay too much childhood exposure. I remember trying to get tan. Year after year. Ahhhhh…
This morning Barb asked, “Are you going to write about last night?” I hadn’t gotten that far in my thinking. This morning I’m sapped and stunned. Then Barb added, “I miss so many of the older folks and it would be something I can have to remember.” Talk about pressure.
This summer the Gypsy Carpenters found an artistic home and last night we were able to bring a lot of pieces together in one place to create something much bigger than us. Years of friendships, and gigs, and open hearts made for a magic night. Here’s how it started.
Firstly, Zondra. The Z grew up here and has been a part of the Gardiner music scene since she could walk. She is carrying on her father Wayne’s legacy as an ambassador of live music and a community builder. Wayne was a master of getting th emusic going and going and going. Zondra has inherited that gene. Zondra came with a venue and a weekly slot and a pile of musical talent and energy. Zondra rocks that bass and is game for anything, anywhere. Let’s play! is her motto and nothing we do is too difficult of weird. She gave us the energy and the desire to get out of our trailer and commit to playing regularly for fun and practice. A regular gig does wonders for the skill, relaxation, and repertoire. Which leads us to the Wonderland Cafe.
Stacy and her staff, everyone of them, make us feel like we are exactly where we belong when we show up to play. Last night I asked for a cobbler after the show and when it looked like they might have forgotten it they said, “No, don’t leave. We want you to be fully satisfied!” That Flathead cherry cobbler showed up 2 minutes later. We’ve been told we can play whenever we want. We can play whatever we want. We can invite guests. They can eat, too. And the food is good. The clientele are mostly tourists looking for a good time and they tip generously. We give them a night to remember when we play a favorite song or bless them with good wishes to see their dream animal in the park.
Cody. Remember, Cody? Refresh yourselves HERE. In brief, we picked up Cody hitchhiking in Texas nearly 10 years ago. He and his bike were pinned down in a vicious wind. Cody is currently working seasonally in Gardiner. He’s a percussionist living an improvised life like us. We’ve been pestering him to sit in with us all summer but his job intruded. Last night he finally showed up with his cajon to beat out some support for us.
After a couple of gigs in July we knew this was a place to settle in and have fun making music. I texted our former bandmate Barb Piccolo and asked if she wanted to come down and visit and play a night with us. I knew she’d be in the area for other events and hoped to loop her into one of our shows. Barb has been a steadfast friend and mentor to me through thick and thin. In the beginning she was the thoroughly skilled and knowledgeable player that encouraged me to keep at it. As my skills grew she kept encouraging me. There was always positive energy from her as I developed. Barb has never wavered in her support and kindness to Burt and me. There was a dark time in our lives when very few people would associate with us. Barb stood by us and played music with us. All that and she loves the stuff we play and kills it on accordion. I really hoped Barb would join us for a gig but we saw her plenty at various Montana jamborees and did a lot of tunes together. Last week Barb said she was going to come and see us. Then she wasn’t. Then she was.
In the midst of Barb trying to find time to play with us we ran into Johnny at the Dearborn music campout. Johnny is a long, lean boy of 16 that is coming into his own on the fiddle. Two years ago when we met him I would not have invited him to sit it. This summer he played a couple of tunes with us and I found out he lived about 30 minutes away. He had not played a public gig. I said, “Johnny, you want to play with us?” I didn’t even check with Burt. Johnny said yes. The logistics nearly ruined it for him but despite his confusion on locations and dates and missing our one practice he made it to the gig.
Magically, Zondra, Johnny, Barb, and Cody all convened on the same night with the Gypsy Carpenters in the Wonderland Cafe. We had never played all together at the same time. But the solid foundation of the Gypsy Carpenters was perfect for these dynamic players to build upon. The house was full of tourists and friends. In another bit of kismet several folks that had wanted to see us were finally able to make a show. I took advantage of knowing the house was friendly and boldly compelled the restaurant to near silence as I announced to the audience that they were in for a special night. I told them they were lucky and we were lucky. Burt and I were surrounded by players and listeners that loved us. Johnny was here for his first gig. Barb and Zondra had played with us for years. I gave everyone’s back story. I opened their hearts to us as a ragtag group that had miracuolously come together. And then we got going.
We almost always start with I am a Pilgrim. It’s easy, it’s upbeat. We can warm up the harmonies, and our hands. In a masterful move, Burt gave Johnny the first break in this first song. A song Johnny had never even heard before. That’s how we do it around here. Stay loose and ready. So the music was good. It was fun. It was unpredictable. And we were off. Johnny fired off some fiddle tunes. Barb and Zondra sang a duet. I’d never heard Zondra sing in twenty years. A man named Alex showed up with an ukulele. He was playing along on the sidewalk outside. I invited him in. Then he said he had a trumpet. We sent him home to fetch his trumpet and we had everyone in the place singing ring of fire while Alex blasted out the iconic trumpet bits. And I had my dream come true of a horn section. People were having a ball on and off stage. The tips were huge.
And then it was over. Many people think playing music must always feel good, it must always be fun. Those people are not musicians. It’s our job to make it look fun and easy and look as if we are enjoying ourselves. But we’re often hot, tired, or we can’t hear ourselves, or we are annoyed that nobody is listening, annoyed that they ARE listening, annoyed the tip jar is empty, annoyed the restaurant has cruddy food and they made us move the tables. Last night was the kind of show we dream about. It was fun and joyful. We got to share the love with everyone. The show ended and we sat for an extra beer and a cobbler. A group of men from Seattle came up and told us they enjoyed our singing. They wanted to know how long we’d been practicing together. I explained it was our first time playing as a group but Burt and I had been a duo for ten years. I asked if they were musicians. One man, they grew up in Southern India, said he studied Indian singing. As we sat in the nearly empty restaurant he sang us an Indian folk song. I tear up recalling it. What a gift it is to inspire people to share their music.
This morning as we grew teary missing Wayne and Tom and all the other musicians that led us here I said to Barb, “But look at the first gig we gave Johnny. It was joyful, generous, good, fun…The crowd loved us…We’re doing it right bringing up the next kids. He will always have that to remember.”
Somebody called recently and asked how summer was going. All I could say was dogs. Burt nailed it when he said, “we live in a kennel.” The Olvis was an 8 year masterpiece. No squabbles, high compliance rate, no teething. Cholvis. Chava plus Olvis is an entirely different universe. Olive is a bitch. Elvis is doing things he hasn’t done in years. Chava is determined to eat everything. Berries off of bushes, cigarette butts, all excrement, anything plastic. I found my ear plugs in his poop. I regularly go online for therapeutic readings on how to deal with a teenage dog. Chava is 7 months old and this is exactly when most puppies are given up for behavioral problems. It’s literally a full-time job to raise a healthy, happy puppy. Best advice so far: Never leave them unattended. All activities come with Chava attached. Leaving a curious puppy to his own devices results in destruction and heartbreak. If Chava can’t come it’s the crate. So far it’s all minor stuff but the list is endless and mysterious. We lost some apples. They turned up in Chava’s bear like poop. $20 of heirloom tomatoes? Eaten in 5 minutes. I caught him before he swallowed the paring knife he stole from the counter. Burt’s crocs remain mostly unmolested.
With every outing requiring a minimum of one and up to three dog companions certain activities have been entirely curtailed. I have not birded in a month. Music weekends have been spent with Chava lashed to our chairs. They say this phase will pass and pass quickly since Chava is a small dog. He’s holding steady at under 50 pounds. Maybe even under 40 pounds. I can still pick him up. Meanwhile I’ll keep reading dog therapy articles.
While we strategically manage the mouth of destruction we also face the normal rebellion of a teen. Chava sits. It just takes a staring contest and 2 to 3 minutes for him to execute. He can heel. As long as there are no sentient beings within his view shed. Same with come. Chava comes like a champ. As long as Elvis isn’t telling him to ignore us. Elvis can’t hear or see so he ignores all commands. Chava has noticed. Now Olive is noticing that Elvis and Chava are ignoring us. We’re fighting a mini-insurrection, a mutiny, if you will, of the canine crew. Dog therapy? Clamp down and reiterate all house rules at all times. Random sit and stay patrol. No food without performance. It’s all very exhausting after years of well mannered pooches. But both and Burt and I are united in the face of this challange. We cannot have obnoxious, ill-mannered dogs and live this lifestyle. Safety and sanity demand compliance. I’m hopeful that fall will find boot camp tapering off to just the chaos of life with 5 individuals.
And so now you know where I’ve been. It’s also kind of boring.
The kennel our three dogs let us share with them is on the move. We are out of work while the electrician and insulators get down to business. If those subs finish before we head south fo rthe winter we’ll move back to Jardine to advance the project but we will not finish. Our clients had a case of mission creep and the job was too big for us to do in one season so they’ll be on their own to get it done over the winter. Day one a couple months back Burt said, “I can’t do it all. I’ll get you started or we can leave.” They opted for us to get them started. So it’s framed and we are on the road.
First up was three days on the Beartooth Plateau. We are all suitably worn out by our high elevation hiking, fishing, and bird seeking. Olive and her puny heart did very well. Elvis managed a 5 mile day. Chava was a poop finding, dead animal eating machine. Free on the range and all he did was eat whatever he found. It came out as fast as it went in. One day we observed 8 defecations. I have to wonder how many we missed. He also seems to have grown a few more inches over night. His teen rage is subsiding. He recalled on command and is dropping food is we catch him in time. Yesterday I got him to expel a maggot filled rodent the size of a NYC rat. Chava is even considering heeling. He thinks about it but after about ten steps he rejects the idea. Soon, Chava, soon.
Today we’ve landed in Columbus for the fiddler’s weekend. We’ll head over to Town Pump for showers soon and then settle in for five days of tunes. We’re on the banks of the Yellowstone, under the cottonwoods. Swing on in and join us if you’re in the area.
Up here in the mountains we’re experiencing a microclimate of cool weather and copious rain. It’s buggy but nice. Yesterday we pulled in from a trip to the BozOne for plumbing supplies and sushi and a movie and as Burt attempted to position us into our spot under a tree we got stuck. The good news is were in a safe spot and sort of level. Bad news is: How and when are we getting out of this? I’m in the passive school. It will dry eventually. Burt is gearing up for an active response. I need a place to hide. If your wondering why we pulled the trailer to Bozeman for errands, there’s a three part answer. Elvis, Olive, Chava. It’s easier to drag the trailer and spend the night than try and keep the dogs safe and us unindicted in the truck cab. We live in a kennel and it goes where we go.
Check out the road sign above. A few times a week we wander the surrounding forest service roads and the other evening we found ourselves at the same address we use in Mexico. Calle sin nombre. The street with no name.
We had a gig this weekend at the Gardiner Brewfest. It was early in the day-long event so it had a low key vibe. Technically it felt like we did our job and we were assisted by a marvelous sound engineering team but it was sunny and hot and people were in the shade a long way from the stage. It was a long distance concert and so not nearly as fun as our Wednesday night shows at the Wonderland Cafe. There people are right with us and they’re on vacation and ready to have some fun. We ask where they’re from and what they’ve seen. Bears! Buffalo (bison)! Elk! We take regional requests and everyone gets in the spirit of the night. That is our kind of show. Come and see us if you are in the area.
After our set we hung around and had a beer and listened to the next band. A former co-worker of mine had come down to catch our set so we sat and chatted with him in the grass while listening to the next faraway band. After a while we realized our dogs needed saving and so we had to go. I wanted to see the headliners (they were our kind sound team) but three dogs need more attention than I could previously have imagined. It’s always something.
And then it was something. Gardiner is the most diverse place I’ve lived in Montana. There are tourists from all over the world here to see the most famous national park anywhere. And there are also seasonal employees from all points of the compass. Park concessionaires recruit and hire staff from all regions of the US and the world to fill housekeeping, hospitality, and maintenance positions. There are people of every color and diverse cultural backgrounds, languages, accents walking the streets of Gardiner.
Burt and I loaded our instruments into our former but now borrowed 1994 Subaru Legacy and headed up the hill to Jardine. Just at the corner we noticed an altercation between a white man and two black men on a corner in downtown Gardiner. I yelled stop but Burt was already slamming on the brakes. I jumped out of the car as I dialed 911. Now my cell phone is having a hissy fit these days. Sometimes people can hear me and sometimes they can’t. Now I can’t be sure if this screaming match between these men was racially motivated. Here’s what I saw: A white guy screaming and gesticulating wildly. He was stationed on the steps to a porch. He had a couple of friends on the porch behind him. The black guy standing was street side just inside a pole fence on grass acting like he wanted to tangle. His body language said, “Bring it.” There was another man outside the fence. I’m not sure if he was trying to get his friend to exit the property or if he had his back. There was another man, older and white, on the opposite side of the black men.
As I approached the white guy was threatening the black guy. I was screaming the address as best I could into my phone and I yelled at the white guy, “Get back on your porch. Leave him alone.” Nobody was happy to see old white chick get in the middle. Glares all around. One of the ideas of my martial arts school was if you could protect yourself or somebody else, you are not just saving your own life, but you are also saving your attackers life. You are giving them a chance to not harm you and maybe there life will end up differently. So there I was yelling into the phone and yelling at the white guy cause he was the one going bonkers when the white guy does what I ask and goes to the porch. And he comes back with an axe. As he brandishes the ax he yells, “This is Montana and I’m white. I can kill you and nothing will happen to me.” Okay. This is a racially charged incident. No doubt now.
The man on the other side of the black guys is saying, “It’s not worth it. Get out of here.” And I am yelling, “Get back!” to the axe man. He turns towards me. The 911 dispatcher is yelling at me to leave. The dude is on one side of a fence and I am on the other. He’s 20′ away. We make eye contact. I am not one bit afraid. His racist, stand your ground, all too true statement has made me feel invincible. I meet his stare and he can’t face me. He looks away and turns towards the porch, swings the ax into a porch column and puts it down. Burt is now out of the car. The guy comes back towards us and the black men have crossed the street. The dispatcher is yelling leave, the police are on their way. The guy starts yelling at Burt for looking at him. Burt tells him it’s a public street and he can watch if he wants too. Since the danger has passed and the cops are headed over I slip into the car and we make our getaway.
Soon after a park ranger came to the gNash to take our statements. Gardiner is the wild west. Law enforcement here is a patchwork. We were told that the white guy was angry at the black guys for cutting through his property. His rental property. Apparently it is very common for local workers to take this shortcut. We also learned that none of the parties is a resident. They are all seasonal workers and they’ve had words before. The ax was hidden by the time law enforcement showed and the guy’s buddies denied he ever had an ax. Our word against theirs. Today I learned that nobody has been charged.
I find myself ambivalent regarding prosecution. If our intervention prevented a tragedy than that’s enough for me. And maybe it did. On the bigger, global scale I am pissed. Montana is a stand your ground state and that asshat was almost certainly right that he could have murdered that black man and gotten away with it. Maybe not after that indiscreet announcement of his intentions and bias but I agree he could have claimed he was reacting in fear and that he thought his life was in danger and the jury would have bought it. Black vs. white has a miserable record in this country. And, hell, in Montana you can shoot a fleeing white person in the back and still successfully claim self-defense.
It’s important to me to bring this up but it’s a little awkward. Please remember when I waded in there was no ax. I just saw some men heatedly arguing and thought I can stop this. My own bias led me to believe it was a race based altercation. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. How could I know from my car? The ax and the vile racist utterance came out within moments of my arrival. It confirmed to me that stopping was the right thing to do. If only because I got to say to that guy in my actions NO, WE ARE NOT ALL LIKE YOU. It is our duty to call out racism and to do what we can to stop it.
Someone on Facebook metioned it’s probably easier to confront an ax wielding asshole than your sweet 80 year old neighbor. I think that person was correct. Personally I’m going to try and channel the power I felt in the heat of the moment into pushing back and educating friends and family.
I’m not sleeping much. I don’t think it’s the incredibly vile political commentary coming from above or the horrific things happening to refugees on our border so much as it is the hot flashes. The hot flashes plague me at night. The other stuff haunt me during the day. I feel profoundly powerless on so many levels. I can’t work much due to general old lady-ness. The elevation, my back and the heaviness of the work have rendered me nearly useless or worse, a liability. I started physical therapy this week and we decided the trouble I’m having is the super laxity of my joints. I’ve always had hypermobile joints and it has served me well in many ways but as I get older and my muscle tone naturally diminishes things move way too much. So my PT boils down to a simple enough maneuver that is hilarious. It’s an belly button lift and a kegel any time I move. After months of this my PT says it will happen automatically and I won’t have to think about it every time I move. If I felt old before I feel really old now. Lift and squeeze, lift and squeeze. That’s it though. No other exercises just lift and squeeze and go about my business. That’s the plan for the low back. The moveable rib in my mid-back that comes and goes with shocking pain has not got a plan, yet. The PT says I might learn how to pop it back in over time. Meanwhile it’s still muscle relaxers and pain killers if it goes out again.
So feeling all decrepit as I am I decided it was time to replace this shoddy mattress. Amazon Prime brought us a top rated memory foam queen right to the gNash door for $450. I feel guilty patronizing the huge worker abusing corporation but have you ever tried to buy a mattress? Add to that experience living 2 hours from the nearest mattress store and you can see why the big A is irresistible. That and the thing cost half what I’ve paid for a mattress in the last twenty years. Sometimes I think these are the cultural issues that divide us. Walmart and Amazon have made life much easier in the rural areas of our deeply divided nation. I’ve been derided for shopping at Walmart and I respond with, “Where are we supposed to go? It’s all that’s left in rural America.” Luckily here we can pick up essentials at an independent store 5 miles away or head an hour up the road to my favorite grocery in all of Montana, also employee owned.
On the up side of the general negativity we are playing a weekly gig and it has been good. The tourist based crowds love to interact and shout out where they are from when I ask. Canada, Brazil, West Virginia, Spokane…Given our wide variety of tunes in our repertoire we have something to please everyone. Weeven got a rousing round of Wheels on the Bus for a kid filled night. Tips are adequate, too. The Wonderland Cafe has tasty food and a supportive staff but the best part is we get backed up by the flexible fingers and groovy beats of Zondra Skertich on bass. Z happens to be our client and the reason we are here working so it’s very convenient to have her in the band this season. If you’re in the area come on down.
Saturday we’re opening the Gardiner Brewfest. Music starts at 3:30. Pop in and have a beer.
Despite the fact that the TeamCholvis just ate a dozen eggs and gooshed the extra into the seat cushions this morning I will admit that three dogs aren’t too trying now that we are stationary. Feeding, peeing, pooping, and exiting a vehicle multiple times a day drained TeamHuman. Leash 1, leash 2, leash 3…where’s leash 3…come back here…wait…wait…oh, there it is…clip…OKAY…12 paws hit the ground attached to three strings and a human. The human ducks and twirls and, to date, has not gone down. Occasionally a dog is loose. Maybe the hand didn’t quite have a hold or maybe the dog was never attached. Cue the gutteral command to STAY. Cars are almost always whizzing by when we get in and out. Adrenaline floods my body. The dogs always, so far, stop. I capture the loose mutt and we proceed to walk. Usually we split them between us. Burt takes Elvis and maybe another. I almost always deal with Olive. She’s fussy. When one human must do the job alone it’s ergonomically uncomfortable to walk all three. Elvis must be dragged, the others pull. I try to channel my inner neutral balance between the sixty pound in each hand. The key is to transfer the pullers to the dog that needs pulling without throwing out your own back.
Happily the life threatening dog comfort walk is less frequent now that we are in our summer work spot. There is ample property for some free ranging. There is a yard. There are leashed walks that do not involved a vehicle. Cars are few and far between. Now if we take a leash walk I get Olive and Burt takes Elvis and Chava. Burt is the master trainer for heeling. After the pups have released some energy they might get free time in the woods. Chava and Olive are getting better at their off-leash heeling. Recall is only a problem for Elvis. He is deaf, stubborn, demented. I am always amazed at how much our older dogs teach the younger dogs. Elvis taught Olive, Olive is teaching Chava. But it cuts both good and bad. Chava has noticed Elvis getting away with all kinds of transgressions and has tried to follow the Elvis mentoring plan. Elvis won’t come, sit or wait for food so why should I? As my mom used to say: Because I said so. After a week of it Chava seems back on track with following us not Elvis.
So after a rough couple of weeks where we learned this Chava was stuck with us, that he might have ringworm, that he was growing so fast and eating so much and needed to be walked six times a day and once at night we’ve finally reached the spot where it’s only a little more energy to manage him. And he’s a good dog. And he doesn’t have ringworm.
Our weekend was spent at my favorite summer jamboree. Every June the Simms brothers host a pile of musicians on their ranch near Helena and all we have to do is play, play, play. The Simms and their team of friendly helpers give us food and love in return. This year did not disappoint. First off Mike Simms shared with me how he is deeply into the Gypsy Carpenters’ blog. He started reading from post #1 and is somewhere in year two. That’s a lot of embarrassing material to be dredged up. Burt and I think Mike might know our past better than we do. It’s always a thrill to talk with a reading fan. I think there are 6 now.
Then I got to share my recent bigotry blowout story in person with Mike and a couple others. It felt good to get that off my chest. And then we played music and left all that other BS behind for a few days. It helps that our phones don’t work up in the mountains. My friend KaL came to walk me and Olive and Chava on Saturday. We caught up on all things dog and some not-dog. I miss KaL. We used to run millions of miles together. Now we walk a couple of miles a year. Next year should be better.
After our sore hands and fingers and brains gave up we headed to Helena for showers and tool collection. Today I am writing from Jardine, MT. Look it up. Grizzly central. We’ll be hear all summer. Stay tuned for more pictures with my fantastic birthday camera and tales of walking in bear country with the dogs.
Recently I was sitting in an out patient surgical center in Helena, Montana minding my own business while waiting for a friend who needed a ride home. Scattered around the room were copies of Montana Senior News a magazine aimed at Montana’s rapidly aging population. I immediately noticed the cover photo was of Linda Gryczan a woman I happen to know and hold in high esteem. Linda was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that struck down Montana’s deviant sexual misconduct statute. While Montana’s law on gay sex was struck down a long time ago it is still legal to discriminate in all things on sexual orientation and gender identity in Montana. So LGBTQ people are no longer felons but they can be denied jobs, housing, and services. In fact, when Burt and I had some troublesome tenants that happened to be gay we were advised to use their gayness to remove them from our property. We were so offended by this thought we did the opposite and let them stay until the lease expired despite missed payments and property damage. The problem wasn’t their gayness. They were volatile young men. We knew nobody wanted to rent to a pair of teenage boys so we worked with them until the end.
So I picked up the magazine and started to read the article about the history of gay rights in Montana and specifically how elder LGBTQ folk in Montana have no protections when it comes to discrimination in end of life scenarios. Nursing homes can bar them or prevent couples from living together. Ignorant, hateful staff may treat someone poorly and it might be just fine with management. While I knew we as a society had a long way to go to make everyone feel safe and welcome and valued I had never thought of the heart piercing details some people must face on a day to day basis at the most vulnerable time in their lives. The article was written by another person I know, Aaron Parrett and Nan Parrett took the photos of the people that shared their stories and concerns. It is a really nice piece that discusses how far we’ve come and what remains to be done. It even mentions that most Montanans have a live and let live attitude and are uninterested in making sexual orientation an issue. I basked in the glow of the article being prominently featured and scattered on every table in the waiting room. There was an inkling of hope. You can read it here.
A few minutes later I was playing Bridge on my phone and I heard a couple come in and sit with their backs to me. The waiting room was about 10′ by 10′ with seats for 12 or so people. There were three other people in the room. I was seated furthest from the door. The couple comes in and starts bashing democrats and libtards loudly enough that anyone could hear. I ignored them. I didn’t even look up. Montana is Trump country. Not a surprise to run into people holding these views but kind of odd that they’d be speaking so loudly and negatively in a small public space. Then the man said: They even had a parade last week downtown with their flags and nobody cares…The woman says: You see them everywhere…The man replies: A bunch of them women were camped out at the campground last weekend all in the SAME campsite. Sharing tents. I looked up expecting to see some gnarled old timers and was appalled to see a heterosexual couple of about my age or younger spewing this vile hate loud enough for the whole room to hear. I said: You shouldn’t share your homophobia in public. The man says: I’m not homophobic. I say, sweetly: sounds like you are. Meanwhile I was thinking and they call us snowflakes. These two were undone by a magazine cover. Silence.
The silence was profound and there was a frisson of fear. The three uninvolved people looked like they wanted to turn invisible. Then the woman mutters: I just don’t understand why they need special rights. I stood up and yelled: Shut the FUCK up. Not my finest retort. I moved to get support from the front desk and discovered the receptionist had stepped away. I turned to face the couple. They were between me and the door. The man was leering and grinning. They were enjoying this. I realized I was in danger of assault. I was going to assault him. I exited the building and called the Surgicenter to let them know I was waiting outside since I know longer felt safe in their waiting room. For forty minutes I paced and basically freaked out. Here I was white and straight and I was getting only a taste of the fear millions live with everyday of their lives. I presumed I knew as a woman, and I do to an extent but this was horrifying. I was completely unprepared to feel their demeaning gaze and hear their vile, ignorant words.
In some ways I felt ashamed that I lost my temper. And in other ways it’s nice to just explode. I wish I’d continued to politely ask them to keep their views to themselves. I’ve confronted bullies at work and other places. I’ve had many men try and some succeed to intimidate me. I feel very much at risk as a female in our society. I do not feel equal. I do not feel heard. And yet I have so many advantages since I am white and educated and tall and bold. Eventually a staff member came out and found me. She’d heard what happened and apologized and thanked me for speaking up. I’m optimistic that next time I’ll be a bit gentler when I tell bigots to shut their pie holes. It takes practice. These situations happen when least expected.
I share this story not to garner praise or support. I share it so maybe you will practice and imagine and find the courage to say something, anything. We must drive hate back into hiding. We can do it.