Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stop Staring at Us!: Memorial Day Weekend Part 2

Okey dokey, back for round 2 of the big weekend...

Okay, so who has heard of the Cracker Barrel? Anyone? There must be some people because apparently it’s extremely popular at highway turn-offs and airport hotels all over the country. Alyson, upon arriving, gave me a hug and told me that she had seen a Cracker Barrel off Exit 101 and that we would be going as soon as possible. What? Cracker Barrel? Having no idea what this place was, I just assumed I must have been somewhere similar in my life since a restaurant with a name like Cracker Barrel has to have a location SOMEWHERE in Eastern Oregon (I was thinking similar to the Round Up in Condon. Kelda, Amy, Alyson, Paige, Lauren – you all know exactly what I’m talking about)… Ooohhhhh, but I was so wrong. The next morning we get up and Alyson is immediately dressed and ready to go get to the good old CB. We drive up and the first thing I notice is the rocking chairs and oversized checkers sets that cover the front porch. I laugh, Alyson says its normal here, and we go inside. No one would call the inside of this place normal. I was in no way prepared for the visual assault the Cracker Barrel would wage on my corneas. It was like everything corny, cheesy, tacky, sugary and most of all AMERICAN was stuffed into one tiny little room. Ceramic American flag lamp anyone? Frog on a swing? “Nostalgic” candy? All available for purchase. And, don’t forget your country rocker. How I’ve missed out on the ridiculous that is this restaurant/country store for 27 years is beyond me, but the pancakes were quite good.

So after breakfast I have the absolutely brilliant idea to hike the “M.” The “M,” for those of you who don’t know, is located above the University on the west face of Mount Sentinel has been a Missoula landmark since 1908, when Forestry Club members forged a zigzag trail up the mountain and students carried up stones to shape the symbol of the University of Montana. From the first time I ever visited Paige in Missoula, I’ve heard about how hiking the “M” is a rite of passage for people who live here. But anyone who knows me knows if I’m on vacation there is no working out. Please.

In 1912, a wooden letter replaced the one made of stone. When the wooden "M" was blown off the mountain (ha – isn’t that a funny mental picture?) in 1915, it was replaced with a more permanent, larger stone "M." That structure remained until 1968, when it was replaced with the concrete "M" that’s there today. I asked a local if they flew in the concrete, but no. It was hauled up slowly in buckets (seriously can’t even imagine this).

So since I am no longer on vacation and now call Missoula my home, I decided it was time to make the trek. And to take Alyson with me. The trail is less than a mile long but you have to climb a steep, zigzag path with 11 switchbacks and you gain 620 feet in elevation. As you get higher, the view expands to include all of Missoula, the valley, the Clark Fork River and distant mountains. After about 10 minutes I was done and felt really lucky to have Wyatt with me to help pull me up the hill. Making it even worse were the dozens of people RUNNING up the hill. Whatever – we made it and it was so great! It felt like a really big accomplishment and now I was beginning to feel like a true Missoulian. Jackson and Wyatt frolicked all along the switchbacks and had a great time.

So the day moves on, we take a nap, and go to dinner at Scotty’s Table, which is my favorite restaurant in Missoula. From there, we headed to Sean Kelley’s and met up with my friend Dave. This is where it starts to get awkward. Alyson, who I love DEARLY, came into Montana thinking (as I’m sure I did when I first started visiting) that she would be more attractive than most of the Montanan women. So we sit down at Sean Kelley’s with Dave and Alyson keeps commenting on this table of old men who she says is staring at her. After about 10 minutes of this, I look over and catch the eye of one of them and he says hi and I say hi. To get what I assume to be the inevitable over with, I say, “would you please stop staring at my friend?” and he says, “who do you think I’m staring at?” and I point at Alyson. Then he says, “Ummm… no, I’m staring at the girl back by the window.” OH MY GOD THAT DID NOT JUST HAPPEN. Yep, one big old slap to everyone’s ego later, we’re off the next bar. Where it happened again. Alyson, apparently undeterred by the smack down we received at Sean Kelley’s, thought a group of younger men were staring at her and said something to them, to which they replied, “We’re watching Nascar on the TV behind you.” Just so everyone knows – Alyson and I have since had a good chuckle about this and she said there was no way I couldn’t write about it on the blog. All in all, a quality evening.

After breakfast and some shopping Monday morning, we decide to take in a little more nature and head to Blue Mountain, near where my friend Dawson grew up and his parents still live. I had a lovely dinner with Bill and Lynda Brown a few weekends ago on their beautiful property and have been wanting to explore more of Blue Mountain ever since. So we found a trail where the dogs could be off-leash and headed out. We hiked to the top of the hill, stared at the beautiful view, played with the dogs and drank champagne. Yes, in the middle of the day. It was a holiday...
Now Alyson is gone and it’s back to work and life for me. Oh! And Jackson ate bee yesterday and his face was all swollen. Sorry, no photos. Paige and Justin come home next Thursday and the weather is taking a sunny turn, so I really have nothing to complain about… except I miss everyone! Obviously you can tell that people who come to visit get the royal treatment so get on a plane and come see me!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thanks for the ummm...yeah: Memorial Day Weekend Part 1

Happy Tuesday! So I had an excellent long weekend and thought I would share, but a lot happened in the last three days so I will be posting in two different blogs.

My good friend Alyson Angelo came to visit for the weekend, which was very exciting - she's my first friend from home to come stay. Alyson didn't come in to town until Saturday morning and Friday night I went out to a bar called the Montana Club with Amanda, the girl who works for me, her brother and his friends. They asked me what I wanted to drink and I, of course, said chilled Patron. But that is apparently not a Montana drink and what was put in front of me instead was an Irish Car Bomb which, for those of you who don't know, is Guinness, whiskey and Bailey's. I have spent my whole life avoiding this drink but there we were in a very Montana bar and all these men were watching me and judging. Suddenly I hear Paige and Justin in my head telling me I better just smile, take it and pretend that I like it if I ever want to fit in (FYI, this goes for hunting, too. If you're talking to a boy and they're talking about how much they love hunting and killing animals and cooking their flesh DO NOT do what I did, which is make a disgusted face and say something along the lines of "ewwwwwww." They don't appreciate it...). So I took it and smiled and thanked them and before I know it, four (possibly five - it's fuzzy) Car Bombs have been consumed and I'm being asked out on a date by a man I will refer to as The Jockey. I call him this because he is TINY. I'm thinking about 5'5'', 120 pounds. Really cute, but just extremely petite. I told myself when I moved here that I needed to be more open-minded about dating and that if/when someone asks me out, I will give it a shot. Paige and I have since amended this to exclude married men, college fraternity boys and men missing limbs. I still think I'm being extremely open-minded...

So anyway, The Jockey asks me out and it's almost comical. I was sitting on a bar stool so I stand up. You all know I was wearing at least 4-inch heels and looking down at him, I just wanted to pick him up and hug him so his little legs dangled above the floor. But, true to my word, I said yes so everyone should expect a hilarious post about that date at a later time.

So Alyson ends up getting into Missoula around 2:30pm (she had to drive from Spokane) and I show her around the house and the town. It was raining, which was too bad, but we went and got some lunch and did some shopping. For as small a town as this is, there are some really excellent clothing boutiques. At one of those boutiques they were selling what appeared to be a newsboy hat with ear flaps but the top part of it was grey fur:

This seems to be a trend with college kids here, as Paige and I have seen SEVERAL girls out at the bars wearing jean mini skirts, tube tops, Uggs and these hats. The only thing I could imagine that would be any better would be something along these lines:

But unfortunately I have yet to lay eyes on something this awesome. These girls are wearing these hats with such blatant confidence that it's making me feel out of the fashion loop and I'm not 100% sure I won't be wearing one of these all winter. They do look warm...

Soo... that night Amanda came over and the three of us went and had dinner and drinks at a couple different bars. James Bar, the bar that's pretty much straight out of the Pearl in Portland, was packed and we did some good people watching. And in this time, Alyson and I decided that if James Bar was the nicest bar in Missoula, that we needed to buy a bar, gut it, and make it AWESOME. I've had this thought before because there are only a certain number of liquor licences allowed in Missoula, so if you own a bar/restaurant with a liquor licence, there is no way you can't do well. Plus, people here just really like to drink. This idea was cemented when I found out my favorite bar/club EVER, Stockman's is for sale (for $3.5 million). Now to find investors...

We ended the night at Amanda's house in the hottub with a bunch of her friends. The weekend included a lot more that I will share with you all later, but expect a blog about the Cracker Barrel, hiking the M, amateur night at the Fox Club and champagne on Blue Mountain...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jackson is a Hunter

That's right. Montana has rubbed off on Jackson and he's killing things. He's working his way up slowly, kiling smaller animals and ripping their insides out to show me. So far he's killed a rabbit, a chicken, something I couldn't recognize and another dog.

Today it was a squirrel and a kitten.

Granted, they didn't run or put up too much of a struggle. Just the occasional squeek here and there. Even now, he plays with their deflated little bodies, flinging them rapidly from side to side while his slobber goes flying onto the legs of innocent bystanders. He's currently having his way with a large monkey. No, monkeys are not native to Montana, but still worth killing in Jackson's eyes:

Look at how pleased he is with himself...

On another note, I've taken a few pics of my new office and the cool trout tank I look at every day at the request of a few different people. The office I work in is an old Packard dealership and has exposed bricks walls and beautiful unfinished wood floors. The middle of the office has a large atrium with lots of light and trees and bushes everywhere.

I'm finishing painting the house this weekend and then I'll send pics next week. Justin left for vacation without mowing my lawn, so it looks like I might have to do it myself...trouble :).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Big Move

I've been in Missoula about about a week and a half and I thought a blog would be the best way to update all the people I love on life in the Garden City.

Things have been pretty hectic, but I'm finally starting to feel settled. I arrived two Sundays ago and moved into my new house the next morning. The movers, who weren't supposed to be in Missoula with my things until May 9th, showed up at 8am Monday morning. There I was, planning to sleep on the floor with no furniture or dishes (not to mention my extensive and very necessary shoe collection), and all of a sudden the house was packed with 50+ boxes and disassembled beds and tables. Paige, Justin and our friend Joe were all very helpful and we got most of the boxes unpacked and things put together in a few days. In the process, we filled three huge mattress bags as tall as Paige and me with paper and trash. These bags and boxes sat in the front yard for several days, making my neighbors question just what kind of trashy (pun not intended) person had moved in next door.

Last Thursday I started my new job at Spiker Communications and have been slowly getting the hang of things and learning about our clients. Our clients are pretty exciting affluent resorts and developments and I'm looking forward to making some trips to see the sites later this summer.

My parents and their puppy, Tony Bennett, came to visit last weekend and help me paint the inside of my new house. We had a great weekend with beautiful weather. We rode bikes, went to the farmers market and ventured out to the annual Missoula BrewFest. We didn't get a ton of painting done, but it was so nice no one wanted to stay inside. Not very exciting updates, but I'm sure I'll have more once I'm here a bit longer.
For those of you who want/need a Jackson update, he is doing quite well. He is adjusting to not spending every day with Grandma, but I take him to work with me a few times a week and have signed him up for "Doggie Hikes." They come pick him up, but him on the doggie bus and cart them up to the hills for a three hour hike. As for coming into the office, everyone loves him except the other office dog, Wrangler (FYI, everyone here names their dog something similar to that: Wrangler, Wyatt, Austin, Houston, Rodeo, Carhartt, Big Sky. It's ridiculous. Maybe I should tell people I named him Jackson for Jackson Hole or something...). Wrangler stays away from him so Jackson has started following Wes Spiker and his son Jared around the office hoping they'll play with him like Grandpa used to do. Wes has taken quite a liking to him, which bodes well for me (yes, I'm using my dog for professional advancement).
Justin is graduatin from the U this weekend, so I'm sure I'll update again soon... Love, Lizzie