First, I want to apologize for twice responding with (not very funny) humor. It’s where I go when I’m trying to deflect attention. I like being noticed, but it also makes me uncomfortable. I’m an introvert who also was a professional street performer, and, when I was headmaster of a private school, my alter-ego was Larry the Lounge Lizard. So, seriously, thank you, and thank you for your part in making Medium a positive and supportive community.
Now, here’s the thing about Montana. First, the weather in the western third of the state is wonderful, with four distinct seasons, and relatively mild winters. Second, Missoula, where I lived, mostly, is possibly the most liberal, progressive, artistic, healthy, family-friendly, fun town in America. And third, Alberton, where our B&B and Sporty’s were, taught me things I could never have learned elsewhere.
Alberton, about 30 miles west of Missoula, had a population of under 400, about half being sweet young families trying to raise their kids close to nature and close to an extended community of other caring families. It was real-life little house on the prairie, times ten. The other half were on the skids, marginally employed, or not at all, often alcoholics or drug addicts, many in recovery, but some not. We all lived so close together, and so far from anyone else, that we developed a mutual dependence. We were forced to see each other in ways that transcended our circumstances, and focused instead on who we were when we had the strength to be our better selves.
I guess that’s the point I was trying to make in that story about the bar. That nasty looking guy drunk at the bar also has little kids run up to him for hugs and shoulder rides. He was born in a bar, raised in a bar, and when he ran away from home, he worked in a bar. He acts grumpy and turns the air blue with his swearing, but all those things are just barnacles he picked up over the years. Underneath, he’s compassionate and trustworthy, quietly doing handyman work for most of the town. I once bought a sketch pad and some pencils for him because he had filled up yet another with his drawings.
That sloppy fat guy sitting next to him is smarter than you or me, and so lonely he can hardly stand it, so he stays up most nights reading and writing poetry. Good stuff, too.
The mayor of the town was literally homeless, and he looked just like you’d expect a homeless guy to look. He ran an unsanctioned, illegal dump on the edge of town because the town needed it. He also commandeered a four-stall garage and stocked it with every piece of hardware you could imagine, all available for free so residents would have what they needed when they needed it. He called it Team Ready. He was a philosopher, a socialist, an activist, and he read voraciously — Harper’s, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, The Atlantic, anything he could get his hands on.
I’m not being defensive here. I’m bragging about my town, the place I most consider home. You said, “ The coolest thing about Medium is that we don’t form any judgments of people, other [than] reading what is in their hearts.” That was true about my friends and neighbors in Alberton, too, made all the harder, and therefore all the more precious, because we saw each other everyday, warts and all.
I’m taking a road trip in August and will spend a week or two in Montana. You are very welcome to meet me there. I’ll introduce you.
Thanks again, Lon. I’m enjoying getting to know you.