Friday, November 30, 2012


This is certainly going to be a different holiday season.

Rather than spend our money elsewhere -
we've decided to do as much of our shopping in Lewistown as possible.

To put that decision into perspective...
The nearest Walmart (been in one once) is 108.2 miles away in Great Falls.
The nearest Macy's (not in my lifetime) is 165.5 miles away in Bozeman.
The nearest Barneys is 748.5 miles away in Seattle.
And Bergdorf Goodman's 7th floor is 2,063.5 miles away in HEAVEN.

Lewistown has an amazing historic downtown.

Starting as a trading post in the late 1870's
it has been a center of commerce for surrounding communities since then.
Major downtown growth was driven by an influx of homesteaders
from the turn of the 20th century through the early 1920's.

At one time Lewistown had at least 6 full-service department stores downtown.
Plus a plethora of specialty shops that serviced all needs and wants.
That meant LOCAL residents could purchase almost anything they wanted
in Lewistown.

And if it wasn't on the floor -
LOCAL merchants custom ordered whatever was desired.

Through the late 80's our downtown continued to flourish.
Sadly in recent years the economy, the automobile,
and the nationalization of retail, have limited our local retail options.

Today many residents prefer to drive at least 100 miles -
or shop the internet rather than support our local retailers.

Let's get one thing straight -
I love retail.
And fortunately I've been able to work for
AND shop some of the best stores worldwide.

 But I also love Lewistown!

And therefore I feel it is my duty and responsibility to support it!
There are still quite a few stores left downtown.
And happily we've almost completed all our holiday shopping list

While I realize few of you will make the trip to rural Montana this holiday season.
Here's a short list of some of our favorite Lewistown shops and retailers.

Country Junction
A lovely selection of gifts and home decor.
209 W. Main Street

Don's Store
Your ultimate western store - boots, jeans, guns, and YOGO SAPHIRES.
102 2nd Avenue South

Lewistown True Value
Visit "Toyland" downstairs and take a trip back in time.
301 W. Main Street

The Connection
Shop a surprising collection of women's apparel and accessories.
318 W. Main Street

Don't let the picture below fool you.
Our November has been beautiful -
high of 47 degrees today with snow on the mountains.

But no matter the weather...

Thursday, November 29, 2012



Frank and I are learning that we may be out of sync 
with what is considered de rigueur in Central Montana.

As our Dallas apartment (below) indicates we love a touch of drama.
So far we have not found anything in Lewistown we feel is "right".

As we consider
potential homes 
it has become obvious 
that whatever 
appeals to us 
may be considered 
And that 
most accoutrements 
locals consider 
are in our opinion 
candidates for 

For example - 
Upon encountering custom quilted fabric panels 
affixed to window frames with Velcro our collective reaction was to 
rip them down immediately!
However we have been advised that "window quilts" 
are considered a benefit against the elements.

Another case in point - 
Not only do we find indoor/outdoor carpeting abhorrent - 
curving it up the wall to serve as a self baseboard 
seems to us incredibly repugnant.
Again, we were informed by local experts that 
"A lot of folks really like that treatment - it's easy to keep clean".

Provence fantasy - sadly this is not a Montanan reality
Finally - 
After walking through 
an old home - 
that was slowly built -
over time by Italian immigrants -
into a sandstone hillside - 
our immediate reaction was... 
"it is so unique".
the local experts 
who are guiding 
our investment 
reinforced -
"That's why it's been 
on the market so long".

The good news is that I consider this dichotomy of perspectives
an opportunity to grab a Montanan treasure 
nobody else wants. 
We all share is a love for vast and open spaces.
Our challenge is to find that space indoors.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where do we put the dishes?

Butler's Pantry - Weatherstone - Sharon, Connecticut

As I work through our full-time transition to Lewistown
I'm challenged by one major issue - STORAGE.
Specifically as relates to my bits and pieces of china and crystal.

Several years ago my dear friend Tina and I 
had the pleasure of lunching at Carolyne Roehm's Connecticut estate.
An intimate affair we four sat at this very table in her butlers pantry.
As Tina tells the story... when I walked into that room my eyes lit up.
"You looked like a crack whore in a crack house".

You see... I have a problem...

At least that's how Frank describes it. Years ago he arrived in Montana
to discover a mound of packages from e-bay. More than irate he quickly
called me and said - "I don't know what's wrong but you have a problem.
And you need to see somebody about this NOW!"

Honestly I can't imagine why this two handled Adams Titian Ware
Royal Ivory Della Robia Cream Soup put him over the edge. Can you?

I have to admit that I do love to set a pretty table.
After all my job as a host is to provide a pleasurable experience.
And nothing is more tedious than dining at a table that isn't "fresh".

Five years later the tally is now over 100 patterns of china and crystal.
This assemblage is split between our city and country homes. Hence
the rationale that one needs multiple patterns, sets, colors. Makes sense?

But now.. where do I put all of it?

Our Montana condo is already filled to the brim.
It's china closet shelves bow under the weight of my porcelain booty.
I want a room like Carolyne's - a glass doored cornucopia of culinary carriers.
The question is where?

China Room - Nymphenburg Palace - Munich, Bavaria

I doubt Frank will embrace the idea
of turning our guest room into a "salle de porcelaine".
And transporting one's table service options
to/from a storage locker on the edge of town is not feasible.

Time to house hunt?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ready, set, decorate!

This weekend truly put me into the holiday spirit.
Rather than battle midnight crowds to grab doorbuster bargains -
Frank and I celebrated Black Friday by attending
the annual Lewistown Downtown Holiday Stroll.

It seemed like everyone came out to enjoy the mild winter evening.
Bonfires roared down the center of Main Street.
Glowing lights beckoned from open shops filled with holiday goodies.
But what really stood out
was how everyone seemed to enjoy just being together!

Sunday afternoon was the annual Christmas Memories House Tour
in support of The Hospice of Central Montana.

As usual it snowed.

Four locals graciously opened up their holiday clad homes.
Streams of muddy boots shod in "booties" enjoyed the sights.
Again, what was most dazzling was the congeniality and hospitality.


One tree in particular struck a cord.
An old-fashioned extravaganza clad with bubble lights
and all the gaudy bits that go with them.
The only thing missing was Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas.
Somehow that display instantly transported us to a better time.

But... what would Ethel think?

My blue blood Mother loathed anything
that she considered not "appropriate" during the holidays.
This included whatever was multi-colored or glittered.
For years I carried on the classic Christmas torch:
- NO artificial anything
- NO poinsettias
- NO colored candles

I adorned our homes with
Holly sprigs, Nandina berry sprays, and glossy Magnolia leaves
that Ethel shipped up from her garden in Virginia.
Most important anything "off" 
was relegated to the kid's tree in the Library.

Over time life taught me more than my share of lessons.
Slowly decor became unimportant.
Rather cherished times spent with my children became the priority.

For the past few years Frank and I have celebrated Christmas in Montana.
Kind brother Bob cuts us a fresh tree from the woods near the family cabin.
We adorn it with an assemblage of ivory, gold, and silver ornaments.

In her later years 
after being transplanted from Manhattan to Montana - 
a disgruntled Ethel heartily approved of our tree stating 
"now if only those cowboys would not wear their hats indoors".

But... those bubble lights...

Somehow they strangely beckon.
While I highly doubt we will ever break out of our classic mode -
red tapers have been known to adorn my Christmas Eve table.

Given everything that has happened - 
as long as there's lots of love - 
and gentlemen wear their hats only outside of the house - 

I know Ethel would approve.

Monday, November 26, 2012


How many times have you asked yourself that question?
In rural Montana the answer might surprise you.

Case in point -  

Sally* is a life-long resident of Lewistown.
Married to a rancher she also runs a business downtown.

Everyday Sally parks her pickup in front of her office on Main Street.
Recently after a busy day she was ready to go home and make supper.
Hmmm... her vehicle was NOT where she had parked it.

The space was EMPTY.

She called her kids.
"Did you come down and get my vehicle?"
"No Mom."

She called her husband.
"By any chance did you borrow the pickup?"
"Are you kidding?!"

Obviously someone had taken it but... WHO?!

Far right - Ed Martin, Sheriff of Fergus County, Montana - Courtesy Montana Memory Project Lewistown Library

Sally called the sheriff and filed a report.
Then she hitched a ride home
with time enough to still fry up some pork chops for supper.

The next morning the Sheriff's office called to report
"We found your vehicle".

A local rancher had called to report a strange pickup on his property.
After "asking around" they figured out how it got there.


The day before the rancher's elderly father had driven into town.
Buck* had a cup of coffee with his buddies at the Empire Cafe. 
Upon leaving he could not remember where he parked his pickup.
Buck wandered up and down Main Street until he finally found it.
Sally's pickup that is...

??? How could that happen ????

Howdy city slicker!
You must remember that we're talking about Lewistown, Montana.
Sally couldn't be bothered with digging through her purse to find her keys.

Courtesy of

rather than 
purse dive - 
Sally just 
leaves her keys 
in the 
pickup ignition.

After all this is Lewistown.

nothing bad 
ever happens in Lewistown - 

Case closed.

*Please note that names have been changed to protect the innocent (or trustworthy).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why is it called Big Sky Country?

Stormy, sunny, cloudy, bright, dark, happy, gloomy - 
the sky here in Montana always amazes.

This painting is by Robert Baranet (who was a true roue' if ever there was one).
It's simply called "Western".
Frankly I doubt "Barry" ever visited Montana.
His preferred locales were Manhattan, Connecticut, Europe, or Jamaica.
But... Barry's canvas truly captures the Big Sky.

From every Montana vantage point at least two thirds of the view is sky.
Hence I assume the rationale behind the moniker "Big Sky Country".
After living in vertical cities these vast open spaces always inspire.

Big Sky...

The majesty of steel grey rolling clouds as a storm front moves in.
The grace of floating puffs drifting across a sea of azure blue.
The beauty of brilliant explosions of light at the start and end of the day.

No matter the season or weather
it's hard to find a reason to be anywhere else.

maybe there is just one reason.
If only the King Cole Room was a few blocks away... 
now that would truly be paradise! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fasten your seat belts...

OK. Get ready for a novice at best.
This blog will be a chronicle of transition.

I am a man of contrasts.
Good taste and the knowledge that fuels it has always been my forte.
In my youth I was a snob.
But life and all of it's lessons have taught me what is really important.

So?  What is this blog really about?
Frankly we'll see.
After over 30 years in retail - I'm more than "done".
I've led many teams through multiple transitions post sale.
And have shifted and reshifted with the best of innovative strategies.
All that means I am BURNT OUT!

So? What does that really mean?
The fact is that I'm evolving into someone new.
And that's where Montana comes in.

18 years ago when I met my partner Frank -
I thought nothing was more important than accoutrements.
Things defined who I was.

After 18 years I still adore the good life.
Our home continues to be my theater.
But... the venue has changed.

After living in New York, Chicago, Dallas -
I am now living in Lewistown, Montana.

That means the nearest Walmart is at least 100 miles away.

Six years ago we bought a condo in the former St Joseph's Hospital.
It's a beautiful stone building.
Founded at the turn of the century by French nuns.
Built of local stone by Croatian stone masons.

Somehow this old snob has mellowed.
I see charm and beauty in everything around me.
How could you not adore this building and the stories it tells?

We've been in our condo for six years and have filled it with things we love.
That means it is NOT your traditional Montana abode.

No rough logs.
No river rock fireplaces.
No homage to bears or cowboys.

Simply an expression of who we are and where we've been.

That's what this blog is going to be about.
The dichotomy of the city and country mouse.
The simple life lessons learned by a burnt out dilettante>

Who knows how long I'll keep it up.
I doubt anybody will read it.
But somehow... I just need to do it.

Hope you enjoy the ride.