Saturday, October 21, 2017

DOWN & OUT IN LEWISTOWN II



Out of balance?
There's no doubt that I adore this
town. However I must admit that
I've noticed some changes since
I was here for the holidays. Sadly
our downtown is struggling and
many store fronts are vacant. My
concern is that we may be hitting
a tipping point. The question is
when does downtown shift from
destination to drive by? Without
enough options, could it all just
disappear? Would anybody care?
Or has Walmart finally won...

Out of sync?
Like most rural communities, things
change at a slower pace here. After
the downturn of the economy, it took
longer to impact the locals. We've no
lack of "rich folks" as they continue
to trickle in at a steady pace. Sadly
few spend it locally. Instead most
ship what they need in from out of
town. While Frank and I have tried
to focus our cash flow within town,
there are things we simply couldn't
buy here even if we wanted to. Like
many others, the internet tempts us.

Out of gas?
It was a dismal winter and many
shops went days without a single
transaction. Discouraged, some
gave up and closed forever. The
result? A surge of speculation that
our town is dead. The sad fact is
that few offered what the locals
wanted and even fewer tried to
chase the business. Some seem
to do well and must know where
money is to be had. All you have
to do is be ready, willing, and
OPEN. And... stop complaining.
Out of sight?
Old timers lament days past
when Lewistown had many
department stores, specialty
shops, restaurants, banks, and
more. Like most of America,
chains left downtown for the
highway edge. For a town
like ours, they clustered in
Billings or Great Falls, both
two hour drives away. The
big boys refuse to play in
our sand box. Is that bad or
is opportunity knocking?

Out of mind?
Somebody has to be willing to
open the door. There's no doubt
that locals are spending money
somewhere else. The question is
how do you keep that cash local?
Simply put, differentiation. The
few local retailers who beat out
the big boxes offer up things they
can't or won't carry. It seems so
simple yet only the brave seem
willing to even try. Hence locals
will drive hours to Costco or surf
the web to purchase special gifts.

Out of time?
My mind has been racing for months.
Having worked retail for years, could
I possibly solve the puzzle?  I'm not a
merchant yet I know many who are
ready to help. I'm not a store manager
yet I know that if you build it they will
come. I'm not a genius yet I know that
if you're different, you may survive or
possibly thrive. I am passionate about
this tiny town. Call me a missionary or
fool, somebody's got to serve up some
retail religion. I just may be that man
but first, we've got to finish our house!


THREE YEARS OF PROGRESS

Recently I noticed quite a bit of activity on this blog
first posted on May 10th of 2014. In revisiting it I've
found that much of what I talked about has or will be
happening as relates to the heart of our community.

ALL because of the committed work of a variety of
community organizations and individuals. BRAVO!

niche retailer named "Sew Pieceful" opened just
about a year ago and has been doing quite well since.

One of our candidates for City Commission is about to
open a restaurant in the former "Megahertz" building.

A 24/7 fitness center now thrives in a revamped retail
space with a paying membership in the thousands.

Meanwhile development of a brewery is in process in
the former feed building across from the Yogo Inn.

The Powers building - also known as "Reeds" has new
owners who are in the process of restoration. These
same folks were responsible for the transformation of
the Judith Theater a few years ago. KUDOS!

The new owners of the former TV/Appliance center
building are working on a variety of innovative ideas
for filling up their space. Meanwhile the apartments
above are fully rented and are being updated.

All while citizens are working hard on funding a new
community park adjacent to Big Spring Creek

The list goes on and on and it's ALL GOOD NEWS!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The city that never sleeps


Sounds of silence
Whenever we host out of towners in Lewistown,
they comment about how quiet it is there at night.
However that's nothing compared to spending a
night at our family cabin in the Judith Mountains.
There you truly experience the sounds of silence.
Once nestled deep in the mountains you literally
can only hear yourself (and just possibly a fellow
snorer) and nothing else. No rumbling trucks or
trains traveling off in the distance. Purely total
nothingness. Complete bliss. The very idea of
which for any inveterate urban dweller is beyond
comprehension. Thats because there is nothing
that is noisier than New York City AT NIGHT!

No rest for the weary
In theory things should calm down once most
New Yorkers go to bed. However in this city
there is no rest for the weary given we live on
a 24/7/365 schedule. Crowd control is one of
the biggest challenges on this rather limited
island of Manhattan. Hence major deliveries
and construction occurs in the dark of night.
For six months something has been going on
outside of our bedroom window. Fifty Seventh
Street is one of this towns busier byways. A
direct cut across the island via it's center core.
Thus the optimal time to fix anything beneath
it is midnight and 6 a.m. Which is a nightmare.
It's a toss up
Awakening to the rattle of a jack hammer at
one o'clock in the morning is not the most
pleasant of wakeup calls. Nor is the bleep
of a bulldozer in reverse my favorite lullaby.
Especially when said sounds bounce off the
walls of this concrete jungle. None of which
makes for the best night's sleep. Obviously
such nighttime activity benefits the majority
of you by not hindering your daytime travel.
However some of us actually live (or sleep)
along your commuting route. Hence it's no
wonder we're pissed over the fact that your
needs require that we can't rest in peace!
Undercurrent
We can't escape subterranean exploration. Our
prior abode was on East Fifty Fifth. Which for
the span of our tenure resembled an open pit
rather than midtown byway. All because they
were building a mega rail link between Grand
Central from Penn Stations and on to Long
Island. At least they had to decency to NOT
blast away at three a.m. Whereas our busy
bees on West Fifty Seventh must have been
given free reign to hammer away into the wee
hours of each night. Meanwhile one wonders
just what they accomplished as by morning,
they've cleaned up their mess and gone home.
Ready and waiting
Which causes one to wonder what else is
going on through the dead of night. When
I was young, the prostitutes were exiting
Lexington Avenue as I walked to school.
And given the assorted debris along said
thoroughfare, they'd obviously been up to
no good the night prior. Hence I'm certain
lots is going on while we sleep. I've yet to
visit my neighborhood grocer at three a.m.
But knowing they're open all twenty four
hours of the day is oddly reassuring. And
should I desire to a post midnight pastrami
on rye - Sarge's deli is always ready 24/7.
Last but not least
Back in the dark ages, we were dancing as
others slept. After last call we ventured out
into a city that was eerily empty. Somehow
one felt as if Manhattan was theirs alone.
Long ago this wasn't the safest place to live.
However once seasoned, one knew where
not to tread. And that at four a.m. Odeon
and Florent was still serving dinner or...
breakfast. The memories of which remind
me of just how magical this city was. And
that depending on the time of day (or night)
it can still seem like paradise. Which is my
friends... the stuff that dreams are made of...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

FACE TIME


Red alert
Recent revelations about Russian use of social
media during the last election has affirmed that
occasionally I'm right. By the end of last year
I started to ween myself off Facebook. Said
decision was entirely due to politics and NOT
cute pictures of puppies and the like. Frankly
I was tired. In part because of all of the energy
expended on local or national political fronts.
Yet that wasn't all that drove my desire to face
off. Rather it was what my supposed "friends"
felt was perfectly appropriate to post. In truth
I was suffering from an overdose of vitriolic
venom. All of which simply made me SICK.
Frequent violations
Don't get me wrong. Even now I'm on Facebook
daily. However it's only to post a link to the day's
blog entry. Facebook continues to be the primary
way that many faithful montanaroue readers link
up. Hence like it or not, I'm a daily "user" of said
messaging conveyance. Once in awhile I'll scroll
down just to see what's going on. Immediately
I'm overcome with guilt as the majority of folks
who I consider near or dear still use Facebook
as a ways and means to share their lives. And
within a few scrolls I soon realize that I missed
birthdays, disasters, and other personal events.
Thus "posting" continues to keep us in touch.
All in the family
Originally I logged onto Facebook because of
my kids. Since then they've moved on to other
forms of media for the same reasons that I did.
Meanwhile the majority of boomers who were
dragged onto Facebook kicking and screaming
now hold it near and dear - especially women.
So in truth, I'm missing out on a lot by NOT
jumping back head into said stream on a daily
basis. Yet like any victim of abuse, I somehow
can't go back. So with apologies I must confess
that I'm purposefully not engaging in all that
is important to you. However it's NOT that I
don't care - I simply can't face up to Facebook.
My country tis of me
As I've shared before - I was apolitical until
recent years. In part because whatever went
on in Washington seemed to have little to no
impact on my life. Yet in truth, such apathy
was more than wrong. And slowly I realized
as a brave few battled pernicious legislation
that folks like me needed to join the fray. In
part not only because it was personal - but
that without people like me, little or nothing
could be achieved. Over the next few years
I've come to believe in the power of we the
people. Both for good... and bad. And that
success all depends on what side you're on.
Fall from grace
Obviously I've no problem sharing my opinion
via this daily spew. And fortunately, there are
many who either agree with me or are willing
to listen. The best thing about this process is it
gives me a clear conscience. Sharing from my
heart insures I get things off my chest. Hence
while at times I feel a bit like Chicken Little -
sounding the alarm helps me confront all that
assaults my senses. Which is probably exactly
what those people who post those most awful
things on Facebook are also trying to do. Just
imagine if we all could find a way to work out
this mess we're consumed with face-to-face?!
The devil is in the details
Sadly within a cyber context it's all too easy
to post or "like" things you may later regret.
Somehow we've lost the ability to share our
opinions mano a mano. Instead we attack the
other via what is at best a passive aggressive
stream of consciousness. Which leaves us
vulnerable to external forces who leverage
said forum to our disadvantage. In the past
facing off required physical interaction. But
now one often has no idea exactly who is on
the other end. After having been burned a
few times, my advice is stick with the devil
you know. And to also do your homework...
Talk the talk
Ultimately we're all culpable for whatever
we say or spread. The purpose of this blog
is not to get anybody to agree with me.
Rather it's simply to get us all thinking.
And hopefully along the way... talking.
Last Sunday we had a family brunch. We
fortunately all align politically. Yet each
shared how they were struggling with how
to bridge the schism tearing our country
apart. Ultimately we agreed that somehow
both sides have to find a way to engage in
a constructive dialogue. And confront our
differences one-by-one... face-to-face.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

ON A ROLL...


Mano a mano
As a man I should abscribe to the theory
that size matters. Yet unlike most males
I limit said aspirational scope to only a
few things like... household paper goods.
Why bother with normal sized allotments
when you can go for "MEGA"? After all,
think of the time you'll save not having to
refill your dispensers. Even better, you'll
avoid the crisis of not being able to clean
up post a sudden outage. Hence I believe
the bigger the better especially when one
is on a roll. However my biggest problem
seems to be going big in the Big Apple.
The gold standard
Anywhere else it's easy to bulk up. Out
in the burbs one needn't be a bounty
hunter to score a case of toilet tissue
or paper towels. The shelves at Sam's,
Costco, or even your local grocer and
drug store are full of maxed out goods.
Thus everyone can upsize. Whereas in
the city, some idiot decided long ago
that less was more in relationship to
household basics. Thus one must pay
the maximum price for the minimum
sheet count per roll. Meaning that one
cannot easily go big and go home.
Enough is enough?
In theory urban life is convenient. But
in reality often the simplest of things are
the toughest. In our neighborhood there
is a Starbucks on almost every block. Plus
plenty of alternative java and juice joints.
In addition there is a Duane Reed, CVS,
or the like on just about every other corner.
Within a few blocks radius sit hundreds of
restaurants and bars. We can choose from
five brands of French butter at the grocer.
Yet finding the most basic of essentials -
things we easily purchase in Lewistown
Montana - can be an exercise in futility.
More or less?
In the case of convenience, Manhattan is often
proof that size does not matter nor is it always
as beneficial as one might think. Therefore one
must plan ahead in order to get one's honey do
list accomplished. Key to avoiding frustration
is assuming that NO place is a one stop shop.
Hence where one goes depends on what they
want to procure. For certain items I'll quickly
pop into my nearby grocer -just a block away.
Other must haves require that I walk six blocks
to Whole Foods on Columbus Circle. Proving
that having a discerning palate also requires
the fortitude to satisfy it. Which is exhausting.
Eyes wide shut
Everything is more expensive in Manhattan.
Which causes me to think of my friends in
Lewistown. One of the favorite activities
back home is to complain of having only
one grocer. A dialogue that often involves
a liberal mix of fantasy and reality. Most
of us base our perspective on experience.
Which invariably is jaded by time, distance,
and opinion. With very few exception - our
hometown market has ALL that I need or
want at prices that seem quite fair. Hence
from the way I see it - the folks back home
have no idea how easy their lives truly are.
Back at you
Often the only thing limiting our view is our
own dumb ass. By our  nature humans are
rarely happy. Especially with the status quo.
So rather than celebrate what we have, we
berate those who do their best to bring it to
us. If nothing else being back in Manhattan
has been a refresher course in reality. Thus
no matter where one lives it never seems to
be good enough. A fact that by it's nature
I find rather repugnant. Wherever one lives
we all have to accept the good, bad, and ugly
that comes with it. Why not be grateful for
what you've got? Roll with it and think big!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

WHERE THE ELITE MEET


False impressions
Often people are rather bemusing. Not in a
funny way. But in an odd, befuddled, and
slightly confused mode. Recently several
folks running for City Commissioner back
n Lewistown Montana have been accused
of being "elitist." Which I find more than
funny given I'm sure that those pointing the
finger probably voted for Donald Trump (a
New York billionaire). Yet what I find even
odder is that some of whom they speak are
retired school teachers. Therefore we must
question their motivation in making such a
nasty and incendiary accusation.
You don't say
Sadly such a slur about one's competitor is all
about derision. It creates the false impression
that anybody who is blessed by privilege can't
possibly understand the wants and needs of
those less fortunate. One might argue that it's
proven by a billionaire in chief who leverages
power for personal gain. However with a few
exceptions, spreading such "elitist" falsehoods
could NOT be further from the truth. Mostly
because we've all been there... done that. And
just because some benefitted along the way -
doesn't mean we forget from whence we came.
Or aren't wiser and tougher post said journey...
Past imperfect
Rarely do we know the full story. Especially in
an isolated community such as Lewistown -
most folks have no interest in what transpired
before one entered their fray. Yet the majority
of successful people got where they are today
via a trail of blood, sweat and tears. Therefore
jumping to any conclusion sans any historical
context is unfair to all involved. Much like the
motivation of those who accuse others of a
skewed perspective, what lays on the surface
rarely reveals the truths hidden below. Hence
it's in everyone's best interest to know what
you're talking about before you spew LIES.
Assume nothing
I'm sure that many locals pass by our house
only to assume we're different than they are.
Add that we're two men who live as one and
drive about in a Jaguar. It's obvious we're not
the norm. But in truth we're not any different
from the rest. Throughout our lives we have
personally suffered through highs and lows.
At times losing everything. Fortunately we
had the will and abilities to regroup and rise
out of said ashes. However it wasn't very easy
hence we resent anybody assuming that we've
never been hungry with no cash in my pocket.
Lost our home. Or were victims of oppression.
Finger job
There is little more arrogant the assuming the
worst about another. The truth is that we rarely
know all of the facts. Thus without an in-depth
knowledge of another's past - it's impossible to
understand where they're coming from. Yet it's
very easy to know where and why such nasty
"elitist" accusations are spawned. And that is
from a dark place fueled by greed, jealousy,
and a thirst for power. Thus just because I've
the wherewithal to pay my taxes doesn't mean
that I think tax increases are good. Especially
when for years I struggled to pay them - often
late. So why give others the wrong impression?
All for one
The majority of those who hold public roles
in local government will affirm that it can be
a thankless job. A few crooks aside, there is
little personal gain in serving others. And yet
some consider working for the common good
beyond fulfilling. Thus they purposefully step
forward for the benefit of our community at
large. Hence while I may not like, agree with,
nor support all of our current candidates for
City Commissioner, I'm grateful that they are
willing to give back. Not all will get my vote,
but all have my respect. That is unless they
purposefully try to hurt others in the process.
Count me in
Why can't we focus on the issues themselves?
There is nothing wrong with arguing over the
facts as each of us see them. We ALL come
from different places. Thus none of us has the
right to slur others for having an alternative
perspective. We ALL benefit from diversity.
That's because ultimately our democratic form
of government insures that we meet somewhere
in the middle. Anger, hate, and derision have no
place within said context. Whereas discussion,
interaction, and negotiation do. And if believing
that such a "mix" is best for all - then I'm proud
to be what some consider an ELITIST!

Monday, October 16, 2017

CABIN IN THE SKY



Opinion poll
To most Manhattanites - Montana is an elusive
dream. We can talk to anybody. Simply chat
with our cabbie on the way downtown. And if
somehow our connection to Montana comes
out in the conversation - the dynamic suddenly
changes. Every jaded urbanite becomes all soft
and mushy. Sort of wistful and dreamlike. Then
from the midst of said trance the majority utter
"I've always wanted to go to Montana... and it's
supposed to be AMAZING." And suddenly, all
involved in said fantastical interaction are taken
to a better place. One where fantasy rarely mixes
with reality. Or... does it?!
Dream house
On the cover of Elle Decor's November issue
is a Montanan "chalet." Often on the pages of
almost every shelter publication appear shots
of mega manses that randomly sit throughout
our state. However many of the most "luxe"
lie behind the gates of the Yellowstone Club
at Big Sky - near Bozeman. Much like any
Manhattan coop - one must go through quite
a rigorous approval process before being able
to build or buy a home in this posh enclave.
Making it anything BUT Montanan. Yet it's
what most folks think is our great state. And
fortunately, they couldn't be more wrong.
Where the buffalo roam...
Most people move to Montana for one reason.
It's vast natural beauty. Yet celebs and mega
billionaires also adore it's annonymity. Within
the confines of our rather vast state - there are
hardly any people. Overall Montana clocks at
just over one million residents. All living on
the same land mass as Germany (pop. 82.7M)
and Japan (pop. 127M) To put that in context -
our population translates to 6.8 people per
square mile. Compare that to 2,700 per mile
in New York City or 1,195 in New Jersey.
However within such wide open spaces -
it still all depends on WHERE YOU LIVE.
Few and far between
The Yellowstone club sits in Madison Country -
which averages 2.1 people per square mile.
But the adjacent Big Sky Resort can host up
to 7,500 skiers on it's slopes on a winter day.
Thus it's no surprise that adjacent Gallatin
County is home to 34.4. folks per square mile.
However not all of Montana is that populated.
Beaverhead County covers the same square
miles as Connecticut. And within it's confines
only 1.7 people reside per square mile versus
the Nutmeg state's 738. Some counties have
even fewer far between. Petroleum (next to
Lewistown) hosts 0.3 which can get lonely.
Neighborly advice
Thus even in Montana it's all about location,
location, location. It all depends on where
and how you live. Near Lewistown there are
several "ranches" owned by wealthy folks.
At least one clocking in at over twenty plus
million in construction costs alone. Rather
than bother with our local air authority, one
family simply built their own airport. Yet
if one peruses the local real estate listings -
you quickly discover that with maybe a few
exceptions, what you see on the pages of
Elle Decor is NOT necessarily what you'll
see touring homes in Lewistown, Montana.
Tastee freeze
True Montanans with money seems to have
an affinity for cushy recliners, taxidermy, and
pithy sayings scrawled on pseudo wood. Add
to that a plethora of golden oak, faux stone
fireplaces, and a gun safe or two. All encased
within an exterior built to weather any storm.
It's akin to living in a large tin clad box. For
most, trees are viewed as a nuisance given all
they do is drop their leaves or block the view.
And given our landscape is covered by snow
at least half of the year, any landscaping must
be described as hardy. Thus by our very nature
we Montanans prefer to keep things SIMPLE.
Home sweet home
But there is something about Montana that all
of the magazines can't chronicle. Which is life
itself within the context of this amazing place.
The difference is the simple beauty of our state
and those who live here. It's filled with wide
open spaces and folks with equally open minds
and hearts. Many locals consider themselves
conservatives, yet they're willing to consider
anybody for who they are - and nothing else.
In Montana actions speak louder than words.
Therefore with few exceptions, Frank and I've
are treated with kindness and respect. Hence
it's no surprise that everyone wants to live here!