09-02-1998
Butte, Montana, On our way to Chicago
 
My wish is coming true in spades. The days have stretched into weeks. There was no possibility of enough sleep last night, on the Cohen's hide-a-bed which hadn't been opened in years, and we had to get up early this morning to head for Omaha.

It took us about an hour to get a blowout on the van. One of the rear tires blew and shredded so badly that the spinning rubber bent a good portion of the fender in on itself. Fixing a flat is no fun, of course, and fixing a flat on a huge van filled with heavy machinery towing a 2 ton trailer is worse.

We fixed the flat. In Deer Lodge we stopped to pick up a new tire at Les Schwab and noticed a horrendous grinding sound coming from somewhere in the front end. The folks at Les Schwab say they will look at it. This is where the situation is now. I'm sitting in the shade (the thermometer says 102, and though it is hot I don't believe it) of a small church beside the garage. The grass is thick and green, probably the only thick green grass in all of Deer Lodge.

There were a few things I meant to go on about last night but I was too out of it to remember. Missoula is a lovely town, I like it there and I like the people. Many of the people like to drink. Somehow this gets to me in Missoula more so than in other towns. I don't know if the people drink more, or if I drink less, or if I just happen to go to bars when I'm there, but the drunks of Missoula seem far more prevalent and far more drunk than the drunks of just about anyplace else I can think of. It's probably like Alaska in, well in several ways, the drunkenness being one of them. Lots of folks go back and forth from Montana to Alaska. Frontier states. It's not something I'm too familiar with.

The other thing is, you know when people start talking to you about a particular subject, and the only reason they're talking to you about that subject is to prove to you that they know about it? That sort of thing drives me nuts. It's a popular thing for young male college drop-outs to do when they're drunk, that's my impression anyway. Some kid started talking to me about Seattle: "what part of Seattle do you live in?" When I told him Beacon Hill his face got all twisted up like he was sucking on a lemon. I told him it was just south of town, assuming he meant he didn't know where it was. He said he knew where it was, so I asked him "what's with the lemon-sucking face?" It turns out he thinks it's a lemon-sucking neighborhood. He's here in Missoula Montana telling me I live in a crappy neighborhood. I left him.

The other important thing was how stunning the drive into Missoula was as the sun went down and the moon came up. The sunset was blood-red. The air was warm and comfortable. The Clark Fork would appear now and then beside the highway, bright from the moon, and when it was gone there were railroad tracks which also reflected the moon, the one point of moonlight racing along beside us. One of the best things about touring is driving late at night, especially in warm weather. I remember entering the swamps in Louisiana, the first time I ever smelled a swamp, with the windows down and everyone asleep but me.

One of the worst things about touring is car trouble.




The sun tonight when it set was blood-red as well.

It turns out that all the repairs, all the preventive work we had done on the van in the two weeks before we left town has come undone. All the seals have come unsealed and all the gaskets have burst. Our entire transmission and driveshaft has run without lubricant for hundreds of miles.

In Deer Lodge the guy put some whatsit in the thingy, enough to get us to Butte. We watched the sunset from the parking lot outside the Berkely Pit, the second largest man-made hole in the world. Looking out over the pit is like looking out over the Grand Canyon. Knowing the thing was dug by human beings is overwhelming. The amount of time it's taken me to dig a 4 by 6 8 foot pond in my front yard makes a mile-and-a-half wide, 2,000-feet deep hole all the more impressive.

So our time in Butte has so far been pleasant. The weather here is perfect, bright and warm and dry and so comfortable at night. The history of Butte is long and rich, ending in a town now just starting to revive from a long decay which has some of the most beautiful untouched turn-of-the-century grand brick architecture around. The stuff was built in the heyday, and the town faded away enough afterwards that no developer was stupid enough to tear it town and rebuild.

Butte also has the good fortune to not be a college town.

The show in Omaha is out of the picture. The show in Champagne is most likely out of the picture, since after the van gets fixed we'll still have to drive back to Deer Lodge to pick up the trailer before we actually start heading East. I expect the tour will start again in earnest on Saturday in Chicago.

I didn't expect any days as pleasant as this one on this leg of the trip. It's shitty to cancel shows, but Butte is treating us very well.

So far the days are quite long.


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