Ten Things I Dig About Missoula


Here’s something you don’t hear very often: “Missoula is such a rat hole. So much crime, so much urban blight. The downtown’s dead, there’s no opportunity. Can’t go hear a decent band anywhere. I’m going to move to a town that has it going on. Like Great Falls.”

No, that’s not something I hear because it’s about as accurate as Drunken Vic’s Weather Report, delivered on the street corner outside the Silver Dollar every morning at about 3:30, while he precipitates into the gutter.

As more and more (and still more) people are finding out, this is one cool little city. I decided to make Missoula my home more than 20 years ago, having roamed its streets as a kid from time to time while visiting my grandmother here. Her grandparents homesteaded in the Douglas Creek area in the 1800’s, where mink were plentiful and cows were delicious. So yeah, my roots run deep.

10 Things I Dig About Missoula Montana by Bob Wire

“I love that there’s so much for children to do here in the winter. Like, oh, the train in the mall. Or the playground at McDonald’s. Or the playground at Burger King.” ~ Annette Tifischwitt

I thought I’d take a page from World’s Tallest DJ Aaron Traylor’s book (“This Studio Needs a Higher Doorway” by Aaron Traylor), and make a list of things I dig about Missoula. To spice things up a bit, I’ve also collected a few opinions from Regular Joes, Men on the Street, some Ladies In Red, and every Tom, Dick and Mary who would submit to my question: “What do you love about Missoula?”

1. The very name, Missoula, is a mellifluous concoction that rolls off the tongue. I believe it’s a Salish word for “people of the valley who manufacture their own tires.” Sometimes it’s pronounced wrong by some sports announcer, surprised we have a University, let alone a college football team/correctional program here. They pronounce it like they’re talking about the winner of the beauty pageant in Sula. Still, I’d rather hear that than dumb, trendy names like Zootown or The Zoo. Or Montucky.

2. Hippies. If hippies were alligators, Missoula would be the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, Florida. This is their habitat, and Missoula is lousy with them. They saunter around in their patched jeans and Birkenstocks, proudly flying their freak flag and feeding the local fauna with trails of flax seeds that fall off their vegan date bars. Missoula sports several generations of Hippies, from the authentic, now-grey and confused denizens who haven’t bought any new music since 1971, all the way to the 4th grade boys whose recycled straw lunch boxes contain organic kale chips, backyard hen’s eggs boiled in snowmelt, and cruelty-free dandelion milk. They gulp it all down at lunch while sitting on their hair, which has never been cut except that one time they got it caught in a butter churn.

10 Things I love about Missoula, MT by Bob Wire

“One thing I can’t get enough of here is the wide variety of Indian restaurants. There’s that one place…no, they’re gone. But there’s, um…you know what? This place need some Indian restaurants. You know, India Indian food from India.” ~ Hugh Jardon

3. Cyclists. Missoula has been named the most bicycle-friendly city in America by a few publications, and a visit downtown will bear this out. Our burg is a base camp for 50,000 outdoor recreationists, and most of them get around on bikes. Lanes have been widened on several roads to make room for the Lycra-clad peddlers, who ride alongside Missoula’s ever-increasing traffic, ignoring horns and fingers, always on the lookout for a door prize up ahead. I don’t bike a whole lot myself (the training wheels are so loud they make it difficult to hear my iPod), but I really do love and respect cyclists who engage in traffic and treat the road as their rightful domain. Because it is. Observing the rules of the road is what makes it easy to share the road with bikes. I will always yield to them, and give them a wide berth when I pass.

4. Beer. I’ve tasted local beers almost everywhere I’ve traveled as an adult (including an 8-hour stint in the SLC airport bar, where I wound up joining the Mormon church and piloting an airliner to Fairbanks, Alaska), and nowhere have I found the consistency of excellence like we have here in Missoula. Kettlehouse, Bayern, Bitterroot Brewing, Blacksmith, Big Sky, Flathead, Tamarack…they all offer at least one style of giggle soup that I absolutely adore. Sometime, as Mrs. Wire will wearily attest, I adore them a little too much and then come home and do things like cut my own hair or start a metal band. But I’m keeping a sharp and thirsty eye on Great Burn Brewery, which is scheduled to open this summer on the south side. The buzz about brewmaster Mike Howard is well-deserved, and we tipplers of the oat soda have high expectations. I hope the boys at Great Burn don’t mind that I’ve already stenciled my name on one of the parking spaces.

Ten Things I love about Missoula Montana by Bob Wire

“I’m originally from Detroit, and I’ve always been very impressed with the quality and originality of Missoula’s graffiti. Not really. It sucks. The best Montana graffiti is in Havre.” ~ Emerson Biggins

5. Dogs. Zootown? Really? I haven’t seen any lions running around here. They should call it Dog Town (apologies to Santa Cruz). Dogs are everywhere here, and people love their dogs. Walk into one of the GoFetch! locations and you’ll see what I mean. Electric dog paw massagers. Pricey dog food blenders and storage containers. Doggie whiskey flasks. Doggie makeup mirrors, electric doggie blankets, even plush, expensive doggie pillows made of space-age material and designed to be allergy-free. Wait a tick, I’ve wandered into Bed Bath and Beyond. Never mind.

6. Music. Spend some time in Billings talking to anyone about music. “Hey, where can I go to hear a good band?” you might ask. “What?” they’ll say, “a live band? Playing songs? What do you think this is, Missoula? Now, help me move this pool table. Karaoke starts at nine.” I’ve been here long enough to see the music scene ebb and flow, but even in its weak years there are dozens of bands playing out, and hundreds of times a day someone will say, “DUDE! I don’t know if it’s the Double Haul talking, but we need to start a BAND!” Any genre you could want to see is represented in our embarrassingly rich music scene. Whether it’s traditional bluegrass, alt-grass, new-grass, jam-grass, neo-grass, Rorschach-grass, Gaelic-grass, folk-grass, swing-grass, old timely-grass, Austin wisenheimer-grass, speed-grass or weed-grass, there’s a lot to love about Missoula’s current music scene, if you happen to love mandolin and banjo.

10 Things I love about Missoula MT with Bob Wire

“The best thing about Missoula *burp* is the BEER! Amiright? Hey, beertender, how about another friend for me and my rounds? Whoops – I just sharted!” ~ Phil McKraken

7. The Missoula Independent. From the goofy names self-applied by the Calendar People to the whiskey-fueled Rob Rez cartoons that illustrate the News section, the Indy is an interesting must-read every week. The alternative weekly spirit blazes in Missoula’s “other” paper’s pages, which blends such disparate voices that each issue will contain writing that can make me roll my eyes, stand up and cheer, or spit blood. Keep it comin’, Indy.

8. The Missoulian. Like most people in our fair city, I start my day with a cup of coffee, a monster bong hit, and a fresh Missoulian. Just kidding about the bong hit. Besides, that’s more of an Indy-reader thing. I dig their occasional travel pieces by Rob Chaney, who continues to illuminate fresh sectors of Montana I need to explore. The Missoulian was instrumental in my life recently when I needed to protect the floor while painting the hallway. Also, the new smaller size is just right for spreading on the counter to soak up the excess oil from fried catfish.

The Missoulian employs a couple of reporters whose anti-government bias tends to overshadow their desire for objectivity, and the paper’s current attempt at whipping up some kind of conspiracy by the County against residents who run afoul of the regulations is pretty transparent. But I will continue to subscribe.

10 Things I love about Missoula by Bob Wire

“Missoula? I can take it or leave it. It doesn’t matter, because complete global meltdown is just around the corner. But I have a bunker dug into the side of a hill up Pattee Canyon, and it’s stocked with Twinkies and Velveeta. Here’s my card. Come get me when you’re ready to start propagatin’ the species.” ~Burr Palishus

9. The River. Which one? Take your pick. The Bitterroot. Clark Fork. Rattlesnake Creek. The Blackfoot. The temporary tributary that raged this spring between two houses on Whitaker, flowing from the golf course pond. I have always been happier living near water. Moving water creates negative ions, which create positive juju. No matter where you live in Missoula, you can be sitting next to a rushing stream or river in ten minutes. And tubing down the Clark Fork into Missoula on a hot summer day? There is no better stress therapy available. Just look before you leap, dumbass on the bridge.

10. Missoulians. It’s okay to be self-congratulatory. Missoula is full of great people. Almost every day there’s a letter to the editor in the paper thanking someone for lending a hand or helping them out in some way. Missoulians are generous. If the sheer number of fund raisers, silent auctions and other benefits is any indication, the next Presidential candidate might be well-served to just hire the whole city to fill her war chest. People still greet each other on the street here, make eye contact through the car windshield with pedestrians trying to cross, pretend to hold open the automatic doors at the grocery store for others, and just generally foster a friendlier, less-competitive atmosphere than other faced-paced, cutthroat towns like, say, Bozeman. (Just kidding, Bozeman. I love ya. Especially your $16 hamburgers.)

The next time some national magazine names Missoula as the best place to raise kids or enjoy the outdoors or see a film festival or eat an ice cream cone, we’ll just shrug and say, “Yeah, we know. Aaron Traylor told us.”

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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