Missoula: Ten Books I Could Write About Us


I think my visceral reaction to Jon Krakauer’s upcoming book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, was similar to that of a lot of Missoulians. When the image of the book’s cover hit the internet like a dog turd on a birthday cake a few weeks back, I was angry, disappointed, and defensive.

This reaction has been widely misinterpreted as a denouncement of the book itself. Wrong. I respect Krakauer’s work. My issue is with the title and the cover design, which seems to exploit Missoula’s current spot at the top of so many trendy “Best Place To _____” lists in national publications. Our not-so-well-kept-secret of a beautiful, vibrant college town has a lot of media attention focused on us these days.

Of all the books that could be entitled Missoula, an investigation into rape is not at the top of my list. I see Missoula as Outdoors City, USA. I see it as Compassion City, USA. (Fund raiser, anyone?) We need to shine a light on the positive aspects of Missoula, but I’m a busy guy. I don’t have time to write ten books. I do have time to come up with ten titles, though.

1. Missoula: Lesbians and Subarus

Yes, a lot of lesbians drive Subarus. So do a lot of straight women. But it has nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation. (We say “orientation” instead of “preference,” because my preference is always “yes.”) Loggers drive Subarus. And school teachers. And city council members. And retired postal workers. If you see a homeless person living in a car, it’s probably a Subaru. There are more Subarus here than there are bedbugs in a Detroit hotel room. Making goofy doo-dads that hang off the rearview mirror is a growth industry here, because it’s the only way you can tell your forest green ’97 Outback from the other nine identical specimens in the Good Food Store parking lot. They even all have the same bumper stickers.

MissoulaBook (2)2. Missoula: People Wear Shorts Every Day of the Year

This has less to do with the climate and more to do with lack of common sense. People also have lottery tickets as their only retirement plan. Next time you see some shivering knucklehead shuffling along a downtown sidewalk with a pair of basketball shorts and flip flops during one of our many arctic blast cold snaps, you can either assume that he is, in fact, a moron, or that he got so wasted at last night’s TECH N9NE concert that he totally lost his long sleeve pants.

 3. Missoula: A Drinking Town With a Skiing Problem, or Vice Versa?

When the Bloody Mary at the local ski area keeps winning Best in Show, you know we spend a lot of time on the hill. And drinking. In fact, when a big winter storm moves through and dumps a foot of snow (remember snow?) on the area, don’t plan on getting much legitimate business done the next day. Everyone who skis or ‘boards will be on the slopes, leaving the rest of us to congregate at the local liquor stores and bars where we will declare that we are snowed in.

 4. Missoula: Fun Runs, Marathons and Other Sports That Lack Balls

Personally, I don’t run unless something is chasing me, or I’m three blocks from Kettle House and it’s five minutes to eight. Missoula has several organized runs, but we don’t just have simple road races in this town. People run marathons dressed in costumes. They trot their 10Ks covered in mud, or cross the finish line while being pelted with paint. These fast-moving parades are proliferating, because simply running from Point A to Point B is apparently just too mundane. I think their message is that exercise is supposed to somehow be enjoyable. Nothing screams “Running halfway to Butte is fun!” like dressing up like a rodeo clown.

 5. Missoula: The Deer Seem to Think That They Were Here First

Any successful garden you see here in the summer will be either covered with netting or festooned with wires strung with tin cans and pie plates. That’s because deer love to eat organic, and there are more deer in Missoula than, well, Subarus. Most mornings you can see at least two in every driveway. Deer, that is. There’s a great variety of wildlife in the area, and we’ve learned to appreciate that not everyone gets to be this close to wild creatures on a regular basis. Unless you’re having a drink with Ric Parnell.

 6. Missoula: Everybody Is an Artist

I don’t mean in some flower power “everything we do in this dimension is a work of art, no matter how small or insignificant” kind of way. Grow up. I’ve been to craft shows. I’m talking about how your mail carrier supplements her income with crocheted hipster hats she sells in her Etsy store. The kid who carried your groceries out to your car today? He just finished writing his first screenplay. Or that lifeguard who spends her summers trying to keep toddlers from pooping in the zero-depth end of Splash Montana? She’s opening a First Friday show at a downtown gallery with her jaw-dropping assemblage pieces. Artists don’t always look the part. Missoula is so chock full of painters, sculptors, authors, actors, playwrights, musicians, drummers, and other gifted creative types that nearly everyone you meet is likely to have some kind of means of artistic expression going on the side. And making no money at it.

 7. Missoula: We Still Bring You a Glass of Water At Our Restaurants

This seems like a trend that hasn’t quite reached our shores. When I’m visiting some other part of the country, anywhere from the Deep South to the Bay Area, in many cases a restaurant will no longer bring you a glass of water when you sit down. Come on, it’s water! What’s next? “Hmm…I’ll have a chair. And a table would be nice.” Has potable water become an expensive commodity elsewhere in the nation? Should I be hoarding Sparkletts?

 8. Missoula: Home of Excellent Indian Food

You bet! Check out the Kyi-Yo Pow Wow at the University, or head up to the Arlee Pow Wow on Fourth of July Weekend, and you can get some killer fry bread and Indian tacos. What—did you think I meant Indian food from India? Yeah, well, good luck with that.

 9. Missoula: Hunters, Vegans and Backyard Chickens

When it comes to food and its procurement, Missoula runs the gamut. Many of our restaurants offer extensive vegan menus, while other establishments make sure you know the bison you’re fixing to eat was stomping around a meadow within sight of your table a month ago. We grow our own greens, gather our own eggs from backyard hens, and bag our own quarry whether in the field or on the stream. Safeway? We don’t need no stinking Safeway.

 10. Missoula: If There’s One Thing We Won’t Put Up With, It’s Intolerance

The dust-up created by Krakauer’s book will blow away soon enough. Let’s hope that in its wake some real progress can be made toward improving the way rape and other crimes against women are dealt with. Treating victims with more dignity and respect is a good start. Rape is not funny. But neither is dragging Missoula through the mud and obscuring all that is right and special about this town by painting it with a broad brush of marketing hype.

As always, I appreciate your readership, and encourage and welcome your comments. For now, I gotta go. Now, which one of these Subarus is mine…?

   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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