Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Walking Orange Street: Missoula 1990

When Fru and I lived in Missoula, we lived on Rollins Street. The closest main street from there was Orange. The city of Missoula is laid out in opposing angles, that is--I was told--because two of the founding fathers had differing ideas as to which way the streets should be gridded. So, one group laid them out one way, the other another way and when the opposing streets met it made for some interesting connections (Malfunction Junction comes down mind on Reserve Street). Anyway, Orange Street had its own direction as it headed towards downtown with its bridge over the Clark Fork River. But what I'm thinking of--remembering--is the street before it reached that bridge, the part of Orange Street that encompassed our neighborhood.
I had lived in walkable towns before: Iowa City, Champaign, Santa Fe, Seattle was a pretty walkable city. But I'd also been in places where walking wasn't done much: Los Angeles, South Walton County. So, it was nice to be in Missoula and be able to walk places--both Fru and I enjoyed it.
We often strolled up to the Orange Street Food Farm. This was a local grocery store. Nothing special, except the oddish name. But it was the walk that made it special for us, going to get a few groceries that we could comfortably carry. It was pleasant--even fun and romantic--to walk together to gather the ingredients for our meal, for snacks, a bottle of wine. I also used to walk up to the little laundromat that was there and do our clothes (we had a washer and dryer, which we'd used in the cabin in Stevensville, but there were no hookups for them in our little cottage on Rollins and they sat forlornly on the miniature porch off the miniature kitchen), and I'd walk with the dirty-to-clean clothes. We also often made trips up to the little Greek place. This place sold gyros and had an ivy plant inside that had been trained to go all around the wall. The people there knew us and we loved our gyros. (There was a more formal Greek Restaurant across the street where we went maybe only once or twice--probably owned by the same people.) Fru and I used these walks to keep life slow, to stay in tune with each other, to enjoy our own company. We used Orange Street to get to downtown a lot of times--to go to the Crystal Theater or the ice cream shop. We also walked back and forth to the University of Montana, but did not use Orange to get there.
I think of Chicago and New York, where I did plenty of walking, yet those huge cities also required the El and the subway. In Santa Fe and Iowa City I had no car, so walking was not just a choice but sometimes a chore. I had no car for a while while in Grayton Beach and had to rely on friends to get places, to get weekly groceries. In Seattle I, we--Brock and Matt and I--walked mainly by choice. We would walk long distances to downtown and Pioneer Square, sometimes we took the monorail. We all had cars but rarely used them. I didn't walk much in Des Moines--rode my bike a lot until I learned to drive. And L.A.? Are you kidding? Who walks in L.A.? But I've always loved walking places. I love the slow pace, the time spent observing and thinking, never thought much of it as exercise (walking wasn't exercise, running was [but as a kid running wasn't exercise either, it was just running]). So I enjoyed it when I lived somewhere where I could walk a lot.
But Montana--Missoula--was maybe the best walking town despite it's groveling winters. It wasn't just the mountains or its many trees, it's olden funky downtown, it's because--for me--Fru was there. We were in love. We were married. And we could go out our door, amble down the sidewalks to Orange Street, holding hands, chatting, looking at the world together, and go to the Orange Street Food Farm for some chicken and potatoes, cheese and bread, milk and wine, or we could go get a gyro. And we could walk back to our miniature house--the cottage--knowing that we'd walk somewhere again tomorrow.
Simple stuff.
Everyone knows the simple stuff is the best.

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