I have moved more than a migrating Arctic Tern. To date, a total of 55 times since birth. I guess the womb without a view wasn’t in the final tally. So, 56 times counting the nine months in the womb suite, and then ushered, or pushed into the delivery room. Life starts with a spank and ends in a diaper.
Move #43 happened thirty-two years ago when my father and brother picked me up hitchhiking outside Minneapolis, and decided to drop me off 850 miles later in Billings, Montana. I was hired by the daily newspaper, sight-unseen, right out of commercial art school.
We drove out in a very used, dirt-brown Chevy Citation. Citation was the name given to the vehicle because the local authorities would give the car an “indecent exposure” ticket as-soon-as it rolled off the Detroit assembly line onto a public street. It was butt-ugly and the only thing holding the car together was salty-rust.
They dropped me off at a micro-sized apartment with my few earthly belongings: a freshly printed commercial art diploma, one suitcase, a pack of cigarettes, a new leather coat (bought with the bare-end of my student loan), a cheap cowboy hat and an extra party-boy chromosome inherited from distant Viking relatives. My ancient cousins rowed their boat upstream on the Mississippi until their arms fell off and had to stop. So they built a village on the banks called St. Paul. Only inherently stubborn Norwegians would row their wooden war ships 2,500 miles upstream searching for lakes stocked with lutefisk and migrating blondes.
The low-efficiency apartment had a small living room with a hide-a-bed, tiny, but tidy kitchen with stove, and a bathroom built for chipmunks. It was situated downtown Billings with my front door 20 steps off main street. It was an old home subdivided into 4 apartments, surrounded by churches, grocery stores, hospitals, gas stations, and Unabombers.
I was very alone and far, far from home. My first job in a foreign land, Montana, where they hunt, gather, fish and grow wheat-looking-stuff. I walked the city every night, after baking my customary frozen noodles romanoff that I bought by the dozen. On the weekends I would walk briskly to the downtown bars and join others who were alone, yet enjoying communal bar-stool life. Loneliness can be repressed with multiple glasses of liquid numbness. I still walked crookedly home alone.
I frequently ate breakfast at the Dude Rancher, a very popular and rustic downtown motel that had great food. The cook…dude looked like he’d been raised by wolverines and had a degree in ranching rattlesnakes.
The reason I walked more than Forrest Gump ran is that I lost my pea-green Ford Maverick to a bottle of Tequila. The worm won. So, for the next four years I walked everywhere. Whether it was 90+ in the shade, or -20, I walked, and I walked alone, with the exception of my thoughts as my sole companion. No pun directly intended.
Since I was a young and working newspaper man, no longer did I aspire to be the young walking man. It was time for wheels. Two wheels replaced two soles. My first big fat government tax refund of $350 was spent on a used high-end bicycle that I rode everywhere. Walking was now passé, riding was chic, especially with my cheap green Kmart cowboy hat on. It was rolling urban redneck meets performing arts. I also needed music to pedal by which meant a new Sony Walkman featuring: AM/FM, Cassette, headphone jack and belt clip. It was the early eighties iPod. The only bicycle commuting accessory missing to become an official Montana citizen was a handle bar mounted deer rifle and antlers sprouting from my cowboy hat. The Tour De Redneck was officially started.