as I found out I was going to Montana, I had a feeling of dread.
Not because of the assignment. I immediately Googled "Spiders
in Montana" and discovered there are poisonous ones and less
poisonous ones. They looked the same to me.
Nevertheless, being the professional that I am, I persevered.
So instead I focused on the more important issue: where to stay.
Someone suggested I should go camping. Obviously this was someone
who did not know me well. I've never understood the appeal of
sleeping on the wet, soggy ground when there is the option of
sleeping in a hotel nearby. I enjoy things like electricity and
heat. I like a socket nearby and a lock on the door. If I want
to see nature, I can look out a window. Or even better - turn
on the television.
When I got there, I couldn't believe how
beautiful it was. Driving along an empty road surrounded by snowcapped
mountains and blue skies, I opened the window and breathed in
the fresh air. Breathing is a popular activity in Montana. So
is marvelling. I don't do a lot of marvelling and found that I
can only do it for so long. I'd inhaled, I'd marvelled, I was
ready to go. If you've seen one snowcapped mountain, you've seen
It was quite a remote part of Montana and
once I found a place to stay, I worried about the coffee, because
I run on caffeine. I assumed there wouldn't be a Starbucks for
miles, but was it possible there wouldn't be a single espresso
machine in the village? I imagined myself standing around someone's
campfire with a tin cup.
The woman who ran the inn I stayed in refused
to say when, if indeed ever, anyone had died from a spider bite.
But she gladly pointed me to a shop in the
village where I could get a latte.
I was the only customer there. There was
nobody on the street, nobody in the shop, and yet when I asked
the shopkeeper how she was, her reply was: "Stressed."
I later figured out it was probably me who stressed her out. Do
you have semi-skimmed? Can you make it extra-hot? A double shot?
I asked her more questions in five minutes than she'd been asked
A few days later I returned to Manhattan
wearing my new favourite item: a navy-blue hoodie with "Montana"
written on it. Everywhere I went, men would comment. On the street
they would yell out: "Hey, Montana!" - or they would
wink. With the amount of attention it generated you'd think it
said: "Free Sex".
I wore it to the gym too. I was buying a
bottle of water when a trainer came over to me. "Are you
from Montana?" he asked. I stared at him. "Uh, do I
look like I'm from Montana?"
He thought about it and said: "No,
not really." Then, uninvited, he told a story about when
he was "on tour" in Montana and waited for me to respond.
I didn't. I knew "on tour" was code for: "Ask me
about my band." I was silent.
He didn't give up, and continued talking
about when he was in Wyoming playing "a gig" - still
nothing. While we were standing there, a different man passed
by, pointed at my sweatshirt, and shouted: "Go! Grizzlies!"
The following day I wore a T-shirt that
said, "I don't care about your stupid band", just in
case I ran into the trainer. After that, he didn't talk to me.