Monday, September 22, 2014

Livingston, Montana

A Sunday chilly morning. I walk past the hotel looking for a place to have breakfast. The town seems to be asleep still. Down Main Street a breezy cold wind sweeps last night’s papers to the curb. I pull my jacket collar up and look at the Absaroka Mountains thinking that in less than two months they will probably be already covered in snow. The stores are all still closed and most if not all of them will never open on Sundays, the only day the Yellowstone Park tourists will have to find something else to do in town. Most restaurants that are opening for breakfast advertise a brunch menu today but I don’t feel like loading up on carbs just yet so I keep walking.

The chill in the air feels quite pleasant for someone who lives in a warmer climate like myself so I keep walking for a few minutes through the maze of brick wall buildings that make up the downtown district. The silent streets are also quite rewarding as I start thinking about the many possible choices available to me after the roadtrip is finished. I’m interrupted in my silent thoughts by the sound of a long freight train whistle, a constant fixture at all times of day and night that one has to get used to.
I turn left on Main Street lured by the old style marquee sign of the Empire Cinema and find a small cozy coffee shop next to it. The Coffee Crossing is so small it only accommodates four tables which happen to be all occupied. I say good morning as I come in and all patrons acknowledge me and divert their attention briefly from their conversation or newspaper to say “good morning”. I make my way to the counter where a middle aged woman gives me a most welcome smile. She’s frying bacon on the tiny kitchen in the back and asks me if I know what I’m having. I decide on a coffee and a blueberry muffin.
There’s an old rusty steel stove in a corner and looking around I’m certain that a lot of thought was put into the decoration. There’s an affinity for things from past times probably bought in yard sales or antique stores around town from the thick wooden tables that remind me of some I’ve seen in hundred year old saloons to the walls are lined with old movie posters probably borrowed from the next door cinema and with framed old time sayings and cowboy wisdom. I laugh when I look at one that simply says, “Livingston, Montana – America’s finest open air asylum” at the same time that the waitress hands me my coffee in a mug and muffin and says, “Welcome to the asylum, honey” and smiles widely.
I sit in the two-seat counter by the window and that’s when I notice an SUV with tainted windows parked outside with the passenger window half open. A pointer dog keeps peeking out the window from time to time with an enquiring look in his eyes looking around and then goes back inside. He keeps doing this like he’s playing a game of hide and seek with some imaginary companion. Inside the coffee shop the conversation at the tables shifts from last night’s college football game which Montana State came back to win in a surprising fashion to the nice unusual weather which is not that good for some crops who should have seen more rainfall by this time.
Outside, the dog in the parked SUV peeks out with a surprising look. Around the corner and old man wearing a fly-fishing vest comes in with his dog, a white Labrador, and ties the leash around the stop sign. He commands the dog to sit and stay to which the lab readily does getting a treat in return. The man comes in to the coffee shop while the lab looks at him with a certain amount of apprehension like he’s trying to say, “don’t be too long”. The pointer dog looks intently at the lab like he’s ready to play but the lab isn’t having none of it. He keeps looking at the door waiting as dogs do for the owner to reemerge from the door he went in.
Back inside the owner of the lab has joined the conversation that has shifted to fly-fishing and the secrets to a nice catch and release which supposedly is in the wrist. As I finish my coffee and muffin and look at the dogs outside I begin to realize that ever since I’m in town I have probably seen more middle aged and old men walking their dogs than with their wives. I pay up at the counter and order another coffee to go.
When I step outside there’s still a chill in the air but the sun is already shinning brightly. I approach the white lab to pet him who’s more than happy to receive some attention. I walk south on Main Street in the direction of Sacagawea park and the sound of dogs playing and take a sip from my coffee cup. It’s only then that I notice the written sticker on the cup that reads, “When I die the DOG gets EVERYTHING”. I smile as the sound of another freight train blows through town and become enamored with the idea of finding an asylum like this when my life starts hitting that descending curve.
September 21, 2014 (The Murray Hotel)


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