The first time I met Missoula was exactly 3 weeks before I moved here permanently. My plan was just an out-and-back. Just attend the International Wildlife Film Festival and head right back to San Francisco to continue on with life. But Missoula won me over. Quickly.
It was Springtime in the year 2000. All the old maples on Brooks stretched their leafy branches across the street creating that magical tunnel-like canopy that brought out the kid in me as I drove through. That just doesn’t happen in big cities. I liked it.
People I passed on the sidewalk made eye contact and gave me a friendly nod. I found myself looking behind me to see if maybe they were howdying someone else, someone they actually knew! Every time, it seemed that I was the intended recipient of strangers’ good tidings. That just doesn’t happen in big cities. I liked it.
My first dinner in Missoula was on an early Sunday evening at the Iron Horse. The place was pretty empty. As I settled in to enjoy my Athena salad, I looked around and noticed a sleepy golden retriever sacked out under the stools at the end of the bar. No leash. No person. Once in a while, he would lift his head to sniff the waft of something delicious as a server walked by. But he didn’t budge. I was struck by how comfortable he was just occupying his own place in the bar. Just hanging out. No one was fussing over him, tying him up, or worried that he would run out the open door. That just doesn’t happen in big cities. I liked it.
I could get used to this. And, since I had just quit my corporate marketing job in San Francisco, I could choose this.
So, on a sunny May afternoon when the lilacs were in their full blooming glory, my dog, Suki, and I pulled into Missoula in the biggest U-Haul I could rent. It took three days to drive here from the Coast with my Jeep in tow. When we pulled up to the pet-friendly apartment I had subleased for us, there were two (two!) open parking spaces right in front waiting to welcome us home. That just doesn’t happen in big cities. I like it.