I like money. No, I don’t mean coins, crypto, lines of credit or debit cards. I mean actual folding money. I like the feel of the paper and I like the way a hefty wad of currency looks when it’s neatly stacked up. I like dollars and I also like Euros. One time I brought home a stack of Malaysian 1 Ringgit notes after a trip to Borneo. Although a pretty shade of blue, I decided that compared to dollars and Euros they were just too small, measuring only 120 x 65 millimeters, compared to a Washington, for example, which is 154 x 65.
What I don’t like about folding money is the way it smells. This ranges from the ghastly perfumes and colognes that have turned rancid to the acrid odor of cocaine. So when I get some new bills from my wife—who gets them from barrel racers paying their entry fees--I always stuff them in a cloth bag and wash them thoroughly with unscented hand soap and white vinegar. Then I put them in our dryer. While they’re still slightly damp I iron each one on both sides to make the bills lie flat. Then I add them to my collection. I have no intention of actually spending this money. Since the only people who use currency these days are gamblers I don’t have to.
I know this sounds like I have a hoarding problem. But I think it has more to do with an obsessive-compulsive problem. It began when I was a kid. First, there was Monopoly money, then that wonderful fake children’s currency that looked vaguely like real dollars, and then what is called “Hollywood” money you can now buy on Amazon, which looks and feels authentic until you read the words “Motion Picture Use Only.”
When I was twelve I began printing my own currency with a typewriter on cotton paper. This was money issued by Lower Slobbovia, a piece of unoccupied floodplain in the redneck backwater where I grew up, a name I stole from Al Capp’s L’il Abner comic strip. I called this money The Credit and issued it in 1, 5 and 10-Credit denominations. Instead of being backed by the gold standard, like the dollar was before Nixon severed the connection—it was backed by the rock standard—the bright, shiny stones my grandfather polished to a high gloss and gave to me.
Some tourists who drive between Glacier and Yellowstone Park every summer stop at the old Mission Church in St. Ignatius to gaze at the paintings inside that depict Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus as Indians. It was the goal of the European Jesuits who founded the Mission in 1854 to convert the Salish to Christianity while convincing them that some of their choices, such as polygamy, corporal punishment and gambling, were evil.
One of these Black Robes was a Flemish Jesuit named Pierre-Jean De Smet. Physically strong and emotionally restless, he became a teacher and the treasurer of what would become St. Louis University in Florissant, Missouri. While De Smet was keen on racking up Indian baptisms in order to save their souls he apparently didn’t have the same regard for the spiritual well-being of the black people who were essential to the functioning of his college. According to Public Broadcasting it is estimated that between De Smet’s arrival at Florissant in 1823 and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 the Jesuits bought and sold some 70 slaves in the St. Louis area. [5/10/2022]
After years of complaining to bureaucrats about the deterioration of Missoula’s public tennis courts we received this notice from the city, which will be published May 9:
“Notice is hereby given that electronic bids for the reconstruction of Playfair tennis courts located at 3001 Bancroft Street, Missoula, MT. 59801 will be received until 3:30 p.m., local time, on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. The bids will then be publicly opened and read aloud digitally from the City of Missoula, via Teams Meeting.” [5/6/2022]
In 1934 the chairman of the Montana Railroad and Public Service Commission was accused of molesting young boys. Read an excerpt from The Last Heir.
On any hot day in the Garden City the 90,000 “hybrid” poplars planted in 2014 near the frenetic intersection of Reserve Street with Mullan Road emit several tons of chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
These include isoprene, methanol and terpene, substances that combine with atmospheric elements to create an aerosol cloud the plants use to reflect sunlight, thus cooling themselves. It’s thought that this form of air conditioning evolved when the earth was considerably warmer than it is now. The best example of the phenomenon is the blue haze that shrouds the spruce and fir forests of the Great Smoky Mountains.
VOCs are natural emissions generated by many plants and are also produced by the evaporation of petroleum products. When they react in sunshine with airborne pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, which is produced by gas and diesel engines, they accelerate the accumulation of ozone, the major ingredient of smog and a major trigger of respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD. Different species of trees emit various levels of VOCs. The highest floral discharges come from eucalyptus, the genus Populus, which includes poplars and cottonwoods, and oak. Hawthorns emit no VOCs at all.
For more about the science check out the research done by Dr. Todd Rosenstiel, Portland State University Center for Climate and Aerosol Research.
The poplars on Missoula’s 160-acre plantation are fed more than 1.5 million gallons of sewage effluent per day from the nearby Wastewater Treatment Plant. Officials claim that the nitrogen and phosphorous in this effluent that would have been poured into the Clark Fork is processed by the poplars instead. The trees apparently like their diet, having grown to more than 20 feet tall. (Hybrid poplars are basically giant, messy weeds—the surface-spreading, tentacle-like roots of the forty-foot specimen we cut down at Dark Acres one spring throw up a small forest of suckers that we must mow once a week until we can find the time to excavate the roots.
City officials once planned plan to harvest their poplars in 2026 and sell the wood for use as ceiling molding and painted furniture (as firewood, it produces more ash than heat). Enthusiastic yet flawed documents claimed the project would cost $1.375 million but would recoup its expenses when the lumber is sold. But like the legal costs of Missoula’s takeover of its water system—originally penciled in at $400,000 but escalating to at least $9 million—bureaucrats exaggerated or falsified the fiscal benefits of these trees.
In fact, whatever perceived market for poplar sawlogs might have existed in 2014, there is now no demand. The city is considering grinding the trees into compost. A more profitable use of these otherwise commercially useless plants might be shaved bedding material for livestock.
Removing the stumps and restoring the land, which is leased from a family, will be considerably more difficult than the city has estimated.
Officials also claim that the plantation will “sequester” at least 8,000 tons of the carbon in the carbon dioxide that trees inhale, but no studies of this promise have been initiated.
Also, the Missoula County Health Department does not monitor the amount of ozone being produced by the reaction of the plantation’s VOCs with the huge volume of nitrogen dioxide emitted by vehicles idling at and finally crossing the busiest intersection in Montana. This smelly, noisy neighborhood—which is experiencing a population boom encouraged by the City of Missoula—includes an asphalt plant and a Walmart.
In 2020 the City Council allocated $166,000 to buy Hybrid Energy Group Montana, which has operated Missoula’s plantation from the beginning. And it decided to replace the company’s arborist with a city arborist employed by the loathsome Parks and Recreation Department, which has been allowing municipal property to deteriorate (check out the tennis courts at Playfair Park, for example.) [originally posted in 2015, updated 4/21/2022]
In the late 1970s I was living in a one-bedroom Craftsman-style house in the French Quarter. Oh, not that French Quarter, but the one in Missoula so named by me because the house was on Levasseur Street. I was working for a New York publisher editing and designing a book called the Complete Fisherman’s Catalog. Manufacturers had sent the author hundreds of samples of their tackle, most of which he didn’t want to keep because he was a fly-fishing purist. That Christmas I put up a tree and adorned it with scores of lures, spinners, and plastic worms. Instead of a star on top I attached a huge fake rat apparently used to attract bass.
After the book was published I got a job as an associate editor for Outside Magazine. Girlfriends came and girlfriends went but one of them became my wife. After she moved into the French Quarter we spent many hours in the extra-long built-in bathtub playing gin rummy and drinking chilled Stolichnaya.
I had inherited a dog from one of these former girlfriends, a black Labrador named Slick. Because I was raised in a rural redneck backwater I knew nothing about how to keep a dog in a city. I did nothing to train him, neuter him or fence him in. As a consequence he roamed around at will, returning to houses where he had been fed a treat or had stolen one, especially a house where there had been a chocolate chip cookie. He also enjoyed dumpster diving and dragging our clothes around the streets. My wife would blush and avert her eyes as she retrieved her underwear from downtown sidewalks on her way to her Higgins Avenue office.
I sublet the basement apartment to a guy whose hobby was designing nuclear weapons. He assured me that these were non-functioning devices that mostly existed on paper, although he had built a small-scale plastic version of one, the Hydrogen Superbomb “Bravo,” and had copyrighted the plans. His intention was to share with the public his belief that the U.S. nuclear arsenal and presumably the Russian one were so poorly designed a cataclysmic accident could happen at any moment, a fact these governments were concealing. The FBI “interviewed” him. One month after paying the rent in advance, he disappeared.
We have moved several times since our golden years in the French Quarter, finally to a redneck backwater much like the one where I grew up. Although the Levasseur house is still there it has been dwarfed on the right by a four-story apartment building. On April 25 a building company announced that it will tear down two old houses on the right to make way for six four-story condos. This on a street that has been reduced in length to one short block. Our old house, with its leafy maples and backyard garden, will look like a pygmy among giants. But also heroic, a tiny Sampson battling two Goliaths. The analogy is fitting. In a culture bullied by reality shows, celebrity memoirs, and country western music our old house is now owned by Montana’s first Poet Laureate.
Like monkeys streaming from God’s butt plagues always spawn outrageous lies. Take the bubonic plague of the Fourteenth Century, for example. It was widely believed that the Black Death was caused by Jews who poisoned wells or bad air called “miasma” that was contaminated with fecal matter. It was also believed that its victims could be cured by rubbing their bodies with live chickens or snake parts or giving them potions made from crushed emeralds or the ground horns of unicorns.
Donald Trump believed that cures for Covid included bleach and strong light.
Butt monkeys in Montana spawned by the current pandemic include extremist websites that rail against vaccines and masks and the school boards that support the science behind these preventative measures. “Free Missoula News” (formerly "Missoula County Tyranny"), for example, and “The Western Montana Liberty Coalition” claim that the “Missoula Government School System” is actually “the largest Communist school system in Montana.” And the wingnuts who write these sites claim that ivermectin (an anti-worm drug) and hydroxychloroquine (a lupus drug) are effective against Covid, although not a single clinical trial has shown them to be of any use in preventing the disease. According to the Cochrane Policy Institute “there is no evidence to support the use of ivermectin either for preventing or treating COVID-19.” Cochrane also said that “hydroxychloroquine caused more unwanted effects than a placebo treatment.”
You might as well eat unicorn horn. [4/19/2022]