Kathryn Schulz, a New York-based book critic and journalist, recently visited Missoula and made a stop at our town's least likely literary landmark: the Thunderbird Motel. There, Schulz spoke with Thelma, the motel's owner, about the long and erratic residence of Greg Hemingway, one of Ernest's sons and the author of Papa: A Personal Memoir. Schulz posted a thorough and somewhat rambling account of her conversation with Thelma yesterday on New York magazine's Vulture blog.
After touching on everything from Greg Hemingway's sex-change operation, the Griz football posters in the Thunderbird's lobby, the Clark Fork "rolling by big and slow" and the rings on Thelma's fingers, Schulz's post ends with this evocation of the neon-lit Thunderbird and the meaning of all her ruminating:
The Thunderbird looks best by night. On the roof over the lobby the neon sign with the towering capital T blazes orange against the sky and casts pink shadows on the lobby below, while the walkway connecting the 31 rooms glows a lightsaber blue. It is American beautiful, a vision of the kind of motel that loomed out of the darkness in the middle of nowhere in motoring’s best and bygone era. But walking toward it I am thinking about how there is no best, there is only kindness or its absence; and about how there is no bygone era and no middle of nowhere, there is always just the present moment, and the place you are in, and everything that happens to be there.
The Indy too has touched on the Hemingways' connection to Missoula and the Thunderbird, including in this story from 2004.