News

Friday, September 8, 2017

Remembering Esther Chessin

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 3:11 PM

Over the past few days, a vase of flowers and a photo collage have occupied a table in the bustling seating area at Bernice’s Bakery. They’re there to commemorate Esther Chessin—a mother, community member and former owner of Bernice’s—who died Sept. 5 at St. Patrick Hospital. She was 52.

Ask anyone who knew her and you’ll hear stories of a smart, engaging and community-minded businesswoman. Some of the stories are simple and familiar, fond remembrances of weddings and backyard barbecues. Others encapsulate more trying times, namely Chessin’s battle with a cancer that twice went into remission. That she had a sizable impact on Missoula was evident, her friend Cindy Waltz says, even on hikes up Pattee Canyon or Mount Sentinel.
Esther Chessin, pictured here at her friend Molly Bradford's wedding. - COURTESY MOLLY BRADFORD
  • Courtesy Molly Bradford
  • Esther Chessin, pictured here at her friend Molly Bradford's wedding.

“She almost always knew somebody that we passed,” Waltz remembers. “She had a really wide reach, and part of that is growing up in Missoula. A big part of that was Bernice’s, though.”

Chessin bought Bernice’s from founder Becky Bolinger in 1993, and during her 11-year tenure as owner, she more than doubled the size of the space and established the popular seating area. It was in her capacity as the bakery’s owner that Chessin first got to know Christine and Marco Littig, who at the time owned the Red Bird wine bar and frequented Bernice’s for coffee and scones. They connected as peers and “acquaintance friends,” Christine says, and when the Littigs sold Red Bird, they wound up going to work for Chessin at the bakery. Christine recalls Chessin asking them to buy Bernice’s from her “no less than five times.” The fifth time, it worked. Chessin passed the business into the Littigs’ hands in 2004 (the Littigs turned Bernice’s over to new owner Missy Kelleher this summer).

“I don’t think she ever received enough credit for what she did to Bernice’s before Marco and I took over,” Christine says. “We elevated the face of Bernice’s, but she built it.”

Looking around the bakery, Christine adds that nothing aesthetically has changed since Chessin expanded. Chessin gave Missoula “a great gift,” Christine continues: a place to gather together and share tables with friends and strangers, “and eat a pastry on the side.”

Chessin also worked for the Independent as a business manager in spring and summer of 2007, then as an administrative assistant through January 2008. Former Indy owner and publisher Matt Gibson remembers her fondly as well. “Fundamentally, she was a gentle and kind soul,” he says.

The Indy is also how Chessin came into Molly Bradford’s orbit. Bernice’s was a longtime advertiser in the paper’s pages, and when Bradford started as an ad representative at the paper, Chessin became her client. In Bradford’s words, the two “just clicked.”

“When I first met her, I was like, ‘Are you Bernice?’” Bradford says. “She was like, ‘No, Bernice doesn’t exist. I’m Esther.’ We would laugh about who’s Bernice. We really bonded, and it extended outside of work. We would hike or go to musical events. She came to my wedding. I hosted her baby shower.”

Chessin’s death this week appeared, to many of her friends, sudden. Waltz says Chessin had begun cancer treatments again early this summer, and that she’d become ill Tuesday morning before being rushed to the emergency room. She died in the hospital that afternoon. Throughout her treatment this summer, and in previous years, Waltz says, Chessin “really didn’t make a big deal of it.” She was active in Missoula's Silver Linings breast cancer support group, in addition to her work as an area manager for the international skincare and wellness company Arbonne.

“She kind of just took it in stride,” Waltz says of Chessin’s battle with cancer. “I don’t think she wanted to give it a lot of energy. She didn’t want it to be the focus of her life.”

Over the past few days, Bradford and others have worked to set up a benefit fund for Chessin’s 13-year-old daughter, Isabella, at Missoula Federal Credit Union. Chessin’s friends are also planning a community celebration for Chessin on Oct. 1. We'll share the details of that event when they're confirmed.

"I'm sure everyone has said probably what I'm going to say," says Laina Wustner, Chessin's niece, "but she was just probably the most powerful force of love and life and strength, and she was not only a warrior against battling cancer but she just was a phenomenal warrior of life."

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Indy publisher Matt Gibson named general manager for Lee's Missoula-area papers

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 11:45 AM

Well we never…

Never thought we'd see the day, frankly.

Though maybe we should have.

By the time you read this, Matt Gibson will no longer be the publisher of the Missoula Independent, which he owned from 1997 until the paper’s sale to Lee Enterprises in April.
A Wednesday morning press release sealed the deal.
Matt Gibson
  • Matt Gibson

Effective immediately, Gibson takes on the title of general manager for Lee’s “Missoula-area properties,” i.e., the Missoulian, the Ravalli Republic, and the Missoula Independent. Lee VP Mike Gulledge continues in his role as publisher of the Missoulian and the Billings Gazette, and Independent general manager Andy Sutcliffe will continue in that role with expanded responsibility. There are no editorial department changes associated with the promotion. We have, however, noticed that Matt has started dressing sharper.

What does this mean for us? Well, it means that we have the strongest possible advocate for the Indy and its mission—an advocate who understands the paper’s history and promise better than anyone else could—embedded deep in the belly of the… umm… Lee family.

Or, in Gibson’s words, “The fundamental character of the Independent, which I’ve spent 20 years creating, is extraordinarily valuable. And it’s not going to be compromised.”

As for his new gig with the Missoulian, he says, “My goals are to build trust with the community and with a terrific group of employees and help guide the business to sustainable success.”

In that regard, of course, we wish him the very best of luck.

Because “sustainable success,” of course, is the real challenge in this perilous journalism moment, and it’s also, at root, the reason Gibson sold the Indy to Lee in the first place. The manifold difficulties facing the newspaper business need no recounting here. And yet:

“Somebody’s got to do the work, and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do,” Gibson says. “And Missoula is the only place I’ve ever wanted to do it.”

Now, more than ever, he has his chance. Those of us who’ve worked with him for years are confident that he’s more than up to the task. Those of you who’re about to get your first chance to work with him have a real opportunity in store. We’re rooting for you, boss.



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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Helena to remove country's northernmost Confederate monument

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 11:05 AM

A fountain dedicated as "a loving tribute to our confederate soldiers" in a Helena city park will be removed in wake of the recent white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Helena City Commission directed city staff to remove the monument—the only public tribute to the Confederacy in the northwest—after two hours of public comment Wednesday. The commission did not take a vote, but members expressed unanimous support for its removal, citing public safety concerns and the monument's racist history.

So did Mayor Jim Smith, who two years ago had resisted calls to remove the fountain after Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people at a Charleston, South Carolina, church. At the time, Smith compared removal to totalitarianism, and the commission agreed instead to add an informational placard to the fountain. But recent events, and particularly a request by the eight members of the Montana Legislature's American Indian Caucus, changed his mind.

"I really thought we could find a compromise that would be acceptable, but circumstances and events have overwhelmed our intentions two years ago," Smith said Wednesday.
The Helena City Commission directed staff Thursday to remove the 101-year-old monument to confederate soldiers erected in a city park. It's thought to be the northernmost public memorial to the Confederacy in the United States commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • The Helena City Commission directed staff Thursday to remove the 101-year-old monument to confederate soldiers erected in a city park. It's thought to be the northernmost public memorial to the Confederacy in the United States commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The previously approved educational text summarized the history of the granite fountain, erected in 1916, and the group that pushed for its installation, the United Daughters of the Confederacy. "The UDC openly supported the early Ku Klux Klan in its mission of white supremacy and worked to rewrite school textbooks to distort history by romanticizing the Old South," reads a portion of the draft text posted to the Helena Independent Record.

That text was never installed, due to delays that weren't fully explained at Wednesday's meeting, adding to pressure on the commission.

The commission did not set a timetable for the fountain's removal, saying only that it ought to come down as soon as possible, nor did the commission decide what do with its remnants.

Instead, apparently motivated by concern that the fountain could become a flashpoint for violent protest like the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, commissioners decided to remove the fountain quickly.

Dozens of people spoke for and against the fountain's removal during the meeting. Those seeking to preserve the monument generally equated its removal with erasing history.

"We don't change history by pretending it didn't happen," said one Helena resident.

The sentiment was repeated Thursday morning by President Donald Trump, who tweeted that he was "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!"

Some on social media, unaware of the 2015 debate, wondered why Montana had a monument to the confederacy in the first place, given that it didn't gain statehood until 1889.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

On Sunday, Missoulians marched in solidarity with Charlottesville

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 12:21 PM

In response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, an estimated 225 people gathered at Missoula's BN Plaza Sunday night, Aug. 13, to march in solidarity with Charlottesville. The attendance was estimated by Missoula Rises: Organization and Action Founded in Love, an affiliate of the Montana Human Rights Network and the group that organized Sunday's vigil and march.

The gathering kicked off with Erin Erickson, the Missoula Rises, organizer thanking attendees for standing against hate, and recapping events in Charlottesville. Afterwards, community members Lauren Rodriguez, Deborah Schmidt, Dave Jolla, Davis Ritsema and Dustin Monroe spoke to the marchers about racism in the Missoula community. Members of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Democratic Socialists of America also spoke, honoring the life of Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville on Saturday when a driver crashed his car into a crowd of demonstrators counter-protesting a violent white supremacist rally.

Dustin Monroe, a Lakota and Blackfeet speaker and activist, spoke about the persistent nationwide culture of racism and outlined local examples of racism against Native American peoples. Among the crowd was Chris Badgley, a candidate for Missoula City Council representing Ward 4, who said, “There is nothing patriotic about fascism.”

The marchers then took to Higgins Avenue, peacefully chanting “No hate in our state,” “Love lives here,” and “Black lives matter,” raising fists and signs, and garnering honks from several cars and whistles from pedestrians.

Erickson concluded the march up just above the Clark Fork Market area by announcing further actions that citizens can take to combat hate (follow Missoula Rises: Organization & Action Founded In Love on Facebook for more information) and reiterating the importance of persistent activism.

A man closes his eyes in prayer for those injured and killed during the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. - ELI IMADALI
  • Eli Imadali
  • A man closes his eyes in prayer for those injured and killed during the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Dustin Monroe, a Lakota and Blackfeet activist, speaks to the crowd about racism against Native Americans in Montana. - ELI IMADALI
  • Eli Imadali
  • Dustin Monroe, a Lakota and Blackfeet activist, speaks to the crowd about racism against Native Americans in Montana.


A marcher holds a sign commemorating Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville on Saturday when a driver crashed his car into demonstrators protesting a white supremacist rally. - ELI IMADALI
  • Eli Imadali
  • A marcher holds a sign commemorating Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville on Saturday when a driver crashed his car into demonstrators protesting a white supremacist rally.


Caroline Temple marches down Higgins Avenue, with her child, both of them chanting “love lives here,” along with an estimated 225 other marchers. - ELI IMADALI
  • Eli Imadali
  • Caroline Temple marches down Higgins Avenue, with her child, both of them chanting “love lives here,” along with an estimated 225 other marchers.

Missoulians march down Higgins Avenue chanting “black lives matter.” - ELI IMADALI
  • Eli Imadali
  • Missoulians march down Higgins Avenue chanting “black lives matter.”








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Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Roxy Theater gets its art deco marquee

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 4:05 PM

PHOTO BY PARKER SEIBOLD
  • photo by Parker Seibold

The Roxy Theater's new marquee went up yesterday, marking the most dramatic moment of the vintage theater's recent restoration project. The art deco sign—cherry red with bright yellow lettering, and lined with neon—is based on the theater's original sign. Mike Steinberg, the Roxy's director and programmer, says he thought the original sign was destroyed in 1994, when the Roxy burned. But photos from the fire show that it's not the original. "We don't know where the original one is," he says. "It's another Roxy mystery."

Steinberg and his staff have been raising funds to restore the vibrant community theater back to its roots. They started a #Give37 campaign to raise $37,000 (the Roxy was built in 1937), and that money will go to the new marquee and other art deco flourishes throughout the lobby, and etched-glass doors with brass handles. Steinberg says they're trying to reach the goal by Sept. 24, which is when the Roxy celebrates its 80th anniversary with a big family-friendly party, including screenings of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and the original Snow White, plus music from the Skurfs.


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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Trenton Johnson died fighting a forest fire on July 19. A lifelong friend recalls the memories he left in Missoula.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 8, 2017 at 12:26 PM

Trenton Johnson was adopted from the Ukraine. At least that’s what he’d have told you if you were just meeting him and you asked where he was from. He pulled that prank for upwards of a decade, finding endless joy in the prospect of people believing he’d come from such a foreign land. I first met Trenton in the second grade, and I still have a hazy recollection of him informing me of his fictional origins. I believed him for months until his parents verified that the claim wasn’t true while driving me up to the first of what would end up being many trips to Trenton’s cabin on Elbow Lake.
Trenton Johnson in 2011, the first year he played lacrosse. - PHOTO COURTESY KEILAN SAYER
  • Photo courtesy Keilan Sayer
  • Trenton Johnson in 2011, the first year he played lacrosse.
Trenton had dozens of little quirks like that. Throughout his life, Trenton managed to draw laughter and happiness from what would have been nonsense to anybody else. For whatever reason, he named every cat he ever met “Rilo,” and would proceed to refer to the cat as Rilo even if he was provided with the actual name. Any time he rolled through a yellow light he’d kiss three fingers and touch the roof of his car for “good luck.” You’d be going through everyday life and all of a sudden Trenton would do something small that made you look at him a little weird, and then maybe you’d let out a giggle. 
On July 22, I was absolutely blown away by the displays and tributes the Forest Service and all the different fire departments from the northwest put on. At the memorial at Fort Missoula, flying from the outstretched ladder of a fire truck, was a massive American flag, and that is an image that will stay in my mind forever. I am also grateful for the displays the Hellgate lacrosse team made—a team that both Trenton and myself suited up for to win the state title in 2015. His jersey was displayed at the private memorial, and a lacrosse scholarship fund has been established in his name.

But Trenton’s influence ranged so far outside of the lacrosse and firefighting communities. He really was a friend to all. The night after the funeral, I hosted a small gathering for Trenton’s friends, and as I and a few others went through our contacts looking for people to invite, we amassed a list of more than 20 people, all just as touched by Trenton’s existence as I was. The gathering turned into a party, and it was beautiful to see the turnout. The group was comprised of family friends, friends from elementary school, middle school, high school, lacrosse, cross-country, people he just met in the classroom—people who would never normally be seen with each other. It illustrated in plain terms why Trenton’s loss is so huge to the community. He was a hard person not to be friends with. Social standards meant nothing to him. It didn’t matter how you looked, what you liked to do, who you hung out with. Trenton was friends with everybody, and once he considered you a friend, you were his friend for life.

He loved fun, he loved work, he loved people, he loved his family.

And everybody loved him for it.

When somebody dies, there’s a rush to try and define what they were. Whether they were a fireman or a lacrosse player or a scholar, people try to understand the deceased in narrow terms. And while Trenton wore all of those qualities proudly, they barely scratch the surface in describing him as a person. Of course there is no way to put into words what Trenton was, but if I were to try, I’d say he was above all a friend.

That was what was most special about Trenton. Beyond his obvious strengths as a smart, hard-working, loyal, thoughtful and happy person, he made life more fun with his quirky intricacies and winning attitude. He could make anything fun, through pure determination and a starkly individual view of his surroundings. There was rarely a hard time that Trenton couldn’t make at least a little bit better just by being there, and by being himself. He was unique in his own right, and in this way, Trenton was from a distant land. Or he may as well have been. He was his own person in such a pure way that he was invitingly foreign to everybody he got to know, because there was no chance you’d ever met anybody like Trenton. You may as well have met somebody who had been adopted from the Ukraine.

Chase Koenig is a graduate of Hellgate High School, he is currently attending the University of Iowa as a second year Creative Writing student. He has been friends with Trenton Johnson since they met in the 2nd grade.



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Monday, August 7, 2017

Wobbly like me?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 11:03 AM

By 1917, the Industrial Workers of the World were 150,000 strong, growing in power and numbers, and generally considered, by the usual suspects—the federal, state, county and city governments, capitalists of all stripes, law enforcement agencies large and small, and most of the American bourgeoisie, both petit and grand—to be the most dangerous and repellent and sinister and loathsome and scrofulous thing to come down the domestic pike. Ever. (The Huns filled the bill overseas.)
Frank Little
  • Frank Little

Why? In essence, the IWW saw the working class, not the employers, as the rightful managers of production. In essence, they wanted to abolish wage labor and crush the capitalist insect. They were also violently opposed to American involvement in the Great War. The organization was, to the good burghers of 1917, the equivalent of SDS, Communist Party, the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, Move On, hippies, and ISIS combined.

A diminutive Oklahoman, Frank Little, was the IWWs most effective organizer. The summer of 1917, Little arrived in Butte to organize miners in opposition to the penurious wages and inhuman working conditions of the Anaconda Copper Company.

On August 1, 1917, Little was abducted from his boarding house by persons unknown, gagged, beaten, dragged behind a car for two miles, and hanged from a railroad trestle. His funeral remains Butte’s largest ever, by several thousand.

***********

His grave, at Mountain View cemetery, comprises a headstone (“Slain By Capitalist Interests For Organizing and Inspiring His Fellow Man” it reads), a cement rectangle surrounded by a low, handsome iron fence, and many mementos: a rusted pair of pincers, a shot glass, a turquoise/silver earring, a candle, a rusted railroad spike, a tee-shirt (“Solidarity Can’t be Beat”), a blanket with the International Association of Machinists logo, wood-carved letters (I W W), a pair of machine-gun shells, bouquets of carnations, bouquets of roses, an evergreen wreath from the Seattle chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World, many single carnations, and one candle stub.

The grave lies in the eastern third of Mountain View, the old pauper’s patch: shadeless, bone-dry, knapweed-ridden, hard by a chain link fence and the airport. Many of Little’s neighbors lie beneath no-longer-marked or no-longer-legible gravestones. Some of them don’t: William W. Wells (Feb 18, 1917, Aged 5 Weeks), Helen Patiske (Age 26 Days) and Grady (July 15, 1916-July 25, 1916).

On the 100th anniversary of Little’s murder, one hundred-plus folks attended a memorial service organized by local IWW chapters. One of the attendees pointed to the non-pauper section of Mountain View—verdant, thick-shaded, and safely west of Little’s grave. She was past retirement age and wearing a T-shirt that read: Fellow Worker/Frank Little/Murdered by Copper Trust/We Will Never Forget.

She blamed the employing class for relegating Little and the paupers to neglect and desolation.

Another person (they could have been sisters) harrumphed. Do you think Frank would have wanted to be anywhere else for even a minute, let alone eternity?

A third person (probably a husband) pointed out that Frank was an atheist, and eternity would hardly have been in his vocabulary.

Besides, said a fourth (I’m guessing another husband), pointing past the trees to Harrison Avenue. The irony would have been too much, he said. Frank Little right across the street from Walmart?

The aggrieved voices rose in the smoky air.

Ah, Butte, sweet Butte. You stick around here very long, things are gonna heat up.

I couldn’t wait.

Just then the memorial began to stir. White-hairs and close-to-white hairs outnumbered the young three to one. The mourners took a few last selfies and formed a rough horseshoe around the grave.

Two men held a large banner: One Big Union. They had traveled from Bellingham, Washington.

Another banner read: An Injury to One is An Injury to All. It was red and white and in the background was a snarling, back-arched black cat. A young fellow, all the way from Philadelphia and with a bandana around his neck, told me the cat represented Wildcat Strikes and that its unofficial name was “Sabo-Tabby.” He didn’t give his last name. “I go by Eric,” he said, looking suspiciously at my Moleskine.

Someone passed out buttons that read I stand for the Solidarity of Labor.

Someone passed out single long-stem red carnations.

Someone passed out condensed copies of the Wobbly Song Book.

The first speaker quoted Mother Jones: “Pray for the Dead; fight like hell for the living.”

Clapping.

The second speaker said Frank Little believed in a world where the working class isn’t managed like a herd of cattle.

Clapping.

The next speaker read the Preamble to the IWW Constitution. It is a wonderfully imprecise and rousing document. Here’s part of it: The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Much clapping, some yay-ing, and a few raised fists.

The next speaker invited anyone interested to attend Missoula IWW meetings. (Later he told me he had quit his job at a convenience store in Missoula. He had been working there seven years and was still only making $9 an hour. I told him he needs a Frank Little. He agreed.)

The keynote speaker was Jane Little Botkin, Frank Little’s great-grandniece, whose book, Frank Little and the IWW: The Blood that Stained an American Family, is recently published by University of Oklahoma Press.

She pointed to a nearby monument commemorating the victims of the Granite Mountain/Speculator Mine disaster, which killed 168 men earlier the same summer as Little’s murder. “There was no monument, just fresh grave after fresh grave, when Frank was laid in.”

She said that Little was bone-weary and about ready to hang up his organizing hat. But he came to Butte anyway, because he was needed, even though he knew there was every chance he might meet his death there.

She said his close relatives dared not bring him home to bury because they were afraid his body would be dug up and desecrated anew. She said they wouldn’t even speak of him in public they were so afraid of retribution. She laid six yellow carnations on the grave. She said they represented his immediate family, which she called the silent generation of Littles.

She said Butte is where Frank Little belongs.

Someone read a poem from one of Little’s relatives.

Bring out the whitewash.
Spread it as thick as you can.
Bring out the whitewash.
Bring out the whitewash.
We murdered another working man

The crowd clapped wildly. Two dozen fists shot high in the air.

Someone led the crowd in six or eight ragged-but-loud verses of “Solidarity Forever.”

More wild clapping. More fists thrown toward heaven.

The crowd milled again and talked about how choking the forest-fire smoke was and took more photos and began to disperse when a young woman from Butte, lovely and wild-seeming as the wind, with fierce dark hair and a black tank top and red swirly skirt, tied a white ribbon to the grave fence and sang another verse, by herself, loud. It began: We wash the dishes…

She said “Solidarity Forever” has dozens of verses, hundreds. This was one of the few about women, she added, firmly.

I followed a Volvo and a Subaru out of the cemetery. I went to Maloney’s Bar. It was cool and dark and empty of customers except for two guys getting slowly and quietly drunk a few stools down.

They talked about Social Security and how to cook rattlesnakes and left me alone. I got to brooding. I wondered if I would have, at age 38, walked into what might well be the last town I’d ever see, to do a job. Walked slowly and with a limp from a broken ankle and a double hernia. Walked thick with exhaustion. Walked homesick to get back to my beloved Oklahoma and farm maybe, to be with family, to live quietly.

And I knew I wouldn’t have. I knew I would have scoffed at the idealism of One Big Union, of the likelihood of overthrowing capitalism. The impossibility of it. Humans were just too ornery and contrary and selfish—given half a chance—to keep propping up their fellow man for long.

I knew, deep down, I was no Frank Little. No Wobbly.

But, maybe, neither were the others I stood with that morning. Who did they think they were, indulging in some comfortable, century-quilted nostalgia. Danger? No one, these days, would abduct and drag and hang a Wobbly. They wouldn’t even steal his car, not even his bike. I doubted they’d even butt in line ahead of one.

Sincerity came out of their ears. Passion, too. But to what end? They are ignored. Invisible. Ineffectual. Laughable. Harmless. No different, finally, than Tridentines, or railroad buffs or stamp collectors or jazz lovers. The world would go along just as it wished, with or without them. They weren’t going to change a thing, not in a hundred years. A thousand.

Bandanas and buttons and T-shirts and banners? You know what these folks are, I told myself: a bunch of re-enactors.

But they sang so loud and hearty. They cheered so lustily. They mourned so deeply. They believed. And maybe, maybe, that was, finally, what really mattered.

I had wrung myself into a right contradictory mess. It was time to leave Maloney’s. This was no place for a person such as I: inferior and small and doubting, compared to those sweet and true people I had spent the morning with, those idealists.

It was time to leave Butte, head for home.

I stopped at a convenience store. The young clerk seemed to enjoy her job. She asked me, sounding as if she actually wanted to know, what was exciting about my day.

I told her. I told her who Frank Little was. I told her how he died, and why. I told her he was a hero to many, and why. “Wow,” she said. “I’m gonna Google him after work.”

In the parking lot I ran into someone from the memorial. I told him about the clerk.

He nodded. “Good,” he said. “Did you happen to tell her the working class and the employing class have nothing whatsoever in common?”

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

UM student detained in China over taxicab incident

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 12:21 PM

A University of Montana senior was arrested in China on July 16 and is currently being detained.

Guthrie McLean was visiting his mother, Jennifer McLean, in Zhengzhou in the Hunan province when he was arrested following an altercation with a taxi driver in June.

Jennifer McLean said in an email that she was taking a taxi home late at night after a flight on June 10. McLean, who is deaf and communicates by reading lips and speaking softly, got nervous and texted Guthrie after her driver stopped to talk to some people on a street corner. When the taxi arrived outside the gate to McLean’s residence, which is overseen by a security guard, she gave the driver 100 yuan and a ride voucher for a 70 yuan fare. When he refused to give her change, McLean says, she tried to take her voucher back. The driver then “started screaming and pushing me really hard,” McLean says. The driver continued to attack her until she could back away long enough to call Guthrie.

According to Jennifer, Guthrie came running from the residence and pushed the driver to the ground. Guthrie yelled at the driver, but did not strike him. The interaction lasted about 30 seconds.

The McLeans returned to the gate and Guthrie, who is fluent in Mandarin, confronted the guard for failing to intervene.

On July 16, police came to Jennifer’s residence and arrested Guthrie. A letter to Jennifer from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing says police say the taxi driver sustained an injury to his knee.
Guthrie McLean, a senior at the University of Montana, was arrested in China after coming to his mother's aid during an altercation with a taxi driver. His mother, Jennifer, says Chinese police have asked her to pay as much as US$14,800 while Guthrie is detained. - PHOTO COURTESY JENNIFER MCLEAN
  • Photo courtesy Jennifer McLean
  • Guthrie McLean, a senior at the University of Montana, was arrested in China after coming to his mother's aid during an altercation with a taxi driver. His mother, Jennifer, says Chinese police have asked her to pay as much as US$14,800 while Guthrie is detained.

Jennifer says her son was arrested in the early afternoon, and police returned an hour later to take her in for questioning. She says the police initially asked for money—first the equivalent of US$14,800, and later $8,800.

“They were visibly disappointed when they learned I was not a woman of means,” Jennifer says. “My work supervisor came and explained my earnings to them.”

Jennifer says Guthrie’s rights as a prisoner, including the right to an interpreter for Jennifer, were denied by the police. Jennifer asked to speak to a supervisor and asked the police to contact the local foreign affairs office, but they refused, she says.

Jennifer left the interview room and was not allowed to return. She hasn’t seen her son since. She says police have relayed several messages to her saying that Guthrie is in distress and that she should pay the money.

Jennifer teaches sign language to Chinese children. Guthrie grew up in China from third grade, and came to school at UM in August 2015. Guthrie traveled to China on May 24.

On July 19, according to an email provided by Jennifer, Sen. Steve Daines became aware of Guthrie’s detainment after reading an article in the Missoulian. Jason Thielman, Daines’ chief of staff, said in the email that he had been assured by a Chinese official that Guthrie is safe.

Jennifer says she’s also made Sen. Jon Tester’s office aware of her son's case.

According to Thielman’s email, under the Privacy Act of 1974 the U.S. Embassy cannot discuss McLean's case with anyone, even family, without his written consent. On Thursday, July 20, an American officer visited Guthrie, obtained his consent, and then sent Jennifer an email, according to which Guthrie is physically and mentally healthy and sharing a cell with 21 people. He requested money for food and English reading materials. He sent a message to his mother that reads, “I love you. I am stressed out but otherwise OK. Please don’t worry too much and I hope you are getting some rest. I am eating the pork.”

The email says Chinese police have a week from McLean’s “formal detention notice” to provide evidence to a court and recommend whether charges be filed.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Street Talk: Jobs, the weird and the wanted

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 2:56 PM

Q: This week's feature profiles a local woman who recently published a memoir about her years as a journalist covering the porn industry. What's the most interesting job you've ever had? Follow-up: If you could completely change your career track today, what would you do?


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Hollywood trailer park attorney sends "progress report" to city

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 2:38 PM

As today's Indy story about the history of management issues at Hollywood Mobile Home Park went to press, an attorney for the park's management company sent out a "progress report" to city officials.

The July 12 letter states that KEI Property Management, owned by Missoula broker Devin Khoury, has filed 22 eviction complaints in Missoula County Justice Court, "not to render individuals and families homeless, but to begin the long process of making the Hollywood community more functional, responsible, and a better a (sic) neighbor to the rest of the City of Missoula."
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The letter by attorney Thomas Orr also states that managers have contacted the Missoula Police Department for help tracking problem tenants, and recently removed from the property a burned-out trailer that had been abandoned since February.
Hermina Harold of the North Missoula Community Development Corporation was among those pushing for removal of the trailer over the last few months. In a Facebook post Thursday, she wrote that city officials had been uncertain about how to enforce health and safety rules, and said the property owner "dragged his feet on cleaning up while the children in the neighborhood had three solid months to explore that burned out trailer shell."

"The people who live in this neighborhood deserve better management and better health and safety oversight from their local government," she wrote. "They also deserve to stay in this neighborhood if they want, and not be priced out."

Orr has said Hollywood owners may redevelop the property as multi-family housing if they can't make the trailer court safe and profitable.

Get caught up on the Indy's coverage of Hollywood here and here.
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