Saturday 30 July 2011

Days 117 & 118: Great Falls, Montana

Mermaid at the Sip 'n Dip bar
 There is something strange about driving down the Interstate for seven hours trying to work on a laptop in the back of a campervan.  Time passed quickly, though trying to line up the mouse with the pixels was a headache.  There is also something peculiar about pulling in to a motor inn in the middle of an unknown town for two nights, intent on getting as much work done as possible.  The rooms in the O'Haire Motor Inn are so neutral, I can hardly think of a thing to say about them, except perhaps that they tend towards the old-fashioned kind of neutral.  O'Haire Motor Inn does have its touch of wild eccentricity though.  On one side of a wall is a small swimming pool room with views over a pawn shop and a motor repair shop.  It has a very industrial feel, as if it had been installed in an abandoned factory or warehouse.  Since that's the kind of environment of lots of postmodern art exhibits, that's what it reminded me of - a postmodern art installation.  It's a similarity that's exacerbated by the echoing acoustics.  The four or five large, hairy (or made-up, according to gender) and tatooed people sharing the pool with Antonia are either speaking a dialect of English I can't understand or playing at talking nonsense, and I can't tell which.

On the other side of the wall is the Sip 'n Dip bar filled with kitsch trinkets of various kinds, roofed over with bamboo like a Hawaiian beach bar, carpeted with something featuring multi-coloured bubbles and furnished like a Hopper painting.  It sells cheap martinis and very good desserts and is obviously popular with tourists and locals alike.  To get in, you have to show your identity to a heavily-built doorman even if you are clearly in your 40s like us, and get a paper bracelet just like in a hospital.  There are windows in the wall between the bar and the swimming pool, beneath water level, and every Tuesday to Saturday night a girl dressed as a mermaid comes and performs acrobatic swimming in front of the bar windows for an hour.  At 9pm a lady arrives to play the piano and sing racy songs.  She's been playng here since 196?.

Our second evening in Great Falls was more mundane.  I spent an hour in Barnes and Noble, enjoying looking at books and then we had dinner at Pizza Hut.  It is sort of impressive to think that no matter where you go in the US, you can have an experience like that.  I like hanging around Barnes and Noble and I was quite impressed with the range of viewpoints in the books on offer, even though there is something about this whole region of the country that I can't quite put my finger on.  It's like the feeling I get when I'm visiting my parent's village  It's perfectly nice and I don't mind spending time there, but...  I think monocultural is the term I'm looking for.  And I can't live with that.

OK, so we did make a little cultural discovery this evening, while reading the news on Mike's cell phone in Pizza Hut.  It's not often a newspaper article makes me reach for the dictionary but apparently when the House of Commons 'tables' a motion in London, it means they'll keep on hurling insults at each other until a solution appears.  When the Senate 'tables' a motion in Washington it means they are going to refrain from talking about it and go and have a drink in the hope it will have gone away by Tuesday.

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