14 May 2008

Ecorover in the Queen City: Helena, Montana

There I was in Helena, Montana's capital, for two days. As a representative for the faculty union at My College, I engaged in pre-budgetary negotiations (along with reps from other faculty unions) with represenatives from our Office of the Commisioner of Higher Education. The sessions went very well and were cordial & collaborative--a welcome relief after having engaged in contract bargaining sessions with some of the same management folks.

And there are worse places in world to spend two days. First of all, Helena is just one hour from Butte, and it's a scenic trip over the Continental Divide at Elk Park and across the Boulder hill. Elk Park is aptly named, for sure enough there was a big herd or two out on the greening meadows. Still lots of snow back in the trees and on north faces, though, and I think the elk are about a week late returning to calving areas.

Helena is home to the Sleeping Giant Brewing Company/Brewhouse Bar & Grill. For years, the Brewhouse served the best barbeque ribs in Montana. I'm not so sure about that, now, for the latest batch of raspberry chipotle was wimpy at best. The ribs themselves had their usual succulent, slow smoked, texture & flavor. And they go well with the truly excellent Tumbleweed IPA. Let's not forget the fully ripened and smoked jalapenos in the sauce next time, though!

The MEA-MFT put us up at the Wingate near the airport. It's an interesting neighborhood, with modest homes on small, grassy lots and a sort of anything-goes approach to things like putting your truck up on blocks for curbside repairs and erecting huge amateur radio antennae towers:

There are some real gems in the 'hood, like this classic little "dollhouse:"

The neighborhood is very flat, so I put in a couple of brisk miles without ever raising my heartbeat, and before I realized I should get back to the hotel for my usual early bedtime. In walking around uptown Butte, you KNOW when you've walked a mile or so, given the steep hills and 6,000 foot elevation. Still, a pleasant walk. Early the next morning I repeated a shorter version of it and was pleased the notorius mule deer of Helena's residential streets were out and about:

That day's negotiating session was in the Capitol Building (constructed 1896-1902). The Irish revolutinary and early Montana governor Thomas Francis Meagher (bronze, 1905) greets you as you approach the statehouse:

Inside, there is lots of art, including a few bronzes of Montana's finest, including Jeanette "I cannot vote for war" Rankin (1880-1973), a pacifist that served Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives and voted against U.S. involvement in both World War I and II:

And Maureen and Mike Mansfield (U.S. Representative 1943-53; Senate 1953-77):

The high, stained glass windows of the cupola (i.e. dome) is breathtaking:

And the murals decorating four sides of the cupola's base tell you a lot about how early 20th century Montanans felt about the role of Indians, Frontiersmen, Cowboys, and Miners in the formation of the young state:

Helena, Montana: a nice place to visit.

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