I have been to a world’s fair, the Grand Canyon and a rodeo. But until the last week, I had never seen a same-sex wedding or attended a book signing at which I was one of the signers.
Here is what was extraordinary about the wedding: absolutely nothing.
I don’t mean that it was boring or pointless. At my age, I go to a lot more funerals than weddings, and I still prefer weddings. We had a terrific meal, good music, an open bar and convivial conversation. The only thing that distinguished this from any other wedding I’ve attended was that one bride wore a long white dress, and the other bride, a longtime friend of the family, wore black slacks and a white shirt.
When the fellow conducting the ceremony pronounced them “wife and wife,” nobody in the large crowd batted an eye. Well, it was dark, so I can’t be sure nobody batted an eye, but certainly nothing bigger got batted around.
The couple’s romance goes back more than two decades, so for most of their time together their love affair was considered not only immoral but illegal. Years ago, they held what our friend called a “secret ceremony” in a Billings city park to bind themselves to each other. To the official eye, the ceremony would have been closer to a witches’ coven than to a public affirmation of lifelong love and affection.
Now they are legally attached, and good for them. Maybe they will have to account for their behavior in the hereafter, and perhaps I will, too. That’s OK. Under the religious doctrine I grew up on, most of us are going to Hell anyway. As the saying goes, it’s Heaven for climate, Hell for company.
If that is our fate, it’s good to see some fine people earn a little happiness down here on earth before they have to give their eternal account. As Huck Finn said, when he refused to turn in the runaway slave Jim, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell!”
On our way to Hell, we did pick up a good story about the caterer, who lives in Red Lodge. I couldn’t verify it, so I am leaving out names; besides, it’s too good to check.
The story goes that she had worked in several restaurants in Red Lodge before applying at a new place that was just opening. On the part of the job application that asked for references, she wrote, “Ask anyone.” The owners were chuckling over that when another new employee found out who had written it. Oh yeah, he said, she’d be good.
So the owners walked out the door of the restaurant and stopped the very first person they saw. We’re thinking of hiring (so and so), they said. What do you think? The passer-by replied, I think she’d be great.
She got the job.
The book signing was a low-key affair at House of Books to launch “Sandstone,” a new anthology of works by area writers intended to raise money for the independent downtown store. It was edited by Precious McKenzie, one of my colleagues at Rocky Mountain College, and designed by Craig Lancaster, who seems to publish a new novel about as often as I write a column. Connie Dillon of Gallery Nine designed the cover.
The volume has 31 contributors, and it’s a good thing I didn’t know who they were until I picked up my copy of the book. I probably would have been too intimidated to write a word.
I know about half of the contributors and know most of the rest by reputation. McKenzie, Lancaster and Dillon are all in there, plus Carrie La Seur, Wilbur and Elizabeth Hughes Wood, Pete Fromm, Dave Caserio, Danell Jones, Tami Haaland, Russell Rowland, Anna Paige and a raft of other writers with scary-looking credentials.
Those of us who showed up for the open house signed copies of each other’s books, drank wine, munched on goodies and, at least in my case, tried to look like a serious author. A planned reading from the book was canceled to avoid cutting into talking and drinking time.
My own contribution is a 14-page condensation of the history of Montana journalism, from the days of the Copper Collar under the Anaconda Co. to today’s uncertain climate. I draw heavily on Dennis Swibold’s “Copper Chorus: Mining, Politics, and the Montana Press, 1889 to 1959” for the early days of Montana journalism, but I also draw on the files of Nathaniel Blumberg’s invaluable Treasure State Review of Journalism and Justice, and I extract quotes from historian K. Ross Toole and from John H. Toole, who wrote a history of the Missoulian.
For the newspaper industry’s current quandaries, I steal from the Missoula Independent, legendary columnist Roger Clawson and such contemporary voices as Sherry Devlin, Kathleen McLaughlin and Robert Struckman.
It may be that I draw more heavily on my own experiences than a strict accounting would justify, but I have a track record. My only other essay to appear in a book was in a 1988 volume called “Scientists and Journalists: Reporting Science as News.” On the current Amazon best-seller list, that book ranks at No. 3,583,929. The bigger the number, the better, right?
I can’t really recommend “Sandstone,” since I haven’t read it yet, but you probably should buy a copy anyway. It’s for a good cause, and some seriously good writers are in there.
Full disclosure: If you buy a copy, I won’t get a penny out of it. But I am still holding out for movie rights.