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6.18.2012

I bought a bike today.

There is a sadness to Billings that reminds me of Reno. Downtown has a similar feel to Reno's more industrial areas, like if you were to head down Fourth Street away from the baseball stadium and get into Reno Bike Project territory and beyond. There are no big towering casinos or obnoxious night clubs in Billings, it is a more quiet downtown scene. No river runs through it. But, you can find about five square blocks of downtown Billings that are semi-revitalized.  Cute shops, some restaurants, a few bars and one decent coffee shop line this nicer part of downtown, but as you cross the rail road tracks you really do feel like you're "on the wrong side of the tracks" as they say. The buildings frown with vacant windows and "for sale" signs.  A few dusty dive bars sport neon signs that flicker with the forgotten hope of a good time. Past the bars you'll find neighborhoods. Their yards aren't neatly manicured like they are on First and Clark, and mothers who push their chubby little babies around in second hand strollers look hard and tired. There are more brown faces on this side of the tracks. Not Hispanics, but Native Americans. Obviously marginalized in similar ways though. These neighborhoods feel like the ones on Seventh Street near Roller Kingdom, minus the meth heads...Or maybe there are meth heads here too, I just haven't learned how to spot a Montana Meth Head yet. I drove around today looking in thrift stores for a bike, and it was so obvious to me that our two cities are dealing with similar economic situations. My dad told me that Billings is actually "doing fine" if not prospering a little bit, as smaller communities around Montana pack up and head for work in Montana's largest city...But as per usual, the economic prosperity doesn't reach all people, and there are those who continue to struggle.
Billings has a beautiful park system that puts our to shame. The old neighborhoods are radiant with gorgeous green lawns and rose bushes. It feels a little Stepford wife-ish, how perfectly manicured these lawns are. Anything green always amazes me and when I ride around Billings I sometimes just bask in the sweetness of riding down street after street covered in the shade of trees.
Found this beauty at St.Vincent's de Paul Thrift Store on Montana Avenue. $35! What  a steal! It's a 3 speed, old K-Mart brand bike haha! For being a generic bike it's actually in great condition. I'm in love. 
Maybe there is some kind of conclusion to be made out of this post, but I'm not sure what it is yet. As I continue to explore Billings I'm finding things that I really like about it. That grimy part I described above? I went looking for it because it makes me feel at home. Reno's grit is what gives it character to me. If I were painting the picture of Reno as a human, it's gritty ugly parts would be what I would use as the defining edges to bring everything into sharp clarity. I think Billings tries to sweep its grit under the rug, but I'm still not too sure about that yet. Am I making any sense? 

Enjoy the bike. 



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