Old Stomping Grounds

By Beacon Staff

Growing up I spent half my time in Nyack, a New York suburb, the other half on the edge of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. I was born in Whitefish. “Like a fish that is white?” my NY elementary school classmates would ask incredulously. “Yes, it’s named for the lake there,” which is named for the fish, which is fairly unimaginatively named; you should see the looks on their faces when I say I live in Bigfork: “Is there another town called Little-Spoon?” Of course not, what a silly name.

One undeniable fact is the expense of flying out of this corner of Western Montana and into, well, pretty much anywhere. No matter what newsletters and fare-alerts I sign up for, there is never a 90-dollar one way ticket to the metropolis so loved by Spiderman, and toyed with by King Kong. This is probably a good thing, keeping us at the end of the world a little while longer. However, it keeps my visits to the east well spaced out; about every two years or so.

Wandering around my old high school town is weird on so many levels. Looking at it now as a fairly responsible property-owning “adult” with a job and developing disdain for slackers, I feel old. The baggy pants and oversized polo shirts of the skater kids of my day have been replaced by sideways-hatted, tight pants wearing, spiky-haired skater punks who were probably about 4 when I graduated high school. I have a notion this feeling of being way out of it only gets worse, or maybe one gets used to it. I always wondered how my great-grandmother felt about going to an oncologist who was younger than her grandchildren. Didn’t a part of her quake at the thought that when he was born, she was already decades into a career, married with kids and paying taxes while he was still drooling?

The other changes in the town end up being more of a social commentary, a microcosm of what happened after 9-11. People moved out of NYC and either signed up for the lengthy commute, or changed jobs and took a pay cut for “quality of life”. This is a phenomenon we’ve seen in Montana. But in Nyack, it’s upped the metropolitan feel of this old Victorian town immensely. The big, beautiful old homes are no longer owned by some enterprising middle class couples who bought them in the 70s and fixed them up piecemeal when they could. There aren’t so many homes in need of paint, but so many of the people I knew who used to live in them have been priced out.

Some of the old standby thrift stores are gone, of course the window dressing in the ones that are still around from my high school days look pretty much the same. The number of boutiques are flourishing (I consider a boutique to be any place with style-y clothes in the window that I can’t imagine looking good on anything but the mannequin). Then there’s the pizza parlor on the corner downtown where I spent countless evenings eating “a slice and a water” with the occasional iced tea. The owner is still there, working with a little less hair, and his son is still working too; a little older, a little plumper, and with a few more pictures of babies, Italian soccer teams, and Catholic saints tacked up upon the wall.

I really still enjoy it there, but more like an anthropologist sifting through the details and history of my life. My work, ambitions, and now home and mortgage are in Montana. Back here in waltzes down memory lane I’m remembering childhood winters being a lot more like this past one: snow, snow, and more snow with white capped mountains into July and spring snowstorms the norm. Here the changes aren’t so intense because I see them evolving daily. I still remember the three previous business-lives of buildings around the Flathead Valley, but shopped the close-out sales and grand openings. In Nyack streets are sometimes hard to identify because a landmark business or building was replaced during my years away. In Nyack I remember when there wasn’t a Starbucks, when the painted trim of the big old Victorians peeled, playgrounds were metal instead of plastic, and grass poked up in the concrete – when it was just a tad bit rougher around the edges.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.