First off, HAPPY 93RD BIRTHDAY to my Grandma, Evelyn.
Well dear friends and potential wedding guests, we found out last night that the venue for our wedding, the beloved Bellingham Castle, is being used as the subject of a rather obnoxious reality TV show. I doubt it will have any affect on our use of the place, but it’s still enough to raise eyebrows!
The show is called ‘Failte Towers,’ a play on the old British comedy with John Cleese, ‘Fawlty Towers.’ (Failte, pronounced ‘fall-cha,’ is the Irish word for welcome.) The show will feature 12 Irish celebrities as they try to run a high-end hotel. It first airs tomorrow night. So I guess we’ll see!!! But somehow I think this knock-off will be a far cry from the classic.
On another ironic and humorous note, I’ve been asked a lot lately where I’m from in the States. While Indiana was my most recent home, I still always have to respond, ‘Montana.’ I’ve been surprised, however, at how many people know where that is! The downside, at least in my opinion, is that they always ask about Butte.
As we Montanans know, the mining city of Butte was largely populated by Irish immigrants in the 19th Century, a heritage that is everpresent. The letters sent back to family here must have been glowing and complimentary, because many Irish folks I talk to get a faraway mystical look in their eyes as they express their longing to see the fair city.
And then I have to break the news. Now, Butte is not a bad place, but it is far from its former glory, and is often the butt (ha ha) of Montana jokes. I remember always disliking Butte as kid, when we’d make the 90 mile drive over mountain passes to get there. Our basketball team always lost to theirs, children were been shot and killed by other children in the local elementary school, the city seemed worn and dirty, restaurants were full of smoking old people, and the enormous statue of the Virgin Mary that looks down from the mountains was once dyed green for St. Paddy’s Day.
There are some great museums, antique shops and a fantastic Italian bakery there, but even these did not save its reputation during a recent trip I made back to the mining town with Frank. He, like his Irish bretheren, was curious as well. And while there was no shortage of Irish pubs to see, most of the town was shut down by 5 pm on a Friday night. We ended our visit by getting dinner in a brewery where we had the pleasure of witnessing a girl at the table next to us getting the Heimlich Maneuver.
So… I ask you? Should I be so bold as to dissuade Irish from visiting Butte? Should I encourage them to drive 90 miles southeast and vacation in Bozeman? It’s a funny quandry, but mostly I just smile and nod and let them keep their dreams… while advising them to see as much of the Treasure State as possible.
And, if by chance you happen to be near Bozeman, Montana, today, you mustn’t miss the Sweet Pea Festival, one of my favorite events of the summer when I lived there.