Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.—Dr. Seuss??
Well, my time in Missoula is coming to a close as of Christmas day.
As I have mentioned earlier, I have been laid off from the employer, earlier than I anticipated, because this greatly reduced the amount of time that it gave me to try to look for new employment to continue affording…well, everything I need to live. While I did look at a few full-time, permanent jobs, I decided it would not be worth the excessive anxiety of job hunting while risking homelessness, and took my parents’ offer to move back in for the meantime. I have been homeless before, and it’s not something I ever want to experience again. Especially in a town where homelessness is a severe issue, and housing is not available. (About that latter point in a minute.)
It takes time for employers to do background checks, interview people, and then I have to wait even a few further weeks before that first paycheck arrives to pay for rent, my Fiat payments, food, utiki ties, living essentials—and that’s if I get a job. One employer listed on their ad paying $15/hr, but then I get a chat message saying how it was really $12-$13, that tips usually would make up the difference, and if I got ”less than” that, they’d make up the difference. Why not just bloody pay your employers that wage and have tips be considered ”extra” for GOOD service?!? Why are you pressuring customers to cover wages when it’s supposed to be your responsiblity?? Other jobs looked good but I would find out as well through chat messages they were ”contract”, or third-party temp services working on location. Or just didn’t pay well at all, even for ”full-time” positions. (Seriously, some jobs still trying to get away with only $10/hr, or even less??)
A few locals and friends recommended I do UberEats to carry me over. I got no problem asking if you want fries with that order, but gig jobs are a joke, and I refuse to do something that some lazy silver-spoon can do them themselves. (Delivery first-party is one thing; I didn’t buy my Fiat to run her into the ground rushing around town for self-entitled, spoiled students and remote workers to get food they refuse to make and pack themselves, because ”corona”. I bought her for personal use, not vocational purposes!) I understand this may sound like some kind of “privilege”, that it sounds like it’s beneath me—no, it’s just an invention by hustle culture and late-stage capitalism that I am not going to subject myself to, that if people stopped using because of their own selfish laziness, there would be no market for.
(I also have never used UberEats/Dashdoor/whatever except for the occasional group orders years ago when at work, but I have never personally used it as I can get my own food myself, so I can remain consistent in my ethos.)
Missoula has been the most liberal time I have ever lived in—let me rephrase that: it claims to be liberal/progressive/whatever-leftist. The town is very white; local indigenous often live outside town limits on the reservations because they can’t afford the local rent. Skyrocketing housing costs (and the resulting homelessness) is a big issue; the local town council doesn’t make sure new developments are mixed-housing; and the three local lgbt health centers have such a backlog of people wanting to be patients that I have met far too many trans people waiting to start to transition medically for my comfort. (I had to drive almost three hours to another town to get my HRT meds renewed.) I have to drive across town to shop at low-cost or more affordable grocery stores (so much for living within ”walking distance” of anything, the cost of things too bloody expensive even with what were comfortable paycheck). Bars have virtually no entertainment, like pool or darts. Other than a few activities at the college or library for intellectual pursuits, most everything else out here is geared towards getting drunk, outdoor stuff, or shopping when it comes to hobbies or other pursuits.
Basically, gentrification is encouraged, and the idea of “Keep Missoula weird” is a bullshit marketing lie.
Even thought I grew up in a very rural area, at least towns around me a wide variety of locally-owned ethnic grocery stores, bodegas, and related shops that sold a wide variety of foods, including Polish, Russian, German, Italian, Colombian, Puerto Rican, kosher (Jewish), halal (Muslim), east Asian (Chinese, etc), and south Asian (Indian, etc). The nearby market town of Hackettstown, NJ, has a growing mixed-Latino community; one village I was right outside of is largely Polish and has a dedicated Polish grocery shop; Martins Creek nearby in PA is largely Irish. Also, Philly and NYC are both close enough that I can go spend a day in either, enjoy the sites, and bring home something even my local area couldn’t provide.
Going back to my parents’ home means commuting a bit to go to all these areas to buy foods and goods, to experience the culture, but at least I would be near the diversity that I consider essential to Americana!
I thought I would warm up to the idea of a single-resident occupancy, but nope. My roommate and I were responsible for our own leases while sharing a common kitchen and den, it still sucked living with other people who aren’t your partner(s), your immediate family, or friends. Having to clean out the dryer lint trap before drying your own clothes. Seeing pots and pans left on the oven or in the sink. Pizza and other boxes left behind the garbage can for days. Always coming home to an empty apartment with the lights still on, and the heat turned off (it’s hella cold outside!!). Instead of separate shelves in the fridge, seeing their food on either the left or right for ”easier access” (dude, that’s what the door is for). Multiple dish soaps, coffee makers, vacuums (seriously, this is happening right now!), moving furniture from their bedroom into the commons because there’s ”no room” in their bedroom. Tenants above my apartment that I have had to call the landlord on three separate occasions, only for the landlord’s on-site representative to say I should be calling the police on them, instead of calling them directly. Being told they provide parking but was told none available at the time I sign the lease. Only 12-month leases available, nothing less or longer; no guarantee of renewal. How much they said I had to put down just to secure the lease (the equivalent of two months’ rent!), when NJ could demand no more than one’s rent equivalent as per the law. What I pay for a bedroom when, if housing was more available, other complexes charge for a studio or small one-bedroom that I could have scored instead (I was totally willing to live in a run-down flat that looked more like an old motel than an actual apartment.) The bed supplied is not a common standard (full ”extra long”)—I had to order sheets online for them to properly fit, after being recommended instead queen-sized fitted sheets, which ended up not fitting and coming undone every morning. Having my apartment inspected every three months instead of once or twice annually??
I’ll deal with the eviction issues later. I know people back east who can help me network to find roommates, even if I did just shitpost about living with one. There are also alternative methods of finding an apartment with shitty credit and an eviction on your credit history.
These super long nights, constant overcast skies, lack of social life, and barren landscape have also worsened my depression. Fuck this sunrise after starting work but setting before my shift ends.
While part of me hates admitting this adventure didn’t work out, I am glad to get out of Missoula and head back to Jersey for now. I am glad it worked out while it lasted, meeting all the people that I did, learning about the two-spirit community, working for a company whose people taught me how to give a damn once again, and knowing that I blinded myself with rose-tinted glasses. I will be glad to get back to meeting and talking with people from a wide variety backgrounds different from my own. Knowing that when I am out in public people have to remain masked because jobs can enforce that rule. Knowing my rights as a trans man, regardless of where I am, are protected everywhere. Jobs, even if that means a bit of a commute. High taxes, sure, but with it comes a shit load of protections as an employee, member of a minority group, and other things Montana doesn’t want to protect.
I made one friend, who sorrows that I’m leaving on Christmas. I will miss them, too. Yet, just like how I keep in touch with other friends who have moved, I will keep in touch with them, too.
As my old man emailed me when he said I could come back, ”You need to treat all of this as just another adventure on your life’s journey. My journey through life was made so much easier as I knew [my parents] always had a place for me to stay when I needed it.“
I might care for my parents’ politics, but like everyone else, they’re complex people. We all are. And while Christmas has become a total washout, I got plans on NYE and New Year’s Day already for when I return.