Prologue

26 12 2020

In Ulysses, the great Irish writer James Joyce wrote “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

And so it is, I stood on the street corner that cold, rainy October day. Emotionally naked, I watched her drive away for the last time. Little did I know, though there were hints, but T would go on to ghost me. Not a word from her since. She was irritated with my stagnant life choices. My decision to take an entry level warehouse job had particularly annoyed her.

“Have you thought about starting your own company?” she asked at our last breakfast together.

Weeks later, I would find myself inside that warehouse working amid a coronavirus outbreak. Masked, gloved and trying to learn at a distance as noisy conveyor belts, alarms and honking forklifts sounded throughout the long, hard overnight shift. My world had changed drastically.

I was severely depressed and paralyzed by fear. All I did was work and sleep. My marriage was over, but unraveling its entanglements so that we could both exit without too much financial hardship was the challenge. An old bus driving buddy from Glacier moved into the area and reached out which got me out of bed on my off days.

The virus had taken its toll on the country and in the Democratically-run Pacific Northwest, restrictions were harsh. The election, thank God, is over, but a bitter divide remains. At the warehouse outside the city limits to the east, I find more diverse opinions expressed than at the hipster grocery store in the city’s affluent northwestern hills. The lack of enthusiasm here is striking and I sense a backlash brewing among some of the workers.

T — ever beautiful — still shows up in my dreams and the more I ponder our affair the more it seemed as if I had been looking in the mirror. She complained about her back hurting right before she dropped me off on that street corner. A couple months later, just days before Christmas I sat in the warehouse breakroom — its tables and chairs separated by plastic partitions with masked workers lumbering exhaustingly in and out. On the walls were words from the corporation’s list of leadership principles. This one hit home for me:

Have Backbone. Disagree and Commit.





Finishing Strong

21 09 2014

A long, hard and arduous summer has come to an end.

There were times when I felt that I had bitten off more than I could chew. The entire experience at Lake McDonald Lodge reminded me of the summer of 2010 and my ill-fated campaign for public office. Too many people were watching and depending on me and no matter how hard the going was, I simply could not quit.

I quit an important position before and vowed never to do that again.

So this summer was indeed a journey of perseverance, but I leave Montana with a new skill set and a hardened exterior.

St. Mary Lake

St. Mary Lake

Much like that race for the Florida House, I began this Glacier project cautiously, scared, intimidated at times and trying to please all while maintaining that “nice guy” image.

But some people take advantage of kindness. Others do not know the meaning of the word. This I have learned the hard way.

Saying “No” is hard. Getting people to accept “No” as your final answer is harder. And perhaps the hardest of all is understanding why we — as human beings — cannot do certain things.

There is no doubt I have changed because of my five months in Glacier National Park — enforcing federal regulations, interpreting nature’s wonders and, above all, keeping my cool during day-to-day operations at the lodge. As much as I would have enjoyed going out with guys and gals and drinking the night away, responsibility prevented that. Someone had to rise at 6 a.m. to get this show on the road.

And, make no mistake, this show was a profitable one.

The park experienced record numbers in visitation, prompting our superintendent to remark how “intense” a summer season it was. At the lodge, revenue exceeded projections and as I type tourists are still streaming in to see the changing colors of autumn.

The change in me is obvious. My first foray into project management has led to a great deal of personal growth. In September, I commanded our bus fleet with an authority that was no where to be found when I stepped off the plane last May in Missoula. I came here in search of answers to my station in life. What I found was a mountain’s worth of confidence.

“What happened to that cheerful guy?,” one of our drivers commented after he observed me forcefully explaining, once again, the Going-To-The-Sun Road was closed due to a snow and ice storm.

“He adapted,” I replied.

I certainly realize what I am capable of after this summer. I am on another level career-wise and, perhaps, future employers will recognize such as I return to my home state in hopes of putting these new skills to good use. We’ll see what offers come my way, but already I am feeling nostaglic for what I went through.

All of the drivers and their quirks, demanding and often dehumanizing tourists, the isolation, the shitty food — it all makes me laugh now even though, privately, in July, I would drive across the park and suddenly burst into tears of stress for what the day had brought.

Above all, it is important to remember the majestic beauty of our national parks. It is, first and foremost, why I am here. And to that end, I think I did a damn good job of preserving and protecting Glacier National Park.

Check that … I know I did.