A parade from a fire escape - why is Missoula so cool?
Upon waking last Saturday morning, I blearily conjured coffee together and began my weekend ritual of gazing abstractly out my window, waiting for inspiration to strike. Eventually, the caffeine informed be that my eyeballs had been seeing buses full of plumed hats and trucks pulling very imaginative trailers past my window. I sprang into action, googling “missoula parade” and voila! The University of Montana's Homecoming parade was to kick off in just a few short minutes. I bombed the rest of my coffee, assembled the various lenses, and rolled away on my bike to photograph the festivities.
I located the viewpoint I wanted, which unfortunately happened to be on the roof of a building. There was a fire escape leading from ground to roof, but as I've previously mentioned, my criminal trespassing days are behind me. I needed permission.
The parade started a mile or so away at 10. A ground floor bookstore (one I had actually meant to visit) opened it's doors at 9:55. I entered, walked straight to the man behind the book-strewn desk, and spoke: “I'd like to photograph the parade from the roof - is that possible?” Usually a question like this gets a negative response ranging from confusion to downright hostility. Not so from the denizens of Missoula! Without further question, he pulled up a contact list on his computer, scribbled a name and number on a scrap of paper, and said, “Call Ken. If he's around he'll help you.” I didn't believe it – I myself would have rather been sipping hot coffee at that moment – but I stepped outside and dialed.
Ken, who turned out to be the owner of the building, saw a Missouri number on his phone, deliberated, and answered. I repeated my query. His reply: “You can't get on the roof, but I'll be there in five minutes, and we'll find you a spot to work from.” I could hardly believe it! I'd never gotten access on such short notice like that. Maybe there's something in the Clark Fork water.
A mere six minutes later (as the first flags trudged past on the street) Ken himself strode through the crowd. We chatted briefly as he key-coded me into the building and let me out onto another fire escape, with a perfect vantage point. I spent the next two hours there, photographing the parade from a most unique perspective.
I sent Ken a print and a thank you, and bought a book from the shop downstairs.
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