Category Archives: Great Falls Montana

14 Years!

Today marks 14 years since I arrived in Great Falls. I truly can not put into words how happy it makes me. A few months ago, at about 13 years + 8 month, this officially became the place where I have lived longer than anywhere else in my life (although that previous record was set during two periods in one hellish location).

As a military brat who then spent 20 years on active duty, “home” was never a tangible, concrete thing for me – I had a vague understanding of what it meant, and knew that other people had a “home,” but until I arrived in Great Falls, the true nature and feeling of “home” was something I honestly never thought I would feel.

If you know me, or have been checking out my blog over the years, you know how much I love Great Falls, and how I fell in love with this community literally within days of arriving.

I believe the first meal I had in Great Falls was at the Apple Mill Grill (in the mall parking lot); it became Fiesta En Jalisco a few years later. The next evening, I had Howard’s Pizza – ’nuff said.

Thank you so much, Great Falls and Montana, for being the only place that I have ever lived that truly feels like – and is – home.

Here is one of the very first photos I took after arriving in Great Falls (on a then-fancy 640x360px camera phone!).

bigsky

A Facebook post about “faggots” in Great Falls

This screenshot is making the rounds in Great Falls today:

mikelenahan

Did Big Mike really post this on Facebook? Let’s consider some of the possibilities.

1. Big Mike left his computer (or phone, tablet, etc) unattended somewhere, and one of his buddies did it as a joke. Hey, it happens. People do that sometimes when a friend leaves their phone on a desk or table and steps away, or is distracted for a few minutes. I’d put the likelihood of this at about…25%

2. Big Mike’s Facebook account was hacked. This is within the realm of possibility. Likelihood: 10%

3. Big Mike did indeed post this, but he meant it in a joking way; you know, making fun of haters, mocking them. But if this is true, then he forgot to give any clue that it was a joke. Likelihood: benefit of the doubt here – let’s say 35%

4. Big Mike did post it, and absolutely meant every word. Odds: 30%

5. ISIS created a fake Facebook profile for someone named “Mike Lenahan” in Great Falls several years ago, and is using this weekend’s Big Sky Pride event to finally launch a hateful attack. Likelihood: Nope.

The screenshot has been passed around to several people on Facebook, and someone sent it to Joe Briggs, one of the Cascade County Commissioners, and also to the Cascade County Undersheriff. That’s because Big Mike apparently is an officer at the Cascade County Detention Center.

If Big Mike really did post this, and meant it, then it is indeed disturbing: someone who uses the words “faggots” and “homo” in this manner who is in charge of supervising inmates…um, that is not good. Imagine a jail employee (or any public employee, in fact) posting something similar about (for instance) black people: “Damn niggers all over Great Falls…”

Is Mike entitled to his opinions? Absolutely! Is he entitled to voice them or share them online? Of course!

I get it: some people don’t like gay people, for some reason(s). Maybe fear, maybe disgust, maybe repressed homosexual desires – whatever.

But bashing gay people and calling them names simply because they exist? Sorry, but this is the year 2016, and the days when that was acceptable thankfully are long, long gone.

BUT. Public employees – paid with tax dollars, working for and on behalf of all citizens – are usually held to higher standards of public discourse. So people being outraged by Big Mike’s post (assuming, of course, that he is responsible) are justified in their anger. If someone saw a similar Facebook post written by, say, a barista, or farmer, or insurance agent, well…the reaction might have been disgust, or anger, or sadness, etc.

But a public employee in a law enforcement role posting something like this…that’s a bit different – as evidenced by what appears to be the reply from Joe Briggs, according to this screenshot:

briggs

IF this is all true. Remember, this is just a screenshot – we don’t know what kind of comments or explanation exist below that post.

PS: And whether this specific instance is true or not, it highlights the importance of Pride events. Similar to the civil rights movement in the 60s – an entire group of people who have been marginalized, de-humanized, criminalized, attacked, harassed, beaten, and literally killed, finally standing up to say “No more!” And joined in their struggle by people who were/are not black/gay/etc.

The word “pride” does not necessarily mean “pride” in the sense that someone is literally proud of something they have no control over (being black, being gay, etc), but rather as a counter to the word that society has used to label them for so long: shame.

(UPDATE: in response to some of the comments on my Facebook post about this — even if this is true, I don’t think he should lose his job. Education/training, yes, but not fired)

UPDATE: I have confirmed a couple of things: first, that he posted this NOT out of hatred, bigotry, etc — he meant it in a joking way for someone who is close to him who is gay. Second, his employer did look into it and found no evidence that any laws or personnel regulations were broken. I have also been assured that he is an outstanding detention officer with no reported incidents of unfair treatment to any person or group.

Great Falls Cosplayer: Marlesa Popp

I had the pleasure of meeting Marlesa Popp today – some of you may know her (or of her) from her “Miss Mouse Cosplay” page on Facebook, or have seen her at events dressed as one of her creations.

Great Falls Cosplayer: Marlesa Popp

Great Falls Cosplayer: Marlesa Popp

She was delightful to talk to — very passionate about her craft!

We talked about the increasing popularity and acceptance of cosplay – it used to be kind of a purely geek thing, in terms of public perception, but thanks to the surge of super-hero movies and TV shows (Batman, Wonder Woman, Dr. Who, even Big Bang Theory), the explosion of video games, and the massive cultural phenomenon of comic and sci-fi conventions, cosplay is pretty much everywhere now – even right here in Great Falls!

We also talked about some early influencers on her love of cosplay, and threw around some names such as Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, etc.

She was also very passionate about explaining how supportive and positive the cosplay community is; she thrives on the positive vibes.

I was happy to see her response to my half-baked idea for a “Halfway To Halloween” party held every year on the last Saturday in April. Seriously – why isn’t this a thing yet?

Here’s the article I wrote up about Marlesa — and if you feel inclined, you can vote for her in the “The Next Level of Cosplay” contest that she is competing in.

It would be cool to see her win!

RIP, Hoagieville

Very sad news — Hoagieville has closed its Great Falls location. I saw an awful lot of hate on social media when it was announced — a lot of people didn’t like it, for some reason.

I did like Hoagieville — was rarely my first choice, primarily due to location, but the burgers, chicken, breakfast tacos, and fries were pretty darn good. And contrary to what I heard from so many people, the service was pretty awesome – super-friendly staff.

But I know the restaurant struggled during its 18 months in Great Falls — they tried advertising, they tinkered with the menu, they lowered some prices, but it just never worked.

Hoagieville was and is a big deal in Missoula, but just couldn’t catch fire here in Great Falls.

Thanks, Hoagieville – you tried, and I appreciated it!

So the next question is…what will move into the space? Before Hoagieville, it was a KFC. And given KFC’s summer-time re-opening on the west side (and much better than before!), could it once again be a KFC?

Hoagieville in Great Falls

Cold-Calling Mourners Via Snail Mail?

In the wake of the passing of my mother-in-law, everything seemed surreal for several days — time had little meaning, food had no flavor, and the memories of the first few days seem very fuzzy now.

We were, of course, overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy and kindness from family members, friends, co-workers, and others.

Flowers, cards, meals — the kindness has been a beacon of happiness, and we are so grateful for the compassion from so many wonderful people.

But today brought us arguably the most unusual response to Carole’s passing: a letter from “J. Musanto.” Yes, an actual USPS-delivered letter.

Inside the envelope was a hand-written letter from J. Musanto offering condolences on our loss, along with some Bible passages meant to provide comfort.

The letter also recommended that we visit the website JW.org — the website for the Christian group known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The envelope also contained a mini-pamphlet extolling the virtues of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

And where did this letter come from? Toledo, Ohio. The return address on the envelope is 3725 W. Alexis Road, which according to Google Maps is the address for the Jehovah’s Witnesses temple (church?) in Toledo.

And my wife’s sister received a nearly identical letter today.

In case you’re wondering: no, we have never heard of J. Musanto, have never visited Toledo, and have had zero dealings with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So either this is a sincere letter from a long-lost friend of the family that my wife and her sister don’t remember — doubtful! — or the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Toledo HQ are so desperate to recruit new members that they apparently go trolling through online obituary notices and send cold-call letters to grieving family members in hopes of getting new blood.

Seriously – WTF?

Jehovah's Witnesses are sending "cold-calling" condolence letters...?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are sending “cold-calling” condolence letters…?

Farewell, Carole

Heartbroken — my mother-in-law Carole Jean Stehlik Pratt passed away on Sunday.

She was an amazing woman — raised in Belt, college in Bozeman and Great Falls, an Air Force wife, a Pan Am wife, and mother to my wonderful wife and my sister-in-law.

Aside from the sorrow at her passing, I am touched by the professionalism and compassion of the Great Falls Police Department, Great Falls Fire Rescue, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, and O’Connor Funeral Home.

When my wife and I found Carole on Sunday, we called 911. Within minutes, the firefighters, police, and Sheriff’s Deputy arrived, and they were the epitome of compassion and professionalism.

In particular, Officer Brinka of the GFPD and Deputy Baker of the Sheriff’s Office were kind and considerate.

The representatives from O’Connor Funeral Home arrived a short time later, and they, too, were compassionate.

On Monday, when we went to O’Connor to make arrangements, Todd and his crew ended our meeting by giving us a pan of lasagna…a very nice touch.

Thank you to everyone who has shown kindness in these difficult days.

Here is the obituary for Carole – may she rest in peace.

Carole Jean Stehlik Pratt

Carole Jean Stehlik Pratt

Carole Jean (Stehlik) Pratt, 79, passed away at her Great Falls home on Sunday, November 29, 2015 of natural causes.
At her request, no services are planned. Cremation has been conducted by O’Connor Funeral home.
Carole was born in Great Falls on February 20, 1936.
She was raised in Belt by Rudy and Lavina Stehlik. After graduating from Belt high school, she attended Montana State College in Bozeman, and then completed her bachelor’s degree in education at the College of Great Falls.
She taught at schools in HIghwood, Great Falls, and the California Bay Area.
In 1958, she married Melvin A. Pratt and was a loving Air Force wife during tours in Texas, Florida, and California before returning to Great Falls. Melvin then became a pilot for Pan Am.
Carole also served for many years as the secretary at the Westside Methodist Church in Great Falls.
Carole and Melvin had two daughters, Lisa and Krista, and raised them in Great Falls.
Melvin died in a Pan Am plane crash in 1974, and Carole devoted her life to raising her daughters and seeing them through college and marrying.
Carole very much enjoyed playing bridge with friends and traveling, and she was very proud of her Belt roots.
Carole was preceded in death by her husband and her parents.
She is survived by her daughters Lisa Prosperie (Kyle) and Krista Sherman (David).

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