The place, if you're interested, was Great Falls, Montana. If you want to get there, it seems you have to spend half a day trying to catch flights to numerous cities around the country before landing within this hidden gem of a city. Self-described as "a small prairie town," Great Falls is known for it's less-than-impressive waterfalls (think feet tall, not meters or stories) and for being the location of one of the first filmed UFO sightings in the United States. So I suppose I should have been prepared for what I was getting myself into.
But I was still blindsided by the abundance of 1950s hairstyles, outdated gender roles, and well... the mermaids.
You see, all my life I have been told that mermaids were not real. That they were simply a mythical creature dreamed up by sailors who had spent too long at sea away from women and looked upon manatees with too much lust in their eyes. But no, dear readers, I am here to tell you that mermaids are real, and Great Falls has them. Not only does Great Falls have them, but they have kindly put them on display at the Sip 'n' Dip Lounge for all the world to see.
Yep, right there behind the bar so that I could order my drinks and watch these wonders of the sea at the same time. One of them even waved at me. (As an aside, I was in Montana to audition for a symphony there - I didn't get the job - and this was the hotel that they recommended I stay in. It would appear that this town prides itself on these little mermaids.)
I always thought that mermaids and their sisters of the sea, the Sirens, would have little effect on me as a gay man, but I have to admit... I couldn't tear my eyes away. Now, I don't think I was experiencing the same draw that the group of boys in the corner taping dollars to the glass were experiencing, but I was nonetheless intrigued - at least until my beer was gone. (The beer was really only a prop for me to use so I had an excuse to sit there and take pictures. I felt like ten kinds of creepy.) Besides, I had more important places to go, like the yarn shop.
It didn't take me long to figure out that Pam's Knit 'n' Stitch (man, Great Falls really loves that abbreviated "and") was just down the road from my hotel (although, truth be told, everything in this town was "just down the road." It wasn't the largest city in the world...) and I headed off in search of some souvenir yarn.
Along the way I passed NYC, which is what tipped me off that I had somehow stumbled upon some sort of time/space-bending machine.
But it was a quick trip and I was soon in Great Falls again at the entrance of the LYS. Now, at this point I had already learned what to expect from this town and wasn't holding my breath for anything worth looking at in this shop, but I was once again pleasantly surprised. We can always count on a yarn shop to put our minds at ease, no matter how far-flung we are, am I right? The books and magazines were up to date, the yarn selection was great (and current) and the woman working was very pleasant to chat with. She didn't even miss a step when she saw a man walk into the store. She simply asked if I was a knitter or a crocheter and then showed me all of the new yarns they had just gotten in. Now, you guys know my rule about souvenir yarn buying - I can only buy something if I don't have any in my stash, if I can't get it at home, or if I have never seen it before. With that in mind, I left with a great hand-dyed sock blank made from locally-grown and spun Targhee wool that I'm sure will make a great accessory that is not a pair of socks for me. (Don't bother googling "Rockem Sockem." You'll just end up with a bunch of results for boxing robots.)
I continued my Montana-based theme and also picked up a skein of Mountain Colors Winter Lace (50g). Of course, when I got back to my hotel I realized I didn't really have anywhere to put this yarn in my luggage, but where there's a will, there's a way.
I was planning on showing you guys a finished shawl and some handspun in this post as well, but I think there's plenty here for you to absorb, so I'll pop in sometime in the next couple of days to do that. And don't forget - if you're looking for mermaids, they're in Montana.