Archive for August, 2017

THE CHANGE: What is happening to Montana?

I moved to Montana from San Francisco in 1999 for a change of lifestyle. Tired of traffic, the crazy housing market, too many people and just living the life of a city rat. I was born a city boy and wanted to try something different.

Being able to park in front of my Bozeman house seemed odd. I was used to aggressively hunt for parking and finding a spot within 10 blocks from my house was a damn score. Not having to worry about rush hour, being able to buy a house for under 150K, all this seemed just way too easy. The quality of life suddenly skyrocketed. 

I don’t deny that the year I moved to Montana I made a whooping one thousand bucks. And that wasn’t for the month, it was for the year. I had trust that it would have worked out but mostly what I knew in my heart was that I couldn’t have lived the city rat life any longer. Better poor than miserable.

Now, 18 years later, I find myself being chased by the issues I had in San Francisco.

Maybe the fact that the population keeps growing and nobody talks about how scary it is. Or the fact that internet has allowed people to work remotely and they chose to live closer to nature but Montana is not the same place I moved to.

Rush hour in Bozeman has become a reality, real estate is going berserk and the seclusion and solitude I was seeking and need seems to be more and more difficult to find. 

This weekend we took the drift boat and fished and camped in a few lakes. Saturday night, while trying to find a camp spot, we came across all these regulations that require to camp in designated areas. We all felt robbed of our freedom as we used to be able to camp anywhere in Montana. Find a dirt road in State Forest land and pitch a tent. All campsites were full, of course, and at 11pm we gave up trying to find an empty “legal” spot and camped illegally in a day use area.

I am afraid that this will be the future of Montana. Just like is happening in places like California, Oregon and Washington where you have to make reservations to camp. Is there a way to stop it? Maybe the apocalypse. 

TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE, here is why everybody should experience it once in their lifetime.

My friend Ryan invited me to drive 3.5 hours south to Idaho to see the solar eclipse.  I pictured the traffic, the drive and my recollection of a solar eclipse I had seen in the past that didn’t impress me much.  My response was “not interested”.

Then he told me it was a camping event his friends started organizing two years ago.  Reserved a whole campground and a bluegrass band playing the night before the eclipse.  It was going to be over 200 people coming from all over.  Was getting more interesting but still “not interested”.  Then he said there would be 9 people cooking and I didn’t need to know more.  I love food and there is nothing like good barbecued food, I packed my bags.

I really didn’t go for the solar eclipse, I went for the food, the camping and hanging out with friends.  Unaware of the fact that what I had seen in the past was a partial eclipse maybe 95% coverage.  I can barely remember it and nothing really to write home about. Who cares to see another…

However, what I was  about to experience was a total solar eclipse.  100% coverage. Now, there is the difference and a big difference and seeing it happen was one of the great experiences of my life.  Now, the day after the eclipses, I can’t stop thinking about it.

At around 11, the moon started covering the sun.  It was a much slower process than I had anticipated.  A kid (or a father, it was unclear) built a cool contraption to see the eclipse projected on paper.  Telescopes, cameras with telephoto lenses and of course the eclipse glasses started coming out.

  Hannah, who organized the event, later told me, she had gone to see the solar eclipse in Egypt with her dad in 2005.  She figured it was going to be a bunch of nerds, going to see a nerdy thing, and just a family trip being nerds  However, she was so blown away by it, that 12 years later she managed to gather over 200 people to share the experience with.  Her father taped a photo he took in 2005 and I stood there watching it, not really understanding or predicting how it would truly feel to see it in real life.  

We projected, with binoculars, the eclipse on our hands.  We watched through the eclipse glasses and camera lenses.  I was entertained, nothing more, maybe a little bored, just thinking we were a bunch of nerds doing nerdy things.   My feelings were to be proven wrong pretty soon.  



People started finding prime locations to see the eclipse.  Kids played games, adults chatted as the sun slowly disappeared behind the moon.  The 30% eclipse didn’t feel much different from the 80%.  It was still pretty bright and you could only see the eclipse with your glasses.  An hour had gone by and again I was not that impressed.  

Then things started to rapidly change.  It must have been at 95% that the light started to become eery.  After this point I lost track of time.  This weird feeling in my gut started taking place.  My body and consciousness was fighting to make sense of  this loss of light.  It was not right, it was not the right time, I needed that light.  I felt anxious, dizzy, my heart started racing.  I suddenly realized that I was by myself.  I had distanced myself from everyone to take pictures.  

I also realized Argo, my dog, was off leash and he was not by me.  Everyone else had leashed their dogs and I remembered reading animals could freak out.  Where is Argo?  My hands started sweating and then it started becoming cold.  I felt the cold air hit me like a slap, I didn’t want to be cold. Glacial darkness was taking over and all I could think off, was that I wanted the light and heat back.  I took a deep breath and had to tell myself “relax, it’s all right, is just an Eclipse and it’s about to get really dark but light will be back.  Trust me”  I held my breath knowing that the sun was about to disappear behind the moon, leaving a black, menacing hole.  Will I freak out like some animals do?  I felt unease, like the end of the world was about to happen and I was not ready for it.  “Breathe Paolo, breathe… Is not the Apocalypse” 


In the middle of the eclipse, before it got dark, I pulled out the drone with the idea of flying it to take photos of everyone looking up after the eclipse.  We had planned to take a staged group photo after the fact.  “You are not going to fly that drone during the eclipses are you?  We want to hear the sound of the crickets when it gets dark” someone sitting by told me.  As the sun disappeared behind the moon, it turned into a black hole radiating around its edge with glowing light, as if it was on fire, it felt as surreal as anything I have ever experienced.   The tension had built up so high that everyone cheered in abandonment.  People cried, people laughed.  It was a loud cheer, a cheer I had never heard before.  Not what you would experience at a concert, football game or political rally.  It was the cheer of awe, marvel, appreciation, astonishment and relief.  Maybe the crickets had sang during the total eclipse but all I heard were 200 people that had just been blown away by the experience. When the sun peeked back out it was an explosion of light and people started clapping.  Yes, we all wanted that sun back and I felt thankful and relieved to see light again.   

In that short moment, in this majestic expression of the natural world, I realized how little and vulnerable we are.  How we take so many things for granted, like having a sun rising and setting every day.  I felt thankful for being alive, a gift given to us by nature and only nature.  We tend to forget how important the natural world is to us and how insignificant we are to it, yet we keep abusing it.   Will there be a day that nature will have enough of us, ungrateful buggers, and not give us the gift of a rising sun?  How far can we push it?   Seeing that sun disappear and reappear made me feel even more appreciative for mother nature and I felt fortunate to live a lifestyle close to her, with appreciation and respect.  

Now, does anyone wonder what happened to Argo?

Argo was having his own Solar Eclipse experience.