August 9, 2005

Boise, Idaho

        There was a time when if you said you were stuck in
Boise, Idaho, the words couldn’t have been more accurate, but this city appears to have matured past a cowboy town while maintaining its Western charm.

        When I was here last I was a college student, covering a Long Beach State football game against Boise State. The town held nothing for me. It was way too slow. It seemed like every bar played country music and the locals all looked like typical redneck hicks. I asked around if there was anything to do and no one I talked to had a suggestion I felt was suitable. So I spent time in the hotel bar, drinking away the two weekend nights that felt like a month.

        When I limped Libertad into town early Sunday evening, I was a beaten man. Sore from crashing, worried about the bike and not really knowing if I wanted to continue the trip, I checked into a little motel on the outskirts of town that probably didn’t exist 15 years ago when I was here last.

        In the morning I took the bike into the Harley dealership and was hoping against hope they would be able to fix her and not gouge me, though they had every right to.

        Guys that work at the service desk of a Harley dealership have one of the tougher jobs. The phone rings constantly with unhappy people, upset their motorcycle is broken and even though they don’t have any clue what is wrong, believe the problem can be fixed in an afternoon and are even more mad when it isn’t.

        One of Harley-Davidson’s rules is that if you are out of town, you go first. Kevin looked at the bike and assured me they would get it in and looked at.

        The handlebars were twisted, as was the gear shifter and I was looking at several hundred dollars and at least two days, and that was if they had the parts in stock.

        For some reason, though, I wasn’t upset or even worried. Kevin’s demeanor was so soothing I just figured it would get done when it got done. I was ready to hike back to the hotel, when he asked another customer, a local, to give me a ride.

        I went and got breakfast, talking with the waitress about the town and how it has grown and I didn’t get the usual progress is evil schpiel.      She was actually glad the town had gotten bigger.  

        I strolled around downtown for a while and it seemed friendlier than most big cities I have visited. It was a quick pace, like most cities, but didn’t have the faceless energy most possess. People walked, but not hurriedly and they smiled when they passed.

        By the time I got back to the motel it was late afternoon and Kevin had called to tell me the bike was ready. They were able to bend back the metal and save me a bunch of money by doing so.

        The general manager of the store picked me up and after I paid for the bike noticed they washed it for free. I was reeling.

        In such a good mood I took the bike out for a little spin around town and as I was riding down the street I noticed a bar that had a Texas Hold Em tournament that began in an hour.

        I walked in and found the tournament was free. No entry fee, you got some chips and played until they were gone. First place was dinner for two at a nice restaurant.

        Among the 40 people playing was a woman named, Diane. She was in her early 30s, fit and with a touch of masculinity.

        Living in Los Angeles my whole life, it wasn’t difficult to guess she was gay, but I didn’t have to. She and her partner were fairly open, holding hands during a break and acting like a couple.

        She told me that Boise had definitely changed. She had lived her most of her life and said people were far more accepting than they were five years ago.

        “Then I wouldn’t have been able to be myself in a place like this,” she said. “Now there are a couple of places I know I can’t go to, but it is a lot better.”

        She was a regular in this neighborhood bar and no one seemed to care. When she was knocked out of the tournament, she got a conciliatory hug and kiss from her partner. It made me open my wallet and look at the picture of my girlfriend taped inside. I missed her just a little bit more.

        When the morning came I packed the bike and headed out of town. A town I was sorry I couldn’t spend more time in.