Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Welsh Mouseketter

This is from my first trip to America a little while ago.

There is a photograph of me tucked away in album somewhere holding my mother’s hand looking awkward and shy. I’m wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt and have a revolver tucked into a holster around my waist. I would imagine most readers of the Montrose Daily press have a similar photograph at home of one of their children or grandchildren. As far as Americana goes Mickey Mouse and Cowboys are two of the most American of symbols. The thing is I’m not American. Born and raised in South Wales, it would be another 25 years before I managed to get to the US and see first hand some of the things had infiltrated my childhood without me even knowing.

I didn’t really go to too many exciting places as a kid and so that costume was probably just for a trip to that supermarket. Wandering around the aisles, asking for sweets (candy to you folk) that I very rarely got, dressed like a gun toting Mouseketter on just a regular day is testament to the far reaching tentacles of Americana and I should have realised then that I would love America.

In much the same way as Americans can sometimes be taken with the UK, with the pomp and circumstance, the Royal family and the history, I was taken with the US. I was taken with the food, the people and the scenery. People bash America in much the same way and for mostly the same stupid reasons that they bash the UK (our food is in fact very delicious and our teeth are not that bad - well not all of us anyway) and almost every other country and I have to admit that I have, once or twice, said something that could have been construed as not very nice about America. But people who badmouth places they have never visited inevitably end up with their large Welsh feet in their even larger mouth. However, after removing the blockage from the offending mouth I came to realise that I love America. Especially Colorado and particularly Montrose.

I spent around a month in Montrose, meeting my girlfriend’s family and using it as base to explore the region. I played soccer (try to read:football) with the girls from Montrose High School (at that altitude and in that heat!) and I attended the Magic Circle Players’ production of Sweeney Todd, complete with British accents. I was genuinely thrilled after seeing Clay S.Jenkinson portray Thomas Jefferson (who was of Welsh descent don’t you know - Jefferson that is not Jenkinson) and I experienced the interesting concert given by Rigzin Dolma, the “singing angel” of Tibet, at the Methodist Church on Park Street. And on more than one occasion I wandered up and down Main Street during “Main in Motion” with a delicious “Taste of New Orleans” Sno-Ball (my first ever) in hand. (Although I stand by my declaration that the Sno-Balls from said trolley on the corner of Main and Townsend are the best Sno-Balls [I have since been to New Orleans and had one there] I should perhaps point out that the Sno-Ball lady - Lesley Hallenborg - is the mother of my girlfriend.)

Venturing into the area surrounding Montrose was perhaps the the most jaw-dropping part of my my trip. From the view of the San Juan range that greeted me every morning and the sunsets that closed every day, I knew the scenery would be stunning before I made it out of the town and I wasn’t disappointed. Camping and boating at The Black Canyon, National Monument, Blue Mesa Lake, Ouray and Ridgeway, to name but a few, were experiences I won’t forget in a hurry. Neither will I forget the very real possibility of a bear stumbling on my tent in the middle of the night. Now I’m over 6,000 miles away in Seoul, Korea, I can scarcely believe just how much there is to do in both Montrose County and Colorado.

But as great as the scenery was, as great as the Ash Mesa wine from Mountain View winery in Olathe was and as good as the ribs at Paul and Jean Redding’s house were, a place is only as good as its people and in that respect Montrose beats out a lot of the competition. I met a lot of delightful, amazing and fantastic people during my time in the US, Colorado and most importantly Montrose.

Of all the people I met, however, my girlfriend's family made it a truly fantastic experience. The Hallenborg’s opened their house to me and I am very grateful, especially to Leslie, or as you might know her “The Sno-ball lady.” The rest of her family played their part too in making me feel welcome and I am grateful to them all, especially Nana for the grapes and the vacuum pack bags!

Above all, thanks go to my wonderful girlfriend for giving me the opportunity to go to America in the first place and for just being so damn fantastic every day.

I did a hell of a lot during my month in Montrose, many of which were firsts for me. The drive in movie theater, eating a foot-long hot dog at Sonic, being dragged around a cold lake by a speedboat on a tube and dressing as a cowboy at the Museum of the Mountain West. I may have played it down a bit at the time but imagine my delight when that gun slinging, Mickey Mouse T-shirt-wearing Welshboy was given the opportunity, 25 years later, to dress as a gun-slinging Welshman (less the T-shirt), complete with the best looking floozy in town on my arm.

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