I was born and raised in Helena and lived there again until about 3 years ago. I then lived for 2 years in Seattle, and now live in 'Burbtown.
In Helena, there are no people of any color other than white. Okay, there’s a couple (when I lived there, one of the local insurance agents was a very smart, likeable black guy), but not many. “Diversity” in Helena means you teach your kids about tolerance, understanding that they don’t actually have to exercise any because everyone looks like you.
In Helena, the streets roll up at 10 p.m., promptly, 7 days a week. No food, no dancing, no fun. When I was in high school, we used to steal beer from our folks and drive up into the south hills to watch the planes land – woohee! I don’t think things have changed much.
Helena is a very conservative, government-oriented, not terribly intellectual town. Sure the library’s pretty good, but not great, and Carroll College gets some good lectures on occasion, but not great ones. Even when they strive for some culture – and they do – it’s not going to be first-rate culture, because the town’s too small and too homogenized.
But I never felt unsafe in Helena. The people would give the shirts off their backs to help you if you need it. It was and always will be my hometwon and I love it – I just don’t think it’s without fault.
In Seattle, there is something to do 24/7. Shows, concerts, dance clubs, lectures, museums, ride the ferrys, whatever. The outdoor activities here are better than in Montana, because it’s greener, prettier, the mountains are bigger and the rivers deeper – and there’s more of both than around Helena. And you don’t have to drive 60 miles to drop your kayak in around here – which you do from Helena, unless you’re running Wolf Creek, which is hardly primo water. Fly-fishing’s better in Montana, though. But as far as the city is concerned – I liked being a short taxi ride away from a dozen kinds of fun. I liked having literally hundreds of good restaurants to choose from – and nary a casino among them. I liked being able to see a movie the weekend it opens – not six weeks after everyone else has seen it, when it finally makes its way to my small town. I love the baseball games and the football games and the festivals. I love that there’s true selection for shopping – not just one department store that gets the remaindered stuff from bigger stores in the chain.
But I’m a small town girl at heart. I didn’t like the traffic. (Okay, I loathed the traffic.) I didn’t like not feeling perfectly safe after dark in my own neighborhood – not often, but sometimes. I didn’t like not knowing who my neighbors were.
So now I life in a quiet leafy, semi-rural suburb and work in a smaller town. But I’m still in close enough proximity to the city to be able to go do stuff when the spirit moves me. There are wonderful things to be said for living in a great little town like Helena – but there are wonderful things to be said for living in a city too. I don’t expect you to agree with anyone else about which of the two is better but I don’t believe you can’t even imagine the attractions of living somewhere else.
But I’d about drive back myself, for a cajun chicken sandwich from the Jailhouse.