Postcards and Perceptions in Salt Lake City

Dear Haney on the Train Nation:

I have some momentus news. I found America. It resides at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

I kid. At least, not my ‘merica.

But I do have news: unfortunately, there will be no postcards coming from SLC. Because I missed the train in California and had one less day in SLC, because I spent Saturday up in the mountains, and because SLC practically shuts down on Sunday except for bars and the Mormon headquarters, I was not able to find any.

Imagining I had the resources to make my own postcards, I came up with some ideas.

Salt Lake City:

-If you don’t climb mountains and you’re not a Mormon, we wonder why you why the hell you came here.

-The widest streets in America.

-Have one kid for every mountain on the horizon.

-It’s all about the powder.

-Where beer shall never be stronger than your faith in Kolob.

-Yeah right, Brigham Young would never scalp an Indian.

-Can we have your address and phone number, you know, just to chat some time?

-Space Jesus.

He lives – in space!

For serious though, Salt Lake is a beautiful city. It sits in a wide, flat valley with 10,000-foot peaks of jagged granite and quartzite rising up on all sides. Every time you go outside those mountains remind you why Brigham Young chose to plop his people down there back in 1846.

There’s things to do in them there mountains.

My good friends from high school, Sally and Stacy Roberts (you remember, the red-head sisters) both happen to live there. They and their boyfriends are really into outdoor sports–skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, hiking, water skiing–and SLC is the perfect place for all of those. Within 10 minutes by car from Sally’s house we entered a national forest and started driving up the mountain. Stunning views. Sharp edges. Sheer faces. Pines and aspens.

The next day we went downtown thinking we’d hang out in the tasting room at Epic Brewery. We made it to the tasting room but didn’t stay because of a wonky law requiring each of us to buy a meal in order to taste the beer. Authorities want to make sure patrons don’t get too drunk. Beer from a tap can’t be more than 4%. Beer in the grocery store can’t exceed 3.2%. But bottle beers are strong and cheap. It seems the hopheads in the area have figured a way around the complicated codes that come with a liquor liscence.

After we had a few bottled beers in the Bee Hive, a place downtown with a rim of ice on the bar to keep your beer cold, I said my goodbyes to Stacy, Sally and Ryan, slung on my big pack, and headed up toward Temple Square, the capital of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Their buildings were ornate and impressively large. They had exhibits tracing their history and message. Space Jesus held out his welcoming arms in a galactic dome. A few steps further, I stumbled upon a cool, dark theater playing a movie of high production value chronicling the life of Joseph Smith. I relieved myself of the weight of my pack and sat for a while, noting the handsomness of Joseph, the wickedness of the Illinoisians, the piety of the early Mormon community. If at any moment I was close to conversion, that would’ve been it. The movie was so well done I even choked up a little when the bloodthirsty mob shot Joseph, weaponless, captive, yet stoic, in the head.

It’s a temple, but it ain’t temporary.

Youngins from around the world manned the halls and doors of the various attractions in the compound. I talked to a couple of them. A girl from Korea said she liked SLC well enough except for the lack of spicy food. Another from San Antonio planned to go to UTSA to be a nurse. When I declined to give her my address and phone number, she wanted to know my reservations. With pamphlets in hand, I said, “I have all the information I need. Thanks. Nice talking to you,” and made for the door.

Because the train didn’t arrive until 3:30am, I sat in a downtown bar till 2 and talked to the locals, including a guy who heads the Obama campaign in Utah. Can you imagine? He says they pour their efforts mostly into Colorado, and that he’s spent his life defending SLC and the Mormons. Nice people, they are. They’ll even baptize you when you die.

Now I’m in Denver, getting this blogging out of my system so I can go find some live music. Last night I stumbled upon the Grateful Dead bar and hung out with my people. Tomorrow I’m going to Boulder.

Journeying forth, looking for ‘merica one experience at a time.

Examine and proceed,


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