Page 8 of 8
- derek carlisle
This Is The Place … to Miss
A Salt Lake expat reflects on what he pines for the most.
By Jordan Floyd
There comes a time in the life span of many a Utahn when—for whatever reason—the need to get out takes hold. Yr. corresp. faced that prospect not long ago and found himself enrolling in a graduate program in Ohio—a rip-roaring state if there ever was one. As I barreled across highways that bisected behemoth cornfields, my car filled with every earthly possession, and I watched Midwestern skylines rise suddenly from the interminable flat horizon and sink from view just as quickly, I thought: “Why am I leaving?”
Was it Alanis Morissette who sang, “Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?”
Below is a non-comprehensive and in-no-particular-order list of things I miss the most about Utah and that you might miss, too, should you decide to leave. Sure, the act of writing this piece is engaging in idealization, but isn’t that what we do? Do obituaries not describe the lives of the deceased as if they had achieved sainthood? Salt Lake City might be the second greatest experiment the world has ever seen. It is a relic sitting in geographical isolation in the West. Its essence permeates our being as Salt Lakers, no matter how brief our stay. It ought to be idealized. It ought to be laughed at and criticized relentlessly, too.
Didn’t someone once see the Salt Lake Valley and say, “This Is the Place”?
I suspect they were right, and if I might add: it’s one hell, err heck of a place to miss.
The Mormons: There’s a scene in Don DeLillo’s seminal work White Noise in which the protagonist, who spends most of the novel agonizing over the fact of his inevitable death, confronts a German nun after she has informed him that her belief in God is a show. “It is our task in the world to believe things no one else takes seriously,” the nun says of her vocation. “To abandon such things completely, the human race would die.” And so, too, without the Mormons, would Utah’s quasi-subversive, alternative peoples die. Outside Utah, drinking with friends is all there is to do.
Coffee is as frequent as a sunrise. Ideas about the non-existence of a higher power are obvious. Mormons provide a backdrop against which a lovely alternative narrative has been constructed, and one that can’t exist elsewhere. Take away that backdrop, that suburban leviathan whose shoulders are covered and whose purpose is fuelled by lime- and coconut-infused Diet Cokes, and what’s underground in Utah is suddenly normal. They’re DeLillo’s words but they just as easily could come from a strikingly curt Relief Society president: “We take vows. Poverty, chastity, obedience. Serious vows. A serious life. You could not survive without us.”
- brittany white
Liquor Stores: They’re a pain in the ass. Their hours suck. For a state that prides itself on some conservative notion of limited government, they’re a blatant irony. But who doesn’t like a challenge? The jokes on you, DABC, because you’ve only made us booze-types stronger. Our forethought is impeccable. Our pantries are stocked and then some, should some modern incarnation of Prohibition gain steam. We liquor-store goers are one, and that is perhaps what is best about the state-endorsed temples to inconvenience. Inside its purposefully opaque walls exists a team of drinkers united against a nebulous, sadistic mass that touts health and values and whatever. That type of camaraderie does not exist elsewhere. We’re here, brothers and sisters in alcohol, and we will be drunk soon.
The Mountains in the East (Salt Lake’s section of the Wasatch Range): Looking south from the north end of the valley, maybe somewhere near Foothill Drive or on the Capitol steps, it’s there—the postcard image. Mt. Olympus is a granite tombstone towering above the cove. O’Sullivan Peak and Lone Peak appear behind it, their mountain masses sloping down toward the valley floor. There’s something distinctly Utah that’s embodied by this image of the mighty Wasatch and the presence of humans prostrate to its foothills. We are so close to what’s wild. We champion these mountains and the endless list of activities done within them. We might even worship them, the trademark symbol for our life elevated.
- Jesse Freeland
The Drives: The last thing people need to be doing in this valley is driving, But should it be absolutely necessary—or should every person in the valley disappear, leaving you, dear reader, alone in a banal sci-fi plot—there are a handful of drives that are the definition of serene and embody the beauty of the Salt Lake City quotidian. Travelling east on I-80 toward downtown has you feeling like you might plunge into the center of the city at 80 miles an hour. The city seems to watch you, its skyline no better represented than from that vantage point, and greet you, nodding toward wherever west you’ve come from.
Speeding along the I-215 belt-route on the east bench gives you a comprehensive view of the city. Every tree and shopping mall are accounted for. Woe to those in America’s flatlands, you might think, surrounded by a seemingly invisible world. Venturing from the southernmost part of the valley to the Capitol on State Street, the story of Salt Lake City’s people is told: It’s shining shopping malls, strip clubs and chain eateries. It’s car dealerships, Costcos and pawn shops. It’s a culture that feels so deceptively monolithic, but it’s there—you can see it—all vibrant and odd, just outside your window.
Local Food and Drink Classics: The Pie. Crown Burger. The Red Iguana. The Pie Hole. Hire’s Big “H.” Wasatch. Squatters. Uinta. Redrock. Oh. My. God. Café Rio, for f*ck’s sake. There are local classics in any state, the must-eat places whose status as true culinary spectacles matters very little. It can’t be said that any of these restaurants are the best places to eat, or that these breweries are producing the best beers, but these places are one thing—they are home.
The Mountains in the West (Salt Lake’s section of the Oquirrh Range): While the Wasatch range holds our ski resorts, our beloved fluffy snow and all that’s good, the granite- and pine-covered Oquirrh range is just as irresistible—if not more.
The western range stands like a wall between the valley and a desert void that persists for miles until Reno. Its valley-facing side is a like a bathroom stall, donning the markers of those who came before. A smokestack bursts from the ground on its northernmost end. Somebody slapped a capital “C” on one of its flat faces. Mountain viscera travels along a conveyor belt that looks to have been put on the mountain by aliens. A third of the mountain, maybe, has been entirely dismantled, moved, undone. They say the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine is visible from space, but it’s unlikely that any of us will ever see it like that. We see it every day and those western mountains, too, a backdrop for an ever-sprawling city. How far will we go?
Your move, Ohio.