Thursday, June 23, 2005

Salt Lake City Vacation Is Almost Over

I have about an hour and a half before I leave for the airport, so I thought it would be fun to record a few comments about this area.

It's not crowded. The streets are wide. I'd hate driving here because the lights last forever, but that's good for pedestrians because there's plenty of time to cross the streets. It's the cleanest, quietest American city that I've ever been to. I still don't think I've seen a piece of trash on the ground. I don't recall hearing one siren or one horn.

The Mormon Temple isn't as big as I thought it would be. It's not small by any stretch, but I was expecting monstrous. It's beautiful, though; there's no denying that. I'm sure that for a long time it was the tallest building in the city, but now it's not even the tallest building in Temple Square. That honor appears to belong to the "church" (everyone here knows what church you mean) administration building, a tall office building that towers over the temple and everything else in the immediate vicinity.

It seems apparent to me that political power in this city and state doesn't rest in the state Capitol, just a few blocks up the (steep) hill from Temple Square, or in the Temple itself, but in that towering administration building in the northeast corner of Temple Square.

The closer you get to Temple Square, the geographic, cultural, political, and religious heart of this city, the more Mormons you see. They're easy to identify, what with their name tags and ID cards and all. I truly feel like an outsider, in my shorts and polo shirt, among these devoted adherents to a religion to which I cannot subscribe.

I'm struck, though, by the number of beggars and homeless here in the downtown area. For an organization as fraternal as the Mormon Church, I'm surprised there are this many needy on the streets of Zion.

I don't use that word Zion lightly. It's a big word around here. Apparently the Salt Lake Valley is the new Promised Land. I've noticed there are a few Old Testament words that are very common here, Zion and tabernacle being two of them. I can go a year or more at home in California without hearing either one (unless I'm reading another anti-Semitic attack referring to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) but you hear and see these words every day here. There's even a Zion Bank.

Reminders of the 2002 Olympics are everywhere. Even some of the manhole covers in the streets have the Olympic logo! The University of Utah served as the Olympic Village, so I'm told, and the locals are quite proud of that. It's a beautiful campus.

I went to Park City to the Olympic Park there. It's about a half hour drive from downtown Salt Lake, but a world away. It's nestled in an alpine valley, the stereotypical Rocky Mountain setting. Park City itself is very exclusive, too--big money there, especially in the winter. I can imagine what the streets must be like in January during the Sundance Film Festival, covered with snow and people in parkas crowded shoulder-to-shoulder, hoping for a glimpse of a movie star, perhaps on their way to or from skiing, latte in mittened hands. Serene, surreal.

The weather's been beautiful--brief rain in the afternoons, but plenty warm.

I like it here. I may have to return.


Walter E. Wallis said...

Park City is beautiful. Weird liquor laws, though.

Darren said...

I understand the liquor laws were fairly draconian a few years ago but apparently that's changed now. The weirdest thing I learned about is a required "membership" to a "private club", which is fancy talk for a cover charge for a bar. But some bars have them and some don't, so either the law isn't enforced much or there's some wild loophole.

Liquor isn't served after 1am, but here in California it's 2am, so that didn't strike me as a major fault.

Yet how do I know this? I didn't have an alcoholic drink the whole time I was there. Guess I just find the topic interesting.

Edward said...

Some of my pics are from near SLC:

Darren said...

Nice pictures. I've skied in Colorado but not Utah. I'm sure it's fairly similar.