So what do you first think of when you hear the name of the city, Salt Lake City? I know what it is for me. It's not surrounding mountains, it's not wide flat Utah plains, it's not the University and it's not the architecture. Yep, if you're anything like me, you think of Mormons.
But we'll get to the Mormons.
Chris and I arrived here at 2.45am on the train. Half asleep, but bizarrely awake and interested, we caught a taxi into our hotel. The Little America hotel is anything but little. It is large, sprawling, goes up and out forever and has a foyer that is pure opulence. The foyer itself is as big as a football field, containing numerous plush lounge suites and polished timber tables for the lollabout guest to lounge in or wait.
The girl at the desk on our arrival was a little crisp, I must say, but not as icy as the girl yesterday, when I asked for another room key as I had misplaced the first. Whether she took a look at Chris and then me, and then did a Mormon double-take, I cannot guess, but we have essentially stayed away from the front desk. The rest of the staff have been wonderful, especially the Latinos who have always gone out of their way to be helpful.
However, one night, I desperately wanted a beer, so asked a passing Latino uniformed fellow.
"Excuse me, do you have a bar in the hotel?"
"A bar room" ?
"Yes a bar room".
"Yes sir, we have three. Just go to the end of the foyer and turn left and you will find them down there". "Thank you so much. Have a good night" and off I sauntered to my pick of three bar rooms. As I walked down the length of the corridor, I could see no signs of bar life nor sounds of bar revelry. It was then that it came to me. I looked at the signs.
Ball room 1. Ball room 2. Ball room 3.
PS. I did find the bar.
The Little America Hotel I understand, is owned by some tycoon family or enterprise that has them all over the country. But here in SLC, they also own another hotel directly across the road from the Little America. The Grand America is like nothing I've seen before. For those of you who remember the old Commonwealth Bank money boxes that were shaped like the Sydney branch, that is what the Grand America looks like, only bigger and well, grander. It towers into the sky, this great monolithic oblong. It has a small dome on top and atop that, a giant American flag that is so high up, it flies proudly all the time. This building is opulence turned up to off the scale. The shape, the columns, the colour, the sheer physical presence says, "Hello world. I am America. I am great. I am powerful. I am majestic. I am beautiful. You cannot help but gaze upon my splendour." Thoughts of Shelley's Ozymandias have kept winging their way into my consciousness all week every time I see this thing.
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Well you all know the ending of Shelley's poem. If you don't, look it up, it's a great ending. The Grand America can be seen from any point in the city. Which was always quite helpful for us, as it gave us our 'true north' as it were, and got us home each time.
On the first day's adventure, we went to the incredible Museum of Natural History. Now think Opera House in terms of impressive architectural structure. This multi mezzanined edifice that also seemed to be cantilevered had vast halls inside that would make Thror son of Thrain and the other dwarves of Erebor stand up and applaud. The Museum had a wonderful collection and is incredibly interactive but the dinosaur collection was to die for. They certainly did. Just a little dinosaur joke there for those of you who were watching. They had everything from the littluns to the really bigguns. Notice my dinosaur taxonomy is right up there with the best. I was recently told I should have become a paleontologist. Of course, no museum or art gallery is complete without a visit to the gift shop, which of course we did, and may have bought a thingy or two.
The following day, we decided to take a drive in the mountains. SLC is a famous gateway for the snow and skiing. Park City is on the mountains near it, one of the world's most famous ski resorts. Driving up there through these sheer cliffs and mountain streams, mountains rising up right before you, you felt like you were on top of the world. It was an unforgetable experience.
Unfortunately, so was the flat tyre I managed to get us up in those mountains. We had come through Guardsman's Pass, a steep and quite terrifying drive, and were coming back down the other side to go through Park City when I allowed the car to veer somewhat to the right near the walls of the ridge, as the camber of the road was weird and dificult. I thought I was playing it safe. Safe? Not so much. Stupid, much better.
The rear tyre punctured on a bit of limestone, the car signalled that the Romulans were attacking and I brought the ship to a stand-still, all power re-routed to shields and life support. Now in truth, I have not changed a tyre in over 30 years, but I was sure that I could remember how to do it. Chris had never changed one. But down to it we got and had the wheel off after sensibly chocking the other front and rear tyres first. It was actually a bit of a nightmare. This is a steep mountain pass and we were high up in it. Anyway, "oh frabjous day, calloo callay" we got the spare on and limped home. We did take some lovely pics and a few vids while up there.
That night, we had decided to return the car to the airport and pick up a replacement. But we thought we would stop and have something to eat first in the city. As luck would have it, as I drove the vehicle down into an underground carpark, I hit the front tyre on a piece of concrete sticking out somewhat, a piece of concrete I still have not seen. It shredded the front tyre, I swore ferociously at msyelf and my utter ineptness, an increasing profound sense of shame descending upon me by the second. To count and just to make sure you didn't miss anything, I have now destroyed two tyres on the same day. There is no spare to put on the front. It is already on the back! Oh God! Oh God!
I have been driving since I was 17 years old and have never caused an accident. And here in America, the last I see of the nice Hyundai Elantra was it being hauled up onto the back of a tow truck and towed away. The stress of this was something shocking. The humiliation was even worse. The man couldn't fit the tow truck in the underground carpark so had to drive it up on its three wheels. Oh God! I toyed with leaving this out of my account, but ahhh, who cares, that was yesterday.
Today, we had the glorious opportunity of meeting up with one of Chris' online pals and his husband. These guys are such lovely men. They took us to lunch, which after yesterday's commpete fiasco, was just such a sweet salve. We laughed a lot and talked politics and countries and each others' reltionships. Chris had done an original art work for his friend. It was an absolutely stunning piece of art. I was very proud of him. His friend was so touched, he was speechless at first. So the four of us will stay in touch and hopefully in each other's lives. Thank you Micah and Jason.
So, the Mormons. I understand that about 40% of SLC is Mormon. I have spent the entire time here every time I spoke with someone, an Uber driver, the laundry lady, the hotel staff, thinking, "Are you a Mormon? Are you a Mormon? Are you a Mormon? Of course, I'm not crass enough to have actually asked, but I have wondered.
We went to the Mormon Temple tonight. It is a beautiful building to be sure, but I felt uneasy there as did Chris. From their early beginnings with their whole pioneer mythos, they have built this worldwide churrch that is super exclusive, super orthodox and super rich. SLC around Temple Square reeks of money. Lots of people leave the Church, as it's known here, to find lives outside that narrow worldview, as have many Christians from other stultifying denominations. I decided to record a smal vid that would be posted on my book's Facebook page, which I did. It's just a short encouragment to gay LDS people, as many of them read my book and made contact over the years. So, it's on the Being Gay Being Christian Facebook page if you want to take a look.
Salt Lake City is beautiful. Wide streets, no graffiti, little homelessness, no drunkeness - Utah liquor laws are strict - it would be a nice place to live. It gets heaps of snow in the winter. The cinema is plush with recliners - we sat and watched The Predator two nights ago - don't bother! The people are friendly and the whole place feels safe. The Church does seem to superimpose itself over the city, commercially, politically, religiously, but if you were not a part of all that, SLC has a lot to offer. I made two new great friends here and would be happy to come back one day. Till next.Read more