Moving to a new place is always a little bit intimidating. It can be even more intimidating when it’s a place that has the theocratic reputation of Salt Lake City. I can’t even begin to estimate the number of polygamy jokes people told Jess and I before we moved here. In one of the earliest posts on this blog, Salt Lake Gloom, I talked about how I felt.
However, pretty much every stereotype I had has been proven wrong! Urban Salt Lake where I live (I define this as Downtown, Sugarhouse, & the Avenues) is as cool, liberal, hip, & funky as any New England college town.
Let me repeat that again, its significant…
Urban Salt Lake City is one of the most liberal places I have ever lived! (remember: I grew up in the people’s republic of Ithaca, NY).
What happened in Salt Lake is that a critical mass of artists/students/hipsters accumulated downtown, and all the LDS folks moved to the suburbs! So began this weird situation, of a kernel of hip surrounded by the “Zion Belt”.
But saying this is just spewing generalities, let me describe 10 specific things I have noticed that make this place unique, the sights, sounds, people, and the snails & quails from my own daily experience.
10. Before I met my first Mormon, I had conversations with Navajo artists, Gay pride activists, Tongans, Fire Island beach bums, robotics engineers, cute barista-marathoners, local bondage community folks, Russians & Norwegians, and of course -lots of speedskaters from the Midwest. When the missionaries finally showed up on my doorstep, they were from California & exuded mellow groove.
9. There are flags at many intersections, you pick them up, and wave them at traffic to get their attention as you cross. They are actually necessary at times, due to item #1 and I have used them.
8. The excellent Tibetan restaurant 3 blocks from our house, next door to that is an incredible fudge shop!
7. The counter-culture is sincere here, not calcified from decades of sarcasm & irony. It’s because there is really something to REBEL against. There is a higher ratio of tattoos & funky hair than anywhere I have ever lived. A symbol of the new Salt Lake is that just down the road from the massive LDS temple, is a business that specializes in Vegan Bondage wear! (the Andrew mentioned in this article about them is NOT me!!)
6. KRCL 90.9 RADIO FREE UTAH
An absolute shining star of radio, whenever I listen, I hear incredible music I have never heard before.
5. Liberal Mayor Rocky Anderson. Since things here are so fundamentally divided between extreme liberal & conservative, he does not have aim for that decisive middle electorate, since it really does not exist here. He marches in the gay pride parades and when George Bush came to speak last month, organized the counter protest!
4. Huge snails! I see them on the sidewalk every morning as I walk the dog. Salt Lake life is just not really complete until you are walking the dog, hear the crunch-squish, and have snail guts hit you in the knee!! This is not the only local fauna worth mentioning. There are skittering tribes of California Quail around. Lilly ignores the snails, but the Quail drive her ballistic.
3. Stylish women walking along with expensive umbrellas, but not because of the rain, but TO KEEP THE FIERCE SUN OFF THEM. Picture expensive black clothes, pink high heels, pink handbag, and a pink umbrella, & you are getting the idea.
2. The incredible number of cyclists/runners/multi-sport folks. The neighborhoods at the mouth of the canyons seem to be “athlete ‘hoods” where open garages expose stacked skis, snowboards, bikes, kayaks, & in-home climbing walls. In the early 90’s, I was a lone cyclist, pedaling along rainy Massachusetts roads, now I am just one of the lycra wrapped swarm pedaling up the canyons under sharp blue skies. It’s NICE!
1. Stupid Drivers! here is a comparison:
- Boston drivers are bad, but that is mostly because they are driving along asphalt covered cow paths designed in 1612.
- Washington drivers are scary, cause they are all excellent drivers and drive like it’s a NASCAR race to get to work.
- NYC is its own brand of terror, because most cars are driven by professionals who confidently squeeze through tiny openings in traffic.
- Florida can be a scary place to drive, but most of them were once excellent drivers, so I have more compassion.
But I have seen sheer stupidity in Salt Lake unmatched in the annals of human autmotage. There is lots of “create your own lane” antics, and late at night, you hear the high-pitched scream of young men/future organ donors drag-racing each other through the suburbs on motorcycles.
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