Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quick Tour of the Town

There is virtually no Sunday bus service in Salt Lake City, but my call for local Salt Lakians (I forgot to ask what they were called, so I made that up) produced Chris, who reads the blog, and Bill, who has a regular Sunday night dinner with Chris, and wasn't going to be dissuaded just because Chris had invited a strange woman. They work in software and hardware respectively and are both pilots. Bill has even done a trip that involved landings in all forty-eight contiguous states. They ask me what I would like to eat. I'm not sure. I always like to eat locally, but Utah doesn't seem to be cattle country, nor a good place to get fresh seafood, and there are no orchards of fresh fruit. I inquire if there is a local specialty I should know about and am told "green jello, but we won't make you eat that." They took me to a restaurant called the Red Iguana where I ate chicken, rice, black beans and cactus. I'd never eaten cactus before, that I remember, but it had been despined, so was tasty and not prickly. The water in Utah is also delicious. Bill told me the dissolved minerals from the granite are responsible for the flavour. They get it out of a series of reservoirs in the mountains on the east side of the city, not the Great Salt Lakes to the west.

After dinner I was treated to a quick tour of the city and environs. The centrepiece of the city is Temple Square, consisting of an enormous spired temple built over a period of forty years from granite quarried over twenty miles away and hauled into town by oxen, the tabernacle that is the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, some office buildings and a gigantic auditorium. The temple is lit up at night and glows, like some ghostly apparition, because the granite is very light in colour. Other landmarks included the "City and County": a grand, spired building housing government functions; and the State Capitol: the requisite rotunda with columns and marble staircase, up on top of a hill. And there was a bowling sign. I can imagine Chris and Bill shaking their heads at me, as the bowling sign was the only landmark I asked them to stop the car so I could photograph. You see, I knew I could buy a postcard of any of those granite and marble edifices, but If I wanted to be able to show off the Googie architecture of the Classic Bowling sign, I was going to have to memorialize it myself. We giggled at the replacement T in a different colour.

Salt Lake City was founded by Mormons, who came through those same mountains I just whined about needing oxygen to navigate. They were led by a man named Brigham Young who arrived here and proclaimed "This is the Place." I didn't even know that much about Mormons before I came here. I knew was that they formerly practiced polygamy, but that the main church has turned away from that and the groups that still do are breakaway sects. During the tour I noted that Chris and Bill used the word "they" several times in reference to Mormons so I guess that I can ask stupid questions without fearing giving insult or being evangelized. I ask about the other thing I had heard, that Mormons research their family trees so that they can retroactively save their ancestors. My hosts laugh at "retroactively," the proper term being "posthumously," but my hosts confirm the practice and tell me that there is a giant bunker in the mountains where some of the most comprehensive genealogical records on the planet are securely stored.

We drive up into the beginning of the mountains to see the high-priced subdivisions where formerly there were mines. There are a number of professional people who live in Utah because it is beautiful, natural place with excellent airline connections to the rest of the country, so they can live here, and work wherever they are called to go.

All considered the evening was one of the better ways getting into a car with two strange men could turn out. I got an opportunity to explore the city by day later, so I'll have more information on some of the things in this entry later.


majroj said...

The Latter Day Saints' trek across the continent (before it was all contiguous USA) was quite an adventure, to say the least, and Mormon camps, people, and historic markers abound. Some even continued west to California, and the Sacramento area (amongst others) bears their mark as well, including quite a few of their descendents.

steve said...

"the groups that still do are breakaway sects"

Surely, that should be "breakaway sex" :-)