The Valley is Still Happy

As you may know, I went on a trip to Utah this week to see family and catch up with old friends.  I had a great time — I hadn’t been to Utah since I graduated from BYU in 1997, and was starting to feel pangs for the mountains.  So, a cheap flight later, I found myself in Salt Lake City.  Permit me to indulge in a first for BCC: the travelblog.  It’ll be a long post, but fun.

I’ve created a photo album for the trip, which you can view here; I would mention in passing that the photos, while mediocre, would have ben unviewable were it not for Picasa, the new photo software from Google.  It’s free, friendly and powerful — it should replace whatever you’re using now, unless you’re into Photoshop.  I would recommend it highly to all.

On to the trip!

Monday

10:30 AM: arrival in SLC.  Wow, good to be back — the winter inversion has obscured the city.  I’m doing my part to help — the friendly folks at Enterprise gave me an SUV when my economy car wasn’t available.  I hate SUVs in urban environments; they’re wasteful and dangerous.  And now I’m driving one.  Great.  The rental car people ask me where I’m from, what brings me out here, and they sure hope I get to ski.  Whatever, people — leave me alone.

11:15 AM: Lehi.  Did I just see a whole RESTAURANT for Dutch Oven cooking?  Nah.

11:35 AM: Lindon.  I see my sister Kelsea for the first time in 7 years; she has new children I’ve never seen, and none of her four sons remember me.  I am stealing one of their sons’ rooms for myself while I’m here.  I feel somewhat guilty, but the 9-yr-old seems honored to have me sleeping on his little bed.  I’ve missed being around family.  We need to eat.

1:45 PM: Provo.  We eat at the Legendary Cafe Rio.  they herd you like cattle through long lines, you bus your own trays, and yet it’s just as expensive as a restaurant.  the food is good, but it’s clear these guys are making money hand over fist.  It makes me jealous, but I’m too full and lazy to do anything about it.  We linger over quesadillas and pork salads, and I begin to realize that Provo has some gratifying aspects after all.  And free refills!  Oh fountain soda, how I praise thee!  This is the land of milk and honey; mass consumption and instant gratification.  How could anything be wrong in Zion?

5:00 PM: Provo.  I visit my brother-in-law and his wife at the hospital, where she gave birth the day before to a son, Seamus. He’s a wrinkly thing, but is pretty cute.  I start wondering when or if I’ll have children, and my mind drifts back to John Hatch’s blog post about how having kids changes you.  I wonder if I’ll ever be who I need to be without kids.  Could God be God without being also a Heavenly Father?  I’m getting philosophical and contemplative — must be all the chapels and temples everywhere.

6:00 PM: Springville.  I visit my old professor, Gideon Burton, for dinner.  He’s a brillant man with a charming and wonderful family.  After dinner comes FHE — the theme is missionary work.  I realize that for a Ward Mission Leader, I sure don’t do much missionary work!  I’d like to tell myself that my missionary work takes the form of being an example, etc. but I feel like a hypocrite thinking that way.  I am determined to be of more service to the missionaries I work with.  I wonder how long that feeling will last.

10:00 PM: Orem.  I drop in to visit my other utah sister, Kerry, who had been in NYC the week before.  I didn’t tell her I was coming.  Instead, I rang her doorbell while talking to her on the cell about how great it was to see her.  Heh.  A good surprise prank.  Her reaction is almost worth the plane ticket cost alone: wide-open mouth surprise.  Her husband and kids are equally shocked.  I wish I had enough money to do this more often.

Tuesday

10:00 AM: Lindon/SLC.  Sleeping in!  Ahh, the guilty pleasure.  A breakfast of oatmeal and I’m off, on the road to SLC.  Again I have an unconfirmed sighting of a Dutch Oven restaurant, somewhere in the Lehi vicinity.  Must investigate further upon return.  I spend the morning wandering around downtown SLC, seeing the new Conference Center, the downtown plaza and the Church administration buildings.  I visit some friends that work there — some tough public relations situations coming soon for the Church.  People really look similar around here!  I begin to crave NYC’s minorities, while at the same time I revel in the sameness and simple acceptance of being one of many carbon copies.

12:00 PM: SLC.  Lunch at Caffe Molise with D. Fletcher’s sister.  She is a hoot!  We have a great time at lunch shooting the breeze about everything and nothing.  I am jealous of her freedom as a journalist and her level of social involvement.  She is jealous that I can print whatever I want in a blog, with impunity.  Hah!  Lunch is pretty good, a panini sandwich that tastes like people actually know what a panini is.

1:50 PM: Provo.  I haul a** back to Provo because I’m late for Jim Faulconer’s Heidegger Class.  I’d spent a week trying to decipher "The Origin of the Work of Art" (Jim’s advice: "you don’t have to read the German"), and I sure as hell wasn’t going to throw those hours of head-scratching away for nothing.  Jim is a terrific teacher: he is engaging, patient, and precise.  He parses the Heidegger very closely, and a host of new questions rush in where the old ones used to be.  Very few answers are in the mix, but I suspect that’s the point.  I later describe Jim’s class as "All-Bran for the mind."

4:00 PM: Provo.  I decide to spend several hours walking the shelves of the BYU Bookstore.  I pass plenty of Norton Anthologies and enough copies of Homer to sink Odysseus’ ship, but glean a few morsels: I buy some Melville, some Yeats, Hugo, Flanery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Kirkegaard, and some vintage Faulconer: <i>Historicity and the Latter-Day Saint Scriptures</i>.  (Provoites, this one is on sale cheap!).  Maybe I’ve bought too many books.  The cashier complements my taste.  I’m worried she will ask me out.  I hope the pesky helpfulness of Provo is not infectious.

7:00 PM: Orem.  Dinner with my sister Kelsea, the kids, and Kelsea’s sister-in-law, Amy.  Amy looks fantastic and is doing great.  She is one of my favorite people, and now I start to realize how I’ve lost touch with some of the best influences in my life by moving out East.  Amy works with the company that runs our restaurant, and so after dinner she makes the kids go into the kitchen to do dishes, which they cheerfully do, viewing the occasion as a treat.  Later, they do a little dance for us wearing their dishwashers’ outfits.  It’s such a demented scene, but I am really taking joy from being around family.  What’s wrong with me??

Wednesday

9:00 AM: Provo.  I go to Gideon Burton’s History of Civilization class. Their theme is the history of mankind through The Journey.  Today’s class is on The Canterbury Tales.  Some interesting ideas regarding reflexivity and the rhetorical triangle are bounced around.  I note that the tales aren’t about their obstensive moral lessons; the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath are telling us more about themselves throught their stories than anything else.  Chaucer is a master, painting his world for us by embodying it in characters and their stories.  I can’t stomach too much Chaucer, but I never tire of discussing it.  Was it a mistake to ever leave academia?  These classes are far more entertaining and gratifying than anything I’ve since experienced in my profession.  Am I on the wrong path?  It’s too late to spend a great deal of time worrying about it.

11:30 AM: Provo.  I meet Frank McIntyre.  You know how people say that it’s tougher to disagree with people in person, and that once you sit down with someone, the dynamic changes forever?  Not so with Frank.  My opinion of him remains unchanged: he is terribly smart and bold, but on social issues we will rarely see eye-to-eye.  Somehow, that seems OK to me now, instead of bothering me, which is good enough.  I later meet Wilfried Decoo, who is as charming and wonderful in person as he is online.  You couldn’t ask for a kinder, more thoughtful person. 

Once again, a random BYU person says hi and compliments me on my "cool" SUV.  I hate SUVs, remember?  Evil?  But I have to admit, I like riding higher up and it’s a pretty smooth ride…. have I lost my soul forever?

12:30 PM: Provo.  I meet up with Jim & Janice Faulconer for lunch.  Their house is filled with fun, interesting books, great furniture and artifacts from all over.  Their kitchen is unbelievable, filling me with envy.  We eat some Korean food for lunch, Jim speaking Korean to the staff.  It’s great, not too spicy, and the lunchtime conversation is fun.  Sumer will be really sorry that she couldn’t be here to meet them.  I only hope that she and I can have the great, fun relationship that Jim & Janice have.  In many ways, I find them to be the ideal couple, and I wish I’d known them sooner.  Rebecca is lucky!

3:00 PM: Springville/Orem
.  I circle back to Art City to see the house Sumer and I lived in when we first got married.  Those were some great days for us, and seeing the house brings back some fond memories.  This whole trip is like one big Proustian madeleine — I walk slowly and deliberately, like I’m wading through streams of memories.  As I’m wading, I see a stream, and the coincidence strikes me.  I take a picture of the stream, then head back to Orem to go to the movies with my nephew John, who’s going into the MTC soon.  We see Million Dollar Baby.  It’s a profound and meaningful movie.  Best picture this year?  No.  But it’s pretty good; watch Kulturblog for a review one of these days.

7:00 PM: Orem/SLC.  I meet up with Bob, pick up some CDs for the road and head up to Salt Lake for a small bloggernacle party with Ryan Bell and John Fowles.  We arrive late, and John Fowles has already left.  I still don’t believe he exists, Rosalynde’s protestations notwithstanding.  We have a good time talking with Ryan, who is a really nice guy despite being tied to some new nazi blog.  We ponder the future of the Bloggernacle as Bob and I return home.  I’m glad to be blogging with Bob, who is soon becoming one of my favorite people.  I get back to Lindon, look up and see stars I haven’t seen in years since living in major cities.  I remember learning celestial navigation in boy scouts, and all kinds of metaphors come to mind.  But I need to go to sleep for now.

Thursday

12:00 PM: Provo.  After packing, I go out to eat with my sister Kelsea and her husband one more time.  We settle on a pizza factory.  "Settle" is the right word.  The pizza is no good, though there is lots of soda.  Provo is beginning to lose its charm; lunch is expensive, for poor food and mediocre service.  Time to go back to NYC, where I can get good food for my money, and where service isn’t even part of the equation.  On the road to the airport I spy the Dutch Oven Restaurant.  I snap a picture and hope it turns out.  Too bad I couldn’t eat there when I got the chance.  Farewell, Utah — I feel reinvigorated and refreshed.  My soul feels better after being with family and friends, soaking in all these memories.  I return home to make new memories, all my own.

Comments

  1. It’s like Bridget Jones’ Diary without the cigarettes, alcohol, and casual, single sex!

  2. I know… I couldn’t find any of those three items in Utah. Well, not as an alumnus, anyhow.

  3. 12:30 AM: Provo. I meet up with Jim & Janice Faulconer for lunch.

    I can imagine the Faulconer’s (although I’ve never met them) agreeing to meet you for lunch (?) at 12:30 a.m., but I cannot imagine a restaurant being open in Provo at that hour.

    Obviously this whole thing is fiction.

  4. I left Provo in 1996, and have been back occasionally over the years. It’s disheartening to me to see monstrosities like Provo Town Center and whatever that place is up on Canyon Road turn the area into just another location for all of the national chains.

    Does anyone else remember fried pickles at Friar Tucks?

  5. Oh, and Steve, you shouldn’t wait seven years to see your sister ever again. Especially if you want to keep on being the “cool uncle”.

    Sounds like it was a good trip, mostly about people, not places or things.

  6. erp… that should be PM. Thanks for the nitpick Mark B.!

  7. “a good trip, mostly about people, not places or things”

    That’s a good description. If I were doing places/things, there are plenty of better vacation ideas out there. The closest I came to “things” was rooting through the bookstore.

    I think seven years is about right, though :)

    oh, and p.s., if anyone wants high-res versions of the images, I can email them.

  8. So did you get the tres leches or not?

  9. Julie in Austin says:

    The best price I could find online for Historicity and the Latter-Day Saint Scriptures was 86$. . .

  10. I didn’t! I forgot.

  11. Really, Julie??

    It’s a fun book so far, though Louis Midgley is even more curmudgeonly than I expected. The bookstore’s selling it for $10, hardcover. You should get someone to ship you a copy. Heck, you could probably even call the bookstore directly and they’d do it. Just call (801) 378-4636.

  12. Steve –

    This was fun to read! It made me *almost* want to go to Utah :)

  13. I have to agree that Bob Caswell is a very nice/cool guy. I enjoyed meeting him (as well as all the others) at the first Fowles get-together.

    I wish I hadn’t missed this last one. I understand you guys were hanging out until 11:00pm. I was ready to arrive at 9:00pm but assumed the fest might already be over. Stupid, stupid.

  14. Enh — Bob’s okay. You should meet his wife.

  15. Bob Caswell says:

    Steve,

    Thanks for the travelblog entry, very nice. I too had a great time discussing the fate of the Bloggernacle (plus top secret Church policy changes) from within your “economy” car. I’m surprised I didn’t ruin the evening with all my introspective whining about how-does-blogging-fit-into-my-life. But you were nice to put up with me and gave me some good tips / empathy. By the way, I would have eaten with you at the Dutch Oven place… But for the record, you didn’t miss much. It’s not much different than Chuck-A-Rama or Golden Corral, and it costs like $12 a person (which, for those uneducated in Utah stuff-your-self-with-mediocre-food places, is a lot. And yes, I’ve eaten at all three places probably more than I care to admit, family, you know).

    Danithew,

    Logan’s right; we need to have a meet the wives party (although they may not be as excited as we are).

  16. I’d like to get my wife to go to a bloggersnacker or whatever we want to call it. The problem is she’s positively leery of the online meet-ups. However, she was willing to meet up with D. Fletcher in New York (though we didn’t manage it) because I had met him in “real life.” So there is hope.

  17. Kim Ö. says:

    Thanks for the interesting travelog!

    You wrote:

    “… some tough public relations situations coming soon for the Church”

    Care to elaborate on that? :)

  18. Kim: nope.

  19. I haven’t been there in 5 years, but Cafe Molise used to be one of my favorite restaurants in SLC.

  20. Thanks for the pics Steve. Napoleon was dynamite!

  21. Steve -

    You have no idea just how lucky I really am to be a Faulconer, but I am glad you got a glimpse of it. And I agree that my parents do have a relationship that all should desire.

    Wonderful post, it made me a little homesick.

  22. Your reticence re: the upcoming PR problem is both admirable and really, really irritating.

  23. I know, I know. But we’re a blog, not a newspaper, Ann. We do as we please, to the irritation of all!

  24. Frank McIntyre says:

    It was good to meet you, Steve. Glad you could stop by!

  25. Good to meet you too, Frank. I remain jealous of your setup — nice double computer screens.

  26. I am willing to guess that the PR problem is the Martha Beck book and the fact that Oprah loves her. This is really going to be a mess.

  27. It is one of many potential difficulties. SLC will have its hands busy. But God bless ‘em, they’re a good bunch of people.

  28. Nate Oman says:

    Has someone unearthed documents showing that the angle Moroni actually turned into salamander upon delivering the plates to Joseph. Oh wait, we’ve already done that…

  29. Dutch Oven Buffet restaurant update: it has gone out of business. I don’t know when or why, but in the past few weeks I noticed a different sign where it used to be. So to those of you who never ate there, guess what: you missed out. But before I gloat too much, let me remember how overpriced ($10 a person, I think) it was for mediocre (read: mostly bland) food. Its only redeeming feature: all-you-can-eat. But that wasn’t enough to save it, I guess.

  30. a random John says:

    Maybe that is the “potential difficulty” that Steve foresaw!

  31. Hard to believe since it was packed when I went there. $10 seemed like a deal to me, but I had been living in New York for about a year at that point. What sort of a margin can you possibly make on $10 meals?

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