The front page of the Standard-Examiner, delivered to our door, had this headline:

Utahns thrilled over a possible third Romney presidential run

Notice how the embedded AP article actually uses the word “excited”? Not “thrilled’? They sure didn’t ask THIS Utahn, who is “disgustipated” at the thought of a possible President Mitt Romney. Such is daily life Behind the Zion Curtain. You learn to live with it, just like the smog…and the sun. While the east coast is buried in snow, we are enduring the dry-est winter ever: yes, only 1 time skiing the mountain.

And I thought I was on my way out of here last fall, when I started blogging. But there’s no escaping it–this is my place and these are my people. So begins My Mormon Captivity, Chapter 35: Reasons to Stay…

The harsh and unforgiving landscape hasn’t changed, but the so-called Mormon monoculture is always changing. That missionary doorway swings both ways. Multi-cultural societies happen.

Two more changes since I was side-tracked in Ogden in 1980–while riding on a flatbed railroad car from Lincoln, Nebraska– en-route to Seattle:

The Ogden River Parkway

RiverParkway

Ogden River Parkway

the FrontRunner

The FrontRunner

The FrontRunner

Things beyond the realm of my imagination when I had stumbled in from the tracks–35 years ago–with the other bums, tumbling off a freight train, waking up to a sun-blasted landscape.

“Where the hell are we?” I asked the guy next to me. I was adjusting the straps of my backpack. He was Native American and had a bedroll under his arm. One hand cupped over his eyes, he had a noble visage, squinting at the city spread along the base of rugged foothills.

“Whitefish, Montana,” he decided. “I’ve been here once before. “Let’s go into town and get a bottle.”

Not sure where my guide ended up, but I went straight to the Weber County Library…and have been attached to it in one capacity or another ever since. WTF? That’s another thing that didn’t exist in 1980. People didn’t use initials to communicate. In those long ago days we all had to use real words. Those old slow days of long ago.

River Parkway Construction

River Parkway Construction

So I biked the River Parkway to the Intermodal Transit Station and FrontRunner-ed to Salt Lake City. Arrived at Caputo’s with the lunch hour rush. The noise was incredible, echoing off tiled surfaces, every table jammed…except that one outside in the sun, apparently reserved for me. City people–they just don’t get it. The real world is outside.

Prosciutto & provolone panini on a ciaboatta bun was the daily special…and it was, out on the deck over-looking the loading dock. Hot, messy, piquant, membranes of my mouth scraped raw. Stomach-stuffing and delicious, but WHY is it so popular Now? Your mouth shouldn’t have to heal after a meal. Did you know the Pet Shop Boys had a song about it in 1995?

Paninaro*

Feeling renewed, I followed the 300 South bike lane all the way to 500 East and then it was up, up, up to the Aves. People out strolling in the unseasonably warm afternoon. Parents herding children into vehicles, home-lunch over, and back to school. Rounded the Governor’s Mansion at G Street and turned right on 1st Avenue, rolling into the parking lot behind the Utah Arts Council.

Had a brief chat with Alyssa Hickman Grove, Constituent Relations & Media– I’m a Constituent and I have Media.

“So you won the award in 2005?” she asked, circling the date and Utah Arts Council name on the back cover of Return to Circa ’96.

“It took nine years,” I said, “but I finally got it published. Last week!”

Alyssa is the new editor of LitOps. Maybe I’ll get a mention? Really, though, it’s been ten years since this novel won 1st Prize in the Utah Original Writing Competition. Hey, do the math. Guess I still can’t believe it’s taken than long to publish.

From there it was all downhill, booming and zooming down 500 South in the sun amid little traffic. Found myself a member of a Critical Mass at one intersection as three of us road abreast: me and an even older dude on an even badder bike keeping pace with a tall, slender dude on an electric scooter, scooting down the sidewalk in an old-fashioned duster, flaps flying in the breeze. Turned right onto the 300 South Bike Lane, arriving at the Salt Lake City Film Society just in time for the matinee of Birdman.

Greatest movie ever about movies & theater!

The only thing I can think of to compare it to is a cross between All That Jazz…and a roller coaster ride.  All filmed on-location, as an actor / director / producer prepares for what could be his greatest mistake. And appearing to be recorded in one continuous shot. A bravura demonstration of showbiz. Just the ticket for any writer wanting perspective on the vicissitudes of Performance Art. Birdman? C’est moi.

Birdman

Birdman trailer

* (The song is about the 1980s Italian youth subculture known as the paninari; derived from the word panino, Italian for sandwich, they were known for congregating in restaurants serving sandwiches and in the first US-style fast food restaurants, as well as their preference for designer clothing and 1980s pop music such as the New Romantic music of Duran Duran.)

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