My Schizophrenic Salt Lake

The biggest Gay Pride Day Parade in the United States took place last week in Salt Lake City, Utah. Go figure. The sparkle, feather boas and stilettos were enough to lift the hairs on Brigham Young’s granite statue. It took place in downtown Salt Lake City without incident or harassment. Several years ago I rode on Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson’s float and at one corner we were heckled by a group of sour-faced people with a little too much to say, but then Rocky was a magnet for controversy during his tenure. Those protestors may have been stating their dislike of Rocky starting a domestic partners insurance program for employees of the city. This week is “Damn These Heels,” a gay and lesbian film festival.

Crowd watching Pride Day Parade on a Sunday morning.

Salt Lake has one of the biggest gay and lesbian communities in the country. It’s always a surprise to people who only hear the headlines from the LDS Church that being gay or lesbian is a choice that can be overcome with the right choices. The argument that being gay may be genetic was answered by LDS Elder Boyd K. Packer in October 2010, when he said during Conference, “Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our Father.”

The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing in Salt Lake’s art scene either. The most popular art in homes almost looks like paint by numbers kits, or sterilized portrayals of scenes from the Book of Mormon, but we were named “bohemian” by Richard Florida’s Creative Class Group and one of the top arts destination by AmericanStyle Magazine. It’s true. Salt Lake is a valley of almost a million people and the week’s list of art gallery openings, concerts for thousands or handfuls in coffee shops, dance and theatre groups is truly astounding.

Want another example of this city’s internal dyspepsia? Utah is the number one consumer of vanilla ice cream and the best devotee of family Sunday dinners that include green jello with canned fruit. But, I accept your thank you on behalf of this fair state, for the world renowned chocolate produced by Cummings Studio Candies and Amano Artisan Chocolate. Thinking of them truly gives me prideful pause.

Caffeine, let alone a glass of wine is a sin to many here. A real sin. Have I mentioned the best wine store west of the Mississippi? It’s within five miles of my house. Yet, we have the highest rate of deaths due to overdose of legal, prescribed medication.

We’re in a few other races for schizophrenic behavior. Family devotion and community brotherhood is a belief, but we have some of the highest statistics for divorce of people under thirty and more than a handful of slick con artists who bilk their church neighbors for millions. We have one of the highest birth rates and the youngest population in the country, but we’re unwilling to educate them. Our spending is the lowest per capita in the nation.

Yesterday I was driving downtown passed the crucial two city blocks the LDS Church  owns and closed down two years ago to rebuild to their heart’s delight with office buildings, condominiums and a mall. I spotted the new facade of the mall and it struck me as sweetly funny and misguided that a religion that suffers through decades before adjusting to a new belief, can blithely wipe out the city’s downtown center. Respect for their own architecture could be compared to nil.

Utah is a colorful, wonderful, ridiculous state that doesn’t understand why it’s so funny. I was born and raised here, but have always been an outsider and a step-child. Yet, I love this place that does not love me back. There is a mean tolerance on both sides between LDS and non-LDS, but at least the LDS agree on one thing We small familied people who enjoy our wine are a good tax base.

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2 Responses to My Schizophrenic Salt Lake

  1. Outlier Babe says:

    Wow. I’ve been there and have a nephew who lives there. Had no idea the place was that weird. This is the most interesting piece I’ve ever read on Salt Lake. Thanks!

    • Salt Lake truly is a study in contradictions. I think much of it is based in its LDS heritage that is controlling and judgmental. One way or another people rebel. If you’re there again, pick up one of the free newspapers and you’ll see an astounding list of very alternative things to do, but the Salt Lake Tribune Arts Section is also a start.

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