Yesterday our bus was late heading into Salt Lake City, which was great because it put our group in the position to be able to see the city we were headed towards, rather than just magically wake up there. It was interesting to watch as we rolled into Salt Lake because we were literally in the middle of nowhere for the longest time, and then all of sudden the landscape of a city came into view. It didn’t appear to be too big or too small, but just the right size with tall buildings, an oil refinery and billboards waiting for us in the distance. Noticing that the mountains were situated around the city, it occurred to me that Salt Lake City is as unique as the grand body of water that it is named after.
After showering at Westminster College our group headed to lunch at Tony Caputo’s Deli downtown. It too was just the right size for a Sunday afternoon. The rustic little restaurant was very welcoming as we ordered our various sandwiches and salads. I couldn’t help but feel like this restaurant, and even the entire block did not belong in Salt Lake City, at least not the preconceived image of Salt Lake that I had in my head. I wasn’t expecting Utah to have a grid system that was easily navigational, and I wasn’t expecting such progressive, cultural restaurants either. We later found out that this deli was rated America’s Outstanding Specialty Restaurant for 2009, and none of us were surprised at all. Inquiring more about the restaurant I stroke up a conversation with two employees by the names of Andrew and Evan. Andrew informed me on the Caputo’s history that goes back about ten years. According to Andrew, “You wouldn’t come to this side of town ten years ago.” But apparently Tony Caputo did come, and he built his restaurant here and because of his restaurant that the entire neighborhood began to improve. As Andrew and I talked, he pointed out Mr. Caputo as he entered the deli. I caught him headed towards the back of the store carrying a painting that was wider than his frame and I wasn’t surprised at all to see what seemed like a forward thinking man bringing value in the door with him. Lunch at Caputo’s was a nice way to start off the day because it put a good taste in my mouth (literally) concerning Salt Lake, especially with the chocolate. There was a specific section in the deli that served fresh gourmet chocolates (all made from Mr. Caputo’s recipes), and they were good. Several of us bought different pieces and I think we all enjoyed them. The restaurant also featured chocolate called Amedei, which is the #1 chocolate in the world. Supposedly only 14 places sell it, and we all tasted a piece. Let’s just say it was pretty awesome. It had a very rich chocolate flavor and because of that it was a little overwhelming, but completely enjoyable.
Although the food and the chocolate at Caputo’s was great the discussion that I had with Andrew and Evan was not so great because it revealed a side of Salt Lake that I had not noticed yet. They mentioned how the city and even the state government was so influenced by the Latter Day Saints culture that they felt like they were living in a “theocracy.” They elaborated on this sentiment by mentioning several laws and policies that I found to be quite absurd like the Not-a-Drop Law (where anyone under 21 caught driving with the slightest amount of alcohol in their system receives an automatic DUI), the fact that all liquor stores must be state run, limits on the amount of tickets for an R-rated movie that a person under 25 can purchase, banning certain films (like Brokeback Mountain) because they represent the LGBT community. There were even rumors that a certain LDS university in Salt Lake was known for treating gay and lesbian students with electro-shock therapy in order to “cure” them. To my knowledge, this rumor has not been confirmed but I think that it is still worth taking notice of. After talking to Andrew and Evan I didn’t leave Caputos Deli with the great taste of chocolate that I was hoping to leave with. It was more like intolerance.
As I walked through Gateway Mall later that day I couldn’t help but notice that there were no traces of the intolerance the guys at Caputo’s wised me up to. In fact the Gateway seemed to be just an extension of the hip environment that surrounded the deli. I saw more diversity than I was expecting. Interracial families, minorities (mostly of Latin descent), same sex couples, liberal individuals, and stereotypical majority Salt Lakers all walked around and shopped in the same mall. I also noticed that a lot of the stores were very familiar. This seemed like the type of mall that could be any where in America, and there were no traces of specifics that were unique to Salt Lake. In the Sociological world this McDonaldization is frowned upon usually. But in this situation, I wondered if the familiar was really that bad. If the familiar brought so many different types of people together, I questioned where the bad was in that. There was a fountain shooting water from the floor with children playing around it, and God Bless America was playing in the background. The scene was so nice that I wondered if the Caputo’s guys were wrong about Salt Lake City. Then the issue with the security guard happened.
Rashina, Chris and I were walking around the mall, and Chris was taking pictures as he always does when we were approached by a security guard with really cheap sunglasses. He asked Chris what he was taking pictures of. Chris replied that he was just capturing the scene. The security guard asked again what he was taking pictures of and then told Chris to put the camera away. Although we all felt awkward, Chris complied and began to walk away. The officer then called us back and told Chris that he was to leave the mall now. We tried to explain to him that we were traveling in a group and that we couldn’t leave, but he proceeded to raise his voice, commanding us to exit the premises. So we walked towards the exit. After taking several steps we noticed that this same security guard was following us, and the one word that came to my mind was intolerance. It seemed like the guys at Caputo’s were right.
I kept thinking about this idea of tolerance as we continued throughout our day. As we walked around Temple Square and went on our guided tour, I couldn’t help notice not only the hidden intolerance but also the blatant attempts at socialization. All of the tour guides that we met seemed to lack personality. And I don’t mean that they were boring people, they just didn’t seem like people. Talking with these women put me in the mind set of Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives, which is unsettling to think about. In the North Center, the Christus that took up the second floor gave several people goose bumps. It was comprised of a twenty foot statue of the Christ, surrounded by a backdrop of walls painted like the galaxy, along with a recording of someone ominously reading several scriptures in attempts to sound like Christ. I think that this is a classic example of what most of the architecture is trying to do: put visitors in a place of vulnerability in order to win them over. As a Christian this bothers me, and that’s all that I will say about that…
From here our group headed over to the “Damn these Heels” Film Festival at the Tower Theatre. We watched OutRage, a new documentary about closeted politicians who were being “outed” because of their support of anti-gay rights. I thought that director Kirby Dick did a great job of displaying some of the hypocrisy that is hidden behind the white walls of the White house. Whether you agree with gay rights or not, I think there is something to be said about a government in which the politicians in it feel the need to closet their true identities. You would think that in a true democracy people would be able to honest about who they were and what they preferred whether it’s right or wrong, because it’s a personal choice to be right or wrong. When choices like that are stripped from you, I think it’s time to sit down and rethink the ideology behind democracy. It seems like Salt Lake City, more specifically some of its citizens may want to rethink some things.