Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


The Oil Refineries

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 3:44 pm

I have been working at my present job for over two years. Every day, since October 2002, I have driven past the two oil refineries in North Salt Lake. They sit on the west side of I-15 and the activist inside of me thinks, “They are polluting my city.” I watch the billowing smoke and the dramatic flames jumping from the towers and the hippie in me shakes her head.

The thing is, those parts of me don’t win out. The logician in me thinks, “Sure glad they’re around so that I can drive my Beetle to work every day.” The husband of a friend of mine works at one of those refineries and almost lost his life there. I’m grateful for those hardworking individuals at the refineries.

The artist inside of me looks that the billowing smoke and dramatic flames and thinks, “Sweet Jesus, that’s purty.” My artist has a southern accent. She is a 350 pound black woman who sings like Nell Carter, paints like Rothko and writes like no one else on the planet. She loves the oil refineries. When they are silhouetted by the sunset, she wants to sing. She doesn’t know any love songs dedicated to oil refineries, so she usually just sings whatever is on her mind or MP3 player.

Somehow, the activist and hippie are subjugated by my logician and artist. The oil refineries are one of the two major milestones of my drive home, the other being the beer billboard I pass every day. Once a huge swarm of starlings kept circling one of the refineries. I almost ran the Beetle off the road watching them fly around and through and over the towers and machinery.

I’m never stuck in traffic when I’m driving past the refineries, so I don’t get to just sit and enjoy the grandeur. My attention is always divided, focusing primarily on the road. I don’t know how I would get a picture of the beauty that I see every day to share it with you. You’ll just have to believe me when I tell you, “Sweet Jesus, it’s purty.”



  1. Laura, This is an interesting post for me. I am a Southern form the gulf state of Texas. I grew up in Pasadena/Deer Park area, which is right outside of Houston, where the Houston ship channel is rimmed with oil refineries. Deer park is the Oil Refinery capital of the entire state if not nation. Companies like Shell Oil, Diamond, Olin, Mobile, have had, are still have their home head quarters there. When I was a child growing up there and before all the clean air regulatory acts where in place, we use to call the area, Stink-a-dena. I never thought; however, the refineries were aesthetically pleasing in any way. Although at night, from a distance, all the lights of a refinery do look like a huge Christmas display of sorts. What a crazy World we live in today. The hippie and activist wants to tear them down, but we know we need them so we can have what we in our civilized culture require in our daily lives. If they are not in our own back yards, we would be asking them to go to someone else’s backyard. Its like ‘Out-Sourcing,’ today in one sence. I can cry about how bad it is and how greedy and how so Capitalistic ‘Out-Sourcing’ is. Yet, I do very much appreciate the 700 dollar lap top I write on everyday that would have cost me 1200 dollars if it had not been made over seas. So who is the greedy ones here. What a strange world it is… Peace- Clifford

    Comment by clifford — 1/26/2005 @ 5:09 pm

  2. Thank you for the nice comment. I want to stop one evening and take a picture of my refineries. Today, they were surrounded by our Utah fog, which gave them a mystical, alien-city feel.

    The thought of your refineries in Texas makes me want to go there just to see their lights. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Laura Moncur — 1/26/2005 @ 6:17 pm

  3. I am a sculptor, writer and freespirit…and work as a structural steel engineer for one of “your refineries”. I find myself marveling and torn by concience daily by the beauty, filth and intrinsic utility of my plant. I too was born in ’69 and was extremely active in early S.L.C. early/mid eighties punk scene. I wonder if we crossed paths… green dreads in ’86

    Comment by Christopher — 12/21/2006 @ 8:04 pm

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