Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur

11/5/2003

Old Cowboy Winter

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 6:05 am

The storm is coming. This morning the sky was blue, but now the clouds are hiding the sun and the small patch of blue is closing in on itself. It feels like fall again. The crispy leaves are falling and spotting the grass below the trees. Some years we get so much snow so quickly that the leaves don’t get a chance to crisp up before they are torn from the trees. That’s winter in Utah.   I am just an old country boy in a big town trying to get along. I have been eating pretty regular and the reason I have been is because I have stayed an old country boy.             Will Rogers

We are the west. This is the state where so many cowboy movies were filmed. Our red rocks of Zion are famous and the area is still used to film desert scenes. Why is it that westerns never show the winter? I’m not talking about the slick westerns like Lonesome Dove. I’m talking the westerns that make the rest of the world think about us. Clint Eastwood and Gary Cooper never fumbled with mittens in a gun fight. When the rest of the world imagines the West, they think of those cowboys.

Does the rest of the world know about Utah winters? When I went to college, we had a student from Great Britain. He was shocked at our winter. I admit that we had an unusually cold winter that year. You could feel the wet air freeze the hairs in your nose that winter. I have to rub my nose just thinking about it now. He didn’t come back to Westminster the next year. I probably shouldn’t blame our winter for that. It was probably our watered down beer; he was British, after all.

Cover a war in a place where you can’t drink beer or talk to a woman?
Hell no!”
Hunter S. Thompson (1939 – )

They have warned us about the storm all week. It’s supposed to be the first snow of the year. It’s supposed to be a big one. The sun just peeked out from the clouds to contradict the weatherman. I think they don’t know anything. Sure, there is a nip in the air. It’s supposed to get colder in the Fall. That doesn’t mean that winter is here already. I think the weathermen are just yes-men for the ski resorts. Snowbird tell the weatherman that he has an offer that he can’t refuse and there suddenly is a big storm planned for today. Park City tells the other weatherman to predict snow and he jumps. I can imagine the owners of the resorts to be like mob bosses. Instead of councilmen, they have weathermen in their pockets. I guess I’m wrong. The sun went back into hiding.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672), ‘Meditations Divine and Moral,’ 1655 Snow or not, I know that summer is gone. It might not be winter yet, but I do know that my tank tops and short shorts are put away for the season. I am so grateful for the seasons. The summer makes me grateful for the winter and the winter makes me excited for the summer. Bring it on, West Wind! Roll in those clouds! If winter must come, let it come with silver-plated glory.

12/4/2003

Utah Fog

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:32 am

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
 - Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967), Chicago Poems (1916) “Fog”

It was foggy the other morning when I drove into work. It was as if the clouds ran into the mountains and got stuck in our valley. I remember as a child flying to Billings, Montana to see my grandma and grandpa. When we got into the clouds, I was so disappointed that they just looked like so much fog that fills our city almost every winter. Instead of the fluffy and soft pillows, they were just mist.

They call it an inversion. We get them almost every winter here in Salt Lake. Unlike many people, I like it when it comes. I’m not claustrophobic, so the enclosing mist that clouds the vision of drivers feels like a hug to me. It makes everything smaller. Instead of being able to glance out my window and see my beloved mountains, I have to strain. I have to look through the fog to see a glimpse of them. Sometimes they are totally invisible behind the clouds that are stuck in our valley.

Even though I live with fog every winter, I don’t think of it as a feature of Salt Lake City. Fog is for romantic cities like San Francisco and London. I can’t even imagine the mysteries that can be hidden in the fog could possibly hide in our fog. Our fog is bright, even though it obscures the sun so much that you can barely see the yellow disk peeking out from behind it. Sometimes a foggy day can feel more bright than a cloudy day. How could evil lurk behind our fog when it is so bright?

Our fog is very dry. It’s not the kind of fog that sticks to your skin and clothing like it does in San Francisco. No, this is the fog of a desert winter. Our fog is not really a mist. It’s more like scentless smoke. I guess I’m meteorologically challenged. I don’t know how it can be so dry and foggy at the same time, yet I experience it every year. Dry fog isn’t nearly as picturesque as the kind of fog that makes the hero shine with tiny droplets. This stuff is more like the junk that comes out of a fog machine without the stink.

Maybe a visitor would think our fog was romantic. Maybe it’s just that I see it every year that it seems like there is no danger lurking there for me. I remember roller skating to school in the cold, dry fog. There was no danger in my mind. There was just fast skating with the cold wind on my face. The worst that I could imagine was a stray rock that may have escaped from the RV parking of a neighbor’s house. Maybe if this was a new town to me, this fog would feel dangerous. How could it be dangerous when I roller skated through it so quickly?

12/8/2003

Pigeons

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:32 am

I don’t remember ever seeing any pigeons in Utah when I was a kid. I remember Burt on Sesame Street talking about how much he loved pigeons. I remember the Pigeon Dance that he did, but I don’t remember ever seeing them in Salt Lake. I vaguely remember asking my grandma why we didn’t have pigeons like Burt and Ernie did and I think she said pigeons only live in big cities.

God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into its nest.  - J.G. Holland

My first memory of Salt Lake pigeons was in 1991. I had been married for over a year and we lived in a 400 square foot apartment in the Trolley Square area. My friend, Dawni, lived in a different apartment complex just down the street, so I would walk over every day or so to see her, swim in their pool and play tennis on their courts. On the walk over, I passed an abandoned church. I don’t know how long it had been dormant, but it had been long enough for the birds to move in. I remember being shocked at seeing so many pigeons in one area. I thought we weren’t a big enough city to have pigeons.

Those little nimble musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious ditties, with which nature hath furnished them to the shame of art.  - Izaak Walton (1593 – 1683)

Last Saturday, while I filled the gas tank on my car, I noticed a long line of pigeons on the electrical wires above me. They were intermingled with my beloved starlings that swarm the skies all year long here. The pigeons are so much larger than my beautiful little black birds that they were easy to distinguish. I began to think that maybe I just didn’t notice the pigeons when I was a child.

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.  - Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

I remember noticing the sparrows. They were the little birds that my cat, Sugar, hunted relentlessly. Sacrificial sparrow heads would show up at our doorstep every week or so. No matter how much we fed her, she never gave up hunting the little birds all year long. We removed our bird feeder, because Sugar was catching a bird a day when it was up. It hadn’t been a bird feeder; it was a cat feeder.

I remember noticing the starlings. They swarm like locusts instead of flocking like birds. The black cloud of birds would swoop and hover all over the fields of Kennedy Junior High. I remember watching them and wondering why they seemed more like insects when I looked at their flight patterns.

The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.  - Eric Berne

No, I’m wrong. I was the type of child to notice the shiny feathers and strange walk of pigeons. I had been on the lookout for them because Burt had loved them so much. If there had been flocks of pigeons in Salt Lake when I was a child, I would have noticed it. I guess Salt Lake is finally a big enough city to have pigeons.

12/12/2003

Full Moon Monday

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:55 am

When the full moon rises over the Wasatch mountains, it looks like the biggest damn moon you’ve ever seen. You can see the silhouettes of the trees on the top of the mountain against the bright disk of the moon. It’s so difficult to photograph that I’ve given up. I have decided that it is far easier to paint what I see rather than try to wait for the perfect moment with my tripod on cold Salt Lake evenings.

Beauty is a form of genius–is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts in the world like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark water of that silver shell we call the moon.  - Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

The main problem is the Moon Illusion. I see a bigger moon than the camera does. It’s an optical illusion that the camera can never capture, so my pictures develop a disappointingly small moon compared to what I remember seeing.  I have seen photographs of our moon look just as spectacular as the real thing, but I can only think that they are altering the picture somehow.

You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.  - Arlo Guthrie (1947 – )

Last Monday, was a full moon. As I drove home on I-80, it was rising in the crevice between two of our mountains. It was a smoggy day, so the moon was fuzzy. The sun was setting in the west, so the misty clouds around it were a soft pink. It was the kind of pink that makes you think of stuffed bunnies and Easter. I was alone in the car and there was no one to share it with.

One cannot fix one’s eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy.  - Jane Austen (1775 – 1817), Mansfield Park

By the time I got home, the illusion was over. The moon was high enough that it looked its normal size. The sun had finished setting, so the pink afterglow had evaporated. All that was left was the cold air and a greenish hue to the evening sky. I felt as if I was the only person in Salt Lake City to see the loveliness this month.

12/22/2003

Filter

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 2:38 pm

In the original series Star Trek, you could tell when a woman was supposed to be beautiful because the screen would get all soft and fuzzy.  I’m talking the Star Trek with Captain Kirk and his many amours. Our views of beauty have changed so much since then that I can only tell that a woman is supposed to be beautiful when that filter is on the screen and the romantic music starts playing.

I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may – light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.  - John Constable (1776 – 1837)

That is how my city felt on Saturday. There was a soft and fuzzy filter all about it. It made me feel romantic toward the mountains, the leafless trees and even the traffic. All the cars that passed had that same soft and fuzzy grime all over them from the salt on the road. I know it should make me think that they need to be cleaned, but I could hear the romantic music when I saw them. They were beautiful.

12/27/2003

Living with the Snow

Filed under: Christmas,Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:28 am

Yesterday we had a snow storm. After years of drought, I realized that I had gotten forgetful. On the drive to work, it didn’t take long to for the instincts to kick in: don’t use your brakes, coast slowly to a stop, take your foot off the gas when you start to slide, turn into the slide. It took me an extra twenty minutes to get to work. That’s how time used to be measured in the winter. I remember now. In the winter, you need to wake up twenty minutes earlier, just in case it snows.

I dream of wayward gulls and all landless lovers, rare moments of winter sun, peace, privacy, for everyone.  - William F. Claire

It didn’t stop snowing, either. I was assigned to work the day after Christmas: we needed someone to man the phones. It was me and one engineer. The rest of them took the day off, knowing that they would want to celebrate the holiday and thanking themselves for that planning when they woke up to a foot of snow. The longer I stayed, the more nervous I got for the drive home. The plow came twice to clear the parking lot.

And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms. - William Bradford   I don’t know why, but we usually get a drafter to shovel the sidewalks. There were no drafters yesterday, so I bundled up and shoveled the heavy, wet white stuff. I enjoyed being outside in the bright. My body heated up with the physical exertion and my hair became damp with the wet flakes.   The tendinous part of the mind, so to speak, is more developed in winter; the fleshy, in summer. I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and the blood.  - John Burroughs

The red trees that separate our parking lot from the neighboring business lost their leaves long ago. Yesterday, their branches were weighed heavily with the snow that clung to their limbs. I am still worried that their branches will break under the weight and there will be fewer branches for my sparrows when they return from wherever they are hiding. Some of the limbs hung all the way to the ground.

In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.  - Christina G. Rossetti

Welcome back, Old Cowboy Winter. You have been a dry and brittle visitor for the last few years. It’s nice to see that you still have a snowy side. I’d love to talk, but I’ve got a driveway to shovel.

12/30/2003

Snowed In

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 8:20 am

CNN won’t tell you this, but we got a buttload of snow on the 26th. It’s not like there is a conspiracy going on and CNN is hiding the truth about Utah snow. It’s just that there’s that huge earthquake in Iran and all the hoopla about Saddam. Almost three feet of snow in Salt Lake City and the corresponding power outages isn’t enough news to hit CNN’s radar unless they are talking about the ski resorts in fluff pieces.

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.  - Ben Hecht (1893 – 1964)

I live on a small street in Sugarhouse, which is very last on the list of streets to be plowed. On my drive home on the 26th, I got stuck twice just trying to get into the driveway. Once the Beetle was safely in the driveway, it stayed there for two days. We knew it would get stuck again if we tried to leave, so we stayed. The plow finally came the afternoon of the 28th, so we dug out our driveway again and ventured out into the city.   Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps.  - Emo Phillips

You’d think with two days at home, I would have written lots of blog entries. You see, I work like a newspaper. I write my entries a couple of days in advance. While the snow was falling like crazy and I was trapped at work watching it cover the trees, the sidewalk and my car, I wrote Saturday and Sunday’s entries. But while I was held captive in my home, I didn’t write a single word.

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.  - John Irving (1942 – )

It’s not like we were suffering. Our power wasn’t out for two days like it was in some parts of the city. The power was out just down the street. Gandolfo’s was running on generator power. Walgreen’s and Smiths had backup power only. We were the lucky ones. We only had a couple of brown outs and three feet of snow blocking our exit.

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.  - Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)

After all the shoveling, I just wanted to sleep and rest. Even typing on the computer sounded like too much work to me. I couldn’t go to the gym either, but all of that physical labor gave me a better workout than I’ve had in weeks.

Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumbbells? To dig a vineyard is worthier exercise for men.  - Marcus Valerius Martialis (40 AD – 103 AD)

Well, I’m back. The driveway is clear and the Beetle is able to go anywhere again. I am free to go anywhere and do anything and I’m at home writing a blog entry. Maybe I can only write when it’s something that I choose to do. Maybe being stuck in the house without external input gave me little to write about. Maybe I just finally caught up on sleep enough to recover from all of that shoveling. Whatever it is, I’m glad to be back.

3/17/2004

Gallery Stroll

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 11:15 am

Hey guys,

Let’s go to the Gallery Stroll on Friday night. We could eat after we walk through all the galleries.

Check out the website: http://ourcommunityconnection.com/gallerystrollmap.html

What do you guys think?

Laura

Stacey: I have done this before Dan and I were married, it is very fun.  I’m for it.   Dan: I was looking at the page and I noticed one of the items on exhibit was a crumpled up bag of Doritos.  If we can all agree to recreate the beating scenes from SLC Punk if we see this artist, then I’m in.   Stacey: I’m desperately trying to figure out what Chandler would say to that, but my 10 seconds of being funny is gone, so: sounds good.   Laura: Calm down, people. There will be no beatings. If you look at it closely, it’s a painting of a crumpled up bag of Doritos. Isn’t that better.

Stacey: I’m beginning to feel your former paint store attitude come on.  I think a couple of these people probably need a good beating. Everyone does now and then.   Dan: Hey, cool painting.  So, can we at least fight over where we eat?   Stacey: Laura, you guys keep talking about the Oasis place, does everyone want to try that?

Laura: That’s cool with me. What about you, Stacey and Mike? Can you guys imagine this? Mike’s going to come back to the hotel, boot up the laptop and find five hundred messages from us planning the weekend. I’m laughing just thinking about it. :)

Stacey: This is Stacey, and I was the one suggesting Oasis, so how about it Dan and Mike?

Let’s hope that fun will be had by all, even the artist that painted the painting of a crumpled up bad of Doritos. Don’t worry folks, I’ll make sure they only hit him on the fleshy spots.

3/20/2004

Gallery Stroll Review

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 12:56 pm

Yesterday, Stacey, Dan, Mike and I went on the Gallery Stroll. I had never done this before and I imagined the streets filled with people going from gallery to gallery. I imagined a party atmosphere and lots of pretense. I imagined that there would be so much to see and so many people to enjoy that I would be sick of art by the time it was finished.

If we had kept our stroll to the Pierpont Avenue area by the Rio Grande Station, I would have gotten everything that I imagined. Instead, we parked at Crossroads Mall and started on the outskirts of the “Art District” and worked our way in. The first few galleries that we went to were completely empty or even closed. I got the impression that we were the only ones that knew about this event.

By the time we got to the Art District, I was tired and disappointed. By then, the party atmosphere was just annoying and the streets filled with people going from gallery to gallery felt claustrophobic. There was so much pretense that I wanted to just hold some of those people down and tickle them until they peed their pants. I was pretty much sick of all the ART and didn’t see nearly enough art.

Given that review, you might think that I didn’t enjoy myself, but that’s not the case. No matter what the 2X2 Matrix does, I always have fun. All of the pretense was logged in my mind with a grain of salt because I knew that it would make for good conversation fodder at dinner. The long walk was a lot more enjoyable than the same distance spanned at the gym because I was with good friends.

The best parts of the evening were the surprises that had nothing to do with the Gallery Stroll. There was a furniture shop that was in the Art District that had some art, but I enjoyed looking at the used furniture. They had reasonable prices for furniture that was in excellent condition. They had the world’s most perfect orange chair with its original footstool. We have no room for it, but it was perfect and I wished for a corner to put it in.

Across the street from the busiest galleries was HiJinks, which is a store that sells yo-yos and kites. Mike bought a thirty-dollar yo-yo and spun tricks all the way to the restaurant. We ended up eating at The Blue Iguana, by the way, marking our first time eating Mexican Food together. Stacey and Dan don’t care for Mexican food, so this was a momentous event. We had a mole sampler plate and we all chose our favorite mole (Poblano for me). They have the only mole in Salt Lake City, so if you’re in town, make sure you try them.

All in all, the Gallery Stroll was a good excuse to get together. We had fun. We saw lots of paintings. We ate some good food. We drank some free wine and enjoyed strong margaritas. We walked at least three miles. We shared at least a hundred laughs.

8/5/2004

Recycled Buildings

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

It used to be a Galaxy Diner. It was a short-lived restaurant chain here in the Salt Lake Valley. They littered the city with distinctive buildings and then abandoned them within a few years. One of them was torn down and replaced with a bagel shop. The shiny aluminum walls and red highlights were too much for the bagel shop in Murray. They bulldozed the building and started from scratch.

Not so in Bountiful. The red has faded and is need of painting, but the aluminum walls still reflect the light blinding all drivers who pass its way. The red letters proclaiming China Gourmet are two shades darker than the washed out red on the rest of the building. I ache for the soul of the building that was supposed to fulfill its destiny in Fifties Nostalgia instead of Oriental Gorging.

It used to be a Picadilly Fish and Chips. The Tudor-style building is an anomaly in the Sandy neighborhood. The Picadilly Fish and Chips in Sugarhouse was bulldozed last month in favor of big construction on that corner. We don’t know what will replace it, but the old sign said “Say No To Pancakes” before the bulldozer took it down. The building in Sandy still stands, though. Instead of greasy scallops and shrimp, it now houses a Subway sandwich. I don’t know which is worse, the bulldozing or the appropriation and transformation of the building for its new designs.

The Thai restaurant on State Street and 7800 South used to be a Dairy Queen. The Vietnamese Noodle House on State and 2300 South used to be a Taco Bell. The Mexican Restaurant on State and 5800 South used to be an IHOP. They are all distinctive buildings that proclaim their former selves beyond the paint and the new signs.

Part of my regret is the memory of good food. I’ve never eaten at the Mexican restaurant that used to be an IHOP. For the longest time, we didn’t have an IHOP in Utah after that one closed and no matter how good the enchiladas were, I’d still be mourning the International Passport Breakfast.

I think the real problem is that I feel like buildings have personalities. It’s a human tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, but I’ve never met anyone else who felt sorry for old restaurant buildings. I look at the China Gourmet and I think, “Aww, I’m sorry you’re not a Fifties Diner. I’m sorry you aren’t what you were meant to be.” Unfulfilled wishes. That’s what those recycled buildings represent to me. They were meant to be something, whether it was a Fifties diner, a fish and chips joint, or a pancake house. Instead, they are something entirely different. They are productive places with good food, but they aren’t doing what they were meant to do. It just makes me feel a little sad.

8/7/2004

News Fast

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

There’s a reason I don’t watch the news. I don’t want to hear about dead wives and lying husbands. It’s depressing and scary and feeds my paranoia. I don’t even want to hear about the weather. There’s nothing I can do about it. It will come whether I know it’s coming or not. All I can do is keep a jacket and umbrella in the trunk of my car. I just don’t want to hear about it.

Because of my news fast status, however, people love to tell me the news. I’m a gossip’s dream. I never know what’s going on in the city or the world, so when something big happens, people love to tell me the gory details.

Half the time, they get it wrong. “He used the alias ‘John Longfellow.’” “He stuffed her in the mattress.” “He bought the mattress before he called the police to report her missing.” A quick search online checks their facts, but it also breaks my fast. There’s a reason I don’t watch the news. I don’t want to hear about dead wives and lying husbands.

The entire city is abuzz with stories about Lori Hacking and her husband Mark. All I want to do is notice the blue summer sky and keep my mind free from cadaver dogs at the landfill. Everyone wants to recite the timeline. All I want to do is think about all the happy families that have no lies about university degrees between them. Everyone wants to tell me about insanity pleas and convenience store footage. All I want to do is hope for healing for the family and proper justice when the time comes.

The truth of the matter is that I don’t even want to hear about it. There’s nothing I can do about it. There are people dying all over the world right now and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I can’t hear every story about every death. All I can do is keep a tire iron and a can of mace in the trunk of my car. I just don’t want to hear about it.

9/30/2004

Capers

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Maybe you’ve seen it before. I remember seeing the same poster at a Pizza Hut a long time ago. I stopped to look at it again. It’s not that interesting, but Mike was paying the bill and I was waiting for him to ask me how much to put for a tip. He never asked because I distracted him.

The poster was an engineer’s specification on how to build a pizza. It showed the pizza from various elevations complete with measurements. The overhead elevation showed the pizza cut into various pieces with the different toppings you could have. One of the toppings was capers. I was feeling silly, so I asked Mike, “How come we never have capers on our pizza.” It was probably about the time he would have asked me to calculate the tip. Instead, he was forced to think of an answer, “Because we don’t know what they are.”

I was so sure of myself, “Sure we do. They’re… little… onions… I think.” I thought to myself, “Sure, they’re onions. They are tiny little onion things, right?” I wasn’t sure of myself. I was just trying to reassure myself. I knew they tasted good. I usually had them on a salmon pizza at Wasatch Broiler and on bagels with cream cheese and salmon, of course. I just couldn’t quite tell anyone what they were. The closest description I could come up with was onions.

The girl behind the counter took the credit card receipt that Mike had signed and replied, “Really? I thought they were peppers.” When she said that, I imagined green peppers and red peppers and yellow peppers and jalapeno peppers, “No. They’re definitely not peppers. I think they’re little… onion… things.” She became confused and called to the guy in the kitchen, “Hey, what are capers? They’re peppers, right?” The guy held up his fingers and brought them close together as if he had caught a bee, “No, they’re little…” He stopped talking and looked at his fingers.

The waitress in the back tentatively added, “I think they’re seafood. Aren’t they seafood?” I started to panic. I was sending the entire staff of Robintino’s into the depths of a conversation that I had started flippantly while waiting for the credit card receipt. The chef with the fingers replied, “No, they’re not seafood. They’re… little…” His brain short circuited again and he didn’t finish his sentence. Mike confided to me, “I think they’re berries.” I replied, “Well, I KNOW they’re plant matter. They AREN’T seafood.” Mike patted my arm, “We’ll go home and look it up.”

“Doug!” The girl handed back our copy of the receipt and screamed to the elusive Doug. She confided to us, “Doug will know.” Doug was a short guy with glasses. He was a good fifteen years older than the rest of the staff. He looked like the voice of authority. “Hey Doug! What are capers? They’re peppers, right?” Doug’s forehead crinkled, but his eyes were so small behind his glasses that I couldn’t see what he was thinking, “No, they’re… little.” Doug was our hero. Doug wasn’t going to choke. Doug would know the answer for us. “They’re from the south of France.” That was the answer. She turned back to us. “They’re from France,” she said definitively.

Mike and I left the restaurant. He sighed as he crushed the receipt into his left pocket, “That’s why we don’t have capers on our pizza. The people at the restaurant don’t even know what they are.”


For the record, capers are flower buds. Onions are roots, so they have no similarities to capers. I think I grouped them with onions because they are round. I think the girl behind the counter meant pepper like peppercorns, not like green peppers. I didn’t think of that when she said it, but she and Mike were the closest to correct. If allowed to bloom, pollinate and germinate, they turn into berries, but as they are commonly eaten, they are merely pretty flowers waiting to bloom.

1/26/2005

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.”

2/8/2005

The Sundance Vacationers Are Still Among Us

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

“Hello…”

He is calling from his rented car. I would judge him to be in his fifties and his kindly looking wife looks nervous. We are in the residential area to the south of the Smith’s on 9th East.

“Are we near the shops in Sugarhouse?”

I’ve never heard them called that before. We have many shops in Sugarhouse, but there isn’t a specific site called “The Shops in Sugarhouse.” He made it sound like a shopping mall instead of the hodge podge of stores that have evolved over the years. I called back to him, my arms straining with the grocery bags, “What are you looking for?”

“The Sundance store.”

Of course. I suddenly feel safer now that I know that I’m giving directions to a tourist. I get closer to the car and move the groceries from one hand to the other so I can point. The weather is a gorgeous 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Mike and I have walked to “The Shops in Sugarhouse” to eat a crepe and get some organic produce from Wild Oats. Mike answers the man first, “It’s right next to Wild Oats. You can see it from here.”

The top of the store quietly peeks out from behind the Granite Furniture warehouse. I dismiss his directions, “He can’t see Wild Oats from here.”

“It’s supposed to be on 11th East. Is that street up there 11th East?”

I shake my head and start pointing. “That is 10th East. Go through that into the parking lot, through the parking lot and you’ll get to 11th East. Turn right on 11th East and then the Sundance store will be on your left.”

“Through there, right, then left. Ok. We’re from Michigan and we were lost. Thank you.”

He slowly drives off and Mike and I head home. I’m glowing a bit from the effort of carrying the groceries and the good deed. I love tourists.

4/3/2005

Neighborhood Watch

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

In December of 2003, we got hit with a massive snow storm. All of us were buried under three or four feet of snow. My little Beetle got stuck in the middle of the road right in front of my house. I talked about it briefly when it happened.

What I didn’t tell you was about my neighbors. Rick, next door, and the guy down the street helped Mike and I push the Beetle into the driveway. Once it was there, it stayed there for two days. My tires were so bald that I knew that I would get stuck again if I ventured out. I already appreciated Rick for all the things he did when we moved in, but the guy down the street was a new Samaritan for me. After that day, that guy down the street was top on my list.

We invited him to our Halloween party, but he didn’t come. He has a cat named Spumoni that is a fat calico that comes over and eats the cat food that Rick leaves out for his feral cat that won’t come into his house. The guy down the street has a son with a wreck of a car that was parked in front of his house. He was scared that someone would call the city on him and asked us not to. It didn’t even occur to us.

He’s kind of a scruffy guy. Sometimes he talks to people in cars. They drive up, they talk and they drive off. We live on a dead end, so it’s easy to notice those things when they happen. I sometimes wonder if he’s a drug dealer, but I have a hard time reconciling my concept of a drug dealer with the guy who pushed my Beetle into the driveway and has a cat named Spumoni.

The other day, I saw him talking to someone in a car. The person in the car handed him something and drove away. The neighbor noticed me and waved, raising the hand that held the package from the car. He waved at me with a DVD of The Incredibles. I felt silly for ever thinking he could be a drug dealer.

4/20/2005

Thai Garden

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Pawit greets us as if we were family. He remembers our names. I’ve seen him hug other patrons, but it’s as if he knows our boundaries. We’re not a hugging family, so he doesn’t hug us.

The food is amazing. I order Num Tok every time. I love the spicy beef and sticky rice. Sometimes it’s a little too hot for me; sometimes it’s not hot enough. It’s kind of like a random roulette wheel. Even though I order the same thing, I never know what I’m going to get.

Stacey, Dan, Mike and I meet there for dinner about every other week. Even though Thai Garden has been in business for less than a year, it feels like home and I look forward to going there.

Back in December, Salt Lake City Weekly reviewed them favorably and business picked up substantially, but Pawit always takes the time to say hi to us and remember my favorite dish. Sometimes, I think I go there just because I need a smiling face and happy words. There are times when those things are more important than food.

Thai Garden – 4410 South 900 East – 266-7899 Lunch & Dinner Monday-Saturday

5/26/2005

Lake Stench

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 4:36 am

When it’s going to rain in Salt Lake City, the air smells of dead brine shrimp. When you visit The Great Salt Lake, it smells like that all the time. Lots of people hate that smell. They call it “Lake Stench.” I’ve grown up equating that smell with rain, so I like it.

People look at you funny when you tell them that you like the scent of Lake Stench. It’s socially unacceptable here to like the smell of The Great Salt Lake. When they complain about the smell, I just keep my opinions to myself now.

I hear people talking about the smell of the ocean all the time. Before I was familiar with the ocean, I used to imagine that it smelled like The Great Salt Lake. I told my friend from Florida this and she retorted, “No way! This smells nothing like the ocean! The ocean smells clean! This smells like…” She paused to think of the right word, “…garbage.”

The stench of The Great Salt Lake smells clean to me. The wind blows over the lake right before the rain storm, bringing the scent of dead brine shrimp and soon after, the rain starts. The rain washes the city clean and dissipates the smell. I guess it’s just what I’ve grown to love about this city.

11/4/2005

The Death of the Salt Lake Costume Company

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

On the corner of 1100 East and 1700 South, The Salt Lake Costume Company had displayed costumes in its windows since before I could remember. I moved to Salt Lake when I was three years old in 1972 and it was an established fixture back then. I remember driving past it in my grandmother’s 1968 white Chevy Impala. It was across the street from Rexall Drug, where my grandma got all her prescriptions.

I don’t know when it closed. It might have been as early as September. I didn’t notice until October that they were gone. The commercial real estate sign went up and I thought that they must be mad to close up right before Halloween. I also felt ripped off because I didn’t get a chance to buy up all their costumes.

The sad truth of the matter is, I never set foot into the place. I’m the kind of girl who gets her costumes at Home Depot more often than a costume store. That doesn’t stop me from frequenting the Halloween stores that pop up in abandoned store fronts during October, but I have never set foot into any costume shop. The Costume Closet on 700 East and 4500 South is another place that I love dearly, but have never gone into.

I feel a strange sense of guilt. Me, who loves Halloween and dressing up more than almost anyone I know, never gave any of my money to The Salt Lake Costume Company and now they are out of business. It’s all my fault.

They are stripping the store right down to the 2X4s: exposed brick on the walls and debris on the showroom floor. I peeked into the windows and clicked pictures until Mike urged me away like a rubber-necker at a car accident.

11/6/2005

Steering Stark Automotive

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Can you believe I took this picture with my Treo 650?

On the corner of McClelland and Hollywood within sight of 1100 East, this sign hides behind a laundromat. As far as I can tell, Steering Stark Automotive hasn’t been there for a long time and their sign has outlived them by at least a decade. I love this sign. The neon is still there, but I have never seen it lit up.

Retro Holiday InnIt reminds me of the old Holiday Inn signs with it’s bright red arrow pointing around the words. When I was little, we used to make the long drive from Salt Lake City to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We never made reservations. My parents just drove until they couldn’t drive anymore. When they were too tired to move on, they told me to look for a Holiday Inn sign. I looked for the big yellow arrow, the white star and the white letters on a green background. I couldn’t read, but I could spot a Holiday Inn sign from miles away.

Something about these old neon signs makes me remember being that little. It seemed like the whole world was lit up in neon when I was a kid. Now, there are backlit awnings and stucco everywhere. Neon’s hard to maintain, kid. Suck it up…

That might be true, but the neon beckoning us all to Steering Stark Automotive lasted far longer than the mechanics and the old Chevy Impalas that they used to repair.

11/10/2005

The Death of Kuong Jou Cafe

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Mike and I ate there once. I had a cup of Hot Sour soup and a cup of steamed rice. I can’t remember what Mike ordered. It was a typical Chinese-American restaurant where you could order Egg Foo Young, Chop Suey and a hamburger. We enjoyed our meal, but we never went back.

They took the menu out of the cabinet on the outside wall. Only a wooden panel looks at us now. When I peek into the windows, they have striped it down to the cement. Nothing remains of the leatherette seating and the fish tank. All that dark wood paneling is gone and I didn’t even see it leave. One day, we considered going to that restaurant and opted for the trendy Tex-Mex cafe across the street. The next day, they were gone.

I hope they don’t remove the beautiful neon sign. What will Sugarhouse be without it?

11/12/2005

The Train Tracks

Filed under: Art and Photography,Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Train Tracks by Laura Moncur 11-08-05

They stick out of the ground like the bones of a long-dead animal. The trains used to run east to west in Salt Lake City. The tracks have been uprouted and paved over on the major roads, but we bounce over the unused skeleton on the minor roads. In the abandoned sections of the city, the track springs up from the ground.

I wonder about this track. Is this where the trolleys used to run? The only evidence that we used to have trolleys in this city is Trolley Square, the local “historic” shopping mall. There are a few obligatory pictures of the day when the trolleys were housed in the building instead of novelty shops and trendy art galleries. I know our town used to have trolleys, but the only proof I have are some black and white pictures on the wall of an old building.

What used to run on this track? Never once in my memory was there a train. It wasn’t until about five years ago that they even paved over the track. The buses used to stop at them, open their doors and wait as if it were an active line. I never saw the crossing bars go down, though.

Now, the track is rusted and protruding from the ground like something that was supposed to stay buried, but insists on announcing the crime that was performed on it. It’s a shame considering how much money was spent building the East-West line of Traxx right before the Olympics.

1/21/2006

Do You Think I’ll Have To Scrape The Car?

Filed under: Art and Photography,Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Do You Think I'll Have To Scrape The Car? by Laura Moncur 01-20-06

2/8/2006

Living Restaurants

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Rebecca left this comment on my entry, Recycled Buildings:

I thought it would be interesting to note that what ended up replacing the Piccadilly Fish & Chips was a tiny strip mall including a chain restaurant called the Original House of Pancakes (hence the “Say No To Pancakes” sign). Piccadilly has opened up a new location at 1450 South State Street, which I have yet to visit, but the building just can’t compare to the old tudor.

And I don’t know if you have been in Salt Lake long enough to have lamented the passing of Bill and Nada’s Cafe, but that was a truly tragic demise. Bill and Nada’s operated for several decades right by Trolley Square, with the slogan “We Never Close,” and served the popular dish (to their patrons at least) of brains and eggs, right up until they did close in 1999. The cafe was a Salt Lake institution and loved by people from all walks of life. I don’t think the old diner changed in any significant way, right down to the waitress’ uniforms, from the time they opened. The building was torn down not long after the cafe was closed, and the lot where it stood still lies vacant. It’s a sad reminder of what we lost.

I found a kind of nice tribute page to Bill and Nada’s at Bill and Nada’s Cafe.


I never did a followup to Recycled Buildings. I live right next to the “strip mall” so I really should have. I was just talking about Recycled Buildings, so I didn’t really feel like I needed to followup that story, but I guess I should have.

Yes, they did build a pancake house and a Maui Taco in the spot where Piccadilly used to be. We lost one restaurant and gained two. It’s actually a much better use of the space and in retrospect, I’m glad they tore down the old building and replaced it with a couple of good restaurants.

The best part is that we didn’t lose Piccadilly. They opened up on State Street. Mike and I have gone there a couple of times, since they’ve opened, which is all my stomach can handle in the year or so they’ve been there now. I like greasy fish and chips, but they can only fit into my diet rarely.

The Original Pancake House

The same goes for pancakes, actually. The Original Pancake House is the new trendy breakfast place to go for breakfast and it’s packed every morning. You pretty much have to go there in the afternoon to get a table because it is so busy. Quite frankly, if I’m going to splurge on pancakes, I want to go to IHOP because they have four flavors of pancake syrup. I have no idea why The Original Pancake House is so popular right now. Probably because they’re new.

Maui Taco - A Vacation You Can Eat

Maui Taco, on the other hand, is a blessing. We eat there about three times a month. It’s the closest place to our house to get an enchilada. We have walked over there in the snow, rain and heat. We love that place and I can always make room in my diet for a fish taco.

Bill and Nada's Cafe

Bill and Nada’s Cafe, however, will have to wait until tomorrow.

2/9/2006

Bill & Nada’s Cafe

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Bill and Nada's Cafe

Bill and Nada’s Cafe sat right next to Trolley Square. They were a 24 hour restaurant, so they earned a strange cult following. When I was a teenager in the Eighties, Bill and Nada’s was the popular place to go after a drunken night at the local clubs. Everyone told me that I should go there, but when I asked why, all they could say was that it was open late and they served brains and eggs.

Brains and eggs… It wasn’t really a glowing review of the food. It was more like a dare. I could never get them to clarify any further, so I never went there.

I never ate at Bill and Nada’s Cafe. When I hear people lament the loss of Bill and Nada’s Cafe, I consciously control my face so that I don’t roll my eyes at their grief. I hold my tongue instead of saying, “It was just a restaurant, people, and from what I heard, the food wasn’t that good.”

No, when they start reminiscing about Bill and Nada’s I calmly go to my happy place and let them ramble on and on about it. They are ALWAYS shocked that I never ate there. I was so into the punk scene as a teen that they assume that I had enjoyed Bill and Nada’s as well. I smile at them and nod knowingly. I tell them, “It’s a shame they closed down,” even though I don’t really care.

Somehow that place got into the collective unconscious of the Salt Lake City resident. It became more than 2000 square feet of cinder block and neon. I don’t understand it because I never ate there, but I feel the same way about other establishments of my youth. I’m sure it had less to do with the food and more to do with the memories of what happened in that small diner. I just never experienced it, so I can’t wax philisophical about it.

They put a parking lot on the piece of land
Where the supermarket used to stand.
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local palais.
That’s where the big band used to come and play.
My sister went there on a Saturday.

The day they knocked down the palais
My sister stood and cried.
The day they knocked down the palais
Part of my childhood died, just died.

- The Kinks, Come Dancing, 1983

2/24/2006

Fall in Salt Lake City

Filed under: Art and Photography,Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Mike and I were seriously considering moving to San Diego last fall. As I was taking a walk through the neighborhood, I came across this tree, dropping leaves. It was Fall In Action and I thought that someday, when I lived in the Land of Eternal Spring, I might miss Autumn, so I took a video of it with my digital camera.

You can hear the wind blowing in the background and the leaves fall like huge, yellow snowflakes. When I took this video, I thought that I might watch it when I missed the season of Autumn. Now, it’s just a reminder of how long winter is in Salt Lake City.

3/30/2006

NuCrisp Popcorn

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

NuCrisp Popcorn

As I walked past the NuCrisp Popcorn building, I noticed something different. Someone had cleaned up the clutter in the store. For the last few years, the NuCrisp Popcorn building has been used to store someone’s treasures. Of all the clutter, the only thing I remember is an original Strawberry Shortcake toy in its box. The other day, however, it was gone, along with much of the other clutter. Someone had arranged the wall with hooks and hung gift bags on them. A wide assortment of gift bags in many colors and sizes. I was struck with panic.

Someone was cleaning up the NuCrisp Popcorn building and were going to use it for something.

To me, it didn’t matter what the something was going to be. The sick feeling in my gut was telling me to hurry and take a picture of the NuCrisp sign because soon it would be gone and all that would be left is some bland store with a backlit awning.

So I grabbed my camera and took pictures…

NuCrisp Popcorn

Something about me truly loves the old neon and light bulb signs that were so popular in the late fifties and early sixties. Every marquee that is taken down is an ache in my heart. I suspect we’ll be losing the NuCrisp Popcorn sign soon and all that will be left are my photos.

4/1/2006

April Fool’s Day for Utah Brides

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I’m reluctant to post anything serious on this day because I’m worried that people won’t take it seriously and will think that I’m just joking.

I HATE practical jokes. I don’t really care for April Fool’s Day either.

I did notice that they are having a bridal show at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake today. I wonder if that’s an April Fool’s Day joke…

Grand America Hotel: Bridal Extravaganza

The sad thing is we have so many bridal shows in the Salt Lake Valley (and Utah Valley) that it was inevitable that one would fall on April Fool’s Day.

4/17/2006

The Golden Plates

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The Sword of Laban and The Tree of Life (The Golden Plates, Volume One)Dooce snapped a picture of the totally awesome book about Armageddon from the LDS church.

She totally missed out on The Golden Plates, which is an LDS comic book documenting the trials and tribulations of the Book of Mormon. I find the steroid-Nephites a little more scary.

Even more scary, these things are in the book section at my grocery store. I stare at them while I wait for the pharmacist to fill my perscriptions and I am amazed that there are enough LDS people to make it profitable for them to sell these books in a grocery store. It makes me feel alone here in Zion.

And even scarier, you can buy that comic book at Amazon, not just Deseret Book and Smith’s Food King.

7/1/2006

Central Pallet Fire

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT,Video — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

It was a beautiful sunset except the cloud of black smoke coming from the west. We got into the car and drove toward the pillar of thick blackness, but nothing prepared us for what we saw.

Click here to see the video

This three alarm fire at Central Pallet of Utah was originally called in as a grass fire, but it quickly spread and flames were leaping up forty feet into the air. Mike and I didn’t dare get any closer and cautiously drove by on Bangerter Highway.

You can see the full story on KSL.com:

Update 07-05-06: The next day, Central Pallet of Utah was open for business. They were able to put out the fire before it reached the business offices, so they were able to start their recovery early. I wish them the best of luck. That fire was so scary that I am proud of their pluck for picking up the pieces so quickly.


Where: Central Pallet of Utah 810 S 4190 W Salt Lake City, UT 84104 Google Map

7/8/2006

BarCampUtah: Setting Up Camp

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT,Utah Geeks — Laura Moncur @ 10:54 am

Since deciding not to move to California, I’ve realized that we need to grow a geek community that I can associate with here. I feel so isolated and alone as far as work is concerned, so I decided to spearhead BarCamp here in Utah.

I am in the process of setting up montly meetings for BarCampUtah. BarCamp is a meeting that started up in San Francisco in reaction to FooCamp, which was an invitation-only party given by O’Reilly. Some of the people who weren’t invited to FooCamp, set up BarCamp.

What I’m trying to create is a geek community in Utah. I want to have a monthly meeting where we can “show and tell” or maybe just “hack together.” This video, created by Ryanne, is my inspiration. I want BarCampUtah to be like Super Happy Dev House.

Click here to see the video

We don’t have a spot where things can go all night, but at first, I’m just hoping for a few hours where everyone can talk and share ideas. This video, also by Ryanne, shows what our little meetings could eventually evolve into. BarCamp in San Francisco is a full-blown conference with sponsors and hosts and lots of ad hoc sessions.

Click here to see the video

I have been struggling for a good venue that has wireless Internet and room for us to grow. I think I have found us a spot, but I need to wait to announce it until I get the application back.

In the meantime, if any of you have been wishing for a geek community in the Salt Lake area, we are growing it right now. Please send me your information on my Contact Me form, including your full name, email address and phone number and I will make sure that you are included.

7/10/2006

Less and Less A Part of Any Number of Things

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I think this is the reason I am working so hard on getting BarCampUtah off the ground:

Ballard Street: 07-10-06

Click here to see this and other Ballard Street comics:

7/13/2006

BarCampUtah: May Already Be Off The Ground

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT,Utah Geeks — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

It looks like a group of about a half a dozen people are working to get BarCampUtah off the ground:

They are meeting monthly at dinners and the next one is July 26th, 6:30 pm at Brick Oven (111 East 800 North, Provo, Utah). If any of my Salt Lake City readers are interested in creating a dynamic geek community here, this is where we need to be. I have left an email with Phil B. Burns, the organizer to see what I have to do to make this a reality.

Not only are hugely successful Geek Dinners already set up, he has set a day for the BarCampUtah conference: August 26th – 28th, 2006. I am so happy that all of this is coming together so nicely!

I’ll keep you posted.

7/15/2006

Neighborhood Garbage Pickup Day

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Every year, there is one day when we can throw anything away. ANYTHING.

Sure, they say that they won’t pick up huge items or chunks of cement, but last year, they took the remains of a desk bigger than we could carry and chunks of cement from our neighbor’s pile, so I pretty much figure that they’ll take anything. Probably even a human body.

While this is a wonderful convenience to the residents of the area, it makes for some ugly neighborhoods.

We’re not supposed to put out the garbage more than a week before our designated “We’ll Help Get Rid of Those Dead Bodies For You” Day, but a week is a long time to live with the six-foot piles of garbage that accumulate on the side of the road.

Worse still, I’m continually tempted to pick through the garbage piles of my neighbors. This year, I got Madison’s old Halloween decorations. She put them out there when she moved. I am now a proud owner of seven plywood gravestones and a very convincing witch’s broom (I don’t think it’s quite as fast as a Nimbus 2000, but we’ll have to see).

I also found a nearly intact desk. I knocked on the stranger’s door and asked him if he would mind if I took it. He was so grateful. His daughter had bought a bigger desk and he didn’t want to see the old one go to the garbage, but he had no one to give it to. I can remove the black layers of spray paint, sand out the letters engraved on the side and refinish it. I’ll probably be able to sell it at our garage sale for at least 40 bucks.

Our garbage pickup is July 17th, which is Monday. From now on, I’m only collecting pictures of the neighbor’s trash…

7/17/2006

BarCampUtah: Setting Up Camp

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT,Utah Geeks — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 pm
Click here to see the video

Today I met with Phil Burns about BarCampUtah. It looks like we are going to be able to get this going!

BarCampUtah will be August 26-28th, 2006.

For more information:

If you would like to help us set up, teach a class or get more information about BarCamp, please fill out my contact form here:

Music Credit: Atmospheric Royalty Free Music – Variation on Egmont

Update 08-08-05: You can embed this video into your weblog using Google Video: BarCampUtah: Setting Up Camp

7/24/2006

Happy Pioneer Day!

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Today is Pioneer Day in Utah. We light fireworks and barbeque meat. It’s like Independence Day 2.0.

You can find out more about The Days of ’47 here:

I am going to enjoy my summer day and if you’re not from Utah, set something small (like a match or a candle) on fire for us today.

8/6/2006

Blue Man Group On Tour Again!

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Blue Man Group: How To Be a Megastar 2.0 Tour!

Rumors from my minions (thanks, Bob!) tells me that Blue Man Group is going on tour again! I’m happy because they are coming to Salt Lake City the day before Halloween! They’re giving me Halloween presents! Yeah!

If you have never seen The Blue Man Group, you need to see this concert. If you HAVE seen The Blue Man Group, you need to see this concert, because I’m sure they have something totally new and unique planned for us!

Plus, they have a new album available exclusively at iTunes:

The Blue Man Group's New Album

I’m going to see them at the Venetian next time we go to Las Vegas, so I’ll see if they are selling the album there or if it’s REALLY is an iTunes exclusive. I’ll keep you updated.

8/7/2006

Robert Scoble’s Visit To SLC

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT,Utah Geeks,Video — Laura Moncur @ 8:15 am

If you don’t know who Robert Scoble is, you’re not going to understand how Internet Famous he is and why going to this lunch was like breaking bread with a rock star. M. David Petersen made a podcast of the lunch and recorded all the amazing things that Robert Scoble had to say.

I have about fifty minutes of video from the lunch. While it’s tempting to just post it all here, I’ve edited it down to just under two minutes of the coolest things that were said.

Click here to see the video

This is one of those rare times where I filmed the event, but didn’t live it through the LCD screen. I was able to just hold the camera and still enjoy the moment. Some day, the camera will become so much a part of me that I won’t even realize when I’m filming.

I'm not bored. I swear!David took pictures and he snapped this photo of Mike and me. He happened to capture me looking incredibly bored and sad. I’m not bored. I swear it! Do I always look this sad? It’s not the way I was feeling, I can tell you! I was totally stoked to be there!

I carefully chose my shirt that morning. I wore JETRIS from Threadless. I thought a pixelated Jesus was a completely appropriate shirt for Robert Scoble’s visit to Salt Lake City, Utah.

A special thank you to all who came to the lunch:

Robert ScoblePodTech
Patrick Scoble – I didn’t hear. Who are you working for?
Gilbert Lee and Tad GilesThe LDS Church Website (These guys have 10 hours of content to translate into almost 100 languages every six months. They totally ROCK!)
Ryan Hawley
Jared L Smith
Tim Stay – Know More Media
Michael Hoover
M. David Petersen – Thanks for recording the entire thing!
Me and Michael MoncurStarling Studios

P.S. There are three two people who came to the lunch and didn’t get on this list because I didn’t have a card. If you are one of them, contact me and I’ll put you on the list.

8/11/2006

Everything I Know About The Mormons I Learned From Wikipedia

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

It’s not true. I’ve also heard rumors. Growing up in Salt Lake City helps, too. It used to be that whenever I told someone I was from SLC, they would ask if I was Mormon. I don’t get that as much now. I don’t know if they just assume I’m LDS or they no longer have any questions about the religion, but I’ve answered a lot fewer about the predominant religion over the last couple of years.

The most asked questions used to be:

  • Do you have more than one mom? Well, when my Dad divorced my mom, he remarried a lady, but I don’t really consider her my mom. Oh? You mean the polygamy thing. No, I’m not from a polygamist compound. I’m also not LDS. In fact, MOST people in Utah aren’t polygamists. The few who are keep to themselves.

  • What’s with the funny underwear? They’re called garments. You have to go through all these rituals in the temple to earn the right to wear them.

  • What do they do in the temple? I don’t know firsthand. I’ve heard stories from ex-Mormons about washing rituals and such. All of it sounds pretty boring, actually. Most people imagine ritual sacrifices or deviant sexual rites. I can safely tell you that they are NOT practicing either one of those. Sorry, real life is so boring compared to what our imaginations can dream up.

Now, the most asked question is:

  • Do you ski? Nope. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never bothered to learn how to ski. I’m clumsy enough without purposely falling down hills with boards tied to my feet.

There is plenty of information about the LDS church and Mormons online. Wikipedia is actually very accurate. Here are some interesting entries that you might like to read:

The More Good Foundation also has a directory of LDS websites that you can peruse:

Ironically, living in Utah gives you a wealth of both good and bad information about the LDS church and its members. Growing up non-Mormon in Mormon Town was difficult for me, but I’ve come to terms with it. I actually like Salt Lake City despite the strong religious influence. I’m just not that good at fielding questions about it.

8/12/2006

Vote for Pete Ashdown

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Just one quick local note. If you live in Utah, you need to vote for Pete Ashdown. He’s running against Orrin Hatch, who has been in office for 36 years. That’s a long time. If you’re even on the fence about this, remember that Orrin Hatch is a space alien. Weekly World News broke the story back in the late Eighties. I can’t believe the guy is still in office after that PR fiasco. Once the Weekly World News is against a candidate, they usually don’t have a chance. It’s only further proof that Orrin Hatch is a space alien.

On a more serious note, we need a senator in office that understands this big Internets thing. Senators that think the Internet is a series of tubes that can get clogged are charming, but they shouldn’t be able to create law. I can’t vote against Senator Stevens in Alaska, but I CAN vote for a candidate that truly understands the Internet.

Pete Ashdown was the founder of Utah’s first local ISP, X-Mission. Not only did X-Mission survive the Dot Bomb, it has flourished here. Pete donates Internet access to the Salt Lake County libraries through X-Mission. For that alone, he gets my vote.

If you are living in Utah, please vote for Pete Ashdown. It doesn’t matter that he’s running against Orrin Hatch. Maybe you’ve voted for Orrin before. That’s okay. I’m sure he was grateful for that vote and thanked you personally. This time, give your vote to someone new who actually understands how the new world works.

8/14/2006

Recollections of The Salt Lake Costume Company

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The neon sign from the Salt Lake Costume Company

Last November, I wrote about the closing of The Salt Lake Costume Company. The building still sits vacant. Taggers have sullied its windows with graffiti and the sign still says that there is a clearance on costumes.

Last week, I received the following email:

Hi Laura:

I was very touched to see that someone besides me mourns the death of the costume company.

My grandfather, Clifford Allen, owned it from sometime in the 30s or 40s until his death in 1987 at the age of 81. My grandmother passed away two years after him, and my dad, his two brothers, and two sisters didn’t know what to do with it, so they sold it.

I drove by it yesterday (Aug. 6, 06) and was very nostalgic it’s still there, but sad about it’s condition and demise.

The costume company burnt down in the Winter of ’63, approximately, but I was way too young to remember it. My dad and uncles spent almost a year rebuilding it from scratch.

I hope it doesn’t seem too weird to be so sentimental about a building, but that was such an integral part of my life, for so many years.

I played there as a child, worked for my grandfather (who would usually pay my brother and I a dime, or a quarter, for the entire day, which was generous considering we had usually played hide ‘n seek amongst the costumes all day!).

I worked there even when I was a college student, even though I never made more than minimum wage. It was so much fun working there, though, I didn’t want a job that paid more!

Sincerely,
G. Allen
Kearns, UT

I emailed him a response and asked if it was alright if I shared his story with the rest of the world and this is the reply he gave:

Laura:

Yes, please go ahead! I would be flattered.

[My grandfather's] last living sibling, Thelma, died only a few months ago. Every one of his numerous siblings lived past 95, several past 100. He was diagnosed with cancer several months after shocking his entire extended family by announcing that he was becoming World weary, and wouldn’t at all mind if God called him home soon.

My oldest Brother told me several years ago that the cancer he died from is extremely rare, except for people who work in the dry cleaning industry, for whom it is relatively common. I still remember lighting the boiler in the morning, which was right next to the dry cleaning equipment, and smelling the pungent smell of perchlorethyelne, which usually made me dizzy.

My parents and/or my brother might have some pictures from the costume company’s earlier days, if you’d like to post any more.

Sincerely,
G. Allen

I told him I would be happy to post whatever he submitted. I loved the Salt Lake Costume Company. I don’t know how anyone who passes its vacant walls can’t grieve a little.

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