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The Totally Unpredicted Majesty of SL,UT

Mountainous landscapes. Bubbling creeks. A grandiose temple. I am blogging to you from downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, which is honestly one of, if not the, most beautiful cities I've ever visited. The quaint metropolis literally sits in a valley surrounded on all sides by snow-peaked precipices that look so gorgeous you'd swear they were fake. But nature and architecture is not the point of this post. As many of us Blogulutioneers often do, we can't help but experience our travels but through the lens of pop culture. So here's a brief recap on our trip to Utah, Blogulator-style...

The main event of the weekend was a friend’s wedding, but this wasn’t your average traditional hullabaloo. No, actually it wasn’t technically a wedding at all. It was a sealing between two followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints at the Mormon Temple smack in the middle of Salt Lake. And without disseminating too much of a culturally insensitive “other”-soaked perspective, I must admit I was endlessly fascinated with the whole ordeal. And to even further push that boundary of insensitivity, I can’t help but think about the assorted characters (both LDS Mormons and what I guess I can only describe as “hardcore” Mormons) I had come to sympathize with on HBO’s Big Love while standing there, outside the Temple (non-followers were not allowed inside, which at first was a downside, but only emphasized the mystery, which I ended up deciding I enjoyed), watching bride after bride exit the enigmatic church doors to hoots and hollers from non-Mormon family members. I overheard a middle-aged man say that when he got married over twenty years ago, there were over 72 sealings on his wedding day at the Temple, so today’s hustle-and-bustle under the chilly rain was definitely not out of the ordinary.

Finally, when our friends Emily and Dan appeared seemingly out of thin air from the gorgeous architecture, I no longer felt estranged from the communal culture of this religion. I felt extremely lucky to be witness to it, even as Emily nervously said “okay we’re only allowed to take pictures at the Temple for 20 minutes, so let’s go go go!” Of course there was no one there to enforce such an arbitrary (if not necessary, what with kids who looked like they were 12 – and I don’t usually say that due to my extreme youthfulness – popping out every 10 minutes or so looking to get perfect snapshots against the carved stone exterior) rule, but everyone did their best, smiling all the way through the 30-degree weather, to get those photos taken and head on to the “ring ceremony” and reception across town.

There was no prejudicial and/or family drama (I can only assume that happens offsite), but there was an intense feeling of serenity that pierced even the most cynical of hearts. Elder men and women in creepy white robes that served at the visitor’s center front desk even seemed 100% kind and gentle as they passed out Joseph Smith coloring books to little boys and girls. It reminded me of the road trip episode of this season of the Bill Paxton melodrama (possibly my favorite episode thus far in the series) where after all the strife they finally made their pilgrimage and a soft hue of white encompassed the dew-filled grass and they could be at one with each other despite all the chaos. I was on vacation, thousands of miles away from any stress that could give me a headache, so perhaps I was at an advantage, but still I felt similar, even if I wasn’t allowed inside their building on an overly cold and wet day.

The next day Jerksica and I took a road trip of our own to Park City and Sundance to check out the nature, the shopping, and (my request) Robert Redford’s resort that started the town’s eponymous film festival in the early 70s. As we traversed through the dazzling countryside packed densely with jagged mountains and jutting rocks, we listened to what at the time we thought was the only CD in Emily and Dan’s car (which they so caringly lent to us for the day – being Mormons the day after their wedding night, they were plenty busy ifuknowwhatimean), Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days, which is an album I realized I hadn’t listened to in a good couple of years. The magnificent “Naked As We Came” was the newlyweds’ first dance, so it made sense they were absorbing it for a good while before the big day. But as it played and I found out all over again how brilliant that CD was, we sat in silence dropping our jaws like they were hawt over the simultaneously serene and forceful scenery. And I’m not a nature guy, believe you me. Usually I see a landscape and I’m all, “nice try, God – still not impressed.” But this weekend for some reason, Utah totally was my dream girl, except in you know, topographical form. And as we neared what we were told by the locals was the best pizza place in the state (we got there and it was closed for repairs for a week, just our luck), Jerksy aptly pointed out, “no wonder Brigham Young and his followers stopped here. Of course you’d feel close to God when you’re in the midst of all this.”

The Sundance Resort was no different. With only 450 of Redford’s 5000 acres used for recreation, and all of the buildings made out of deep red wood, it felt like the home to what would have been the best summer camp ever. A subtle brook gurgled its way to the main lodge, where the gift shop, restaurant, and café lay (I got a pair of sweet Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid posters while Jess nabbed a gross-looking coconut bar) and behind it stood a smattering of cabins, including the Sundance screening room, which I attempted to look into (a fancy sign declaring “PRIVATE FUNCTION” was positioned in front) and wonder childishly if anyone important was in there, or maybe even Paul Newman’s best bud himself. I couldn’t see anything, but after checking out the resort’s art studio and gallery, I was left satisfied by a mini-museum back in the main building that mapped out the history of the place, along with its film festival origins and (something I didn’t know) how it’s often used by directors and actors to rehearse before on-site shooting. Tarantino, Pollack, and of course Redford himself have all escaped from Hollywood at one point or another to have an awesome get-away-from-it-all time in the middle of nowhere before setting out to make film history. Maybe someone was in the screening room looking at practice dailies?! Is that a thing?! I'm gonna say yes!!!

Our final day-and-a-half consisted of a Maria Taylor (formerly of the fabulous Azure Ray) concert in Salt Lake at a place called Kilby Court. In anticipation, we asked a couple locals about the place, who said it was great, but it was like seeing a show in somebody's garage in an alley. What we didn't realize until we got there, however, was that it actually was a venue created out of somebody's garage in an alley. There's a little firepit outside the shoddy structure and there were hipster hippies selling cake and juice boxes. In other words, it was totally awesome, homey, and yet very well attended for a Sunday night show. Plus it got over by 10. Now that's my kind of concert. Maria's new CD is called Lady Luck and while it's not mindblowing, it's definitely pleasant to listen to.

We also managed to find time to cram in a flick in between getting kickd out of our hotel and catching a cab to the airport, so we found one of the indie theaters used in SLC for the film fest and saw Gigantic starring Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel, which doesn't come out in the Minneap until May 22nd. It was absolutley wretched. We were already depressed about our mini-vacay coming to an end and this just topped the proverbial cake of sadness. We weren't expecting much but we definitely weren't ready for the heaping pile of boring, pretentious, and completely nonsensical that we got. At least the theater was awesome, featuring Italian sodas and creme brulee candy bars to get that awful taste of twee meets mumblecore out of our mouths. Luckily the rest of the trip surely made up for it, even after a two-hour flight with a screaming baby right next to us.

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  1. Blogger qualler | 5:41 AM |  

    Haha lovely recap. Methinks we at the Blogulator should make this a regular thing, to recap trips to new cities through the lens of pop culture. Turns out, Salt Lake City sounds like the perfect place to do fun stuff and not feel lame for wanting more to eat creme brulee flavored candy bars instead of getting a brewski at a concert. Plus, I <3 the Utah Jazz.

  2. Blogger Unspar! | 8:36 AM |  

    This was a joy to read, especially the Iron & Wine paragraph. Well done.

  3. Blogger DoktorPeace | 5:14 PM |  

    I read that run-on word describing the post-wedding activities of your friends in a completely different way.

  4. Blogger chris | 1:18 PM |  

    Haha the front page of the Salt Lake City Tribune had a screaming old guy wearing purple on it and the caption said "Utah Jazz Radio Host Retires At The Age of 72" and it took me the longest time to not think that that guy was yelling, "And now here's some Coltrane for you ungrateful listeners!"

  5. Blogger Tamra | 5:00 PM |  

    Did you take the picture of the SL temple that's shown here? That's a beautiful shot - I'd love to have a copy, how much would you charge for an emailed image that can be blown up?

  6. Blogger chris | 2:29 PM |  

    We no longer have this image unfortunately. Sorry! Thanks for reading!

  7. Blogger Cookiesnbubbles | 4:39 PM |  

    When a man and woman are sealed in the temple (if they aren't already legally married) they are legally married at the same time.

    Yeah, the mountains in Utah are pretty sweet.

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