Oh boy, I'm home!
What have you folks done to good old muggy Tennessee while I've been in Utah? I get back and find the best August weather in years: sunny, coolish, and humidity well below the normal 90%. I can take this!
I was at the Outdoor Retailer show lusting over things I disdain in my conscience...consumer goods. I am not a good shopper. I walk into a store, get what I came for, and leave. Women, my long suffering wife chief amongst them, think I am the worst of males for not looking at 59 different shirts in four different stores before going back and buying the second one I picked up. The only time I really understand what shopping is about is in a bookstore. Then I understand what it means to make choices. Do I keep the book on cabin architecture and put back the collection of Edgar Allen Poe novellas, or break the budget and take them both home? Ah, the rush!
The outdoor show takes up most of Salt Lake City. The merchants and purveyors of life's necessities feed upon us like leeches, sucking our blood from every tiny capillary near enough to the surface of our skin for their mouth parts to eviscerate. The combination of fundamental Mormonism and capitalist blood lust is a frightening concurrence, so evil in nature that I decided to take my 17 year old son with me. Hey, a boy's gotta have some fun in life, eh?
The LDS church fathers want our money so badly that they roil in hypocrisy, soiling the waters in the streets surrounding their holiest of temples with booze, strip joints, and the most polite of drunken panhandlers in every nook and cranny of downtown Salt Lake.
The city fathers have resorted to all sorts of ploys to reduce the numbers of homeless at our convention. Over in the next state, Las Vegas officials cried "Foul" when it was discovered that the LDS members who dominate local and state government had overwhelmingly supported a secret plan that gave the homeless some cash in their pocket and a bus ticket to Las Vegas. Hey, sin city. here they come!
Of all the places in America that you are most likely to get wet while walking around the city, SLC is foremost. Not because of the rain, it's a near desert after all. No, it is because of the water sprinklers that they keep firing off to keep the homeless from being able to sleep in the shrubbery and on the grass next to the sidewalks. It took me years to learn to ignore the sprinklers because you dry off in seconds with the desert humidity. It's funny to read the daily paper about the water crisis while walking by millions of gallons a day running down the side of the city streets and into the sewer lines. Really smart folks, those city fathers.
They do put on some good music for us, though. I could not get to all the shows I wanted to because there was so much happening. After the first full day my feet were killing me from walking and standing around. It is apparently illegal to have a chair in your display booth. Must be! We are required to stand up and smile and look other tired folks right in the eye until we drop. So there I was, at the free outdoor concert in the town square, listening to Richard Thompson sing about a truly evil bastard who rides a rather old Vincent motorcycle hitting on a poor but luscious Irish girl named Molly. Thompson's voice sounds like he is singing about the Edmund Fitzgerald with a British accent, but he rips you apart inside and everytime the "thoroughly dangerous man" gets his insides blown out by the shotgun of a man he is about to rob, I cry for him. The only good news is that Molly gets his bike. Since it is a free concert, I am standing next to a six foot five guy smoking like an incinerator, and wearing a "cat in the hat" hat which made him half a foot taller than Keith Van Horn the Utah Jazz basketball player who I had just walked by inside the Marriot. He was wearing a tuxedo and going to a fundraiser for cancer, where they will raise money by auctioning off giutars signed by great humanitarians such as Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, and Willie Nelson. Less than 1000 feet away I was standing next to a goofy guy wearing a Dr. Seus hat and scaring children by merely leaning over and boming a "Hello, young man!" at them with a big goofy tobacco stained grin. If this guy wasn't homeless, he missed a good chance. He kept taking a huge drag on his cigarette and leaning almost down to the ground to get in my face and tell me how he knows all the great musicians I've never heard of, exhaling in the process. The saving grace was that he, at least, had had some sort of bath recently, though my airways had closed up to the point that I couldn't have told by that time.
Richard Thompson was playing the hell out of a guitar with his hands and ripping our hearts out with his voice while all this was going on. Jerry Douglas, maybe the best Dobro player period, was next. He had three of the best musicians you could want to hear playing with him but without Allison Kraus singing, It just couldn't find anything left in my soul to grab but I watched and listened and promised my feet I would do nice things for them, maybe next week, but for now, they would just have to suffer because I'm listening to all the music I can and that's that!
Two blocks from the Mormon Temple is what used to be the Dead Goat Saloon. It was a funky music bar where Canoe Magazine has traditionally thrown a party for their advertisers, with free beer, live music such as the immortal "Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs". Canoe had the venue booked again this year but three months before our show, the owner decided he could make more money running a strip bar and changed the name to the Wild Goat Saloon and brought in the girls who were serving the beer and telling us to come back tomorrow night when they would not be wearing all these skin tight barely covering anything at all clothes. It was an interesting night, starting with the fact that they would not let my seventeen year old son past the front desk. While I was checking with my buddy who was the Editor of Canoe to see if he could work anything out, Joseph was chatting up the girl out front, or vice versa in his version.
"Where's your fake ID?" she asked him. "This is Salt Lake City! You have to have a fake ID to have any fun in this town! Don't you know how to use the Internet?"
Joseph asked her, "What happens if I come back in an hour with an ID? You already know me."
"You'll get in." She beamed a 500 watt smile at him and he beamed a 1000 watt smile right back at her.
"Forget it!" said the dad. The son and the girl both smiled at each other as I dragged him away to seek food. "Think about it!" I told him, "At seventeen, you have now been thrown out of more bars than your father in his entire life." We got thrown out of two more bars that we thought were restaurants before the supper was secured. We finally got served in the sleaziest place we went to. How it managed to be a restaurant and not a bar was beyond us. The City Fathers know best, however. Who are we to question? The barbeque was decent.
The next night I was back in the Goat, but upstairs in the "restaurant" part for the American Whitewater gathering. AW is a non profit that saves rivers and does a damn fine job of it. They have good and dedicated people trying their best to do good for the world with not enough money. They had managed to rent a room and get us some food. After that it gets weird. Downstairs is the Crazy Goat "Gentleman's club" which is bullshit for strip bar. Upstairs, we were in a nice old wooden floored room with a wet bar and a "restored factory" decor, except for the incongruous glass chandelier hanging overhead indicting it's new incarnation. I can hear the deep voice of the announcer:
"Imagine if you will, the dedicated and serious people, gathered together in a small room for purposes of saving the world. As speeches are being made and the participants think of higher things, Girls walk out of the side room that now serves them as a place to change into their dance outfits...which is to say no outfits whatsoever. As they step out of the dressing room, "dressing" is conversely the wrong name for this room, They walk hurriedly across the floor, exactly between those speaking and those listening, through the only open space there is in the room. One of them has a Teddy bear and has trouble closing her robe and hanging on to the little bear at the same time, as she reveals what is to be revealed on her way to the stairway that leads to the underworld below where there will be a small platform in the middle of another slightly larger room. The dedicated and serious people up above are trying not to notice the girls who are headed down below. They are trying not to think about the teddy bear. There is no restroom up here. It is down below and you have to walk across the room which has the small platform to get there. Some of the men in the upstairs room containing high minded and dedicated people have now realized that they have to pee really bad.
"Welcome to the Twilight Zone!"
I left to go hear Richard Thompson before I myself needed to go downstairs. I am still wondering about the bear, but I shall never know, unless those who know who they are but shall remain nameless in this essay, tell me.