Purgatory in Salt Lake City

23 September 2012

I drive to work and finally make the switch away from OK Computer. I opt for Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm.

The plastic seal in the travel coffee mug lid is beginning to pop out. It prevents me from closing the lid all the way. As I drive and take a sip from the mug, coffee pours onto my shirt and lap. I am not burned, just bemused.

On the interstate, I drive south to work. Each morning, I pass a billboard with a picture of Orrin Hatch on it. The text reads, “With experience comes strength” and has his first name in cursive, as if he signed the billboard by hand, and his surname in print. I always flip the bird to this billboard because it enrages me. It should say, “With experience comes entrenched and moralistic judgement that is far removed from the life of the everyday person Senator Sign-His-Own-Billboard claims to represent.”

I take my exit and drive to the traffic light where I must turn left. I sit in the turn lane and watch the persons driving past me. I think about Mr. Hatch as I watch the drivers. Some wear sunglasses and some sing along to something they hear. We all do our best with what we have. Unfortunately, all some of us (e.g. Orrin Hatch, Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc.) have are terrible tools designed only to build our own houses on the rubble of neighbourhoods around us.

On my lunch break, I decide to walk to Bakery and Brews, a coffee shop I have praised previously, for a pumpkin spice latte. I find the building locked and completely empty. No tables, no chairs, no magazine racks, no life. A few days later, the large banner with the shop’s name is gone from the building.


I walk the two and one-half blocks to Red Rock Brewing Company to eat my favourite brunch item – The Eggs In Purgatory. I walk through the Gateway, past the Farmer’s Market in the blazing sun. I have sensitive eyes and no sunglasses. I am often ill-equipped for my circumstances.

I am in the comforting presence of strangers amid a cacophony of 1980s music (“I Want Your Sex”), knives attacking cutting boards, silverware clattering against itself and indecipherable conversations.

I order water without ice and with a lemon, coffee (black) and Eggs In Purgatory. The coffee is good enough. It is watery and mild allowing me to drink several cups before shitting myself.

I do not know why the eggs are in purgatory. I feel some Christian sects allow for the purity of organisms that are never birthed. Yet, these eggs were so sinful (or just sinful enough) that they find themselves in limbo, denied bliss and near damnation. I devour them in the hopes this gustatory grace will end their torment.

Persons from the True Value convention dine here. The men wear khaki or navy blue slacks (probably Haggar or Dockers), polos or long-sleeve light-blue dress shirts.

The meal is as good as I remember.

I take a bite of bacon and a sip of coffee as my former neighbour, Dan, instructed me to do. I once enjoyed a gin and tonic with Dan on his balcony at our apartment building in the Avenues of Salt Lake City.

I leave Red Rock to adjourn to The Rose coffee shop. The location used to be Big City Soup. I was disappointed in the change at first, but now feel pleased. The space is open, the coffee is good and the clientele are 92-percent hipster. I spy a woman I used to know when I lived here the first time. Her hair is much longer now.

I am overstimulated with the action here. Persons moving, talking, catching up, calling one another “sleepy head.” My cappuccino has a flower-shape in the foam. Perhaps it is more of a leaf. Either way is OK.

A man wears a NASA t-shirt. His legs are veiny. A child walks in and makes noise on a harmonica. He plays the same note, in and out and repeat ’til death do us part.

Sleepy head orders iced coffee and toast. I hope the choice rejuvenates and prepares her for the day ahead.

Another small child walks in holding the hand of a grown-up. This child is not making noise on a harmonica. She is being quiet and respectful and looking around with curiosity in her eyes.

A person may wish to be in a park on a day like today, but I am not easily fooled. I know the sun is out there, waiting to make me warm and hard of seeing.

Another familiar woman walks in. I am stuck in a hipster time warp, riding my fixed-gear bicycle down memory lane.

One woman at the coffee bar says, loud enough for all to hear, “Time is the most valuable thing on the planet.”

The conversation dies down. The sound of crockery clanking increases. I get up and leave.

Slouching toward extinction

16 September 2012

Salt Lake City is quiet on Sundays. The streets are slow and the sun is warm, but beginning to lose its power to the coolness of autumn. The residents of the LDS capital are shopping, indoors with family at church or in cute coffee shops and Whole Foods.

I go to brunch with GF and her brother, Adamantium. GF and I drive to the University of Utah dorms to pick up Adamantium and drive back down to Caffé Niche on 300 South and 800 West. We walk in with the hopes of eating on the patio, yet the patio is full. The hostess with the braid tells us we may have to wait for a table. She explains there is a table by the window, but it is having a “fly situation” at the moment. Due to her further explanation, I am able quickly to dismiss two possible scenarios: (A) The table is having issues zipping up its blue jeans and is too embarrassed or ill-prepared for company. (B) The table is experiencing the height of 1990s cool, yet that acme of awesome has landed it into some sort of kerfuffle, similar to the ones Kid N Play frequently found themselves in. The truth is the simpler version: (C) Several flies of the insect variety buzz around the table. I excuse myself to the restroom in which the reggae music is loud. I return to find a suitable table is ready. We sit, look at the menu and prepare to order.

Throughout brunch, I realize the patrons and restaurant staff are too cool for me. I am resigned to perpetual unfashionability. I cannot hang with hipsters in tucked in black shirts, hipsters with tattoos that have deep meaning and are lyrics from Bon Iver songs, hipsters with thrift store ensembles nicer than anything I own. I am getting too old to matter or fit, not that I ever have found myself comfortable in any setting. I am the gorilla in the midst of glamorous gibbons.

I am becoming irrelevant and anachronistic. GF and I listen to the radio while driving because she prefers the radio and I frequently commandeer the musical choices, which almost never include music found on popular radio. (This statement is not to imply I have any sort of taste, but to highlight the fact that I prefer intolerable music that causes indigestion and has no appeal whatsoever. I am a difficult person to be around.) GF tunes the dial to the “oldies” station. We hear Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” both of which are admonishing us to refrain from quitting (at least until we get enough). These are now oldies? When I was younger, oldies were songs from the 1960s and 1970s, but I suppose we made the leap to the 1980s as the distant past sometime in the last 10 years. Instead of paying attention, I was busy slouching toward extinction.

We are now in our apartment after dropping Adamantium at the dorms and after I purchase a pumpkin spice latte at Whole Foods. While GF does work, I listen to “Armagideon Time” by The Clash and “Sitting Still” by REM. I suppose the songs are fitting for my mood, as I am reaching my personal Armageddon of appositeness. I am sitting still, refusing to upgrade my many-years-old flip phone, thinking that human connection can still exist via email, phone call and letter and postcard writing.

I am the oldies station tuned to only for a second of rosy nostalgia. I am quickly switched in favour of glitzy, ADD rock and Autotuned technopop. I am the post-apocalyptic curmudgeon in self-exile.


[Typed on my MacBook Pro, posted on my online blog and promoted via Twitter.]

Before sunrise

13 September 2012

I awake at 5:15 am today. GF prepares to go to Snowbird for work and I hitch a ride, currently unable to spend $4.70 for a roundtrip ride on TRAX.

We get in the car and pull out of our building’s parking garage into darkness punctuated with the lights of industry: warehouse exterior lights, streetlights, headlights and taillights, traffic lights. The world is starting its arbitrary shift change from night to day.

I feel completely comfortable. I tolerate the daylight hours everyday, but desperately crave the darkness. The wee hours of the morning or the dark after sundown.

The I-15 is shockingly busy at this time of day. The interstate has a magic sheen from the combination of highway lights, automobile lights and the slowly discernible sunlight. The mountains rest calmly in the background, all purple shadows.

GF drops me off at Bakery and Brews, a coffee shop specializing in South American food. The coffee shop is 1/4 mile from where I work. I am able to purchase a coffee and homemade empanada thanks to a rewards card and the owner allowing me to pay him in nickels and dimes. I want everyone in Murray and Salt Lake City to visit Bakery and Brews at least once to try the homemade soup, clam chowder (on Fridays), empanadas, pastries or sandwiches. You can also purchase nutritional supplements if you desire. I have yet to purchase said items, as you can probably tell when you see my unsightly physique ambling along sidewalks.

The sun is up now and I am trying not to be annoyed with it. Every day I wake up hoping this will be the day when the clouds take over and block the sun for 24 hours.

I will do well in the apocalypse. Unless the apocalypse includes a blood red sun, because I imagine that would be even more annoying.


Back in Salt Lake City

10 September 2012

I am listening to Suede by Suede. A TRAX train goes by and the scenery at the Gateway remains the same. Another TRAX train goes by in the opposite direction of the first. I assume the original train realised there would be no passengers aboard and just gave up. I hear you train. Sometimes, you just give up before you get too far.

Yet, with its persistent failures and disappointments life sometimes presents one with pleasantries:

-In Little America, WY, while eating indigestion-causing sandwiches, GF and I spot a “true” cowboy. He walks in wearing a cowboy hat, denim shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots. He walks to the bar, sits down and says, “I’ll have a large Coke to go.” I nearly fainted with the sudden infusion of seemingly-unforced Americana.

-In Fort Collins, CO, GF and I wake one morning to find two children staring at us. Soon their mom, my friend Elizabeth, falls on the air mattress and hugs me.

-GF and I order a “dynamite lunch” at Suehiro in Fort Collins. The dynamite turns out to be a sushi casserole dish. Delightful. We eat the lunch with friends.

-I have lunch with a former professor who I now consider a colleague and friend. Yet, I am still in awe of her. Probably always will be.

-GF and I decided to leave Fort Collins early, book a Days Inn room in Rawlins, WY and eat food from Burger King while watching Monster In Law. The front desk clerk is called Yaya and all of her fingernails are painted a different color.

-On the drive back to Salt Lake City, GF accepts my musical selection of No Doubt’s Return of Saturn. I just love to bathe in my old musical bathwater. (Forced? Who cares?)

Late night, Salt Lake City

2 September 2012

I set a goal yesterday of getting some writing done and being productive.

Toward that end, I drink two cups of coffee after 10:00 PM and think that the creative juices will flow as I look out the window over the darkened Gateway shopping center. In the distance, over the power substation and Wing Nutz restaurant and Bureau of Land Management building, glows the persistent red neon of the Red Lion Hotel. We seem to be the only ones awake, the Red Lion neon and I. The Z Tejas sign flicks off. One car passes. It looks like the same one that passed five minutes ago. Is the driver lost? Are they on drugs? Are they just looking for a good time, but too afraid to try their luck on a different block?

Sirens blare and dissolve into the distance. Surely, at least they know where they are going. They do not linger on one stretch of road trying to find purpose. They have a goal. Emergencies. They wait for something unsavory to happen and then charge forward. The rest of us are somnambulists, cruising the strip with heavy lids waiting for the lights to no longer turn green so that we know when to stop, when we’re home.

But we just drive and drive, wearing away the same familiar macadam, creating our own ruts and potholes and forgetting to avoid them later.

Yet, the routine hurts and comforts at the same time. The darkness promises comfort and sanctuary. The moon is a friend full of empathy.

Somewhere, there seems to be a mixed metaphor, but I’m not going to try and find it.