December 23rd, 2003

rock shadow

Salt Lake

I got up early Saturday morning for a 9 a.m. interview with EWF. This was for the summer internship program, and I think it went well. If I get the internship, I may be teaching Java to high-school kids in Bosnia next summer.

After the interview, my Dad headed to work and David and I joined the rest of the Ames's (most of them) for breakfast at a local diner. While eating, I spotted my high-school environmental club advisor with his wife and a bunch of students, waiting for a table - what a surprise! It amazes me how often I run into people I know in Salt Lake; after years in Berkeley, I've come to expect not to see many familiar faces.

I saw the last LOTR with friends after breakfast, and then we ate vegetarian beef and other things at Long Life Veggie House, then hunted for Christmas Street - a street of houses that covered themselves in lights for Christmas - only to learn that it no longer exists. Then Clio, darthabsinthe, Adam, dag29580863, and I watched temperategoddss and her boyfriend play with Taylorsville orchestra. I recognized many pieces from high school orchestra, and afterwards Clio and I reminisced about which parts we had faked. :~) After temperategoddss had packed up her cello, we made our way to the local Dee's where we drank hot cocoa and made table art.


Then we drove back to east Salt Lake (I almost said East Bay!) and wandered the cemetery next to Clio's house, which was magically alight with candles in sacks and the floating park lights of cars (and the occasional headlights of the inconsiderate). We frolicked around a few candles and noticed that a few had burned their enclosures. When we got too cold to wander more, we disbanded for the night.

The next day dag29580863 and I went to a new shopping plaza with Clio to finish Christmas shopping. This plaza had a fountain like the Bellagio's, which sprayed water in time to music (usually cheesy inspirational stuff, says Clio, who often studies this shopping center in architecture classes). We ended up in the gift store of the new planetarium, which I'd like to visit before I leave. I really loved the old one, but the building it was in was definitely too small. On the way back, we watched a swarm of birds swirl as if collectively attached by a spring around a billboard at 39th and 7th, all changing direction almost simultaneously. It reminded me of the simple rules of "boids," which I had a fascination with a couple of years ago.

I got almost everybody books and games this year. I had to restrain myself with kids' presents - there are just too many really cool things out there that I want to get for my cousins, but shouldn't because I'll go broke if I do. I'm giving them a collective present of starry ceilings with the accurate summer night sky. I have a kit (projectors distort too much), extra paint, and star charts for the older ones, and am going to promise painting service for all but the two that live in France. I had a starry ceiling as a kid, and loved it.

dag29580863 left today for home, where he'll stay for the next few weeks. I feel a bit at a loss, but I watched Amelie with my dad which always makes everything look magical. And now I sleep.
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rock shadow

(no subject)

It snowed on Sunday night, clearing out the inversion (though the pollution has built up again already). dag29580863 fishtailed around the snowy streets in my Grandpa's truck. On Monday, the airport was covered in low-lying Lake fog, dense and uniform. Driving dag29580863 to the airport, I felt like I was the product of a graphics engine with the fog parameter set too high. Street signs and lights appeared out of the grey at 30 meters or so, and signs weren't legible until they were 10 meters away. On the way back, the grey had become a deep blue and clung to the ground in wisps all around the valley.

It can be exceedingly difficult to navigate around Salt Lake. I am much more aware of it when I have to navigate for someone who doesn't know the city. Though the streets are more or less gridwork and often named for their distance from the Mormon temple (45th South, 20th East, etc.), the only landmarks are commercial ones - and generically commercial, like malls and grocery stores and gas stations. Salt Lake, outside of downtown, has no sense of place. When the inversion layer is thick and I can't see the sun or the mountains, I can lose my sense of direction if I'm in an unfamiliar area - and that almost never happens. Streets in Salt Lake remind me of many of the girls and young women in Salt Lake - all commercialized, all the same.

Salt Lake City is so amazingly spread out. I've become accustomed to the density in Berkeley and San Francisco - here, there are vacant lots and low buildings everywhere. I would opt for denser housing and ample parkland and wild space, but that runs counter to the fifties Mormon/American dream of the giant house on a half-acre plot in (boring, stifling, numbing) suburbia. Lots that large require one to drive everywhere, creating terrible inversions in the valley and putting pedestrian-friendly things like sidewalks and street-level storefronts on the back burner, and they make public transit inviable. At least Salt Lake has a minimal but growing light rail system now, thanks to the Olympics.

City planning in the county is terrible. Two years ago they closed the Albertson's down the street from my dad's only to level a wooded hill and build a mega-Albertson's a block away in the opposite direction. Now the old building stands vacant. Ridiculous. I'm not sure if the county or the newly-formed Holladay township is responsible for the stupidity.

So much of the development in Salt Lake valley and all along the Wasatch Front happened so fast. My dad, born in '49, remembers a time when everything south of 21st South was farmland and orchards; I remember when Sandy and Draper were such. Now these places and more are suburbs and strip malls and office buildings, with few parks or public spaces. In the fifties and sixties, trendy Park City was an empty mining town, and parcels of land that are now worth ten million or more were won and lost in poker games. Now main street caters to the shopping tastes of the rich, and the ski resorts keep business going by generating snow from water pumped out of the old mines, poisoning the groundwater with lead and other heavy metals.
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