(click photos twice to enlarge)
Salt Lake City has gotten considerably more hip and groovy since I lived in Utah in the mid-1960s, at least in the downtown neighborhood where I stayed for two nights. Bike Share. Yummy little restaurants with multicultural cuisine and good wine. People on the street who aren’t all white Mormons.
Here are some things that I saw in a walk around the neighborhood.
A “Black Lives Matter” sign nailed to a tree.
An old man sitting in a wheelchair with eyes closed in front of a post-acute facility, one hand in a bandage, both arms covered with sores (skin cancer?), his wife sitting on the porch looking tired and anxious. Waiting for a ride home, I guess.
In the middle of a quiet residential block, police action. Two cop cars (one with flashing lights), three cops, two white men, one white woman. They’re standing around a spilled shopping bag of stuff on the sidewalk next to a small blue zipper pouch. One cop politely asks me to go around. I hear him say, as I pass, “We still have to figure out how much is in there.” Drugs? Cash? A white woman sitting on the front passenger side of one cop car.
Down the block, The Dollar Store. Literally everything you would find in a Duane Reade in New York, no more than $1.00. Some items 2 for $1.00. A black man in a wheelchair can scarcely believe it. He’s loading up his shopping basket with canned soup.
Delicious meal at Cafe Niche: warm quinoa salad with salmon and two glasses of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. My young bearded server, Kyle, says, “You ordered exactly the meal I would have ordered for myself. I’d probably like the book you’re reading, too.” I say, “You probably would.” Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.
At the next table, a handsome beefy bearded guy and his date, a South Asian woman with fingernails painted light blue, both of them around 30 She says, “I’m guessing all your previous girlfriends were Asian.” He indicates that’s true and says something I don’t catch. She says, “Why do guys always say that?” A relationship that’s not going anywhere.
On my way to the restaurant I pass an African family — mom, dad, two boys around 5 or 6 or 7 years old — on their front lawn, the younger boy posing for pictures with somewhat campy gestures. They all see me approaching, I’m smiling broadly, but they still have a guarded look — white man coming, what’s he going to do/say/think? I just keep smiling, exchange hellos with the mom (very dark-skinned, maybe Senegalese or Somali, gap-toothed like me) and keep walking.
On social media, I connect with a friendly young guy named Peter, who turns out to be the roommate of the one person I know who lives in Salt Lake City, my old friend Duff. And they live half a block away from my hotel. Teeny-tiny world!