Three Days, Three Cities

Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle.

Temple Square, Castro Street, Pike Place Market.

Each formerly a haven for social outcasts, each now a popular tourist attraction.

And with just a few hours between appearances and airport security lines, I, too, was drawn to each with the little time that I had to myself.

Just prior to the Civil War, I learned, the Mormons had tried to persuade the United States government to declare Deseret the 31st state of the Union, but the sensitive issue of polygamy and Brigham Young’s refusal to abide by President Buchanan’s order to step down as self-appointed governor led to the little known Utah War. It took almost another half century for the issue of polygamy to fade far enough from the headlines for Utah to gain statehood in 1896.

The Mormon influence on Salt Lake City remains like the underground river still running beneath the wide downtown streets — silent, invisible, but always sensed, if not occasionally felt. Only those who have lived in the state capitol could be qualified to share their opinions on that influence, but to an outsider one memory remains forever imbedded: no where in my travels, home or abroad, have I seen a city as clean as this. Litter is practically non-existent, and nearly every yard and flower garden, regardless whether it be in front of a late Victorian lady, a sprawling Prairie School four-square or a modest brick bungalow, is kept as neat and tidy as the headliner on a historic house tour. If paint peels in Salt Lake City, it’s not for long.

While this was not my first visit to San Francisco’s Castro Street, I must admit to having been taken back by the site of a forty-year-old man sunbathing in the nude in the small public park at Castro and 17th Street, just a few yards from the tourists hopping off the historic trolley. To his credit, the man was buffed and, as you would imagine, void of any embarrassing tan lines.

I cut my plans short to have lunch and a glass of wine in one of the many nearby restaurants, not because I felt uncomfortable, but because I felt like I was infringing on the lives of those who live and shop and socialize on Castro Street. At times I was embarrassed by the tourists snapping pictures, pointing at the more obvious public displays of affection that they would never see in Duluth or Springfield or Tucson. This was their home, their street, not ours — and it wasn’t supposed to be Temple Square or Pike Place Market.

Then, Seattle. Or have they renamed it Starbucks, Washington?

It was a beautiful, sunny and warm Sunday afternoon at the Pike Place Market, the kind of day you would expect to find a line of twenty people standing in front of Ben & Jerry’s, but not in Seattle. Didn’t matter that it was mid-afternoon and people were wearing tank tops and tee shirts, they were willing to stand in line for twenty minutes for their Mocha Coconut Frappuccinos. While a testament to the success of urban revitalization within a historic framework, Pike Place Market felt a little too much like Disney for me, but, again, I was swimming amid a sea of Sunday tourists, this time snapping pictures of their children standing in front of row upon row of dead fish laid out on beds of cracked ice.

Three days, three cities, a lifetime of memories.

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!


PS – On a sad note, I have to let you know of the death of John Clarke, one of our fellow Arts & Crafts collectors and a 25-year attendee at the Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference. John died as a result of an accident in his home of Atlanta. Please keep his wife and our good friend Elizabeth in your thoughts and prayers.

We’ll miss you, John….