Thursday, April 3, 2008

Day 15 - Ogden and Park City, UT

Ultra Utah

Years ago in Chicago there used to be a TV ad for an Indiana amusement park. At the end, the fun-loving crow who'd guided viewers through all the adventures awaiting them would alight next to the park's logo, lean against it, and say, "There's more to Indiana than corn!"

Which is my roundabout way of saying there's more to Utah than what I've already discussed.

After vacating the World Horror premises, I drove pal John Hornor Jacobs to the airport, then continued north to Ogden, where a former (I won't use the word "old" in order to protect both of our dignities) college roommate currently lives.

Let me just say I love me some Scottie Barnard. His mom, Karen -- who also lives in Ogden -- is a lovely person as well. And they were delightful hosts during the 36 hours or so I stayed with them in their home nestled beneath the mountains.

Sunday night they treated to me to a great dinner at a local barbecue chain called Good Wood, and on Monday Scott took the wheel to deliver a custom tour.

First stop, the SLC Public Library, an incredible public space designed by Moshe Safdie, architect of the still amazing Habitat 67 in Montreal. The building, with its dizzying atrium and gravity-defying staircases is filled with light and air, and brings to mind some of the other high-flown adventures I've encountered on this trip.

I love that it's a contemporary building. Seeing it makes me grieve anew the opportunity Chicago threw away when it chose Thomas Beeby's design for our own new main library back in the 1990s. Whereas Chicago's library purposefully looked back to designs from the previous hundred years for inspiration, Salt Lake City obviously has its eye on the future.

That doesn't mean there's no room for cozy touches, like this trio of fireplaces that occupy the far corner of all the floors and resemble a column of flame when viewed from the exterior. While we were there, Scott said a bomb was set off a bomb at this spot in the library a few years ago.

The library is designed so that the more public -- and noisy -- areas are clustered on the lower floors, so that the building grows more peaceful and quiet as you reach the higher levels. It even has a small shopping center nestled on its ground floor that extends out onto the plaza surrounding the building's back area.

While the main library occupies a soaring space, Safdie wisely located the children's section in an intimate area of the basement. Though the children's section can be opened to the full height of the atrium above, it can also be closed off by a series of fabric panels, shown here. (When I asked how the panels were moved back and forth, thinking there was some mechanism there I couldn't detect, the librarian wryly told me it was done with a pole. Judging from her expression, I'm guessing it's not her favorite part of the job.)

The library's front arched wall continues outside the building, to create an elevated walking path to and from the plaza that was, unfortunately or not, closed that day due to snow. But here's a pic of Scott posing in front of it just the same.

Note Scott's clothing for just a moment, and let me comment on an odd Utah phenomenon: when it's cold, it's not really cold. Not like it gets in Chicago. Sure, it's crisp, the way apple cider and fall leaves can be crisp, but the chill doesn't cut down to the bone the way it does here. Everyone I asked about it credited the mountains and Utah's dry air, then went on a tear about how much lotion they go through in the course of a week. Still, it seems a small price to pay for the privilege of walking around in a flannel shirt when the thermometer swears it's only 37 degrees. But I digress.

Here's a professionally taken picture of the back of the library, showing it off to better advantage than I ever could. Well done, Salt Lake City!

From here, it was on to Park City, home of the Sundance Film Festival and an odd race of blonde cougars in down vests and Ugg boots that stalk the city streets. It was Scott who pointed out that all the women in Park City look alike, and he was right. I should have taken a picture or two, but was just too struck by their sun- and snow-kissed uniformity to even think of pulling out my camera.

But Park City is great, and after walking up and down its small but obviously well-moneyed strip, I can imagine how the Hollywood types eat it up as some exotic outpost. In some ways, it reminded me of Galena, Illinois, another hilly, former mining town that has since been turned into an historic outdoor mall.

Yeah, we did some shopping, and when it was done we returned, tired but happy, to Ogden. Scott's mom went to see her beloved Utah Jazz play, and Scott and I made dinner and watched Jackass 2.5 on demand. It was almost like being at home, something I was beginning to miss something fierce.

The next day I planned to make the drive to Denver to see another former college roommate. But I had a big adventure awaiting me throughout Wyoming first. One I wasn't going to enjoy.

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