For anyone who cares I will finally be writing about Yellowstone in my next entry hopefully to come later this week.
I saw U2 play on the 24th of last month in Salt Lake City and had been meaning since then to take a few notes on the concert. I was on my way to Yellowstone, I felt a little awkward about going to the concert by myself but I was already traveling by myself and besides Salt Lake City seemed more interesting of a place to stop and visit than most of the locations that were reasonably on my way to Yellowstone. Honestly, the concert itself was not terribly different than it would have been had I been with a group of people I had found some people to talk with before the show and besides all you're really doing is watching during a concert. It would have been nice to have had company on the trip back and forth from the stadium. Enough about that though:
I've only been to a few concerts before the largest of which had maybe 5,000 people one of the most immediately striking things was how the number of people there(approximately 75,000) and how that really did give the concert a completely a different energy. One of things I thought about during the concert was how it consisted of such a diverse and strange crowd and there really very few bands(none other currently) that could have brought together this group when you think of the international appeal of U2 it is even more mind boggingly. I remember seeing somewhere that U2's 360 tour grossed approximately double the next highest grossing tour in 2009.
One of the most amazing things that stuck out to me was that Bono is really funny. Granted his humor has a sort punk/glam rock style that I imagine many people are either clueless towards or dislike. Regardless though there is a real sense of satire and self deprecation in the way he performs.
Christianity and Politics:
Another surprise is that U2 really is a Christian band. They're more a part of the Woody Gutherie left wing social justice tradition of music than the Dove Music Christian pop brand. Even so one of their selections for the concerts was Love lifted Me, there was a message from Desmond Tutu that played before one of the songs, a reading of a religious poem and even a moment in which audience members were encouraged to raise their hands and say a brief prayer.
Also, the concert really was a 'show' in some ways it resembled an over-sized broadway production more than other concerts I've been too. One of the 'show's' aspects was the way political imagery was used to enhance the emotional effect of songs. I'm not one who believes that pop stars(unlike virtually everyone else in the world; also for what it's worth I find Bono's business accomplishment far more impressive than Herman Cain's) have no place in the political sphere and I believe U2 really does believe in the causes they support. That said the use of political imagery had as much to do with a sort of refocusing and spinning of songs as it does the actual politics. For example when Sunday Bloody Sunday was played there were images of the Iranian flag and protesters. Likewise Walk On was pitched as being a tribute to the long suffering of a burmese political dissident.
I guess it shouldn't be that surprising since a large number of the audience members hadn't even been born in the 80's but the set consisted almost entirely of post 1990 songs. Among the songs excluded were New Year's Day, Bad, Bullet in the Blue Sky, I Still Haven't found What I'm Looking For, and Desire. Interestingly there were also four song selections from No Line on the Horizon(I know most recent album but even so it's been two years since the tour was delayed). Among the No Line on the Horizon numbers was a pseudo-reggae remix of I'll go Crazy if I don't Crazy Tonight. Also included was a song I hadn't heard and neither did it seem had anyone else in the stadium called Miss Sarajevo and two selections from Zooropa including the title track. For the record, I actually kind of like Zooropa but it's not what anyone would consider an inspiring stadium tune part of me thinks the band might be on something of a mission to prove the album doesn't suck.
Needless to say I was more than a little disappointed by the selections but alas I think the set actually serves a verily clever marketing purpose besides giving publicity to lesser known work by holding out on some of their more popular songs it gives fans a reason to want to come back to see them again. Also, interestingly some of the funnest songs weren't necessarily u2's best work but the music everyone in the stadium knew such as the recent radio hit Vertigo. Finally, as an aside there was an acoustic solo performance of Blowing in the Wind in honor of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday.
Editors note: Once again I had intended to write more but time eludes me and I don't think anyone even my future self would be interested in reading much more than I wrote here. Expect more in a day two about the U2 concert and Yellowstone.
Rain never enlivens anyone anywhere(with the possible exception of Gene Kelly on a film set); however it is especially debilitating in one of those temples of nature commonly referred to as a park.
I. Concerning my trip:
I left either early Monday morning or very late Sunday night depending on your perspective. I had been in Harlingen attending my older brother Franklin's wedding and arrived back in Michigan at approximately 1:30 AM. I decided to leave immediately after going to Canton to grab a few things and a take a shower. My body got the best of me though and while I departed as scheduled I couldn't help but stopping for some sleep about thirty minutes outside Kalamazoo.
I went mostly west through, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and then into Utah. I've been on this exact route twice and it's hard for me to remember much of anything on it. One of the oddities of the route is Chicago is basically at sea level whereas Cheyenne Wyoming is at about 6,000 feet but there is no noticeable and the area between is portrayed as being largely flat which is accurate though maybe slightly misleading. As a side note I was greeted by snow in Wyoming but didn't recognize it at first because it was so well formed around the windgates alongside the highway.
Part A: Salt Lake City Generally and Temple Square:
The first leg of my trip ended at Salt Lake City on Tuesday afternoon. It's the second time I've been there. When I was there before it was in August and the snowtop on the surrounding mountains was all melted whereas this time there was quite a bit there. It was strange walking around Salt Lake on a warm summer day and being able to see that much snow though granted nowhere near me. The first day I was in salt lake city I attended a U2 concert which I will write about more beneath. The second day I had been planning to leave but I was quite tired from driving and didn't feel like getting in my car, and the closest reasonably priced hotel to where I was starting work Thursday was probably about a three hour drive from my work; so I decided to stay at a hostel sleep a few hours and leave early in the morning from Salt Lake.
I wound up going by the Temple Square. Salt Lake is a beautiful city and I imagine a good place to live but it's not a tourist city at all unless you're a Mormon or a Skiing. It was the second time I had been to Temple Square and in the time between my first and second visit I had visited Mexico. Having seen the glorious Latin American Cathedrals which are themselves almost worthy a trip to Mexico; the Mormon architecture by contrast has an immense plainness. The plainness though is not a negative attribute but instead gives them a very distinct very American and very Mormon quality. Perhaps if there ever was anyone anywhere who simply wanted to be plain and boring it was the Mormons who fled to Utah.
Another aspect of the Temple Square that at least hadn't stuck in my mind from before was the missionaries. All Mormons are expected to do an 18 month mission trip and for at least some this involves going to Temple Square and being a guide/evangelist around the visitors centers there. The missionaries in the temple square are all women though and from what I could tell only about a 1/3rd were from the U.S . On one hand these Missionaries are in a sense like models selling cars on the other hand though I imagine the international makeup is designed to be something of a statement about the Mormon church. A lot is written among intellectuals(as Tom Wolfe would say someone who is an expert in one thing that writes about another) about the evils of missionary religions but rarely does one hear about there good aspects such as there ability to bridge cultures and then extent which they strive to truly be international. As much I in someways like the idea in Judaism of not trying to convert the world but instead being a voice of truth; I don't think there are any Jewish Indonesians explaining their faith to Protestant Christians from Michigan in Utah.
The missionaries were also an odd comment to the Temple Square in two other ways. One they stood as quite a contrast to the painting of the Mormon founders were all white men and the art of Biblical event which portrayed all the characters as very white and very European. Secondly, is that while in a sense the characters portrayed were different from the missionaries they actually complimented the immigrant story of the Mormon faith.
There is a poem which has been on mind as of late; that is something of the State motto of Utah. On one hand is verily boring American Western Poetry. It also has a subtext about how Utah was a place of refuge for the outcasts of our society. I recently had a discussion with a friend about why the U.S has been able to maintain an advantage over the rest of the world. At least part of the answer is that it's large landmass and unified cultural allows for mobility in this context of people but also of resources(think of the farmers who migrated from the plane states to California during the depression). The greatest story of domestic mobility in U.S history is probably that of the Mormon Church. I know its in vogue among some Protestants to thumb their noses at Mormons and while I think Joseph Smith was probably a con-man those who were conned by him deserve pity not the sharp persecution they were greeted with. Maybe God did make Utah as a place for them; if he did so it was a beautiful act of mercy and I'm glad I live in a Country where they could take it.
I'm glad to be here where the mountains rise
Dazzling white 'neath the clear blue skys
From crimson dawn 'til the dear day dies
Way out west in Utah.
Where the mountain air is pure and sweet,
Where fresh, cool water flows down the street
And the climate! Friend, it can't be beat;
Delightful, magnificent Utah.
God made Utah and He made it grand,
The beauty spot of His glorious land,
Where plenty supplies with a generous hand
All of our needs and wants in Utah.
Mighty mountains, sylvian vales,
Picturesque canyons and rugged trails,
Joy's your companion, health never fails,
Happiness dwells in Utah.
~Minnie J. Hardy
Below is a link to where this poem was read at the U2 concert:
Editors note: I was meaning for this to be only preliminary comments to the beginning of my writing about my travels here. However, I am getting tired for the night; so I will be finishing now. Hopefully, I will be able to write more extensively on Saturday. Sorry for the brief comments and I hope this explains the nature of this post. Also, I find my previous post which I've gone back forth on whether I should keep private to be quite interesting if you haven't seen it.
Pictures and Blogging
I feel disappointed for not writing more soon despite being gone from Michigan for quite sometime now. The problem and the reason I don't write more in general is that at time when I should be writing things they are usually verily fresh in my memory and I feel like spending time doing other things. It's not usually till months and sometimes years later that my journal has any real value to me. That said there's is something uncanny about the ability say to read something I wrote six years ago and remember what I was doing on a specific day and even to some extent relive mentally what is was like to be an eighteen year old. To all those, who don't keep a journal or diary I would highly recommend the experience even if you only make a few entries in it a year.
As an aside I won't be posting any pictures because I do not have a camera. I've never especially enjoyed taking pictures and it's amazing pictures there are floating around the internet of my time time in Mexico City(some of a slightly embarrassing nature) and Akron even though I took very few pictures in Mexico City and none that I can think of in Akron. When I think of the pictures I wish I had; there not so so much the pictures of wide vistas, waterfalls or animals that one spontaneously wants to take but there more the pictures of the people I knew. I really regret not having any pictures of my roommate and good friend Paul along with others from King's Canyon or my Pastor friend and mentor Robert Trapani along with some of the congregants at New Life in Akron(I think all of my law school classmates were online). All that is left of these people is my memory of them now and I'm not sure I will ever see them again; Paul I definitely won't. When facebook first started and myspace especially I kind of resented it as a fad. Now that I've had addresses in five different States and Mexico; I really appreciate the value of it as a tool.
My biggest fault is that I have an inability to lie to people or myself. By which, I mean not that I can’t make blatantly false statements or that I think there is a value in making such statements. What I mean is that I can’t deceive people.
About two months ago I went to a career fair sponsored by my alma mater Eastern Michigan University. After, the fair there’s was a presentation by Chase bank. The presentation was under the guise of being a management training program for retail locations. As I understand it, the ‘training program’ consisted of working through a number of positions eventually ending in being a branch manager. However, promotions were not guaranteed and the actual position that Chase was offering to the lucky few who got interviews and were hired involved sitting in a grocery trying to convince people walking by who probably already had several bank accounts that they needed another one. If you got through that first part you got to be a teller and if you could get enough people to signup for direct deposit then you might get to prod others to sign more people up for direct deposit. For the record, I have a Chase account and absolutely hate the way one cannot get simple customer service and instead is constantly pressured to sign up for bank products.
There were two people giving the presentation. One a short ugly looking guy who went on about how much he loved selling never smiling you got the impression he had serious control issues and could have been a thumb breaker under different circumstances. The other was a giddy corporate type who somehow manages to be really positive and really obnoxious simultaneously.
Next to me was a girl who was about nineteen very skinny and professional but also feminine. She could not have acted much more excited had she been told she won a lottery. How she did it, how she was able to maintain an excitement about these wonderful opportunities that both eluded me and basically everyone else in the room was a mystery. How did she do it? How did she lie? I wish could train myself to be able to spin on a dime like that.
Try as I might though, I was already late to meet a friend and had been through a long day of trying to put my best foot forward mostly to people who didn’t want to talk to me and I couldn’t blame them, this was obviously my choice B. I had been a senior at Eastern and chose not to interview with the companies I was now trying to get a job from. They knew this and none of them wanted to be runner-ups especially given the fact that I had already expressed interest in work that was far above this sort of drone level duty.
Why couldn’t I do it though, why couldn’t I simply smile and act excited? I wished I could unfortunately I think one of my better characteristics being able to be honest even in the face of pressure wasn’t rewarded though by this kind of interview process and instead the bubbly insincere cheeriness of this girl next to me was or guy giving the presentation.
More seriously though I know it’s not normally good not to be able to mask one’s emotions except when watching a movie or some other passive activity. I am not an especially emotional person I just have an inability to be dishonest. When it comes to dealing with women, I come off as both overly engaged to the point of likely being obnoxious and simultaneously unable even to give a passing interest about say their cat or the banal cynical gangsta rap they might enjoy. I also find that if a friend or family member comes to me with a problem it’s hard not to give them advice if I feel there’s some input I can give. I also was perhaps overly bearing on a friend about a boyfriend she had I didn’t care for when I was a freshman in college. I also can’t be satisfied with being spiritual and intellectually ignorant and feel a need to read lots of works of apologetics that are often pretty boring. Right now I can’t do as good of a job selling people as I would like to much of which in my current capacity involves making small talk with people I couldn’t care less about.
Part of the biggest problem with this is I don’t know how to change it or even if I would want to change this situation if given the chance. Even though, some people I know might disagree, I don’t feel like I am especially rude or uncouth. I also think my ability to be honest can help me make good decisions. I know one time for example, I went to a conference promoting a get rich quick scheme and was able to hold off the enthusiasm of my father who might have otherwise made some very poor financial decisions. Conversely, I also know I was to some extent strangely unaffected by a Dale Carnegie motivational course that many people probably get a lot out off. Also, how exactly does one practice being insincere or at least being open to things one might not understand immediately? I don’t know; I guess I am just stuck with my inability to lie.
In early April last year, there was a fire in my apartment building. Luckily I had been away that Sunday afternoon at a study session. I arrived back at around 7 o’clock being greeted by the bright yellow of fire truck sirens. I was sent to a room by the manager’s office where a Red Cross worker was arranging accommodations for those of whose apartments were deemed unfit to stay in. I was a late comer and had to be put with one of my neighbors whom I had never met before.
She was an obese red head who’s live in boyfriend was a trucker and had some sort of accounting job with the company her boyfriend drove for. I wandered what he must of thought about his girlfriend spending the night with another man in a hotel room; not that she was anyone’s picture of a temptress but even so.
Given my state of my mind that was somewhere between shock and general discomfort I could barely sleep and left the hotel about 4am to go to school where I sat trying to study till 8:30 when a class started.
The following night it was legal for me to hebetate my apartment. However, I was the only person who even attempted to stay on the side where the fire had been and one of only two people in the whole apartment. There was nothing burned in my apartment but the smoke and the ash residue made it impossible to breathe. I put my bed out on the balcony but honestly the hardest thing was the blankets. I gave up sometime around midnight and went to a hotel. Had I slept well the night before I probably would have not thought to spend the money but given my desperation to rest it was a wise investment.
On Tuesday, I could have stayed but hadn’t had time to clean out my apartment and was already well behind on homework so I chose to spend the night with a friend. Wednesday, I doused my apartment with chemicals and lit several candles. It smelled really awful but nowhere near as bad as smoke.
My apartment had no permanent damage though it did take a long time to clean up and it wasn’t till almost two weeks later the carpets were cleaned.
If you picture the building as being a U the fire came from the north-west corner. My apartment was in the middle but on the west side from the stair case that split the complex in half. The fire cut down the hall way but didn’t get in most apartments. I was told that units that had AC on were more damaged because the heat made the AC go into over drive spreading ash and accelerating the fire. For the next two months the hall wall was a dark black and the floor was bare of all carpet like in a construction site.
About a week after, I noticed an old lady she spoke with a European accent that seemed German. Her name was Elma, I had helped her shovel out her car before. She was now just sitting in her car by herself not even listening to the radio. When, I asked her if there was something I could do for her she politely said no and informed me she was trying to avoid the fumes. I saw her sitting there several times over the following two weeks or so.
I felt bad, when I saw her I couldn’t help but wondering what kept her going. She lived by herself, never left the apartment and the only visitor I ever saw appeared to be her son who didn’t even come to help her shovel out her car but then again he might have thought she wasn’t going anywhere. Whatever faculties she had that allowed her to enjoy the physical world or spurred curiosity seemed to be gone.
One day I asked her if she would like to come with me to Barnes and Nobel. Her response was one of the oddest and most surprising I ever received. She gave me the smile that is hard to explain but if you’ve ever received it or even seen lovers give it to each other you know exactly what it looks like, laughed and said I’m 93 years old. Obviously she hadn’t lost imagination. Maybe life is still meaningful as long as there is imagination.