Local flavor from Salt Lake City

Yesterday I found myself in Sam Weller’s, the oldest independent bookstore in Salt Lake City. It’s as good a bookstore as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, which reveals something about the intellectual life of Salt Lake City. There was a television crew there conducting interviews, because Sam Weller, the owner of the store, had died that day. I overheard the interviewer asking a girl of about ten years old, “So what does Sam Weller’s mean to you?” Very eloquently, she told how important books were for her, and how much she likes to go to that bookstore. She sounded like a budding intellectual, with all that entails.

Later that evening, Rev. Tom Goldsmith, minister of First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City, welcomed delegates to the first session of Plenary. Among other things, he said that some state leaders look askance at Salt Lake City, because of the intellectual ferment of the city. “They call it ‘Sin City’,” he said.

If you think of Salt Lake City as a dour theocracy, you’ve gotten a wrong impression of the city. In the neighborhood of the convention center, I have found not just Sam Weller’s, but also art galleries, a film center, ethnic restaurants, and more. After experiencing a little bit of Salt Lake City, my only surprise is that there are only two Unitarian Universalist congregations in the city.


14 thoughts on “Local flavor from Salt Lake City

  1. Dad

    This year, instead of attending GA, I opted for live streaming video. After much frustration, I finally got it to work (hint: be sure to turn off pop up blocking in your browser), and I believe I saw you in the crowd. I did manage to see and hear the homily by Angela Herrarra (who just finished being ministerial intern at FP Concord), and was pleased that she did well. Then, on the next evening, I watched the presentations by the two candidates for president. Since I already have submitted my absentee ballot, this could not influence my vote; but it was interesting. I hope that a day will come when video can be made available in all congregations and members then could vote in absentia after the presentations by the candidates.

  2. Jean

    How weird, really, that the UUA has a president. I think it should be a non-hierarchical institution. But then, what do I know.

  3. Dan

    Dad @ 1 — When watching streaming video, I have been told that Firefox is the best browser to use. Don’t know if that makes a difference, but that’s what I’ve heard.

    Jean @ 2 — You write: “I think it should be a non-hierarchical institution.”

    After years of watching people try to create non-hierarchical organizations, what I have seen is that “non-hierarchical” usually is translated as “total lack of structure,” which in practice usually mean the already-powerful (well-to-do, white, straight) as the de facto rulers of the organization, without any of the checks on power that can be built into a structured organization.

    This belief in a “non-hierarchical” organization has been the downfall of second-wave feminism — they believed in consensus, but women of color, lesbians, and working class women confronted the second wave feminists when it seemed that “consensus” meant that the middle-class straight white women always got their way. So “non-hierarchical” all too often means that existing systems of oppression just get carried on to the next generation.

    Bill Baar @ 3 — Or Las Vegas. Unless the “sin” is intellectualism. Then Salt Lake City is probably the place to go.

  4. Hank

    Dan, i remember spending a couple of hours in that bookstore at the last GA, and i have to admit that I was surprised to see such a great bookstore in a place like SLT. That’ll teach me. I was also surprised that one could rent a kilt at the Scottish store across the street from the bookstore.

    I also went to the Mormon Mall across from the GA site and visited the Orange Julius stand, it was bad. BTW the Convention Center was flattened by a tornado a year after we were last there, so “Look to the skies!”

  5. carol

    I hear there’s a local brew called “Polygamy Porter” (motto, “Why stop at one?”).
    It’s a sparkling, sunny day in SE New England today.

  6. Amy

    How many UU churches are there in San Francisco? One. I’d say the issue is less the pool of potential UUs but our outreach and welcome, or rather, lack thereof.

    Sam Wellers. . . let’s see if I can get there before leaving SLC tonight.

  7. Dan

    carol @ 6 — I never found “Polygamy Porter.”

    Amy @ 7 — You write: “I’d say the issue is less the pool of potential UUs but our outreach and welcome, or rather, lack thereof.”

    Yes, we Unitarian Universalists generaly don’t do very well at welcoming newcomers. Sigh.

  8. Dan

    Earthbound @ 9 — Hah, and I went to Squatter’s twice. Never got past their organic beer, which tasted very good indeed.

  9. Earthbound Spirit

    I had the Organic Amber and the Golden Ale on different visits. Both were delightful. The Full Suspension Ale had a smoky aftertaste which lingered too long for me… I never got to the Porter either. Can you tell this was a popular place with the folks I hang out with?

  10. Wes

    I’m glad you were able to make it to Sam Weller’s. Will and I discovered it on a Sunday morning a few years ago. It was the only place open.

  11. Dan

    Hey Wes, good to hear from you! Hope you had a good ride back.

    Sam Weller’s was fabulous, except that I bought too many books, which I then had to schlep back to Massachusetts at the end of my stay. Thanks again for the tip!

  12. Wes

    Actually, the bookstore isn’t open on Sundays any more. Will and I had the same experience with book purchases. In addition to Sam Weller’s, we found independent booksellers in Moab.

    Reaction seems to be the key word when describing counter-culture in Utah.

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