Greatness in Salt Lake

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_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

I brushed up on my white-people jokes before getting to Salt Lake City, figuring that they’d kill in this Mormon enclave.

And it’s true that most Mormons are white — blacks weren’t allowed in the church until 1978. But Salt Lake City is as multicultural, perhaps even more so, than others of its size in the region, though people of color surely stand out amongst the tribe of preternaturally attractive blond families scurrying around town. A pedicab guy told me it was because of the missionaries, who go off to other lands and bring people back to this American version of Mecca.

We saw four bridal parties woo-ing it up as he pedaled us around downtown just last night. Mormons like to get married, he said. To a Mormon, it’s like getting a promotion, guaranteeing a bigger kingdom in the afterlife.

The religion forbids the use of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and other things that the altweekly folks here at the annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia convention hold so dear. But I’m down with their favorite vice: candy. The state consumes more sweets than any other in the United States, and you can buy it anywhere — even the Indian restaurant where Triad City Beat Publisher Allen Broach and I ate curry fried chicken had a formidable candy rack by the register.

I stocked up in the gift shop of the Little American Hotel on Thursday night and kicked off a modest candy binge with a Big Hunk taffy bar, polishing it off with an Abba-Zaba nougat stick and a Big Cherry. Because there’s no way I’m going to fall off the wagon in Utah, where they still serve near-beer, the liquor laws prohibit doubles — even a martini is a single shot — and the bars close at 1 a.m.

Still, celebration came easy.

After the seven-member admission committee unanimously recommended this paper for admission into their potent network of alternative weekly papers, we were voted in as full members on Saturday afternoon.

Broach and I threw in with altweekly luminaries like Baynard Woods, who covered the Baltimore protests for the City Paper; Mary Duan, who just gave six months’ notice at the Monterey County Weekly because she won a couple million in the California lottery; Jimmy Boegle, whose friendship and experiences at his Coachella Valley Independent are part of the DNA of TCB.

On Friday night at the Natural History Museum of Utah I stood on a mountain terrace overlooking the valley, like Las Vegas with trees, the peaks of the Wasatch Front surrounding it like protective shoulders that seemed to grow stronger with the setting sun.

It was a harbinger, I think, of the next day, which would be my first as the majority owner of an AAN newspaper, and symbolic of an entire weekend that felt like a hug.