Editor’s Notebook, Regulars and Shorts

Editor’s Notebook: Downtown dreams, fast bikes and the Saab returns.

By Greta Belanger deJong

-by Greta Belanger deJong
If you read my column last month, you know that my lovely '87 (which is to say uninsured) Saab was stolen out of my driveway. I did not mourn; I rode my bike. I lusted after a new bike. I had adventures on my old bike.

I acquired the object of my lust: a shiny blue Specialized Sirrus, from Wasatch Touring. Now I dream of flying. I dream of roller-skating fast down dark streets, smiling.

Last night I dreamed of front-end loaders and back hoes on an abandoned Salt Lake City street, storefronts gaping like wounds, like empty eye sockets.

Interpretting dreams is intensely personal and I won't go there now. Dissecting a dream for its source material is something else-it's simply a look at the ingredients: the flour, sugar, milk and eggs, minus the alchemy. In this case, the dream was likely stimulated by a Deseret News story regarding Stephen Goldsmith's Temporary Museum of Permanent Change for downtown's demolition area. Veteran reporter Elaine Jarvik, who always gets the best assignments, painted the dream-inspiring view of the abandoned Crossroads Mall: "…the exposed innards of Mervyn's department store, with its sagging fluorescent light [fixtures] and its jumble of twisted metal." Another ingredient in the mix of this dream: a recent conversation with Ralph Becker regarding the proposed City Creek Center skybridge.

Diesel-fueled, tree-free, grey: The dream was populated with men whose machines churned back and forth, fetching loads of rubble. What had happened? It was clean-up time. Aftermath. Something had run its course. The abandoned space before me had been left so sterile that, though weathered by time, biology could not overtake it.

I feel this inching toward (and aching for) analysis. Back to observing the input. 

Main Street. Do you remember it in the late '70s to mid- '80s? My favorite was a little gift shop, The Cat's Meow, where a bank now stands. A block south was Woolworth's, Penney's (where I bought my first couch), a massive music store (which stayed open late), and something-of-everything Keith Warshaw. Parties of renown were held in the photographers' studio lofts above the  corner jewelry store at the south end of the block.

Those days and buildings are gone, replaced by the towering Wells Fargo; I'm not here to complain about that. Here's my point: What made downtown once vital is that the ground level was a human level. Shops, restaurants, a variety of services.

Left unchecked, banks, insurance companies and other offices may be all that's left on street-level Main. 

And the skybridge?

It's a symptom, not the sickness itself. Why argue about the pro's and cons of cosmetic surgery for someone with a fatal growth? It's not a good thing. But it's not the problem.

I'm all for bargaining, though. And, as Ralph Becker suggested, the skybridge is a big chip. What might be gotten in exchange? What does Main St. really, truly need?

Let's brainstorm about that.

If it doesn't work-I suggest we forget about Main, at least the north end, and move on. Broadway (Third South) already has a lot more activity and subsequent soul.

But I meant to tell you about my car. I thought it would be fun to ask four or five psychics about it, and print their comments. Mary Nickle said, "I see your car with wings, fluttering around you. It's waiting to be called home." I made a flier, distributed it in my neighborhood, and made more of an effort to "call it home." Suzanne Wagner, who writes our "Metaphors" said, "It will come back, in one-something: one month, one year."

A few days later, practically four weeks to the hour after my car disappeared and before I could expand on my clever idea any further, I was awakened in the night by a phone call from a police officer. The Murray City police had my car. It was found by the security guard of a nice-looking condo complex on Vine St., who said it had been in their parking ramp for about three weeks. The battery was dead, stereo gone, dashboard damaged and it sported stolen plates.

Here's what I've pieced together, from evidence found in (and absent from) the car:

I suspect my car was stolen by a gang of teen-aged moms. Everything was sticky; only a bunch of candy-eating toddlers could have made such a mess (to say nothing of the empty cans of diet Pepsi on the floor). Three bags of women's clothes, headed for D.I., were missing. But not the shoes (wrong size?). A big bag of beautiful hollyhock corms was taken. Likewise, the two good dogleashes (with two lesser leashes left behind). An industrial-strength felt blanket and a bag of mysterious looking ground-up herbs (truly, purely medicinal) were also left.

A day at Clark Detailers in Sugar House made it better than before. I'm happy it has come home, and appreciate my car more than ever, for the times I really need it. But its absence was eye-opening. It's possible to drive  less than we think we must.

Enough. Now I'm going to go work on that dark, rich dream. Veeerrry interesting. Maybe I'll sleep on it.

Greta deJong is editor and publisher of CATALYST. greta@catalystmagazine.net.

This article was originally published on June 28, 2007.