Tom Clyde: Perpendicular universes
It’s no secret we are living in a strange place in strange times. Summit County was a bit sideways with reality long before the pandemic, and things have only gotten stranger since that arrived. We’re not completely in tune with the rest of the universe, let alone the rest of Utah. But if the county as a whole is kind of a parallel universe, the difference between the east and west sides of the county are perpendicular universes. If the East Side moves in a straight line, the West Side is more of a corkscrew.
Every now and then there is an experience that illuminates the cultural differences. A week ago, we did a day of video production for the “Park City Follies 2021 Virtual, Socially Distanced, Valentine’s Day Follies Special.” If the editing goes smoothly, which is to say if I don’t touch the computers involved in the process, there will be something resembling last April’s virtual Follies on Valentine’s Day.
Every possible venue for shooting it is closed. The Egyptian is empty as King Tut’s tomb, the library spaces are closed. That sort of limited the options to somebody’s garage, which required moving a lot of stuff, or my barn. So we opted to use my barn as a production studio for the day. It was cold enough to store Pfizer vaccines in there, and there had been some kind of raccoon rodeo that had left the place a bit messy, but if you want a 4,500-square-foot room, ventilated by the wind howling through it from end to end, it worked pretty well.
Several band members, singers, actors and producers made the trip to my place in the hinterlands. I had given the standard directions. Addresses don’t mean much out here, and barns don’t get mail delivery so they don’t have addresses. It was inevitable that somebody would get lost, and there’s no cell service out here in God’s country. Katy was enjoying the scenery and blew right past in her plug-in, zero-emissions Nissan Leaf.
That’s a perfectly reasonable car if you live in a perfectly reasonable place like the West Side. It doesn’t work so well when the nearest quart of milk is a 30-mile trip. I doubt there is another one on this end of the county. The only other one I’ve seen here belongs to my niece, who discovered that she had to stop and recharge in Park City on her way to the ranch from Salt Lake. So it’s a bit of an oddity. Draft horses are more common.
After passing my place, she found herself up the road a couple of miles at the snowmobile trailhead parking lot. There had been new snow, and the ‘bilers were on the road before sunrise. There must have been close to 100 pickups with various trailers ranging from a snowmobile shoved in the bed to gooseneck trailers hauling a fleet of machines plus a catering kitchen. The typical truck is lifted a couple of feet and has a diesel engine that smokes like a burning house when cold. The typical tailpipe is big enough that a Nissan Leaf could be garaged in one. The process of unloading the snowmobiles and getting them started and ready to roll produces a cloud of smoke.
Into this perfectly normal East Side smog-fest, my friend finds herself lost in her zero-emissions electric car. Cold stares all around. A stranger in a strange land. She was quite happy to find the barn and an extension cord to plug in with.
The only thing that comes close to that was when a neighbor’s missing cow turned up dead near the spring that provides our drinking water. The neighbor came out to recover it with a log skidder, a machine that looks like it was designed by a 5-year-old on Red Bull, with hooks and winches and hydraulic claws everywhere. He snagged the carcass and carted it off.
The next time I saw him, a couple of hours later, he was covered with blood, and wearing a huge smile. It turns out he had a bear hunting permit, and there was no better way to get on the trail of a bear than to take a dead cow and dice it up with a chain saw, scattering bits around for the bear and other critters to eat. He was the happiest guy around.
Later that day, I ran in to an acquaintance in Park City who said his wife had just returned from a month-long “cleansing” in India. It involved fasting, a vow of silence, yoga and what sounded to me like entirely too much colon cleansing. I’ve never thought of devoting an extended vacation to colonoscopy preparation, but it was one of those bucket list things for his wife. She had a wonderful time.
As I drove home from Park City, pondering those two very different encounters within a matter of hours, it occurred to me that neither one was particularly unusual. It’s a strange life when you ping-pong between the two.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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