Jay Meehan: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle of traffic circles
The rural cognoscenti like to keep their dander up over here in the Heber Valley. First there were us dirty commie pinko longhairs and the tie-dyes we rode in on. Then came us “libruls” and assorted other offshoots of the utopian fantasy.
The locals got themselves all in a tizz each time a new wave of unorthodoxy appeared on their doorstep – except, of course, Tink, the owner and barkeep over at Clyde’s Billiards. “Tink’s,” as we came to call the joint, sort of became our neo-Heberite Alamo Saloon – our “Sanctuary City,” as it were.
Tink would ignore the less-than-welcoming stares aimed our way from his Cribbage and Pinochle tables, serve us the world’s coldest beer, and then engage us in some quality yarn-spinnin’. Whatever the trout were biting on up in the Strawberry shallows was a favorite topic.
Every so often, however, the less hospitable in our midst would let us nonconformists off the hook and turn their ire inward – like toward their Planning Commissions and City and County Councils. And that’s the landscape that’s been attracting my attention over recent times.
Roundabouts, at least as they are drawn-up on the proposed Heber City Parkway Bypass schematics, and the manner in which they would disrupt livestock grazing or “ranching,” as they call it hereabouts, appear to have become targets of some within the landowner “Resistance” community.
Often the birthplaces of strange-bedfellows, easement discussions and land-reform debates over in these parts have been known to put normally friendly neighbors on opposite sides an issue. Most don’t get too worked up unless, of course, the powers that be have their property singled out as the best place for a “roundabout.”
Now I’ve never felt the pain of having a barn or a bathroom sacrificed for the greater good of reducing traffic on Main Street but, for selfish reasons, I’ve never been a big fan of roundabouts either. I only recall one a few towns away during my L.A. years and even the thought of it now scares me.
No, the one that normally comes to mind as a game changer had to be the one we pilgrims from the other side of the border continually encountered when hunkering down or just passing through Guadalajara back in the Sixties. Not that La Minerva was scary but the wary among us would usually begin to set up for it around Bakersfield.
Circumnavigating the famous statue of a Roman goddess and a rather large fountain, La Minerva back then was a roundabout that would give tourists the shivers. Now, I understand it also serve as a gathering spot for locals to celebrate sports victories, especially by their team nacional de futbol.
You got trapped in an inner-ring of traffic in those days and, instead of visiting the Gran Mercado San Juan de Dios to pick up a few peyote buttons, you could easily find yourself getting a gringo haircut by the Federales at the Mazatlan hoosegow. Actions had consequences, as it were.
Actually, if the truth be known, the roundabout at Marsac Avenue and Deer Valley Drive over in Park City could throw a curve at you if you weren’t careful. Following installation, it probably only took me a year or two to negotiate it without getting the jitters. Of course, it’s not the roundabout itself, it’s me. I find “change” befuddling. There, I’ve said it.
But that’s another issue. As anywhere, what many landowners are really up in arms about over here in Heber is when the execution of eminent domain, the power of government to take private land for public use, sets up shop in their driveway. These brouhahas usually turn on whether or not “fair compensation” played a role.
We all recall what went down in these parts when Walmart, using the City Council as a bulldozer, wiped out a huge chunk of southwest Hebertown. That’s nothing, of course, when one considers how blatant the city fathers of L.A. were in removing entire Chicano neighborhoods for Dodger Stadium and the Santa Ana Freeway Interchange.
Anyway, dipping your toe into the dark waters of a roundabout can be like entering a black hole. It’s the quantum universe in there. The middle lane is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Look out! That truck that’s climbing up your backside is trying to enter a lane that has yet to be created.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.