Friday, August 23, 2013

Salt Lake City: Suburbs Versus the Urban Lifestyle

This is how Jesus would have to fit in the SLC suburbs.

Salt Lake City is a weird-ass city in many ways, but not just in the ways some of you might expect. Despite what some people think there are bars, pubs, coffee shops and even stores that sell lingerie and sex toys. One of the strangest quirks to me is the fact that the suburbs of Salt Lake City are largely pretty ghetto, awful places to live. Allow me to explain.

I grew up not in Utah but in a big city in the western United States. Where I grew up it was the suburbs and it was pretty nice. By pretty nice, I mean really nice. Okay, it was fucking rich. Yes, boys and girls, I grew up in a pretty damn exclusive part of town where pools, tennis courts and three car garages were the norm. Where I live in Salt Lake City is quite different. You see, I live near downtown in a little house with a small yard, no pool, no tennis court and with a dinky little garage.

At first I hated the living arrangements in this part of town, but tolerated it. When we were newlyweds my husband wanted to stick around the part of town he grew up in, and since he had a nice place of his own I complied. I figured later when we had kids we would move out to the 'burbs where we would have more space, but my husband absolutely refused. After a while we moved out of state for my husband's work and ended up in a large city in the suburbs. The area was nice, fairly affluent and reminded me very much of where I grew up in many ways. After a few years we moved back to Utah, again following a job. We had acquired so much stuff living in the suburbs that we decided to move into the suburbs here. That was a huge fucking mistake.

One of the most obvious things about the suburbs here is that the percentage of the population that is active Mormon is dramatically higher. I kid you not, just about everyone on our block got up on Sunday morning, got all glitzed up and headed off to church, the same church, at the same time. Every. Fucking. Sunday. It was like living in Stepford, except the fashions are much better in Stepford and the houses are much nicer. There were Mormon meetinghouses EVERYWHERE. They would start a new subdivision and the first thing that would be built would be a Mormon church. So if you are moving to Salt Lake City from out of state and you aren't Mormon, I would tell you to beware moving to the suburbs where you will stick out like a sore thumb. Of course some areas are worse than others, but overall it is just a bad idea.

The whole Mormon majority thing was annoying but not very shocking, honestly. What was shocking was the fact that overall the suburbs around Salt Lake City are fucking ghetto! There are a few areas that have large homes with pools, tennis courts and such. Many of those areas are revolving doors where people move in, living for a short while and then move out swiftly (usually with a bank owned real estate sign in front of their house, if you know what I mean). The rest of the suburbs here are full of shitty houses (many that are split entry) with chain link fences, garbage cars parked everywhere and shit falling off the houses all over the place (like peeling paint or falling rain gutters). Where I live now houses are old, but they are all kept really nice. There were quite a few people in the area where we moved that I strongly suspected did not give their kids much food and those same children wore the same few outfits constantly. I don't have anything wrong with people who aren't rich, but I was shocked that the suburbs here are largely pretty damn poor. Of course there are a million kids in the suburbs, so ironically the people who can't afford to have large families, have large families.

A little while ago I was reading an article all about how in some cities poverty is rising rapidly in the suburbs. Salt Lake City was one of the prime examples used in the article. The article talked about how the recession caused a shift in wealth, leading to increased poverty in the 'burbs. The article did not mention that this problem has been around in Salt Lake City for some time.

Where I live, near downtown, is pretty liberal. People display quite a few signs and banners supporting Obama or Hillary (again). There are quite a few homosexuals around here and most people don't give them any shit. And yes, Mormon churches are far less numerous. There's quite a bit of art as well, which doesn't seem to exist much in the 'burbs here, unless you count bland Jesus pictures and church piano music as art. There's more of a sense of community here than in the 'burbs, where if you aren't part of the local Mormon ward group you are pretty much left out of a lot of the social activities. Here people have block parties or holiday parties and really do invite everyone in the area. Nobody really gives a damn what group you belong to, because you belong to the neighborhood and so are a part of "the group." People walk around, say hello to each other and do things nearby instead of driving everywhere. My neighbors are doctors, attorneys, professors and business owners instead of the millions of contractors and "sales people" (people who sell scan investment coaching packages over the phone or something shady like that) I was surrounded by in the 'burbs.

Most Mormons really hate the area where I live because there are "those liberals" who live here. I guess they like living in areas where people aren't very social, things are shitty and everyone pumps out a bunch of kids because they're supposed to. As for me, I'll keep my old house in a well-kept area where I can walk a few minutes to get a coffee and a sandwich instead of climbing in my car.


  1. I grew up in Bountiful, Utah. From the age of 8-17 I lived in a poor housing community surrounded by wealthy Mormons. It was rough and I turned to the bottle. lol! That sounds so pathetic, but seriously I did. I started drinking at the age of 15...

    and why am I going on an on about this? Whatever. Living in Bountiful just really fucked me up as a kid. I'm so glad I live thousands of miles away from that stupid ass state now.

    Jolly old England is the place for me! Have a cup of tea :)

    1. Suz, Bountiful is way too much like Provo for my tastes. I know at one point it lead the state in juvenile suicides because there is such pressure to conform and be "perfect." It's enough to drive anyone to drinking. Too bad you didn't live in the corrupt "liberal" parts of SLC where most people know how to relax and be real. England does sound nice, so glad you got to somewhere good :)

    2. In a prior life, I spent 5.5 yrs. on the Bountiful Police Department. I started one week before Ted Bundy abducted Deborah Kent from Viewmont HS.

      I know what it is like. On my paltry pay I couldn't afford to buy a house there, yet we were required to live within the shitty er I mean city limits.

      I had not been back for years, then I drove around for a couple of hours. Wow, talk about big pretentious homes. I heard through the grapevine that Tommy Monson has a half million dollar home somewhere up on East side. That is what the tax evaluation was, so you know it would be worth a lot more on the real estate market.

      Your better off in England. I love bread pudding and still make toad-the-hole every now and then.

      And I agree, it is a lot like the "burbs" and Provo/Orem, yuck. My older brother who lived in Provo had a friend visit him a few years ago, the friend had a blind friend that was with him. The blind buddy remarked how he felt a real creepiness about the place. An oppressive claustrophobic feeling that seemed to permeate everything.

    3. Yeah, I had a friend who committed suicide when we were teens in Bountiful. I'm not surprised about those stats. Also, I moved from Bountiful straight to Provo at 17! No wonder I was so messed up when I was younger. I'll never go back. NEVER.

  2. Bailey,
    I just re-read the post. I envy you and where you live. It just so...wonderful. Great neighbors who don't run through their check list of whether or not they can be a real person, and the first check box is: are you an active mormon and goes downhill from there. Sounds like a part of Logan that is close to downtown and you can go to the cafe Ibis. (We always go there when we are even close to Logan.)

    I understand you can buy at Deseret Book an action figure of Joe and the Angel Moroni, complete with box buried in the ground, and Joe kneeling by the box with the gold plates. Next time I'm close to DB I'm going to ask if they have one of him with his head buried in a white top hat. That'd be fun. Also heard that Idaho now has another Mission: Pocatello. That makes the tally 4 missions for Idaho. I also heard they are not proselytizing door to door, they now go spend all their day at the Stake center, giving tours (wow, I bet the crowds are lined up for miles) and using the web. Whataya bet their machines can't search for porn? What a fuckin waste of your life, fresh out of High School to go sit in a fucking sterile building and field shit from the internet sites. Man have they poured a lot of money into that or what? I know I have noticed that the net is flooded with LDS shit and popups up the butt. It is more obnoxious than auto insurance ads.