Hello fellow travelers, here are a few ridiculous moments brought to you courtesy of my recent trip to Utah:
While I was in Salt Lake City, I stayed in a fancy B&B and in the breakfast room, five strangers, women who were getting to know each other prior to some kind of meeting, were casually discussing the Tulsa Massacre.
One was asking question after question because she claimed to know nothing about any of it. Three of the other women were feeding her conflicting facts.
One got her facts from an HBO series called Watchmen. One was quoting from Fox News. One from a Biden press conference, shortly after his travel to Oklahoma. The last woman was sitting sullenly after saying, “I don’t know why we have to talk about this.”
What I noticed: all three of the women who had heard about the Tulsa Massacre thought they possessed all the facts. I was struck by how the questioning woman was mentally sifting through the facts she was offered by asking her sources more questions — let me stress: instead of taking one second to look up on her phone whatever selection of primary sources she could find, she assessed the facts that were presented to her and asked the women to clarify, enumerate, or add to the facts as they were presented.
So her watered-down facts were refiltered through the same filter as before.
Staggeringly, the woman who had heard about the historic event on the HBO show seemed to know more than the other two women. And her response when they all three reached an impasse of knowledge was to pull out her phone and look up the answer.
Knowing a lot of writers of TV and film and fiction - I know how much research goes into writing a script.
So here’s to the writers who research until they are covered in paper-cuts.
(As a side note: even though the 5 women ended their conversation with an admittedly incomplete picture of the Tulsa Massacre, the fifth woman, who did not participate, was the one that most frustrated me—with her utter lack of interest. Her only comment was “I don’t really watch TV,” as if this excused her lack of curiosity about history.)
In the “but why” department:
When I was hiking in Utah, this couple brought a drone up to the top of the mountain and then sat together watching the screen to see what the drone saw. The only time they looked up was while the drone was rising. (the actual view is in the opposite direction of where this drone is going up.) I wanted to ask them why they didn’t just fly the drone from a lot farther down.
Drones on mountaintops are louder than they are nearly anywhere else. Just as the smell of smoke is smokier, and the mosquitoes are far more dangerous the closer to an edge you stand when bitten.
Location is everything.
For those of you who have never been to Salt Lake City or have not been recently, I offer you these facts. Eyewitness. First person. (All of my Utah stereotypes were shattered.)
1) There was alcohol anywhere you wanted and you didn’t have to join a club or do anything weird to get it. In my B&B there were beers in the fridge for $3 honor system or you could ask for a bottle of wine for $30 for your room. Great restaurants with terrific artisanal cocktails. Great coffee bars!
2) There were rainbow flags and BLM flags EVERYWHERE. Guys were holding hands in the street. Fashion frequently featured t-shirts with left-leaning political messaging. I saw many young Native Americans and could identify them easily because they wore traditional-style feathers and beads as accessories to ordinary outfits. The only nod to conservative fashion was the lack of miniskirts/Daisy Dukes prevalent among young people in NYC. Despite the insane heat, most people wore below-the-knee pants and/or skirts and Birkenstocks, kicks, or flat sandals—even while hiking.
3) I didn’t see any identifiable stereotypical Mormons except the 10 young women in pairs who were sitting in the shade near the Mormon Temple in frumpy dresses and name tags like Disneyland (with their country/city of origin as well as their first name)—and it was intriguing to me that that these greeters were ONLY women. In the whole five day trip I saw ZERO young men wearing white shirts and dark ties. No huge multiple-wife families with dozens of kids either. None. Not in the airport and not in the city and not in the whole Temple plaza. It was empty.
That said: people in Salt Lake City definitely meet your eye as you pass by, and they all say hello….if you can find anyone to pass on the street.
When I got back to NYC it was a little hard to stop looking directly at people, but I got over it. Thank goodness for phones!
In other news:
My mom tends to email me frantic one-liner messages with headers like “are you okay?” and last week was no different. The header was “are you safe?” and the one-line was “I hope you are far away from the riots in Manhattan.”
This caused me to look up from my completely deserted and peaceful workspace and hurry to the window in search of sirens and mobs. I saw nothing. Nice day, actually.
Then I took to the web and looked for breaking news. I searched combinations of Manhattan and riots and New York and riots and found lots of horror stories in other cities but none in NYC. A friend said there were riots in Uptown Minneapolis. (as she put it “Big Apple, Mini-Apple?”)
So I emailed my mom back and asked if she might have been mistaken about the city. “Who knows,” she responded. “At least you are safe.”
What else I have been doing:
I have a new interview up in case you missed it. With Andrew Cotto of Bookish! Very professional setup. I think I had even more fun with him offscreen than on, and onscreen, I could not stop laughing. Here’s the link to the interview (viewing time, about an hour).
Are you keeping track? I have done five interviews on various podcasts and you can access them all on my website mmdevoe.com.
If you haven’t yet, there are two art-responses up on Medium that you could see. Follow me on mmdevoe.medium.com if you like my random responses to public art. I am likely to do more of those.
Also: The awards ceremony for the 2021 Indie Book Awards was this past Friday night. On the sad side, I didn’t get to travel to eat a chicken dinner and wear a gown and listen to applause at my name (I tied for first place in books about writing/publishing.) On the great side, my publisher, Brooklyn Writers Press, was able to cut the 2 hour video to ONLY the clip of Book & Baby being announced. But I have to say, I love the 2 hour ridiculous show. My favorite part was not about me, but was when these super-awesome legends of Classic Soul sang their old numbers and it was just thrilling to see these guys loving the music and belting it out like it was still the 70s. If you also want to feel that old rhythm-n-blues, go to the full video on Facebook and fast forward the video to 1:52:29 (right at the end) and the guys will croon for you for six glorious minutes. (Theo Peoples of the Temptations, Joe Coleman of the Platters & Joseph Blunt from The Drifters)
Here’s a parting idea for you to think about:
Are we always defined by our mistakes? (Scott Stringer, anyone?) Do we define other people by THEIR mistakes? (Think about how you discuss people at cocktail parties - what do you say after “I know this person who…” What makes a person worth discussing in a cocktail-party story?)
How long does it take for a person to redeem themselves (can they, ever?)
Perhaps it is even crazier—perhaps we define people by the places in life where their actions diverge from the norm BUT do not turn out to be mistakes. Banksy, for example. Could have been criminal but instead is celebrated artist. What a story!
I found an original in Park City, UT (where the Sundance Festival causes all the local establishments to reinvent themselves for one week out of the year—which defines them.)