What I should expect from you is the same thing I should expect from every Today-nothing. Any expectations are selfish, though I can’t say I don’t have wishes. Sometimes I wish you offered better weather, which can mean so many things-warmer-cooler-more sun-more clouds. It is not uncommon for me to want happiness, but that should have nothing to do with you, Today. I should be able to find happiness regardless of your particular presence or absence.
What I want from you, Today, is quite simple. I’m not even sure it matters if I ask, as you are indifferent to my wishes, wants, desires. But I am a respectful person, trying to treat others the way I want to be treated.
You might ignore my question or you may turn your face my way. Who knows if you hear anything at all, but because it comforts me, I will ask you anyway.
I attended the University of Utah between the years of 1998 and 2000, earning a Bachelors degree in English. it was the culmination of a life long dream-attend the U, earn a degree. I toyed with the idea of attending other universities, but my heart was always with the crimson and red up on the hill.
As a boy, I loved watching Utah sporting events, often pretending I would one day write my name along those of other great Utah athletes. I was never talented enough to fulfill that dream, but it contributed to my life long affection for the university. For good and bad, sports are deeply intertwined with university life. Money is spent on them, money is earned from them, and scholarships are awarded for excellence in them. Fight songs are sung because of them.
Part of my University of Utah experience was attending football and basketball games. Like almost every other school, the University of Utah has a fight song, meant to pump of the crowds and excite the students. The song is played at almost every opportunity at the games-when the players come on the field, at almost every big play, every timeout, every touchdown. While it plays, the majority of the crowd stands and claps along, many of them singing the words. It is a unifying experience.
I know the first two verses by heart, and count myself among those who sing the song with terrible voice and infinite passion. The song carries with it more than just the meaning of its words. It is a feeling, a sense of being part of something beyond allegiance to a team or jersey color. When I stand up with other people who share the same connection, I feel a part of something larger than myself. It’s silly and it’s a bit childish, but the sound of the fight song gets my heart excited. It makes me happy.
At issue are two particular phrases-The use of the word ‘Man’ in the chorus and first verse (the chorus is sung as a second verse, no one sings the third or fourth, but certainly they would object to the use of ‘Man’ in them as well), and the phrase, “our coeds are the fairest”.
Some are calling the song racist and sexist, saying it is not inclusive and that they feel the song contributes to institutional racism and sexism. I cannot dismiss their arguments and complaints out of hand. The song can be interpreted that way. By using the word ‘man’, the song does seem to exclude those who make up more than half the population of the university. Also, saying the female students are beautiful, is certainly a shallow way to look at the contribution of women to the campus. The song is old, antiquated, and to be honest, a bit ridiculous. That is the case for most university fight songs. They are silly, filled with words most would never use in daily conversation.
But ridiculous or not, for some, the Utah fight song has some particularly troubling elements.
What concerns me is the accusation of institutional racism and sexism. Yes, the song was written in a different time, when universities were vastly different places, but that song does not represent the current climate on campus. The university as an institution welcomes those of all colors, gender identities, shapes and sizes. Events on campus do not exclude anyone on the basis of sex or race (though I would point to the Greek system as one that is institutionally exclusive and more divisive than a fight song, but that is another argument). A student is not denied access to any place on campus because of how they appear. In fact, my experience at the University of Utah was one of the most diverse and inclusive experiences of my life. When I sang the fight song at games, my thoughts were not, “yeah, take that women. This song is only meant for me. Get off my campus,” and I doubt most in attendance were thinking anything along those lines.
The allegations of racism startled me. Some implied that the word “fairest” could imply Caucasian. Sure, I guess it could. It also could mean free from bias, dishonesty or injustice. Words mean many things depending on context. To remove a word because it might mean something is to remove every word from every sentence. Words can and do mean things, but to rush about washing them all away because of what they might mean is a futile exercise. There is no evidence in the song that the word “fairest” suggests anything but the best of meanings. If it is a legitimate argument that “fairest” implies white skin, I can argue that the next line in the song implies that all the women at the University are literally shining stars, dehumanizing them even further.
I am also bothered by the lack of ideas coming from those wanting to alter the song. It is one thing to shout for change, but without some concept of what the change should be, it feels like self serving posturing. Our culture is filled with examples of removing gender specificity from common words. The changes made sense and better defined the world they represented. Fireman-firefighter. Policeman-Police officer. Mailman-Mail carrier. These were good ideas and after time, have become part of our daily vocabulary. In the case of this fight song, one suggestion (the only one I have heard. I am open to more) is to change “Utah man” to “Utah fan”. I can’t get on board with this one. Fan implies something completely different and no definition of fan touches on the concept that Utah man embodies. It is more than being a supporter of a local sports team. It is being part of the group, part of the experience that is attending the University of Utah. Offer me something that embodies that same tone and I will sing it loud.
Things change all the time in this world. I am not rigid in my belief that something as irrelevant as a university fight song should be above reproach or change. I only ask that those wanting the alterations consider their own motivations and biases. Where are the ideas, or are you just thumping your chests, hoping to be noticed? It is important to offer a constructive solution when creating a divisive situation, which is what this has become among alumni and students.
The first total lunar eclipse I remember witnessing took place on August 17th 1989. I was 18 years old, getting ready to spend two years on a mission for the LDS church.
It was an eventful summer, one that saw me graduate from high school, get my wisdom teeth yanked, start and stop, then start again several different relationships with several different people. I also spent three months working at the Brian Head Hotel with several of my friends. We lived in the hotel in different rooms on the same floor. I was so very young, so very excited to be on such a grand adventure. I could think of no better people to spend it with. The entire experience felt very grown up. I was always fairly independent, but this was my first time really being away from home. I thought I was ready for anything and everything life could throw at me.
Things were far from perfect, however. I was to work the afternoon/night shift, helping prepare food in the hotel restaurant. Working as a glorified dishwasher, I cooked most of the items that were prepared on the broiler, baked most of the bread and the cheesecakes, and only washed dishes when absolutely necessary. It was often very hard work with very long hours. This meant I never saw my friends, who all worked the breakfast shift. I sometimes saw them in passing when I walked into the restaurant around noon, but they were all asleep when I finally finished working, often around 1 or 2 in the morning. There were rarely days off, maybe a Sunday, if no bus tours were staying at the hotel. I was lonely most of the time, but surprisingly enough, still having a grand time. When I did hang out with my friends, we went mountain biking, or wandered down the mountain to Cedar City or Parowon.
A mountain bike race taking place around Brian Head summit allowed me to get three days work as a driver for a cable company filming the event. The cameraman and I hit it off, and we had a great time driving the company Jeep Cherokee up and down dirt paths, following the riders. He would hang out the back of the Jeep, strapped in with a nylon belt and yell out to me to speed up, slow down, pass riders. It is one of my favorite memories.
Another is the lunar eclipse.
Summer ends early at 11,000 feet. The leaves were already beginning to change and the temperatures rarely got above 60 degrees during the day. It was a rare day off work, and the hotel, while not empty, was quiet. I remember walking down to the main building where the restaurant, bike shop, gift shop were located. Just out the back doors were two hot tubs for the guests. Employees were allowed in as long as guests were not waiting to use them. There was a couple using one of the tubs, so I climbed into the second. The moon was still bright white and the air was crisp and cool. Some hotel guests lingered about in the open area between the three buildings. All of us waited for the eclipse to begin.
I don’t remember looking at the sky as the eclipse started. I don’t remember if the moon looked muddy red. I do remember thinking how far away it looked, so tiny up in the sky. I recall laughing with the people in the other hot tub, and wishing I was sharing this moment with some people I cared about. I didn’t stay up for the entirety of the event. I wandered back to my hotel room, put on some music and went to sleep.
In many ways, I spent that summer on my own. I’d like to say I learned how to be alone, to not fear it, but that didn’t happen until a good six months into my mission. I spent a great deal of my off-work time at Brian Head feeling sorry for myself, homesick, and sad. A great deal of that gets buried in better memories and events from my time there. I met some amazing people and made some decent money.
I remembered my first lunar eclipse while watching last nights event. This time, the moon seemed so much closer, so much more red. Having Mars in the equation made it interesting and beautiful. I stood outside and stared for several minutes at a stretch. Sheryl watched for a moment with me, but she worked early, so she needed rest. At one point, I grabbed a heavy coat and sat on a patio chair in the backyard, letting the house block out most of the street lights.
Eventually, I went inside and laid prone on the floor, staring out the window of my office while the eclipse started to fade.
I watched while my house slept- The kids in the basement, Sheryl and Keyara in our bedroom. It was quiet and I remained mesmerized for almost two hours. I share this picture not because it remotely represents how amazing the sky looked last night, but because of how it reminds me of the first eclipse, how tiny the moon looked, and how long gone that summer at Brian Head is, and how distant that version of me is from the person I am today.
Time always moves at the same pace, day to day, hour to hour, and while it seems like every day is very much the same, somehow, we become such different people as the years pass. Most of the days vanish away from our memory, which is why I cling tight to the ones I do remember. Some of them remain quite impactful, forming much of who I have become, though some events that at the time seemed so significant, have faded into nothingness. It puzzles me, what I hold onto, what remains and what is lost forever.
It felt so good, the recoil. Every time he pulled the trigger, it gave him gooseflesh. The muffled pops pushed through his ear protection. They were poignantly welcome. He knew she wouldn’t understand. She was always afraid of things she didn’t understand, and he could never explain it to her.
He could see her face, the expression of confusion and frustration as he tried to share this with her. Sometimes she could look so frightened. He hated when she was afraid, especially of him. The third consecutive shot missed the target. He sighed in frustration.
He put the pistol down on the table. A tiny mantra formed on his lips and tongue-always with an eye upwards, always with my feet on the ground. He said it twenty more times, breathing in deeply, out completely, eyes closed. The sounds around dissipated. Focus returned. He thrust another clip into the grip. “One hundred more rounds,” he thought. “One hundred more explosions. The birth of one hundred more tiny universes.”
Gods and guns, guns and Gods. I’m not sure one cares about the other.
Then again, what do I know about any of it.
What I would rather do-listen to some more Emma Ruth Rundle tracks. She plays in several bands that make various kinds of music. She doesn’t let herself get trapped in any one genre or type of music. I envy that.
I wonder if she likes guns. I like guns. I just don’t think they have anything to do with any version of God.
I am pondering my own ideas of spirituality, and I am coming to the conclusion that I am just figuring out what that word even means to me. I do know that I despise certain tones. Quit telling me to “wake up” or any of the various allusions that mean the same thing-you are no longer sleeping (whatever that means) and the rest of us are delusional in our daily lives. If only we ‘knew’ what you ‘know’, saw what you see. It’s pretentious babble.
Also, you don’t know what will make me ‘truly’ happy. I’m glad you found something that makes you so, and even more thankful you want to share it, but please, stop insisting I’m not as happy as I could be.
I’ve already decided I’m not going to share this post, but allow it to be found by anyone searching. How’s that for arrogance?
Last night, while watching some television with Sheryl and Destry, we came across a show about buying homes in the Caribbean. We saw some interesting properties in Puerto Rico and St Maarten. The images of the ocean and islands heightened an already growing urge to return to Cancun.
I imagined myself back on the beach, the sound of the water, that constant roar of the ocean, soothing away every ridiculous care. I could see the tropical sun, feel the humidity, the never ending wind and I wanted to be there.
Because I like to torture my children, I made an offhand remark about selling our house and moving to some wonderfully laid back island the moment the boys were 18. Destry played along, saying that was fine as long as we had a room for him.
But I wondered, could I really live on an island, or even some place tropical? I know I can live near an ocean. I know I would love it, but would living in a place like St Maarten take away from some of the wonder?
I fear I would eventually feel trapped. I think I would need more variety in my surroundings.
When I think about it, besides my lovely Utah, there are few places I would want to live. Few places have such a diversity of climates and scenery. There are salt flats, mountain lakes, high tundras and sandy deserts. I can be in the city surrounded by buildings and chaos and in fifteen minutes be completely isolated from almost everyone. There are things that drive me crazy about living here, but in the end, it is home, and home is amazing.
Scroll through some of these images of Utah and see for yourself.
If you feel inspired, come visit. I would love to show any and everyone around. Utah is a massive place, and I don’t know everything about everywhere, but I do know how to get to most places. It could be an epic adventure.
“I’ve been away, for quite some time,” he said, his fingers interlaced and placed in his lap. A small espresso rested in a white cup on the table in front of him. He sat sideways with one knee crossed over the other. Wearing dark corduroy pants and brown shoes, he was straight backed, the posture of confidence. His hair was more gray than I remembered, but no less thick, and his eyes remained as sharp and blue as they were when last the two of us sat across from one another. I could not remember if was ten years ago or perhaps longer.
“Long enough that most of these streets seem very different. The buildings are faded, like the color has been sucked out by so many winters. I miss some of the trees I used to know. Many of them blew over in the wind storm a few years back, or so I am told. Of course, the fires had their impact. In many ways, it fees like I am visiting a shadow, something that resembles what I knew, but it lacks something crucial. I can’t define it. My memory is faulty, I fear.”
I shifted in my seat.
“You must have seen some amazing things while you were away. I can’t imagine the places you’ve been, or what you have observed.”
He looked at me, a softness in his face that I did not expect. A small smile came to his lips and he let out a deep sigh. It wasn’t a remorseful sound, and it wasn’t quite one of recollection. Perhaps it was a sigh of understanding or acknowledgment. Regardless, he was silent for some time, as if the words he was about to share with me were playing in his mind like a movie, and he wanted to wait until the end before interrupting them.
“If I learned anything, saw anything, felt anything, it was that despite what some would have you believe, every place has its beauty, every idea has value, and love is the most important and crucial thing. In the end, the world is an amazing place, but every place on it is equally so.”
I wanted to press him. Certainly anyplace was more interesting, more wonderful than here, but something about his countenance convinced me this was an argument I would not win, and one he would not have. Then, like he knew I needed more, he continued.
“Though, I will say I am partial to the ocean, any ocean.”
Sunlight from the fading day filtered through the glass doors just over my shoulder, illuminating his face as he drank down the last of his beverage.
“Were you always alone?”
“One is never alone in a world of so many.”
This wasn’t what I meant, and I knew he knew that.
“Sure, but certainly at some point, you shared your journey with someone more important to you than local strangers who happened to be present as you wandered through their cities and towns.”
For the first time in our conversation, a far away look washed over his face, slowly, like a rising tide, or the moon out of a mountain. He brought his fingers to his lips, perhaps remembering a brief kiss, or other hands than his own caressing his wrinkled cheeks. I imagined the entirety of his soul exposed, every hidden place flushed out in the light by someone he had never expected to find, but would never recover from meeting.
He shook his head slightly, removing himself from the memory and returning his essence to this table, this room, this chair across from me in a nearly empty coffee shop at the end of another autumn day. Looking around once more, he focused on the photographs that hung on the wall, the work of local artists, some of whom I was intimately familiar with, one I loved more than anyone else in my world. He turned his gaze to me, the sharp jaw line casting a tiny shadow onto his neck.
That was enough.