Thursday, July 25, 2013

TOLERANCE: Ogden's Legacy As A Mixed Community

Ogden's history is one of the most colorful of any city in the state.  Looking back through time, even to its most primitive settlement, it has maintained an interesting dichotomy of dueling community interests.

While Ogden in its heyday was a rowdy railroad town full of vice and merriment, it also boasted as many churches as it had saloons.  Perhaps both were used just on different days of the week, or perhaps that reflected a deeply religious community co-existing with its non-religious friends and neighbors.

For Pioneer Day, we visited the Pioneer Museum at 21st St. and Lincoln Ave. in Ogden and discovered a little about the men who made Ogden habitable and set the tone for what it has become.

The first personality to make its appearance is that of Miles Goodyear.  Miles came to the Ogden area in the late 1830s.  He was a fur trapper and mountain man.  He married a Ute chief's daughter and had two children.

 This log cabin, built in 1841, was the first home built by anyone of European decent in Weber County.

Miles Goodyear ultimately persuaded Mormon settlers to purchase his land and he moved to California where he died shortly thereafter.  

The second personality to arise in Ogden history is that of Lorin Farr.  Perhaps his legacy is better known due to his ample posterity in the area.  Lorin was a Mormon settler from Nauvoo, Illinois and became a giant in the community.  He was responsible for laying the city plat and organizing the early settlement.  

Interestingly, many of the early settlers to Ogden were Scotch-Irish.  Even though they were Mormon settlers, this heritage came with a strong culture of family honor and with that came confrontation. So, some of Ogden's earliest stories are of brawls between early Mormon settlers as they resolved personal differences with one another.

Perhaps this scrappy nature dovetailed to a degree with he railroad work crews that arrived in 1869 and launched Ogden to the forefront as a major participant in the national economy.  Regardless, when the non-religious crowds from Corinne arrived enmasse and Union Station was created, the settlers received them and found a way to exist together, for the most part, cohesively as a community.  

Yet, these distinctions between community members exist to a large degree today.  The posterity of the early Mormon settlers still live in Ogden, as do the children of their "Gentile" counterparts.  However, from my perspective, Ogden does not suffer the deep acrimony that sometimes afflicts diverse communities that contain a large minority population.  Mormons now constitute a minority of people (about 30%-35%) living in the city.

Thus, I consider Ogden one of the places most unlike Utah in the state.  As a faithful Mormon myself living in the city, I make it a point to build bridges and understand other people's faith, ethics, or world view and I share my own when appropriate.  My experience has taught me that there is no room in our community for disparaging other's beliefs.  Divisive speech breeds contempt.  It is my hope that regardless of creed, belief, or ethical system, that all members of the community will honor our founders' dedication, sacrifice, and tolerance as we work to make Ogden a greater place for everyone.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Edifice in Embryo: Utah's Territorial Capitol

The family and I took a trip to St. George recently.  While on the way home, we stopped for a meal in Fillmore and decided to take a stroll around the old Territorial Capitol building.  It was an interesting experience.

There is a remarkable feeling of irony in Fillmore.  The great plans of it being the grand central Capitol of the State of Deseret lay unrealized.  The town is sleepy with broad streets and quite turn of the century cottages.  There is a great sense of 'what could have been'.  In the center of town, surrounded by weathered homes and a roof damaged public rec center is Utah's Territorial Capitol.

The edifice itself speaks to the failed dreams of territorial glory.  The Capitol Building is only one wing of a planned four wing structure.  On the north side, the concrete shows the curve of the planned rotunda that would act as the center point of the separate wings.  Instead, today it is an open air plaza.

Here is what was originally planned.

The politics and acrimony that existed between the Territorial Legislature and the Federally appointed Territorial Governor make for very interesting reading.  Had the relationship been better between Utah and the U.S Government, Utah's history and geography would have turned out much different.  In a way, Utah is still bristling from its rough treatment up to its entrance into the Union.

Nevertheless, the embryonic Territorial Capitol speaks to the dramatic impact that changes in use of space can have on our communities and skylines.  When state business and influence shifted from Fillmore to Salt Lake City, the dreams of a grand Capitol simply faded into the history books.  Fillmore has never been the same since.    

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Modern Communism: Is China's Political System Better than America's?

I recently watched this very interesting TED talk from a Berkley educated communist apologist.  I highly recommend this video:

While I don't agree with his assertion that China's system is the best on earth, it is very interesting to get a peek inside their political system to understand their perspective and world view.  It once again reiterates to me the marvel of America's existence, the miracle of our system, and the gratitude we should have for the rights and liberties we enjoy here.

However, I do concur with his assessment that American-style democracy is not right for everyone.  Our system came into being for very different reasons than other nation's systems.  Compelling our system on other nations who are not prepared for the responsibility that comes with it is an exercise in futility.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Failing Forward: My Turn As The Employee From Hell

Life isn't always full of rainbows and unicorns.  In fact, sometimes it is downright uncomfortable.  With that in mind, let me share an experience from my youth:

When I was 15 and living in Texas, my father had a self-employed friend, Mark, who needed some help around his business.  It turns out he had a multi-level marketing business that sold shampoos, lotions, and other cosmetics.  Since my father was eager to get his sons out the door and being productive in the world, he connected me with his friend.

Mark was a single guy who drove a Jaguar.  For my first assignment, I was dropped off at a storefront he rented in a strip mall.  He instructed me to move a giant pile of boxes into a van parked in front of the store.  It was August in Houston.  The humidity was 100% and the temperatures were around 100 degrees...and we were at sea level.  Mark gave me the keys to the van and said, "Go turn the A/C on so the van stays cool."  This sounded simple enough but I was only 15 and had little experience with cars.  I turned the keys until cool air blew out of the vents.  But, I neglected to turn the engine on (not knowing that it was an important part of the process).  Mark quickly left the scene to run some other errands.

Three hours later I was done loading the van.  Mark arrives and say, "Why isn't the engine running???"  I replied that I had never turned it on.  At that point Mark had a flash of disbelief run across his face quickly followed by panic and then sad acquiescence.  He reached in the van, and turned the ignition.  Click-click-click-click-click.  The battery was dead.  He gave me $20 and told me to walk across the street and purchase some jumper cables.  I came back, jumped the van and drove to a warehouse.  The original plan was to unload the boxes and stack the contents somewhere.  However, given what had just happened he told me to just throw the boxes in a pile and go home.  When I asked what was in the boxes, he replied: "$5000 of lipstick".  Oops.

A couple months later Mark called and wanted me to do some work.  Given my first experience I was apprehensive to go.  My father encouraged me to go and thought things would go more smoothly this time. At that time, I had just received my drivers license.  Mark announced that he had borrowed a truck from a friend of a friend and he wanted me to drive it to a warehouse.  But first we needed to load it full of metal shelves.  We put six shelves in the truck, Mark tied them down, and I proceeded in a caravan to the warehouse.  Along the way we made a wide turn through an on-ramp to a feeder road.  We drove down the feeder road about a quarter mile and the car I was following in our caravan turned on their hazard lights.  I thought they had car trouble.  The driver stopped, walked back to my car, and asked me how many shelves we loaded.  I told him six and then turned around to count only 5 in the bed.  Just then, a Ford Taurus pulled up behind us missing its windshield.  A middle aged lady in a Sunday dress stepped out with little bits of glass all over her and shaking terribly.  She was ok but shelf Number 6 made a big mess of her car.  Mark arrived to cut the lady a check for her windshield and paint job.

Several months later Mark called again and wanted me to work.  I strongly resisted this time but after some strong persuading from my parents, I capitulated and agreed to go.  This time Mark wanted me to do some work around his home.  He instructed me to clean some of his floors.  He also instructed me to fill up his waterbed located on the second floor of his home.  The bedroom was located just over his photography studio which was full of all kinds of camera equipment.  Mark showed me how to hook up the hose but the water was flowing incredibly slow.  I asked Mark if he had any other chores he needed done while the bed filled.  He instructed me to rake his yard (1 acre) and burn the leaves.  Mark then left.  Three hours later, I had finished the the yard work.  It was then I realized I had forgotten to turn of the water to the waterbed.  I ran into the home to discover that the waterbed looked like the Astrodome.  It was an unnatural sight and I panicked.  I called my mother who arrived and as soon as her eyes caught sight of the bed she panicked.  She called Mark and when he walked in the room he panicked.  This bed became a water time-bomb that was holding us all hostage.  We tried emptying the bed but the hose only trickled out water a the same painstakingly slow rate that it had filled.  I went home.

The next morning, Sunday, I got a call from Mark that the bed had burst.  He requested my help pulling all of the carpets out of his home, which I kindly obliged.
A few weeks later Mark called again and wanted me to do some work.  I was adamant that I did not want to work for Mark anymore.  Nevertheless, my parents persuaded me to give it one more try.  When I arrived, Mark told me that he needed me to repaint his camera room since it was severely watermarked from the previous disaster.  He gave me two buckets of white paint and a brush and then left.  It took me a few hours but I got the room painted.  I used one bucket of paint to do most of the room.  When I ran out, I opened up the other bucket and started doing touch up.  However, I noticed there were spots where the paint wasn't drying.  It was only then that I realized I had painted the room with flat white paint and then had touched it up with glossy paint.

Mark called me again several weeks later and this time I knew what I needed to do.  I met him at his house and told him that my self-confidence could not endure anymore experiences working for him.  He expressed his regret and we parted ways.  But, I do have to give him credit for paying me for every job.

The moral of the story here is that life is full of uncomfortable experiences that cause us to grow.  In this case, Mark learned to supervise his youthful employees more.  In my case, I learned too many things to list.