Park Violation City, UT

Or Things You Shouldn't Do With Clay

Here in Utah, the crossroads of the west, January signals a few special events that are very near and dear to our hearts. The “inversion”, or what happens when smog gets trapped in the whirling cesspool of the Salt Lake Valley, comes to infect the air that we breathe and turns the office into a symphony of hacking, mucousy coughing. It also signals the coming of one of the most revered film festivals in the world, the Sundance Film Festival. Because of these two things, January is also the month where local news stops to focus on either inversion or celebrity sightings. When Jessica Biel coming out of a Park City Starbucks tops the murderous rampage of a nun in an Ogden orphanage for handicapped children, you know it is January in Utah.

Robert Redford started the Sundance Film Festival in 1978 in order to bring independent pretentious filmmakers to his newfound home in Park City. It has since become a way to bring pretentious movie studios, production companies, and A-list actors to Park City. The festival has transformed this sleepy Wasatch Mountain town, which was founded on silver mining and legalized prostitution, into a town way too hip to actually be considered a part of the state of Utah. I have actually heard it in a news report referred to as being located in Colorado, as if its coolness required that it be airlifted 285 miles to the East where the alcohol content in beer was the same as the rest of the known world.

As a general rule, despite all of the things put in place to draw me there, I tend to stay away from the Park City on a Hill. It is for the same reason that I tended to stay away from the pretty, popular girls in high school. During the winter months, it is obviously a prime destination for those who enjoy skiing. It even inspired the pun that graced our state’s license plates for 15 years “The Greatest Snow On Earth”. You heard us. Screw you, Nepal. I have been a Utah resident the whole of the 29 years of my life and I have been skiing a total of zero times. I know that that is kind of like a resident of Hawaii never seeing the ocean or a resident of New Jersey never smelling Axe body spray. Something about the mixture of expensive equipment, expensive fares, and expensive reconstructive surgery discouraged me from it.

One thing that did get me to go to Park City when I was younger is the world-renowned Factory Outlet Stores. Before the days of Wal-mart, Kohls, and Kohl-mart, this sprawling conglomerate was the Mecca of back-to-school shopping moms. It is essentially an outdoor mall with mostly famous, brand name stores. Here’s the kicker: the stores feature products with factory defects. This meant buying form-fitting Hammer pants, belts with mis-weaved braids, and Reebok Pumps that filled your shoes with nitrous-oxide. All worthwhile sacrifices to put your children in fashionable clothing.

If it is good enough for Dominique Wilkins, it is good enough for me.

Even with all of the hoopla that descends on Park City during the Sundance Film Festival, I have rarely attended the much-publicized event, despite the fact that I love “film” almost as much as I love “movies”. Much like the skiing and outlet shopping, this too is due to my perpetual state of poverty. A ticket to a Sundance movie floats somewhere between the cost of a topless revue in Vegas and a pair of non-defective Reebok Pumps. But I have been to Sundance a couple of times, experienced the mayhem, and vowed to never return.

The first time I went was when I was around 14 years old. My sister, seeing the cinematic aspirations that I had in my future, invited me to the event and my parents scrounged up the money for the ticket. It was to see a movie called Colin Fitz. It was a great comedy about two security guards assigned to guard the grave of a rock star on the anniversary of his death. It won several film festival awards, but was never picked up by a movie studio. So, as is the fate with most festival movies, it remains in a celluloid warehouse somewhere in Des Moines. It was at this screening, though, that I had my first celebrity sighting outside of a stadium fireworks show. (I love you Andy Williams!) Of course, this pre-dated the huge thronging of celebrities at Sundance, so we kind of had to settle for what we could get. That settling rested squarely on the shoulders of one Tony Danza. You heard me right, Mr. Tony Danza, or Tony Micelli, as I still like to call him. Who’s the boss? You are, my Italian-American friend, you are.

My next and last experience at Sundance came the following year when I went again with my sister to see a series of animated shorts. We were pretty excited because of a Wallace and Gromit short that was going to be featured. This was, of course, before Wallace and Grommit were popular and cool, or before the Park City effect, as I like to call it. Because the short we wanted to see was only half an hour, there were about 5 other short animated films that were grouped with it. The Sundance Film Festival is known for its independent films with one-word titles that explore horrific sexual metaphors. This year, there was Tub (about a man who impregnates a bathroom fixture). Two years ago, there was Teeth (about a girl whose hoo-hah has dentition). Many years earlier, when I was in attendance, there was Achilles.

As the curtain opened up to begin the short animated film segments, the word “Achilles” came across the screen. We all know the story about the Grecian warrior. Mother dips his whole person into the magic river, with exception of his heel. He goes on to win many battles and fight in the Trojan War. All of that is pretty well depicted by the speechless clay animation figures on the screen in front of us. It took all of 2 minutes. And then began the horror. Apparently, what they don’t teach you in those Mythology 101 books is that Achilles not only enjoyed homosexual behavior in his later years, but he enjoyed it a lot. For the next 13 minutes, my 15 year-old eyes, along with those of the entire audience, were exposed to the most graphic homoerotic claymation pornography that has ever been put on film. Still with no words, and only haunting sounds, the plaster was twisted into all sorts of unholy positions that my hands were only somewhat successful at shielding. The credits rolled at one climactic point and the sound of constant gasping by the audience was replaced with ashamed and violated weeping. Wallace and Gromit would never be the same to me again.

I’ve been reluctant to make my way up to the Gomorrah of Utah ever since that day. I will occasionally go there with my wife for a one-week salary brunch on Main Street or to purchase defective Abercrombie and Fitch clothes for my children. But, in general, I don’t like to talk about my experience with Park City very much. I will say that writing about it here has lifted this burden I have been carrying for sometime. I still shy away from my kids playing with Play-Doh and the sight of Brad Pitt with a sword makes me curl into a fetal position. But I feel that I am on the road to recovery. That road is going back down Parley’s Canyon and into the Salt Lake Valley where I can breathe a little easier. Well, metaphorically speaking. With the inversion in the air, it is technically recommended that you not breathe while outdoors. That can do some real damage.

To Catch A Clay Animator - New on NBC Dateline

Love Snorey

I slept on the couch last night. In fact, I’ve slept on the couch downstairs for the past few weeks. It is not that I have been relegated to the secondary sleeping station of many a husband because of some dispute with my spouse. Quite the opposite, I am sleeping down there because I love my spouse. When I sleep on the couch, she actually sleeps better, which means that she is happier, which means that my goal as a loving, caring husband is fulfilled. Also there is the fact that it is awesome.

You see, over the past few months, I have become something of a snorer. I never used to snore. I am not sure if it is because of my weight gain catching up with my diaphragm or if it is my general feeling of apathy towards life seeping into my sleep patterns. I would like to blame it on my nasty cold however, which has ruled my life for about a month now. Just before Christmas, I got some nasty sinus headaches and soon had my nasal passages blocked by animated mucus blobs wearing wife-beaters. According to Miranda and her blood-shot eyes, this caused my snoring to be raised on the decibel scale from somewhere between the squeal of a pig being slaughtered and a jet fighter upon take off. I think it may have been a bit closer to the pig.

The coup-de-gracelessness, as it were, came on Christmas morning. After working until 12:30 at night filling-in for Santa’s elves, who long ago abandoned the hope of being able to provide our children with a sufficient number of toys, I was awoken by Miranda at 2:30 in the morning. “Honey, I’m sorry, but you keep snoring and I really need to get to sleep and I am so tired and...” I interrupted her by grabbing my saliva-soaked pillow and groggily exiting the bedroom whilst mumbling, “Well, Merry Christmas to you too.” I removed the back cushions on the couch, flopped down with my pillow and a thin throw blanket, and began anew a snoring session that tricked the neighborhood children into thinking they heard the prancing and heavy dragging of reindeer hooves on their roofs.

Since then, I have slept on the couch every night under the pretense of keeping my wife from my offensive snoring. In truth, I have never slept better. I have a few theories as to why this is. It could be the colder air in that portion of the house agrees better with my ample condition. It could be that I can snore or perform other nighttime expulsions entirely unencumbered by the restraints of a partner and ethical norms. It could also be the fact that, as small a surface area as the couch provides, it is still more room than the narrow ledge that my wife allows me on our appropriately named queen mattress.

I have never been a snuggler. It is nice to see people on television or in the movies who spoon up to their spouses and just cuddle all night long. In fact I watched that happen with envy in the movie Paranormal Activity. I really wanted to be able to have what that couple had, minus the cloven hoofed demon dragging my wife by her foot out of the room. I just have never been able to do that. When we were first married, it was a cute gesture; holding each other tightly as one of us gently fell asleep and breathed hot breath into the other one’s face until he was so uncomfortable that he had to use great skill to extract himself from the grasp and relieve the pain in his aching back. It was these newlywed attempts that quickly diminished the real estate holdings that I had on that mattress to the amount of space one would allow a sloth on a tree branch.

The resemblance is startling.

Last night, my wife and I spent the evening as a veritable picture of a seven-year couple with two children – watching DVRed American Idol and eating different kinds of junk food in opposite corners of the room.

“Coming up next on American Idol - can this young, now cancer-free, man from a meat packing plant in rural Arkansas impress the judges with his raw talent?”

“Yes!” Miranda exclaimed, with confident authority.

“Miranda, I think that it was more of a rhetorical question.”

“But I really think that he will.”

After the episode, I got my sheets and pillows from the closet and told Miranda to get off of my bed.

“Are you going to come upstairs and sleep with me tonight?” Over the years, I have come to distinguish this as purely a practical statement, void of any sexual implication whatsoever. My wife, for whatever reason, actually wanted me to lie down next to her, fall asleep, and then immediately awaken her with what sounds like a didgeridoo warning the neighboring village of an impending attack.

To me this was completely impractical. Though she wouldn’t admit it, I know that Miranda has been sleeping better with these new arrangements. She doesn’t have to hear me snore and she finally has full reign of the entire mattress, like Great Britain regaining control of the Falkland Islands. And I get to fall asleep watching episodes of Bear Grylls drinking fluid from a camel carcass. It is truly a win-win.

“After not even seven years, we are already turning into my parents.” Miranda was referencing the fact that her parents have a similar sleeping arrangement to our own. Her father sleeps in his own bedroom in the basement. This was borne out of the same grievance of snoring, but has turned into quite the luxury. My father-in-law has a complete surround sound system and a large, flat-screen television while my mother-in-law has more room for her collection of ceramic teddy bears from around the world. My own parents still sleep in the same bed, as long as my mother doesn’t fall asleep on the couch reading The Reading Lolita Potato Murder Club Society or my father doesn’t fall asleep downstairs watching Transformers 2. This could be because their combined cacophony of snoring sounds like something composed by Wagner. It is hauntingly beautiful.

To me, sleeping on the couch is a practical solution to a real problem. There is a reason that Lucy and Ricky are America’s best-loved television couple. Sure they may have constantly bickered and threatened physical violence and lied to each other and eventually divorced, but it seemed they were very happy with their network-mandated separate sleeping arrangements. Not like those scandalous swingers, the Bradys. But, when all is said and done, I guess that I can see Miranda’s need for the emotional attachment that comes with sleeping on the same story of the house as your loved one. Though we don’t cuddle up with each other very often, there is still some comfort in rolling over and feeling your spouse’s ice cold, unshaven leg brushing up against your own. I have made a lot of sacrifices in this marriage despite all practical logic (i.e. allowing the purchase of so many different plates that the only way to store them is by using them as wall decorations). I suppose that for the sake of our marriage, I can give up my makeshift bachelor pad of a couch and an amazing solid four hours of sleep before the children wake. What a true, loving, and lasting marriage really entails is looking into each other’s eyes and saying “I love you” before falling asleep together between exchanges of hot breath, cold feet, and rib-vibrating, rocket test-launch levels of auditory intrusion that in no way can be of a natural origin. Sleep tight.

She definitely has some 'splainin to do.