Monday, April 17, 2006


La belle et la bête

The beauty

View of the mountains from Salt Lake CityIt's hard to imagine that there's a more beautiful place in the world than the area around Salt Lake City. Beginning with the approach to the airport from the north, the lake to the right and the mountains to the left, the views were wonderful throughout my visit. My bedroom showed me mountains in the morning, and there were mountains wherever we were — because of the flatness of the city itself, the mountains are visible from just about everywhere, and they're spectacular. I can't imagine what the settlers from the east thought when they approached such areas in the American west, but I have to think they must have been as awed as I am when I go there. I could live in Salt Lake City; I could easily spend the rest of my life waking up to those vistas.

The beast

'Great Cities of the World' cartoon, depicting traffic jams everywhereUrban sprawl has infected the area, and strip malls fill the suburbs like cancerous lesions. This is, of course, no different from most of the country; it just seems that much more upsetting for what it does to the inherent beauty of the place. There's a Staples; here's a Home Depot; over there is a TGIFriday's, a Starbuck's, a Taco Bell. When one takes one's eyes from the mountains, one could feel lost in a nation of chain restaurants and unchanging storefronts, not knowing whether one is in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, or Dallas, in south Florida or in northern Virginia. The homogenization of America — and we're spreading it around the world.

Pave the Planet:
    One world.
    One people.
    One strip of asphalt.

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