Saturday, January 24, 2009

Having grown up in the Provo/Orem area, I've seen a lot of nice things bulldozed in the name of progress.  Fields where horses grazed have become subdivisions with stupid names like Canyon Valley, Valley Vista, and Vista Canyon.  (I sometimes wonder if there isn't a pair of dice in some developers office, each with six realty buzzwords on them, and by shaking them the subdivisions are named.)

There used to be an old wooden barn on Canyon Road next to the fire station.  In days gone by it was a fruit and vegetable stand.  Now it's becoming a stucco-covered series of McMansions. What is it with stucco?  Don't people realize that it's the biggest copout of all exterior finishes? Don't get me wrong; if you want your home to look like a sumo wrestler ate a bag of clay and shat all over your house, go ahead and stucco.  

There used to be irrigation canals that cut through wooded areas.  Their water rippled with mystery.  Lazy summer days were spent daydreaming near the water.  There were rope swings suspended by tall trees, and there were plenty of old farm buildings, presumably full of classic cars and relics of brighter days.

Now those things are gone.  We've made progress as a society.  We don't need silly things like rope swings or yards anymore.  We just need really big houses on really tiny lots.  We need artificially antiqued furnishings and three car garages.  We've torn down everything rustic, and erected in it's place our personal temples, decorated with brand-new, rustic-styled artifacts made in China and purchased with credit cards.

But the very most unbelievably, amazingly, catastrophically stupid example of this trend is a place I affectionately call the Midtown Monstrosity.  Granted, I wasn't a fan of the trailer park it displaced, but in a situation where almost any change would have been an improvement, they managed to make things worse.

The first thing they built when the project began was a small white tower.  It looks like somebody cut off the top of the Timpanogos temple.  I call it the Temple of Wanton Consumerism.

Above: the best picture I could steal from the intertubes.  You get the idea.  I keep waiting for them to place a golden statue of a woman holding shopping bags on the top.

On either side of the "temple" is a huge complex of condominiums and retail space.  One of them is pretty much complete.  The other is still a mess.  According to The Daily Herald only four of the condos were sold, and as a result, the developer was unable to pay the contractors and construction was halted.  This is shocking considering that the condos were priced at just  $325,000 to 1.4 million.  That's really a bargain when you consider you would get to live on State Street in Orem, upon the same prestigious acreage where mobile homes once freely roamed.

The most baffling part of the whole thing is that a bunch of people must have thought this was a good idea for the project to get as far as it did.  In spite of the fact that similar projects nearby were struggling to sell their condos and keep the retail spaces leased, this $100 million dollar disaster got the green light.

Currently, there's only one tenant in the entire place.  It's a business called Pizzeria 712, and by all accounts the food is excellent.  One of these days I'm going to go try it.  Right now though, money's tight.  I might have to wait until my new business takes off.  I'm putting one of my other talents to good use on a new venture.  Anybody know where I can buy some clay? 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

For me, Junior high school was a living hell the likes of which only those who have survived trench warfare could possibly comprehend. At least that's how I imagine it, since I've never fought in a trench. But I have seen a picture of a soldier frozen in abject fear with wet pants, and I totally relate to it.

Above:  Pretty much exactly what junior high was like.

I went to a school called Farrer Middle School. It was built in medieval times, though throughout the centuries it had been converted, renovated, and patched together to comply with new building codes. It even had such modern amenities as plumbing and electricity. And in a move that could only be described as "twisting the knife" by the handicapped, they converted the stairs in the building into absurdly steep, alpine-grade wheelchair ramps. A healthy biped could barely climb them without an icepick and a pair of crampons. The thought of a wheelchair-bound tweenager trying to actually use those ramps makes me laugh out loud even today. (Yes, I'm a jerkface.) 

The big improvement made during my tenure there was the addition of an ultra-modern cafetorium.  Supposedly it was a cross between cafeteria and an auditorium, but I think they also had a crematorium in there for good measure.

The worst thing about junior high though, was the F-Dudes and F-Chicks. In case you aren't familiar with the term, I give you the following, from Urban Dictionary:
"'F-Dude: a guy who drives a truck, has a mullet, has a 'no fear' sticker, and feels strongly about whether he drives a ford or a chevy. oh...and they sure say "F**K", and "DUDE" alot...thus the name, "F-Dude"
"Did you see Tammy? Like, I can't believe she is dating that F-Dude!""

I don't entirely agree with that definition, but it's a decent place to start. In Junior High, F-Dudes, and their female counterparts, F-Chicks were the kids from the other side of the tracks. Instead of listening to mainstream pop music, they listened to bands with names like Slayer, Cinderella, and Megadeath. They wore the torn black concert t-shirts to prove it. The F-Chicks had ratted hair, the F-Dudes had mullets and rat-tails. You could expect to be challenged to wrestle or fight one of them at any given moment, and you walked the halls in fear of being ambushed by them.  They were from a different socioeconomic demographic, and to me, a north Provo-ite, they may as well have been from a different planet.    

The F-Chicks wore such tight jeans that I once was plagued by a pubescent NRB after seeing a chubby one with a camel toe. (Something I'm not proud to admit.) Nevertheless, I never would have associated with any of them had it not been for the cafetorium. For some reason, the psychotic Principal decided that no students would be allowed inside any part of the building during the lunch hour, with the exception of the Cafetorium. So after lunch students would line up at the doorway from the Cafetorium to the main building, waiting to go back to their lockers, the restrooms, etc. There were these two F-Chicks, the chubby one and her friend Tina, who would always manage to block the hallway when the doors were opened. I don't think it was so much a feat of strength as it was due to the other students unwillingness to touch them for fear that whatever diseases they had might be catching.

One day I must have really needed to pee or something and in frustration I yelled "push those sluts!" from the back of the crowd. Tina and Chubby immediately turned around and came after me. Chubby started repeatedly kicking me in the shins, and as I impotently tried to defend myself it dawned on me that Tina was fondling my junk. No joke. Talk about a mixed message.

There was one F-Dude named Earl Roberts who committed suicide by shotgun.  As the news spread around the school, an announcement was made that any students who were in need of some grief counseling could be excused from class to speak with someone.  I remember that some friends of mine and I decided to go just to get out of class.  We were callous little bastards, what can I say?

I would excuse myself based on my young age at the time, but it turns out I'm still a callous bastard.  A couple of weeks ago a bunch of my wife's friends from Provo High had a get-together at an Indian restaraunt.  I didn't go to Provo High, so I was worried I wouldn't have anything to talk about.  Then the subject of F-dudes came up.  I was excited to reminisce about the poor kids from way-back-when.  I said something like, "Oh man, I remember this one kid named Keith Maynard!  What a tool!  He was the quintessential F-Dude!"  I chuckled heartily over my Malai Kofta until someone said, "Wasn't Keith Maynard the guy who shot himself our senior year?"

All this has gotten me to thinking.  I guess F-Dudes weren't so different after all.  They were just like the rest of us.  Maybe they had hard lives by circumstance and not by choice as I had always assumed.  

So to all F-dudes I say that I am sincerely sorry for judging you.  (But Tina and Chubby, no touching.)

P.S.  My wife feels strongly that I should delete the part about getting a boner because of the camel toe altogether.  I compromised and used the term NRB instead of what I had originally written.  During our discussion about it though, she came up with a real gem.  She said, "I don't like when you talk about vaginas.  You have a problem.  You're like an atheist who talks about God."