Sunday, June 21, 2015

Random Photo: A little Sunday evening entertainment

"A Sunday well spent, brings a week of content."
~ancient proverb

Afternoon turned into evening and this just happened outside my window. I'm not sure what they were celebrating, but it sure made my day. I love my neighborhood!


Thursday, June 11, 2015

A lunchtime walk to Japantown in the heart of Salt Lake City

"It is impossible to remain indifferent to Japanese culture. It is a different civilisation where all you have learnt must be forgotten. It is a great intellectual challenge and a gorgeous sensual experience."
~Alain Ducasse

Now don't get too excited. Japantown in Salt Lake is a whole lot different than it is in San Francisco. In fact it's quite a ghost of what it once was about fifty, seventy-five, even a hundred years ago. You'd likely miss it if you didn't know it was there. The area consists now of one block of 100 South between 200 and 300 West and I walked there for today's lunchtime walk.

The only buildings left to remind us of a bygone era are the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple and the Japanese Church of Christ, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

The rest of the block feels pretty desolate and is comprised of parking lots, the Salt Palace storage and loading docks, a bookstore/gift shop associated with the Buddhist Temple called Lumbini's Garden, and a small Japanese-style garden which was incorporated into the block when the Salt Palace made extensive expansions into what used to be a bustling neighborhood.

The Japanese Church of Christ, built in 1924, is on the north west side of the block, closest to 300 West.

The Japanese-style garden, though oddly wedged between the Church of Christ and a underground parking lot entrance, is quite cute and very zen. Walking in the garden is not permitted, but I enjoyed seeing several trees (Japanese maples and bonzai types) with ropes tethered to stakes in the ground, training them to grow sideways instead of up.

Just east of the parking lot which borders the garden, are tall walls with attempting to hide the Salt Palace loading and storage docks. The gates that have been put up all along the rest of the north side of the block to 200 West are called the Kimono Gates.

Again, a nice touch by the Salt Palace -- despite taking over much of the land after the city's residents overwhelmingly voted to approve a 17 million dollar bond to build the Salt Palace complex in 1964 -- to help the Japanese culture endure in the area and to honor those who lived and worked in generations past where these structures now stand.

On the southeast corner of the block sits the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple.

I was glad to see at least some preservation of what used to be a vibrant neighborhood. But, of course, I was sad to know of what used to be there: a Japanese language school, a produce market, a fish market, two thriving newspapers, a tailor's shop, the Colonial Hotel, and countless families of Japanese descent.

In a city where the Mormon pioneers and their stories dominate historical discussions, seldom is anything heard about the strong, compassionate Japanese community, numbering in the thousands, which endured generations right in the heart of the state's capital city.

I hope since the naming of the street, Japantown Street, which happened in 2007, that eventually sometime soon, at least the empty above-ground parking lot on the southwest half of the block will be turned into land for businesses, restaurants. One can hope!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Drive to Spring City

"It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest form of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source
of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much
in life that makes life worth living."
~David Attenborough

Each year in May, on Memorial Day weekend, Spring City holds a Heritage Day celebration. My guess is that the town's population at least triples for the day. Mom and I have gone several times in years past. I think I've only blogged about it once, but I've been to Spring City more times than I can count on both hands.

This year it was just Mom and me. I needed that. I took the train down to her neck of the woods and then we drove on from there. The drive was stunningly beautiful since it had rained in the days before and the clouds were out in all their majesty.

My favorite things to see in Spring City are the old school house which is still undergoing major renovation, the fields and backyards full of poppies, the old spring, and my great-grandparents' old house. We didn't go up to the cemetery this time, but I feel that I should go back so we can clean up the graves of our family members buried there. One year, I even recall have a picnic right there in the cemetery with them.

And the drive. Beautiful, beautiful drive. With plenty of time to have my mom all to myself.

Until next time.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Lunchtime Walk to Union Pacific Depot

"The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own."
~Susan Sontag

Working in downtown Salt Lake City has its benefits, one of them being the many historic buildings within walking distance or a quick TRAX ride. We've had an incredibly mild winter, one for the books, and so I've done my fair share of seeing and exploring.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Salt Lake City Union Pacific Depot, sits on the west side of downtown Salt Lake. Building of The Union Pacific Depot was completed in 1909 and was renovated and restored in the 1970s.

The Grand Hall is an impressive space with five stained glass windows and two ceiling murals at either end depicting scenes from Utah state history. I can imagine myself walking through the station in the 1920s or 30s or 40s. It was used all the way through 1986 before Amtrak moved services to the Rio Grande station and then later to the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub.

One mural, by San Francisco artist John MacQuarrie, illustrates the Mormon pioneers arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and the other, by San Francisco artist Harry Hopps, shows the driving in of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, just north of Salt Lake City, signifying the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

Mural depicting the Mormon pioneers arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847
by John MacQuarrie
Mural depicting the driving in of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point in 1869
by Harry Hopps

Although the Grand Hall is intended to serve as a grand entrance to the Gateway, an outdoor shopping mall with dining and entertainment, I think it is under-utilized since most people park in underground parking lots and never have need to walk through the Grand Hall. What a shame! Many are missing out on experiencing this piece of history.

Can't you just picture yourself buying a ticket here?

The details in the molding and tiling entrance me. Combine that with the high majestic ceilings, the murals, and stained glass, I could just sit there gazing.

That's it. Every time I walk over to the Gateway now, I'm going to make a conscious effort to remember to walk through the Grand Hall. It's worth the step back into history, if but for a moment.