The West Valley Special, and I do mean “special”

Mormons have a reputation for wholesome, edifying living, and also for valuing education. Some of the least fucked up sexual fetishes in the Americas feature LDS MILF’s, and BYU is legit. So I don’t have a prayer of explaining the Salt Lake City light rail system. It isn’t that a retarded woman chatted me up on a platform; that happened, too, but as retards go, she was pretty well-adjusted (e.g., able to take nonverbal cues better than many normies and end our chat gracefully). Besides, Mormons are as good as anyone at taking care of their ‘tards. What blew me away was the succession of five other, much less functional, fellow passengers who blessed me with their company over the course of three hours earlier in the afternoon. As Fred Rogers always said, “Hello, neighbor!” Try to put yourself in at least two pairs of other men’s shoes and imagine a neighborhood trolley, or, worse, a neighborhood, populated by neighborly beauties like these:

1) A fat, slovenly woman of about forty with no volume control on her voice who asked a deadheading train operator, “How do yous steer these things?” The operator, who had just finished his shift and was catching his daily ride back to the yard, was patient enough to explain how the train runs on rails. Gee, you don’t fucking say. Hint 1: Rhymes with “might fail” conductor school. Hint 2: Rhymes with “Trax.”

2) A young man who sauntered onto the train wearing a hoodie and pajama bottoms—at a quarter to four on a Monday afternoon, with his slightly better dressed girlfriend in tow. Let’s call him the Marginally Attached Gentleman.

3) Another fat, slovenly lady who made a fist, punched a sheet of green paper, partially folded the sheet back up into its very neat two-inch squares, put the paper into her duffelbag, and then blew a series of extra-farty raspberries.

4) The latter thick bitch’s boyfriend, a fat, slovenly (duh) dude with a bushy beard and a receding-hairline instamullet, who was wearing an extremely shabby old red-and-black knockoff motorcycle jacket over a secondhand Batman T-shirt.

5) A she-tweaker from the intersectional tobacco/substance abuse/mental health community, dressed in Uggs and sagging sweatpants, her hair cohering into emergent whitey dreads, who convulsively took off her Uggs, carressed the long-dead butt of a Camel, moaned desperate nonsense at anyone who made fleeting eye contact (my mistake), and forlornly berated a bouquet of plastic flowers that she’d pulled from a Wendy’s takeout bag.

Salt Lake City proper, in spite of its being the site of the LDS Church’s headquarters and the focal point of its holy land, is Utah’s most notoriously gentile city. But this doesn’t explain any of my trolley losers except the She-Tweaker. She boarded downtown, Sally don’t you even think about it. The rest of them were from South of Eden. Number One, the fat lady with family in Lakewood (it figures), made her scene on the way to West Valley Central. The other three were aboard the inbound train from Draper by the time we left Murray, with the Marginally Attached Gentleman and his (marginally) better half on board by Sandy. There are Mormons who regard Salt Lake City beyond the Temple precincts as something akin to Sodom, but these fine Utards all have connections in more Napoleonic parts of the valley. Maybe it’s by strategic political design that the light rail stops short of American Fork. FrontRunner, the more expensive heavy rail line, runs all the way from Ogden to Provo on all days but the Sabbath, and at surprisingly good service levels for a new system in a middling metropolitan area, but its fare schedule may be steep enough to keep it from serving as a loser cruiser and bringing the undesirables into the proper breeder suburbs. If you’re still in your fucking PJ’s during evening rush hour, you’re probably interested in the cheap train.

But I’m spitballing, for the most part. Beyond the Salt Lake City limits, the entire state has a strongly Mormon ambient culture. That’s the default setting. Salt Lake City is an outpost of mainstream US urban culture, but its southern suburbs are not. They’re too locally rooted and idiosyncratic for that. Hell, even the nice parts of SLC are Sweet Jesus and the Golden Tablets Mormon by the gentile standards of, say, Denver.

If a Mormon sense of maybe don’t get totally fucked up on hard drugs and dress like an incorrigibly derelict ragamuffin in public doesn’t rub off on the poors, what the hell will? Utah has the lowest Gini Coefficient of any state in the Union, Salt Lake and Utah (?) Counties have one of the healthiest metropolitan job markets in the country, and still there’s all this crazy white trash on the train. I forgot to say so explicitly: this was a vibrant diveristy of white people and nothing but white people, none of them White. There was a variety of racial minorities on the light rail, too, but they weren’t nearly as nuts. It was exclusively the crackers that were cracking me up. The cracker traditionally cracks up intransitively as well—that’s how the name came about—but in our case the dysfunction may have nothing at all to do with Scotland. These losers could be 100% Dutch for all I know; there’s certainly a lot of high Anglo-Saxon blood floating around in the local gene pool.

They look unreachable. I don’t get the feeling that they’re reacting to or rebelling against Mormonism. They aren’t emos or goths. It isn’t a stance to get a rise out of the squares. They’re too disinhibited not to be earnest. Irony is beyond their capacity. And isn’t it ironic, like ra-a-a-a-a-ain/on your wedding day, that the fat lady who didn’t understand trains (which one steers) has so many relatives in the metro area that raises and harbors the most well-adjusted, physically fit, stylish, naturally confident fat women I’ve ever encountered. She declared her people in Woodinville and Auburn, too, not that anyone on the train asked. I must have been in the valley of the damned for my local connection to the Sound to be a postureless, graceless loudmouth with no sense of style and a slow toddler’s understanding of how trains work.

And she may have been the least deranged of the whole lot. The Marginally Attached Gentleman looked like bad news; a society whose men comport themselves in his fashion is surely on the skids. The She-Tweaker was terrible news. The two lovers were just fucking uncouth. Here I had five people on two trains, pushing rush hour, no less (meaning that the loser count should have been swamped by commuting normies), all of them living in strongly Napoleonic jurisdictions, only one of them with a visible drug problem, and yet none of them socialized by the Mormon hive mind. It was the kind of shit I’d expect of Reno.

On my way out of town, I took the light rail past the St. Vincent de Paul rescue mission. Holy shit, Brigham. Salt Lake City has the premier housing-first program in Anglo North America (not LDS feel-good bullshit, either; independent housing activists give it top marks), so I was shocked to see dozens of people sleeping on the sidewalk in front of St. Vinnie’s. I’d hardly have given it a moment’s notice in Sacramento or Reno, where that kind of wretchedness is ubiquitous, but everything else I’d seen around Salt Lake had been so clean and orderly, and everything I’d heard about the city’s homeless outreach services had indicated that they’re unwaveringly on point. The only hopeful possibility is that that crowd was entirely new kids on the block who had recently assembled in the social services district and were already on waiting lists for placements. The turnover could be a great deal higher than it looks, and frankly there’s nothing unethical about charity-shopping one’s way to the one city in the country that seems to take housing placement seriously. The worrisome possibility is that this isn’t the case.

By the way, nice job dumping all that dysfunction right on the way to the Greyhound and Amtrak stations when the eastbound Zephyr rolls through at three in the morning. Nice cab we got here; shame if you got mugged for not taking it.

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