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Postcards from Salt Lake
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006


Clueless in Utah

By ALLAN MAKI

The more time you spend in Utah, the less you understand it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Allan MakiTake this business of Utah being an uptight, traditionalist, Holy Roller kind of place. Outsiders always say that because the Church of Latter Day Saints is headquartered in Salt Lake City and because the liquor laws are about as fathomable as Russian shorthand.

And yet the longer you stay here and the more you learn about Utah, the less you know. Here's an example: In one of those glossary-page magazines that welcomes hotel guests to the Beehive state, there's an article that lists the celebrities of Park City, Utah. The first name mentioned is downhill skier Picabo Street, an Olympic gold medalist. The second name is Harry Reams, the former porn star who now sells real estate.

Would you buy a house from a former porn star? Apparently, some Utahans do and are proud to say so.

Then there's this: Utah was the home of one of the most notorious bad guys of the 19th century. His name was Robert Leroy Parker, but you know him better by his alter ego, Butch Cassidy. According to folklore, Parker once worked as a butcher, hence the nickname. He also didn't want to embarrass his family - him being a bank robber and all - so he borrowed a buddy's surname.

Eventually, Butch Cassidy teamed with the Sundance Kid and, after robbing banks and trains, would hide out in western Utah at a locale dubbed Robber's Roost. Some historians believe Butch and Sundance were killed in a shootout with Bolivian police. Cassidy's sister claimed her brother actually died in Spokane, Wash. in 1937.

Personally, I'm convinced Cassidy is alive and working for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee as the bandit in charge of setting Olympic food prices. (A coffee and muffin the size of a computer mouse? Why, that's only $5 (U.S.), tax and gratuity included.)

Unfortunately, the longer I stay in Utah the less money I have, which means soon I will be penniless as well as clueless. Maybe that's exactly how the good folks here want it.

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