The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE: ONCE UPON A TIME IN… SLC!
A blog post inspired by listening to an audiobook of John Steinbeck and a particularly great day in my life.
It’s been a long time since this day happened. I can’t remember the exact year but I’m guessing it was in the early to mid-nineties. I remember getting a loan through the bank to finance the trip that I had planned, a trip to Salt Lake City.
Why Salt Lake City?
At one time, I was a Mormon. I joined for a girl. A big mistake to join a religion for a girl but I did with no regrets. I’m no longer a Mormon. I’ve spoken on this before in a previous post. ‘Nuff said about that.
But, during that time, I made some friends from the church. Most of them have faded from my life… except for one. I’ll speak of her in a moment.
So, I get my plane ticket, a reservation for a rental car and on the day, I head to the airport, get on a plane and eventually find myself in Utah at the SLC airport. This marks the first time that I traveled anywhere on my own. I was scared and excited and above all of that, it all felt right.
I was met at the airport by a couple of people that I got to know in the Nashville area Mormon churches at single dances and they found their way west, living in Salt Lake City. A guy named Eric and the lady that became the one person from those days that has stayed my friend and a big part of this post, Laura LaFond.
So, I’m not going to tell you every little thing that I did. Not that I’m trying to hide something but most of it was the normal kind of stuff. I stayed with Laura and her roommate (who didn’t care for some strange man living on her couch that she didn’t know… I got it) and then in a motel room downtown where I did some of my own urban explorings. I took a trip with Eric in his Jeep up into the mountains where we hiked in shorts up to the snow line (man, I was really out of breath) and then backed down to the city where it was about 100 degrees but felt like the high 80’s in Nashville (no humidity in SLC, not like middle Tennessee). I did some shopping and sightseeing and yada, yada, yada, before moving on to Provo where I stayed with my friend Matt and his wife Kristen. It wasn’t until the second trip to Utah when I traveled with Matt down south into the desert and the Four Corners area and that life-changing drive north back into Utah on a lonely desert road near midnight and the storm on one side of the huge open sky and the stars twinkling on the other. I spoke of that adventure before (and probably will again) but it’s not what I want to talk about here.
The day that this blog post is about is when Laura and I got into my rental car and traveled east out of SLC and into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
It was a beautiful day. And I mean a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L day. The sky was completely cloudless. Blue was in abundance overhead and the heat was tempered by the low humidity. We drove and talked in the mid-afternoon as we wore sunglasses and I felt like a master of the Universe. I’m not much of a smiler where I show my teeth ( picket fences come to mind) but I may have done so on this occasion. It wasn’t long until we found ourselves at a roadside restaurant on Emigration Canyon Road, a place called Ruth’s Diner.
Now, I can’t remember what I got (it might have been a burger or a sandwich) and I don’t remember what she got but I remember the iced tea and how cold it was. We both chatted at our table that overlooked the canyon and for one of the first times in my life, I felt like a grown-up. I was sharing a conversation with a good friend in place unknown to me but loving it and looking out onto a breathtaking view. You know, the word good is sometimes overused for a lot of things that aren’t so good. But this experience I was having was not just good, it was GOOD. (so good I’m writing about it almost 30 years later)
I remember taking this all in as we ate and talked and laughed.
After feeding our faces, we drove a little further east and made some twists and turns until we found ourselves at a dirt parking lot where I saw a stone marker and plaque had been erected.
I read this and felt history underneath my feet and all around. I wondered what it was like then when they traveled by wagon and by foot into the west and into history. Some of it was good, a lot of it bad. If you don’t know what the Donner party went through, I suggest you look it up. I remember touching the bull emblem at the top and feeling the horns with my fingers.
We walked up the grassy hill next to it and saw the Little Dell Reservoir southeast of us. I pulled out my crappy Kodak camera (film, baby) and snapped the shot.
We have hills in Tennessee, a lot of them, but none that look like this. Or, at least, none that I have seen. I just had to stare out over this site and take it in. I could imagine waking up to it every day. It was so different than what I was used to.
I gave the camera to Laura and asked her to take a picture of me. I walked a little further away, held my arms up and yelled out ‘Go’. Snap.
If I remember correctly, I looked straight up after she took it and tried to center myself. I think I was having a really joyful moment and I wanted to see my entire surrounds to help make sure it stuck with me, even the space above me.
I walked back and when I got the camera, I wanted a picture of her. Being a bit camera shy, she didn’t want me to. So, I had to be quick…
It’s a bit blurry but you can see me reflected with my hand above to help block the sunlight from blinding me and snapping the pic with the other. A bit like the Matrix, no?
We finally left and I told her how much I loved reading Robert Fulghum (because of her) and singing together to James Taylor’s Fire and rain that came on the radio. I dropped her off and I went back to my motel room with this wonderful day I experienced with her.
It wasn’t even a full day. It was about three hours of hanging out and having a good time eating some good food and having a great experience with an awesome friend.
That was the last time I spend that amount of time with her.
The second time I went to Utah, we didn’t get to hang out as much, or at least, not in such a long dose and just her and I. And that second trip, many years ago, was the last time I physically saw my friend.
A few years after that, I spoke to her on the phone. I told her about being married (my first wife) and what my daughter was like. We spoke for about thirty minutes and then hung up. That was the last time I spoke to her on the phone. That was about 17 years ago.
Of course, there’s Facebook and we found each other there, occasionally chatting or commenting on each other’s posts. We’re still in touch but it’s not the same, is it? There is something to be said about sitting down with someone just a few feet away and having a conversation, especially with someone you think so highly of. I give Laura credit for helping me be the person I am today. Her friendship helped form me. When I used to visit her with my then-girlfriend when she lived with her brother and sister-in-law here in Tennessee, I looked forward to sharing my time with her.
You’re telling yourself that I had a crush on her.
But, of course, I did.
But something much more special came from it. Regardless of the time and the distance, we have stayed friends. I consider her one of the best friends I have ever known. I have been influenced by her and at times wonder what she might do (WWLD). In that secret muse that lives inside my head and helps me create and dream, a part of her lives there. She was and still is an important part of my life. And that is something much more important than a crush.
She is a constant point of light in my universe.
I figure I was much less of an influence on her than she was me. I can’t imagine that I could be an influence on anybody (other than my daughter,… maybe). But I hope I was when we got to actually spent time together. I hope that something I did or said might have echoed through the years.
I guess I can be hopeful.
And there’s always So I Married An Axe Murderer. (a private joke between her and I)
Until we meet again, Laura. May you always dance like the children of the night.
Sunday, July 14th, 2019 1:00 PM Central time
I dialed a number, a phone rang in Massachusetts, and somebody answered.
That person being Laura LaFond.
We talked and laughed and got caught up on the main things in our lives. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And I can’t tell you how much it meant to me.
Something she said that hit home. “You don’t have to schedule a phone call. We’re friends.”
It’s simple and truthful. And in the chaos and turmoil life brings, sometimes every day, I forgot this.
She’s still influencing me.
Post Postscript –
Laura is now a married woman. Some lucky guy swept her off her feet.
And I’m so happy for them both.
But I hope he isn’t a fan of So I Married An Axe Murderer of Robert Fulghum.
That’s our thing.
-Loyd Elmore Jr
January 3rd, 2020
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.