Babs DeLay

Babs DeLay

May 29, 2015

Hair Museum!

2015

Salt Lake City proper doesn’t have many museums but the few we do have are pretty great. There’s the fabulous Natural History Museum by Red Butte Garden at the University of Utah, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA), the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the LDS Church History Museum (closed for updating). You may have been to most of those swell buildings and seen the collections and displays, but I’ll bet you a buck you’ve never been to the Pioneer HAIR Museum. I’m the only person that calls the Pioneer Memorial Museum at 300 N. Main Street by that name. I came up with it long ago when I lived across the street from the place and took friends and family over to visit fairly regularly. It’s free and it’s funky.

        Way back in 1901 in the capitol city a group of 46 women were invited to the house of Annie Taylor Hyde (daughter of LDS Church President John Taylor). You can imagine the gathering of ladies who probably looked much like the distaff cast of Downton Abbey, with long skirts that brushed the floor (often with trains), shirtwaists and high collars. They met and formed a new group called the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (“DUP”). All of them were descendants of Utah pioneer stock and their goal was “to perpetuate the names and achievements of the men, women and children who were the pioneers in founding this commonwealth by preserving old landmarks, marking historical places, collecting artifacts and histories, establish a library of historical matter and securing manuscripts, photographs, maps and all such data as shall aid in perfecting a record of the Utah pioneers.” They collected so much stuff they built a museum next door to the Capitol which opened in 1950.

        Back to the hair. The Museum is free and open Monday-Saturday 9 am to 5 pm and on Wednesday nights until 8 pm. When you walk into the building your nostrils will take in that musty dusty smell you probably get when you have to go to your grandmother’s house to help fetch her something out of her two year supply. For those of you who have an even better developed nose you’ll detect another layer of scent that you probably won’t identify until you’re reading one of the display cards next to a lovely dried flower arrangement under glass. Yes, those flowers are made of good ol’ pioneer hair. You see, in the old days a woman couldn’t run to Smiths and pick up a bouquet to brighten her home. There weren’t flower shops until electricity and refrigeration were more common. Women who were handy with needlework learned to weave their own hair, the hair of their husbands and kids and the hair of the departed into flowers. It was an ancient tradition to keep mementos and the hair of the dead. The designs are crazy good and intricate and smell like, well, old hair.

        Check it out next time you’re walking around the capitol lawns. They’ve got an original ZCMI chandelier, fantastic old Valentines cards and love letters, and newspapers made not from paper but from rags when the Deseret News ran out of paper and had to use old shirts, pants and dresses to print the news on until supplies arrived.

June 18, 2015

TAXI? LYFT?

2015

Twice a year my wife and I go to San Francisco for business and pleasure. We’ve been doing this for years and so we know a) if we stay in a hotel we have to pay a ton to park a rental car; b) finding a parking space is hell in the city and c) Airbnb’s generally don’t have off street parking for our rental car. One of our friends recommended a service called ‘Homobiles’, which is like Uber for Drag Queens. The cars come via text. Often vehicles come held together with duct tape, but we can be ourselves and the fares are cheap, by donation only.

   The sad thing for us about Homobiles is that they don’t have too many drivers and they get booked up very fast. Thus, we often have turned to Uber in the past few years. In San Francisco, Uber has an app that looks like a map, a map covered with 10 black dots within half a mile of wherever we stay. Those black dots on the map are available vehicles ready to pick you up. They appear within three minutes of texting in a fancy schmancy black vehicle, think Caddie (or similar). You don’t need to fumble for cash to pay or tip because it’s a set fee charged to your credit card that you’ve provided when setting up your account. Yes, it’s much more expensive than Homobiles, Lyft or a taxi but the convenience is worth it when there are no other rides available.

    I worked in bars in Salt Lake City for years in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. I learned to rely on a certain cab company in Salt Lake to haul away the forlorn, intoxicated, the party girls and boys. That company has become so unreliable in the past few years that I turned to a friend who worked for Uber and lives across the street from me. We went to Portland for Memorial Day weekend and needed a ride to the airport. Here’s our texts:  Me: “Need a ride to the airport at 2.”  Him: “Sorry, I have a day job now. Can’t help. But there will be plenty of drivers around to take you. Getting picked up from the airport could be a challenge. Uber and Lyft have stopped doing airport pickups in SLC. Lyft has stopped drop offs as well. A few commercially licensed Uber drivers are doing pickups but they can’t keep up with the demand. The taxis are no longer required to use meters so many are gouging passengers.”

   Have you noticed a difference in ride service options? Gov. Herbert signed a bill March 31, 2015 that put in massive statewide regulations for ride hailing companies. The big one is that the State requires drivers to be covered with at least $1 million in liability insurance. Uber and Lyft didn’t fight that requirement but they have been fighting the Salt Lake Mayor’s office for the even stricter rules imposed prior to that bill getting signed.

April 24, 2015

Rain, RAIN!

2015

Utah is the second driest state in the Union. No, I don’t mean booze, I mean moisture.  Although we’re known for having the greatest snow on earth, the airy flakes don’t melt out to much water.  You may have heard that Gov. Jerry Brown of California has signed legislation to reduce monthly water use by 20% because 93% of the state is under severe drought. We’ve got a big time drought too but so far our Governor hasn’t called for mandatory water cut backs.

        If you’ve got a well in your back yard, who owns the water? Most likely, not you. The state of Utah owns the water here and you’re not allowed to use it without permission. Whaaaaaa?  Isn’t everyone into collecting rainwater these days and helping Mother Nature water the garden and landscaping plants? You’re okay there because the state made it legal to collect rainwater in 2010.  Salt Lake County this past week is officially encouraging you collect rainwater through a program called RainHarvest. County residents are encouraged to collect what falls from the skies to water plants and is offering 50-gallon collection barrels at $40 each (normally $130) first come first serve.

        Apart from the obvious, rain collection is a good thing because the water comes out of the sky with less pollutants. Rain that runs down the street may have oil, gas, fertilizer, poop, piss, vomit, decay, organic and non-organic stuff. Mormon pioneers knew how precious water was when they settled the capitol city. The first thing they started doing was digging irrigation ditches and dam up City Creek to soften the hard clay soil so they could plant potato crops. There were over 1000 miles of irrigation canals in Utah by 1865 and there was a water ditch in front of the Beehive and Lion Houses downtown. Our fine state was successful in part getting off and running because we were the first irrigation-based economy in the entire country.

        I laugh when I see folks buying large bottles of water in the grocery store. Who knows where it comes from and how much energy and resources were wasted in getting it to Salt Lake City? We have a free, wonderful source of drinking water at the Artesian Well Park at 800 South and 500 East that is continually fed by a deep underground aquifer. Anyone can take water from the spigots 24/7, 365 days a year.

        Smarten up your water use and get a rain barrel. You can pre-order the discounted barrels on savesomethingutah.org until May 3rd  and get the $40 price for the 50 gallon containers. Otherwise you can purchase them at a larger local hardware chain or at Murray Park from 10AM-2PM on May 9th for $74 each.

April 03, 2015

FORE!

2015

If you don’t golf then click on!  I’m a golfer because my dad was a golfer and when we moved from New York to Arizona we lived with the new Tucson Country Club in the back yard. The course was a never ending source of play during the day and discovery as darkness fell as the wild life came out.  It’s a patience game and a great way to socialize with friends and meet new ones. And when you play golf you never have to produce anything to prove how great you did, like a fisherman does!

Utah has around 140 golf courses to play on and they are relatively cheap for 18 holes with a cart. Generally it’s about $50 for five hours of fun. If you compare our prices to say Arizona or California we’re generally half of their fees. Sadly though, Salt Lake City can’t figure out how to make golf profitable on its public courses. The sprinkler infrastructures are ancient, waste water and several courses are in need of better design. Frisbee golfers and foot golfers want to use the courses and dog owners for walkies after hours and during the cold months. Instead of creative future mixed use possibilities for thousands of acres of green space golf courses, Salt Lake City is thinking of closing Nibley Park, the airport course and Glendale.  The bad news will be announced soon.

Golf is like sex. You don’t have to play well to enjoy it and it’s just as addicting. For us players Midvale city has just announced “Topgolf” is coming. You’ve seen their style of golf ranges in movies: 2 or more tiers of driving greens where golfers hit buckets of balls at their own speed in heated or cooled comfort, at targets many yards away from the platform. Topgolf will open at Bingham Junction and Jordan River Blvd. and will have 102 hitting bays, 230 hi-def TV’s, music, and dining. The really really cool part of Topgolf is that they make the experience a game of competition (if you want to play). They have special golf balls with microchips that log where you hit the ball to complete a game, and the chip reader will post your score based on your accuracy and distance and send it to the TV screen in your bay. You don’t have to play that game and just practice your own shots. Like bowling, you can practice in your own lane or play on the overhead screen with another person next to you or down the alley.  You don’t have to have your own clubs or balls and their courses allow golfers to drink beer and eat food in the individual bays, served by ‘Bay Hosts’. Whoot! I can’t wait to try Topgolf.

April 03, 2015

A-CHOO!

2015

Since global warming appears to have landed in Utah this spring of 2015, we are going to have to get used to changes. The fruit growers statewide are pretty much crapping their pants right now because the freaky warm spring is causing things like apricot and peach trees to be in full bloom a month too early.  One dip into the low twenties and orchards will lose virtually any possibility of bringing profits this year. 

My wife has noticed the early spring. She has a perpetual surprised look on her face, indicating she’s ready to sneeze into her bent arm at any moment. She goes through a box of Kleenex a day, scowling at me as if it’s my fault she’s allergic to all Utah plant life. I feel for her. Really, I do! When I moved to Utah in 1970, I was allergic to virtually every growing thing the state had to offer. I had those ‘back scratch allergy tests’ and then weekly allergy shots for a year. She had the test too (again scowling at me) after moving here for love, and she found out there were at least 10 plants here she didn’t react to before when she lived in Portland, Oregon. The worst reaction she had was to the pollen of Russian olive trees. Her allergist advised her not to get shots until she acclimated to the plants and seasons here.

Have you seen magnification of pollen parts before? Holy hell, they look like spikey evil Goat Head sticker plants or micro-satellites with razor sharp appendages. Would you know it but pollen is the MALE fertilizing aspect of plants. Some plants have insects pick up the pollen while others let the wind carry the evil dudes to impregnate plants all helter skelter. Our noses inhale the sharp pollen particles and they then impale themselves on our sinuses to cause non-consensual pain and suffering. Our noses run as a biological reaction to try and wash out the balls of misery and we sneeze to let high force nasal winds attempt to blow them back to where they came from.

 Alas, trees are pollinating now and will continue until Memorial Day.  Then the wild grasses and lawn grasses will follow until Days-O-47-ish and then the weeds take over until the first hard frost happens.  Cottonwoods, cedars/junipers, willows, elm, oak, ash, birch and Russian olives are sending their love to all sufferers right now.  When it’s windy the pollen gets stirred up even more and the Kleenex manufacturer gets even happier.  Homeowners along the Wasatch front and in Cache Valley have been adding air filtration systems to their furnaces to strain out the pollutants in our air during winter inversions. These devices also will help purify the air inside your house from mold/ mildew, bacteria, pet dander and many pollens the rest of the year. Call your local HVAC service provider and get a bid to add one to your home. Some of them are even good for the environment by not contributing to pollute the ozone by using coconut husk filters-cool, huh?  

March 17, 2015

Dog Ponies!

2015

If you went to the St. Patrick's Day parade at the Gateway March 14th... No, strike that. If you are SOBER enough to remember the St. Patrick's Day parade at the Gateway you'll remember seeing many--Great Dane dogs walking with their humans down Rio Grande Street. This is the first time that the dogs have made their presence known and well they did it right by dressing up with tiny green hats, sequined neck ties and one even decorating its butt with green sparkly polka dots.

Don't you just love a big ole dog? I do - but my cats don't! Danes are originally a German breed of domestic dog known for its ginormous size. To me they look like small ponies and are one of the world's tallest dog breeds. The back hips on one of the parade dogs came up almost to my navel and I'm 5'6" tall! Like so many dog breeds they were raised for hunting and are known by the American Kennel Club as a 'working breed'. The bigger the dog, the bigger the prey. They were used to hunt boar and bears back in the day and their owners used to crop their ears so they wouldn't get ripped up by prey during the fights that often came with the killing. The dogs are related to Mastiffs but have more grace and dignity than their bulky muscle-y Mastiff brethren.

There's a local group in Utah called the Rocky Mountain Great Dane Rescue and they were the non-profit that brought the dog ponies to the parade. I call them nutbags behind their hairy backs because OMG who has the stamina to take care of a Dane, let alone help rescue them on a daily basis? My friend Kara is one of the crazy-Dane-Ladies adopting the dogs and helping to rescue them. She is known for having raised a pot-bellied pig and a one legged duck, with three dogs, a wife and daughter in her tiny little lower Millcreek home. Her wife takes up a small corner of the house to watch TV and play video games, but the rest of the home is for the pets. Leisha (adult daughter of crazy-Dane-person who is also a Dane owner herself) has been yanked into the rescuing of giants too and also had a big beauty at the end of a leash in the parade. I like Leisha because she constantly carries a slobber towel to wipe the drool coming constantly from the dog mouths. Personally, I think Danes create as much slobber as a St. Bernard except that their lips are so big and long it makes the spit thinner and less obvious.

Folks often get Danes because they think they are cool. Then then grow up and turn into something as big as a sofa. They can't care for them properly and so good souls help find new homes for them. The Rocky Mountain Great Dane rescue folks need temporary foster homes for the dogs and volunteers to just drive legs of cross country trips to get them to their new homes. Want to help get these big dogs new homes? www.rmgreatdane.org

March 07, 2015

Food Sharing

2015

Utah has an official food, a flag, a dog and a tree. The State Tree was for many years the Colorado Spruce but has been changed by our legislators to the Quaking Aspen. Really, I think the state tree should be the historic mulberry. Although it's not indigenous to our ecosystem, it has plenty of Utah history, to wit: 1) Brigham Young imported 100,000 mulberry trees from France to be planted in Utah; and 2) he ordered silkworm eggs and had his minions build a cocoonery to hold 2,000,000+ worms. By 1877, there were 5 million silk worms feeding on mulberry leaves in the attics of settlers in Utah. One saint was actually called on a mission specifically to spread the 'gospel of silk' to educate Utahns on how to grow worms, feed them, collect their silk cocoons and then weave/sew with the silk thread they produced. From St. George to Logan silk was all the rage for a time. The industry has left Utah long ago, but the historic trees are everywhere. There's a few old giants on 1100 East and 600 South by Judge High School and a bunch out in West Valley on 4100 South. They produce flavorful but messy fruit that looks much like blackberries that are as long as a little finger.

It's rare to see anyone selling mulberries or mulberry products even at farmers markets. People who own property with mulberry trees love the shade provided by the big leaves but hate the mess of the abundant fruit. Many of us have fruit trees, old and new, in our front and back yards but few of us cull nature's gifts and do anything with the apples, apricots, peaches, pears and plums in the summer... but we should.

Erase your guilt of rotting fruit by signing up with SLC Fruit Share. The program is seeking volunteers who want to make a year-long commitment to help prune trees and harvest fruit from yards in our valley. Think about it - every year tens of thousands of fruit fall to the ground and rot. This creates a waste management problem, attracts wasps and other bugs that sometimes cause a public health hazard. If you sign up for the Fruit Share program you can get volunteers to come harvest your trees. The bounty then is split three ways between you, the volunteer pickers and local food banks. Everyone wins! The will also trim and clean up your trees so that they can continue to produce and stay healthy.

If you don't have fruit trees but would love part of the harvest, you can volunteer to pick fruit. The commitment is two hours a month and orientation is MARCH 7TH from noon to 3:00 PM. To date the group has harvested almost 50,000 lbs. of fruits and nuts that would have gone wasted on the ground to help the Salt Lake Community Action Program, Utahns Against Hunger, Real Food Rising and partners with TreeUtah and The Green Urban Lunchbox. You can call 801.535.6438 to find out more about volunteering and the orientation. To register your trees to be pruned and harvested, go to www.slcgov.com/general/absolutefp/Fruit_Form .

February 17, 2015

Convention Hotel

2015

Have you ever been to a convention for your job where you sit at a hotel/convention center in a room full of supposedly like-minded people, sit at odd shaped tables stacked with sweating water glasses and stare at bad power point presentations for 8 hours a day?

Oy, I've been to a million of 'em over the years, all over this country. They are as bad as they are good but inherently necessary if you want to network with others in your field and learn about new trends and ideas. Conventions make money for the towns where they are held-it's BIG business. Las Vegas probably wouldn't exist without its convention business. New Orleans is a great place to see a Saints game or a Mardi Gras parade but it wouldn't do well without its on-going invitation for conventioneers to land there. It is estimated that the Sundance Film Festival brings nearly $70 million to Utah in jobs and revenue. The Outdoor Retailers and Salt Lake Comic Con will easily bring in a $50 million impact to Salt Lake just this month.

In order to keep big conventions coming to Salt Lake City, we need more hotels. We need a mega-convention hotel that is tied into the Salt Palace Convention Center marketing plan because we lose too many groups to other cities for lack of facilities. We're going to hear more about that as the days get warmer. Salt Lake County called for bids from hoteliers last year to determine who might be interested in building a new convention oriented hotel downtown. Texas-based Omni Hotels was the only group to bid by the October deadline.

What you'll be hearing more of is WHERE will the new hotel be located? Landowners in the capitol city are biting their nails and lobbying to get Salt Lake County and Mayor McAdams to pick their piece of dirt for excavation. This is BIG MONEY for a lot of folk. Rumors abound that the most likely and logical location for a mega-hotel would be where the main post office is located on 200 South between West Temple and 200 West because that way the hotel could connect directly onto the Salt Palace. Other's think that's a crappy idea because of the intense amount of loading and unloading that occurs on 200 West behind the Salt Palace for conventions that doesn't make for a nice view or flow. However, the Jazz area needs to be torn down and replaced, so where would that new arena go (as you don't tear one down until the new one is built)? Hmmm, we'll know much more this spring. Stay tuned!

February 17, 2015

Sugar History

2015

Candy is almost its own food group here in Utah. We eat enormous amounts of it in all forms and there are tried and true historical companies here that have been enabling us for years. How many of you have taken a tour of "Taffy Town" as a kid? Glade Candy Company has been around Utah for 97 years but officially changed their name to Taffy Town in 1995. They are famous for that old school, wax-paper wrapped candy sold around the world because they have a whipping and batch process that makes their sweets softer and more melt-in-your-mouth better than their competitors.

Chocolate appeared in Utah shortly after the Mormon's set up shop in Salt Lake City. One of the largest and most successful chocolate manufacturers was the J.G. McDonald Company. Their large plant closed long ago and in the 1990's was converted into condos above Squatters on 300 South. The new 2015 Utah Historical Quarterly has a great story of the 'Chocolate Dippers' Strike of 1910' and photos of the place, including the Victorian gardens at the top of the building used as a break room for the workers. McDonald Co. is gone but you can still see artisans dip chocolates at Hatch's Family Chocolates in the Avenues, V Chocolates and Cummings (to name a few).

The trend for bean-to-bar producer of chocolatiers are all the rage even though cocoa beans aren't a local crop. In the past few years we've seen successful and yummy startups like: Coleman and Davis Artisan Chocolate, top award winner Amano chocolates, Millcreek Cacao Roasters, Park City's Solstice brand, Crio Bru and Mezzo drinking chocolates. Prop's to the newly retired Tony Caputo (he's put son Matt in charge) for originally putting together one of the best selections of local chocolates for dummies like me to choose from, and the expertise of a well trained staff to educate me in what's yum and what's extra yum.

When I was a key there were three kinds of chocolate: 1) unsweetened bars of baking chocolate my Nana used in cooking that tasted like crap; 2) imported chocolate at specialty stores in NYC and 3) 'Whitman Sampler' boxes. Man am I happy chocolate choices have become so damned delicious and abundant, you?

January 04, 2015

Money Lending

2015

What's going on in the world of money lending? Take a step back to quote of the most famous lenders of all time, a fictional Shakespeare character in The Merchant of Venice. "Shylock" lends the hero Antonio money so that he can woo the woman he's in love with (the heiress Portia) enough to impress her. Instead of $20 in his pocket and finding a deal at Deseret Industries, he wants to get bigger bucks to buy designer clothes so that she won't see him as a poor loser. Shylock, the local money lender, agrees to help him out and says:

Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me. (1.3.17)

Of course, Antonio fails to pay his debt and the two characters wind up in court. The clever part of the play is not only the big question as to where Shylock might cut the pound of flesh from his guilty borrower but how legally Antonio gets out of losing a body part! This play and the characters have become so famous that over the last several centuries the name 'Shylock' has become synonymous with anyone who lends money at a high rate.

Mortgage rates have crawled are firmly in the 4-4.5% range for 30 year loans. What does that mean to you? You can't buy as much of a home as you planned on six months ago. On a $200,000 loan, your payment would have gone from say $1100 to $1200. The average bank/Shylock out there wants to lend you money if your credit is good. They usually will give you about 1/3 of your monthly income as a rule of thumb towards your house payments. To buy a $200K house you'd have to have good credit and make $3600 a month without too many bills. The average sales price of a home currently for sale in Salt Lake City is $290,000-up a lot over last year's values.

What's a poor love struck buyer to do in order to get a good interest rate and not lose a pound of flesh in this lending market? First understand when Lucky Lupe's House of Loans is offering mortgages at 2.5% in a 4.5% marketplace, there's more to the story. The COST of the loan is what you should pay attention to-or the Annual Percentage Rate (APR). You hear the APR quoted at a million miles an hour or printed in tiny print after an auto ad. Second, learn to shop the APR's and not the interest rates on loans. Manuel's Mortgage Depot might offer you a 4.5% loan but his costs might be half of what Lucky Lupe will charge you. Too confusing? Find a lender who will sit down with you and explain this to you until you cry for mercy. Lender's must BY LAW give you something called a 'Good Faith Estimate' when you apply for a loan. Take that quote from Lender A and then scan it to Lender B and see what B can do for you. If the quotes are too similar, find a Lender C to beat them both and save yourself more than a pound of flesh.