Babs DeLay

Babs DeLay

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.

January 04, 2015

Sandy Rising

2015

A wise Greek once told me "The economic health of a city can be seen by counting the number of cranes in the sky". After many years of development drought, there are currently many of these metal praying mantises hovering over various blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. A high rise office tower is going in at 111 So. Main which will reportedly provide office space for the @700 Goldman Sacs employees currently leasing in the tech section of Research Park at the University of Utah. The new performing arts center on Main will be up and running in less than two years and its huge concrete pumps and tubes make the area look as if a giant spider is nesting on top of the construction.

In 2007, Salt Lake City approved four towers to be built downtown as part of City Creek. One of them was a condo project that included the tallest building ever constructed in Utah at 415 feet tall. I was a Planning and Zoning Commissioner back then and I remember citizens asking if there wasn't a limit to building height here and folks worried that there was a law "that no building could be higher than the LDS Temple or the LDS office building." That belief my friends, is a myth. The church's headquarters on North Temple and State Street were completed in 1975 and became for a while the tallest building in downtown. Up until then the 270' tall Kennecott Building was about as high up as you could see from the sidewalk. And before the Kennecott skyscraper there were the 11-story Boston and Newhouse Buildings at Main between 300-400 South. There are no height limitations to buildings in the core of downtown although there are restrictions about building big boxes on corners.

It's possible though in the near future that tourists might get confused about where downtown is when they drive over Point of the Mountain and see the 1,100 acres in the heart of Sandy developed into high rises. The Salt Lake burb announced last month that a huge development of offices, housing and hotels dubbed 'The Cairns' to be added to the area between 90th-114th South and I-15 to the TRAX lines. The residential section will have 650 housing units of apartments and condos at Centennial Parkway where it meets Sego Lily Drive. "The Prestige" will include two 25-story towers and two shorter 6-story buildings.

Growth in Sandy is to be expected. It's the city at the base of the Cottonwoods where four ski resorts are located. It's also just a 20 minute hop over the Point of the Mountain to the land of MLM's and tech employers. The developers are well aware of the demographics they will attract to be residents of their new project, from people downsizing from larger homes to 20-somethings who just want to rent and ski in their free time. It's going to be a bit weird for us downtowners in a couple of years to say, "Hey, let's jump on TRAX and go to Sandy for some fun!" when right now all there is to do is take the trains to the soccer games and Expo Center. In just a few years Sandy will be even more of a destination point as planners are connecting Rio Tinto and the Expo Center better with transportation lines and amenities surrounding the new development.

January 04, 2015

Addicted to Homes

2015

Admit it. You're a complete addict. You look at them in bed, at work, on your phone. Your heart flutters, you feel tickles inside your lower belly, and you're totally obsessed. "You like to think that you're immune to the stuff. It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough. You know you're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to..." Robert Palmer.

I know your addiction. I read my own analytics and see what you've done and when you've done it. Naughty, naughty! Your boss would not like you spending so much of their dime on your passion. Lucky for you, your habit is free and so accessible and there are no monthly fees which you have to hide from your spouse (although recently you've been going over your data plan limits on your shared mobile service). Go ahead and admit that you are powerless over house porn and that your life has become unmanageable. When you were in college you talked with your buddies about sex all the time and now just a few years later all you can do is show home tours on your computer at the hipster coffee house to strangers.

People call me and admit their desires to me daily. They text me about how so and so's website has such beautiful photos of a house and that we must dash there immediately to see its glory. Or how a home that just appeared on the MLS is stunning and we must run. It appears my client has been stalking houses for months and days and he has become turned on by images aglow in soft lighting and the appearance of new glossy finishes. He hasn't paid attention to the Google street view too closely because he might have seen that the one house sits next to an 8-plex apartment building, and the other is a new listing done by a flipper I know. I run anyway and meet him at the first house. It too is a flipper that is staged inside to the nines with groovy furniture and IKEA lighting. The lovely neighborhood is perfect with sycamore-lined streets dotted with faux-period street lights and little traffic. Then I show him why he doesn't want this house (8-plex neighbors). He gets back in his car and we drive to the second house. It appears nice too. "Look how the exterior brick was just painted to hide the major crack in the wall and foundation. Do you notice the wet smell in the basement-that's the foundation crack. And for the price of this home, do you want cabinets that just have new fronts and hardware or do you want all hardwood?" The crack scares him and he looks sad. He wants to go back to the interwebs and look at more pretty houses.

House porn is wonderful. I know because I'm addicted too. Read between the lines when you're sitting in your jammies. If the photos are great, read the remarks about the house. If all the agent talks about is the area around it and not the house, there's no updating. "Minimal yard work" means your dog won't have room to pee. Most of all, tell your wife what you're doing and get your own place ready to sell so others can lust over you. You might find she's been looking at the same porn when you're not around.

December 04, 2014

St. Jennie

2014

It may be hard to believe that the area surrounding most of the homeless shelters and The Road Home used to be even sketchier than it is now. The drugs, drinking, homelessness and crime that haunts the non-profit oasis has been established there since Salt Lake City became a town. The 'Red Dirt District' on 200 South just south of 'Greek Town' between 400-600 West was the locale of the largest and most successful houses of prostitution operated during the 1800's into the early 20th Century. There were cheap bars that offered beverages to the railroaders and miners, opium dens a few blocks east, and many a prostitute to be bought for carnal pleasures. Basically, all that's changed in 150 years in the area of the UTA Central Station is some newer buildings and asphalt roads covering the red dirt...and the addition of an angel named Jennie Dudley.

I remember in 1985 when a blue-eyed local cowgirl brought a holy kind of Chuck Wagon to the neighborhood and caused a tiny ripple of goodness. Inside her wagon/trailer are all the fixin's to cook a Sunday brunch to anyone who wanders by or comes out from the bushes by the Jordan River. Every Sunday and big holiday she pulls up and with the help of volunteers unloads tables, coffee pots, cups, plates, grills and plastic laundry baskets under the freeway ramps at 600 West and 600 South and waits.

With a ranching and outfitting background, Jennie says that she found God and that he could speak to her in 'Ranch Language'. He said to her: "Jennie, when you have hungry people out back, you send a Chuck Wagon". "Yes LORD" and she did. She's an ordained Christian minister and founder of the Eagle Ranch Ministries. I am not a Christian but I believe completely in Jennie's mission of goodness and have passed on and supported her cause for years. I'm not sure she even knows my name, so why do I do that? She is the living proof of her beliefs and of what good can do and we all need to pay it forward. You see, she doesn't show up with any food. She prays and trusts that God will arrive with volunteers and food. And they do. I have never listened to her sermons but hear hymns being sung as they are blasted through an amplifier at the hungry lining up to eat. She has never asked me to join her church or told me my ways were wicked. Jennie and her regular crew of fellow believers like Palmer, Marc, Romi and Maxine just smile and thank you. God is NOT letting down Jennie and her mission and no one goes without food, a hug and a smile before they return to the streets – car or no car.

Jennie sets up @ 8:30 on Sundays and is there until 11 or so, and it's easy to do a drive and drop. On 200 South turn South at 600 West and drive a few blocks south of UTA's Central Station. There's no list of what to bring – just use your own logic. The crowd is mostly chronic homeless men without cars who walk to find her kindesses. Jennie says 'There's more women and children showing up than I've ever seen before!' They need clothes and blankets this time of year. She's feeding the masses so bring big cans of ground coffee, creamers, sugar, donuts, pancakes and syrup and margarine. Sandwiches, granola bars, juice boxes, pre-wrapped Twinkies – whatever you can muster. If you bring it, she'll serve it. If the food has to be cooked, they will cook it but don't bring a frozen turkey. Ideally, pre-cooked stuff. She can't make pies and put them in the oven, either.

Every Sunday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc. you'll find Jennie feeding the downtrodden folk of the neighborhood. Go help by doing a drive and drop yourself? There are volunteers standing in the pigeon crap who will help you carry food or clothes from your car. Ask for Jennie and slip her some cash for us, k? She's lookin' mighty tired these days but she's still a great hugger in her big ol' white cowgirl hat!

November 11, 2014

Poopy Problems

2014

Recently Salt Lake City had its own version of Old Faithful when a 48-ince water main broke on Foothill Boulevard just south of the University of Utah. Millions of gallons of precious water flooded homes and a Montessori School (the old Jewish Community Center) located just west of the break. Officials say that the geyser was created because of a flaw in the pipe's connector and Salt Lake City Public Utilities (801.483.6700) is taking claims from anyone who has property that may have been damaged.

We've all been getting news stories in the past year that the infrastructure of U.S. cities is collapsing. There's not a day that goes by in NYC where a manhole cover goes flying into the sky because yet another underground pipe has burst from age. We have old pipes in Utah, too. In Salt Lake City proper it's common to find many of the old homes still have the original clay pipes taking the gray water and stinky stuff from the house to the sewer line out to the street.
How do you know if you have old pipes? You can check with the City and see if they have a record of any major work done on your sewer lines (as in when and if they were replaced from clay to cast iron). If you are about to purchase a home, especially an older home, it's wise to have the sewer line scoped by a licensed plumber. The pipe specialist will send down a video camera to look at the goop, poop and cracks and advise you about the health of your sewer line. You WANT to know about your sewer line because guess what...if it breaks it costs a small fortune to fix it and it is most likely your home insurance isn't going to cover the main line replacement. I'm talking $10-$20,000 bucks!

The SLC Water Dept. knows the mechanical infrastructure here is aging as do other utilities in the city. There's a major gas line being replaced downtown that is 100 years old right now (which explains the traffic detours) and more construction upgrades planned for 400 South. Although we don't see manhole covers flying into the air often we all know there are loose lids and smaller ones are often missing. For sewer lines upgrades there is hope for local homeowners because, after many discussions and meetings our city managers have become partners with an insurance company for property owners in case of sewer or water line failure. For @$10-15 a month a homeowner can get their poop chutes covered by this insurance with a handy 24/7 emergency response team ready to run to your shitty problem. Folks have bitched that SLC Corp. shouldn't be in bed with a private insurance carrier, but what the hell, it's cheap and you can always call your own insurance company and have them add this coverage onto your policy. Trust me, you are most likely NOT covered for sewer and water line breaks.

The first manhole covers were made of stone and were found in relics of ancient Roman streets. You can bet your bones that those centurions had the same problems we had with missing and broken manhole covers and leaky pipes. When it comes to shitty problems, time doesn't change too much.