Thursday, June 27, 2013
From time to time, some of the attendees of the writing classes I facilitate allow me to post their memories to share with all of you. This is one of those. Thank you Lee.
MY WEEK WITH JESUS, JOSEPH AND CHER
To appreciate this experience to the fullest, you must imagine our house in a suburban neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah. Nice big lots, manicured lawns, children playing on the streets, and a Mormon Church around the corner and down two blocks. This peaceful looking setting typifying what most folks thought of as pure Americana, was anything but. We were smack dab in the middle of the most dedicated followers of the John Birch Society. In a Mormon neighborhood, all social activities are centered on the church and its various auxiliaries. When you have a bishop who has strong political leanings and presides over a congregation of about 500 people, you will have a neighborhood that is usually in line with what is being preached at the local church.
I was already on the list of people to watch as I had supported the reelection of the Democratic Governor with a poster in my front window. That caused my yard to be toilet papered and have trashcans emptied on the front lawn on a regular basis during the previous election season.
It was during the summer of 1969 I received a phone call from my sister Judy to tell me that she and husband Tim would be coming to Utah for a few days to visit. They were going to come by bus because they were stopping along the way to visit the small towns and didn't know exactly when they would arrive. They were finding the sights in Southern Utah interesting. Since Judy and Tim never traveled without best friend Bill, I was wondering where would I put three guests when Judy informed me that they were camping along the way and would I have room for their tents in our yard? I told her not to worry as we had a big yard surrounded on two sides by a cinder block wall, and we were on the corner.
Two days later, mid afternoon on a lovely summer day, Mark (my son, not the apostle) came running into the house and said, “Mom you better come and see this, I think it’s Aunt Judy.” Remember, this is 1969, in the full flush of hippi-itus, tie dye, love beads, flowers in her hair etc….
I walked out to the front yard and coming up the middle of the street was a small parade, and it looked like Jesus, Joseph, and Cher leading, followed by most of the young children in the neighborhood.
Following the parade was a sheriff’s car.
We were about four blocks from the nearest bus stop, and it looked as though they had gathered all the children in a parade. In a Mormon neighborhood, that can be a whole lot of kids.
I really didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I laughed until I cried!
If you have ever been in a Mormon Chapel you will see a picture of Jesus. Their version has long slightly curling hair sun streaked light brown, a well-trimmed beard, and piercing blue eyes which is interesting when you think about the fact that Jesus was a Sephardic Jew and would be rather dark. Tim could have been the model for the picture, and today he is wearing a long flowing thing that looked like a robe and sandals.
Bill, with his slightly receding widow’s peak, and trimmed goatee, was a dead ringer for the Mormon profit Joseph Smith. Where he found his frock coat would remain a mystery
Then we have sister Judy, about 5’7’, a size 5 and long dark hair parted in the middle, looking like Cher before Cher met her plastic surgeon. She was wearing a tie died, long drapey thing, bell-bottoms, and sandals. A whole lot of beads and a flower behind her ear completed her look of the day.
As they turned into our driveway all those nice little kids, who looked like the rats following the Pied Piper immediately stopped at the edge of our lawn. This was the house of the Democrat and we can’t go any further, we could catch something. They just stood there looking toward the house.
Our visitors dumped tents and backpacks in the back yard, we all went into the house, and after they were settled with cold drinks, we noticed the kids in the neighborhood began to disperse I told Judy I was surprised they arrived here so soon. I assumed they would be stopping in the little towns along the way. Cher, in a very serious manner informed me “those fucking bigots just don’t get what make love not war is all about. Seeing that they didn't appreciate our life style we decided not to grace them with our presence.”
Now why did that not surprise me? I could have warned them but this was a lot more fun. There are some things in life that are either so funny or outrageous that you just never forget them. I was soon to learn that I would have a whole week I would never forget.
The dinner hour was approaching and while I prepared for a cook out, they set up their tents, took showers, and got ready to settle in for a week. Since they didn't spend any time exploring the little towns, they could spend more time with us because they didn't have to be in Colorado for 10 days. Yippee! Did I want to know what they were going to do in Colorado? It was business, Jesus informed me, a pot grower’s convention. I picked my jaw off the floor and thought how could they say these things with a straight face?
I requested that they not tell anyone in the neighborhood if asked and most of all, my husband Val. Val and I already had many a discussion about my family and friends, and he was convinced that my sole purpose in life was to embarrass him.
For the next week Val managed to leave early and come home late; business called. I asked Judy if Mom and Dad knew where she was. “Oh yeah, she was happy I was coming to see you, but when I told her we would probably hitchhike and camp along the way, they had a fit. She was crying and carrying on, so I promised we would take the bus. I don’t know what their problem is.” Yep, that was our flower child.
Then the fun began the next morning. I was making coffee in the kitchen when I heard “Maaa-um the hippies are up.” I knew it wasn't one of my kids so I peaked out the back door to discover at least five kids sitting on top of the block wall and one was the designated spy and reporter to the busy body next door. Of course that just inspired the hippies. They started out the morning by sitting at the table in the yard and rolling their early morning joint. “Maaa-um, they’re rolling cigarettes, maaa-um, they’re smoking.” “Maaa-um, the one that looks like Jesus is making out with Cher!”
Oh boy this is going to be a long week.
As soon we finished breakfast, I packed a picnic lunch and loaded Jesus, Joseph, and Cher along with my children in the station wagon and off we went. I figured they would like to visit the forests in Big Cottonwood Canyon. I found a campground and let them hike through the woods. Is it asking too much Lord to let them get lost for a couple of days? They’re hippies, they could live off the land, and it was fairly warm. I guess He thought it was too much to ask as they returned in time for our picnic.
We arrived home after dark, and I was hoping that the neighborhood excitement had worn off, but there she was, the spy sitting on the wall waiting for the hippies. I told her to get down from the wall or I would call the police. She slowly climbed down while yelling, “Maaa-um, she’s gonna call the cops!”
The next morning there were several kids sitting on the wall, and they politely informed Cher that they were sitting on their side of the wall, so there!
I packed us all up again and headed up Parley’s Canyon so they could see where the pioneers first saw the Salt Lake Valley. We then headed up to Park City, which at the time was still a little mining town with little wooden houses clinging to the sides of the hills. We wandered around until most of the day was gone, getting back to the house after dark seemed the best solution to avoid the spies.
The next day Judy and I went grocery shopping. I convinced Jesus and Joseph to stay and guard the tents and watch my kids. We made it through the market with only a few turned heads and whispers.
When we arrived home we prepared a lunch and took off up Little Cottonwood Canyon. They loved being out in nature, and I loved leaving them out in nature. We spread around a lotta love. We returned home a little before sunset and sure enough a whole group of kids were sitting on the wall, waiting to watch and report.
The next day we went to the Great Salt Lake, and drove around parts of the city I thought they would enjoy seeing. Keeping them out of the yard until sunset was an all day job!
I couldn't put it off any longer, the next day we would go downtown to Temple Square.
I suggested to Judy that maybe they should consider dressing up a bit as we would be going to the visitors’ center and they would be required to wear shoes, shirts, etc.
When they appeared, Tim had on a cleaner robe thingy, Bill had a clean tie-dye under his frock coat and Judy had on some bell-bottoms that she had decorated herself and a bunch of new beads. They were ready so off we went.
Temple Square is the heart of Salt Lake City. It is at least two city blocks square, and the blocks in SLC are about twice as long anywhere else and very wide. Brigham Young had a four oxen, and it had to be able to turn in a full circle from the middle of the road. The Temple Square area downtown is quite lovely with big old trees; there were park benches, a statue of Joseph Smith, the tabernacle the temple and in the corner, a one room pioneer hut that had been original to the site.
The big three were completely blown away when they saw the statue of Joseph Smith. He looked just like Bill, frock coat and all! They were not the only ones who were impressed. In a matter of minutes there was a line of tourists who wanted a picture of Bill with Joseph. Then Jesus and Joseph Oh, this just kept getting better. In the meantime I lost track of Cher. I walked over to the pioneer hut, and there was Cher twirling around on the dirt floor. When she saw me she cried, “Isn't this just fabulous?” I confess I could not see anything fabulous about living in a hut about 12’x 12’ with a dirt floor and no windows. She twirled herself against the wall and started laughing. “No I don’t mean the hut; I mean all those people who think those two out there look like Jesus and Joseph!”
“I love camping but this hut is too much, those pioneers must have been nuts!” We both laughed until someone came to the door and two little old ladies were remarking that it was just uncanny how much those two looked like Jesus and Joseph. One said, “Do you think they are really Mormons?” To which Judy replied, “Those two guys out there? Nah they just look like hippies to me”
What a day! I don’t know if word ever reached any church authorities that Jesus and Joseph visited Temple Square that day. They surely missed an experience. It took about another hour to get J & J away from their admirers and cameras. We walked through downtown and toured some more of the historical sites. People stared but no one stopped and asked for a photo op, and I think the guys were a little disappointed. Their 15 minutes of fame lasted at least two hours; that is more than most people get.
It seems that not being able to roll weed and smoke at will was putting a damper on their time in Salt Lake City. When we arrived home they organized so that they could leave first thing in the morning. We had one last cook out in the yard with a few kids sitting on the wall, and I could see the wheels turning in Judy’s head. I warned her, “What ever you are thinking of doing, don’t! I have to live here after you are gone.”
I have thought about that time and some of the things that Judy and I did a few years later when she and son Joey moved to Salt Lake City. No matter that she was older; she was still a hippie in her heart. She was kind, generous and funny, and I miss her every day. She died at 35, and I can still hear her say, “I just know I will not ever be an old person so I need to do everything while I can.” She did.
-- Lee V.
Thank you Lee!
Hope you enjoyed it!
27 Jun 2013