Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Grand Provo Adventure

So...the Tom Petty cover concert on Friday was delightful!
Eli and I have never been so far into the heart of Provo and it was an experience.
For those of you that don't know, Provo is the site of the LDS university, Brigham Young University (BYU) and is a bustling Mormon city. And we're not Mormons. Though we are related to them! In fact, my great-grandpa was the first missionary in Alaska. Fun fact.

When we tried to exit on Center Street, the whole thing was closed (oh, Utah construction), so we had to jump back on the highway and go to the previous exit, then take surface streets through the city, so we got to see even more of it than we had planned.

I never realized just how consumer-driven Provo is. Before we got to the old downtown/Main Street area, it was shopping shopping shopping. Malls and strip malls, burger joints, craft shops, ice cream parlors, Macy's and Williams Sonoma, and more bridal shops than you can shake a stick at, just for starters.
We kept going "but where are the houses?!" because it was all commercial.
And although it was a never-ending parade of stores, they all had different names!
University Mall, East Bay, Riverwoods, Provo Towne Centre (which is très chic compared to "center"), et cetera. 

We were thrilled to get out of the overwhelming commercial center of Provo and into more of the
small-college-town area.  When we drove past the library I just about died.

I am a crazy librariophile.  I actually tried to sneak into a small local library in the middle of the night once,
when I was in high school, just to be among the books and read all night, and...well lets just say the library
shared the building with the police station and I had to hide behind a tombstone to escape a cop's flashlight
(the cemetery was next door to both).

Look at this baby:

I was in shock and awe and mashing in Eli's arm, which is my way of going "PULL OVER! PULL OVER!" but he didn't because we had the concert to get to and he knew if I got within 10 feet of that library we would be there until closing time (and perhaps after. I am that person that they literally have to push out and close the door in my face).
Have you ever seen such a big, gorgeous library?! I'm going to have to return to Provo just to get inside this library.

So we finally got into the heart of old downtown along Center Street and boy, were we jealous. Their downtown is cooler than downtown Salt Lake City! Though that may be because we love vintage and historic places.
It did not feel like being in Utah at all, but maybe somewhere in the Deep South.  It was just so overgrown and cozy, with original neon signs for the pharmacy, and a strip of shady trees going down the middle of the street. And all nestled against the beautiful mountains.

We had a sweet time strolling along in the twilight.
Though it didn't take us long to realize just what a filthy place it is! Not in the sense of litter in the streets or anything--oh no, it is very well looked after... and perhaps it is just Eli and I having dirty minds compared to the Mormon population in Provo, but...
For example, there was a little shopfront along Center Street that looked like it could be a dingy stripclub.  And in big script letters, "SENSUOUS". But it was a sandwich shop!
There were several instances like this.  Like a giant poster of a pickle looming out of a shopfront that scared the shit out of me and Eli.  The sexual tension in Provo is palpable, man.
We finally made it to the concert, which was outdoor and on the third floor of a parking garage!
We made it just as they kicked off with "American Girl." We had brought along a blanket to sit on, that I had carelessly thrown into my knapsack.
When we pulled it out, I started laughing hysterically and it didn't take long for Eli to realize why.
In the sea of BYU supporters, with their blue blankets and hats and t-shirts and baby onesies, I pulled out my red University of Utah snuggie (if you are not from Utah: there is a huge BYU/U of U rivalry).
So here we are in the enemy's territory (in the most good-natured sense), trying to blend in (I think my cleavage was giving us away though), and I rip out a U of U blanket.
We threw it down and sat on it, still giggling mischievously, and within a few minutes, the people to our immediate left had gotten up and moved.
And 10 minutes later another couple in our immediate range, who gave us a disgusted look when our red blanket touched their blue one, left as well.  All the more room for us!

The place was packed with a very conservative crowd (no surprises there) and we soon realized that most of them were not there for the music.
It was like a social hour for them!
Here we are, sitting on the ground, wiggling and singing loudly to our favorite Tom Petty songs, and 70% of the people around us aren't even facing the stage or listening/singing along, they are chatting with each other.  It was very strange.
We were the only ones truly rocking out.
And let me tell you, some of those bands were simply INCREDIBLE and sounded more like Tom Petty than he would sound himself if he sang those same songs nowadays.

It was great sitting there facing the Rockies with the sunset turning things a little pinkish, and some lanterns dangling over our heads. There were so many people covering the concrete you couldn't even tell we were all rocking out on top of a parking structure!
And I discovered that although I don't like really dig the Neon Trees when they sing their own stuff, I love them when they're covering Tom Petty.
Eli and I were fearful that these bands were going to try to put an artsy spin on Petty's music and change things around, but THEY DIDN'T! And that was the best part.

The strangest part was how overwhelmingly proud and obsessed with their city these people are.
If Eli and I had taken a drink of booze every time the announcers said "Provo" or "our awesome city," we would have been passed out in 10 minutes. And probably in jail, as no one down there drinks.

One announcer introduced a band as "the Paddington bear of rock 'n' roll, the Winnie the Pooh of funk!"
and Eli and I had no words, we just stared at each other with eyes as big as coins.
When I had found my voice again I whispered "is this for real?" and Eli just nodded.

We saw one person with one tattoo (very different than the Salt Lake look!).

YOU DON'T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE A REFUGEE!!!!! ("Refugee" is Eli's favorite, "Learning to Fly" is mine, and they played both songs that night!).

It was a wonderful way to spend a July evening. And the weirdness made it all the more so
(Eli and I thrive on people-watching).

We drove home down I-15 in the dark, listening to "One Headlight" and somewhere down the line
fireworks began erupting over the highway, leading us back to our valley.

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