Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Early Christmas Gift

"So, it's not like a gay couple is going to be able to rush out and get married tomorrow," I ask attorney Peggy Tomsic, really as an aside, at the end of our interview at 3PM on Friday.  Tomsic, who argued for marriage equality in front of Judge Robert Shelby,  sits up in her chair, adjusts her reading glasses, and with some urgency, makes a dramatic correction, "they could go out and get married right now!" she peers at me.  "Wait, what?" I respond, and at that moment, I realize, history is unfurling in front of us all, and I am just now understanding the implications, and the early Christmas gift getting ready to be delivered to a large portion of Utah's population.
Peggy Tomsic

I knew that Judge Robert Shelby's ruling that Utah's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional was big, but I assumed, wrongly of course, that there must have been a stay in place until the state's inevitable years long appeals of the Shelby's proclamation was settled.  There was not.

Shelby has ruled that banning gay couples from marrying as Utah voters had done overwhelmingly in 2004, violated those citizens due process, and consequently is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Thus began a frenetic, electric, buzzy, and most importantly, monumental day in the news.

The Salt Lake County Clerk's office is one of a handful of a few that decides they will begin issuing marriage licenses.  The clerk's office is bulging within the hour.  Impromptu weddings are being conducted in the halls, and back offices.  For those couples it was absolute, unexpected jubilation.

For those who support the idea of traditional marriage, judge Shelby's ruling was equally unexpected, but evoked a wholly different emotion.
Judge Robert Shelby

"So, attending any weddings anytime soon?" I joke with Gayle Ruzicka, the head of the ultra-conservative Eagle Forum as the photographer quickly adjusts his focal length on the camera in preparation of our interview, "oh yeah," she laughs on her porch, adorned with a pair of fanciful snowmen and, as you might imagine, a complete manger scene.  "Can you believe it?!" she joshes, "I didn't even get an invitation to Jim's wedding!"  Ruzicka is talking about State Senator Jim Dabakis, the openly gay lawmaker, who was among the first to be married in the wake of the marriage equality ruling, and he  did so very publicly on 2News live at 5 PM.

Gayle Ruzicka, Eagle Forum
Ruzicka, is much reviled and conversely, beloved by many in Utah for her unabashed and often curt criticism of anything that falls slightly to the left of her ardently conservative views.  Despite her prickly persona, and pronounced politics, in conversation she always allows for some humor.

When the camera gears up, Ruzicka assumes the position, and begins to breath fire, using words like "incompetent," to describe the Utah Attorney General, and "disgusting," to characterize, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, proceeding over wedding in Salt Lake County.

Ruzicka finds herself talking about a very different Utah, a Utah that she and fellow opponents of gay marriage, ironically helped to create.

The campaign to ban gay marriage was frenzied 9 years ago, with pro-traditional marriage groups working long hours, knocking on countless doors, and sending out thousands of fliers in the mail.  They worked hard, and their work payed off for them, the Amendment passed overwhelmingly in a referendum by 66 percent of the vote.

Had the ban never existed though, Peggy Tomsic would not have had anything to challenge, and Judge Shelby would have had nothing to overturn.  Ruzicka and others it appears, made all the slapdash wedding spilling into the halls of the Salt Lake County building on 2100 South, possible.

As we pack up our gear, and leave Ruzicka's Alpine, Utah home, I turn and toss a parting quip, "Don't forget to pick up some wedding gifts this weekend," She guffaws, "Yeah right!", and waves us on cheerily, unaware that in many ways she actually helped wrap the gift of marriage equality for gay couples, just days before Christmas.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Accidentally Perfect.

"You know," I say, as the white lights from our Christmas tree dance across her clear eyes, I caress the flawless, gentle skin of her cheek,  "I'm going to get old," I press aside a lock of blond hair that, like a velvet curtain in a old movie house,  reveals her large, deep blue eyes.  "I'm going to get old much faster than you."

My wife Amanda is 17 years younger than me, I am 43, she, 27.   "I'll love you forever," she frowns, offended at the mere thought that she would ever find my sagging skin, creaking knees, or chaotic morning snorts unappealing.  "You are my dream man," she says as she thrust her blonde head into my white t-shirt and closes her eyes, pressing her forehead hard into my chest, and she smiles, content.  "I love you," I say as I run my fingers over her recently washed and beautifully chaotic, accidentally perfect mane.

Oddly enough, my dad was 17 years older than my mother. There are patterns in nature, birds, they say, fly south for the winter and the currents keep salty water moving across the globe, and it turns out, at least in the case of the Jones family, we follow familiar patterns as well.

I never thought I would replicate my father's life.  I thought babies, families and dogs were for squares, and I never wanted a wailing child, or K-9 eager to play fetch, to ever interrupt my date with a mug of beer, or a rocks glass teeming with whiskey.

Today, at the dog park, as Daisy bounded towards a crusty old pug, and wiggled her bobbed tail at the sight of a spastic Terrier, I found myself, encases in gentle, subtle, happiness, better than the achy, bloated high I got as I dragged fermented hops out a bottle.

Today I find myself, smiling unconsciously,  at a life I didn't particularly try to achieve, but one, that I stumbled upon on with accidental perfection.

A while back, Amanda and I kicked our way down the wet gravel of Doolin, in Ireland, just a mile from the Cliffs of Moher, it was frigid, and the icy drizzle, peppered our faces with uncomfortable pinpoints of stinging rain.   The ornate restaurant seemed "good enough," as it was flanked by tour buses, and purple haired grandmas from Kansas slowly creaking their way off the massive people hauler and into the teeming restaurant. The building was crammed full, like the backpacks worn by 20 something college kids from England on holiday looking for an "authentic" Irish experience.

As the waiters, all in matching t-shirts sporting the restaurant's name, scurried quickly from table to table, bringing plate after plate of fish and chips to bulging tourist, Amanda and I, burst from the trap, back into the rain, and took in deep breaths, as if we had been submerged under water for too long.  We walked for a quarter mile in the damp air, and pushed our way into a nondescript little pub.  It was serene and soft inside, only the clouded natural light, barely pressing through the smudged widows lit the place.  We sipped Guiness, as a handful of American's quietly chatted and laughed.  Amanda and I warmed by the popping, hot embers, housed by a 500 year old fire place.  As Amanda pressed the spoon into her mouth, her eyes widened, "This is the best claim chowder I've ever had!" she grinned, as we both dipped into the white creamy soup.  After a couple of hours (and more than a couple of beers) we began gently singing to each other, composing a little song, then as we giggled, recorded the tune into her cell phone,  then we kissed.  It was accidental perfection.

In 6 months, Amanda will give birth to our first child. I'm much older than my wife, like my father before me.  The parallels may simply be accidental,  but I know, they are perfect.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Baking Up Trouble

Timothy Lawson, is a name dropper.  Constantly evoking the nature of his friendship with former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.  In fact he did it so much in casual conversation, that his easy use of the AG's name, would eventually, one attorney in the AG's office prophetically predicted, "bring down the whole house of cards."

Lawson was charged yesterday with 6 felonies, including tax charges and trying to intimidate potential witnesses, just to name a few.  The Davis and Salt Lake County District Attorneys alleged that Lawson was a bit of a political fixer.  He would get paid thousands of dollars by a crooked businessman, Marc Jenson, to try and curry favor with Utah's top cop.  Jenson, although serving time in  jail on fraud charges bought by Shurleff's office, was paying for Shurleff, and his deputy John Swallow to stay at a swanky California villa.  Lawson allegedly did all the dirty work, using Jenson's money to pay for Swallow and Shurtleff, to get massages, and gorge themselves on fresh fish pulled right from the Pacific Ocean while the squinted into the soothing West Coast sun.

Lawson, according to charging documents, was quick to throw out Shurtleff's name when he and Jenson, didn't like what someone was doing.  Lawson allegedly told one man that he was Mark Shurtleff's Porter Rockwell, referring to the notorious and colorful "Avenging angel of Mormondom." Rockwell was the body guard for both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, some historians say Rockwell, was quick to do the bidding of the two men, sometimes violently.  Rockwall was said to have tried to assassinate the governor of Missouri by shooting Lilburn Boggs through a window in his study, Rockwell was arrested, tried and acquitted of all charges.

Unlike Rockwell, it appears Lawson's most active weapon was his mouth.  One neighbor told me, that his son had a playground tiff with one of Lawson's daughters, Lawson allegedly called up this neighbor and warned him to keep his boy in check because Lawson, "Is good friends with Mark Shurtleff."  "Really?"  The balding man exclaimed, shaking his head, as he watched a handful of FBI agents scurry around the exterior of Lawson's expansive, Tudor home.

"He's a wheeler-dealer," the neighbor told me as he walked into his home, looking back one more time at federal agents as they rolled large plastic crates into Lawson's house.

Lawson, is, of all things, a baker.  He apparently does a sizable business, selling gluten-free bakery goods from right inside his home.  He has dozens, if not hundreds of large, yellow food crates stacked high on his front porch, and at least two large cargo trucks, crowded tightly into his driveway.  Even as a simple baker, Lawson found an opportunity to puff up his cream puffs, by making mention of the Attorney General in the "About me" section on his bakery website:

They see him as the “Shield of Truth” against injustice, the voice of the faceless masses and the “Sword of Justice” for the people’s right to live in a free Democracy. To me, he was my dear friend, my sounding board and my confidant that always listened, always cared, and always tolerated me.

It's customary to mention when you started your business and why, but it seems a bit odd to expound romantically about the prudence of the attorney general on a website that sells multi-grain dinner rolls.

"What's going on in there!?"  An older woman says, darting her blonde head into the open front window of our news truck.  "Lawson's been arrested," I say,  as I prepare for my 5 PM liveshot.  "Good!" she folds her arms with satisfaction.  I thought she was excited about Lawson's incarceration because of all the news about he and the AG's office, but that wasn't the case, "Hopefully now we can do something about all this bakery business baloney." The woman claims Lawson has 30 employees who report to his HOUSE for duty everyday, crowding the winding, narrow streets outside his home.  "I have no idea how this has continued to go on," she says, almost shouting.

Lawson has been running this business out of his house for some time say neighbors, and despite repeated complaints to the city, he continues to produce gluten-free sourdough bread and pecan caramel bars from in his kitchen.

Perhaps Lawson's "wheeler-dealing" allows him to continue to run a large bakery in a residential area or maybe he tossed around a certain name to help keep production running, either way, as he sits in jail trying to come up with $250,000 dollars bail, it is clear, Lawson has baked up a batch of trouble for himself, and it's possible, others might get a taste of that as well.