pd mallamo



Eleven years earlier he had appeared at BYU from Santa Monica, the last of six brothers and a sister who had preceded him there, left on missions, returned. Four semesters later he, too, entered the language training center to prepare for a mission to Germany and Switzerland.

He breathes deeply of the mountain air and notes a faint icing upon the upper peaks. In the eager, happy young faces all around him he sees himself those years ago, when what had been preordained was invisible and when a world broken and groaning with age and transgression had seemed newborn. He wasn’t the only one. The world had seemed that way to all of them.

He turns his hands this way and that in the dim October light and examines his fingertips. He throws his hair back away from his forehead and chooses a path off the thoroughfare, through bare trees. He buttons his coat, slips his hands into his pockets and walks away from everyone. He observes more with interest than disappointment the strange and certainly unexpected dimensions his life has assumed. There is a strength required for reaching out for what one does not necessarily deserve but may be had for the taking anyway. He knows the world moves forward by presumption of entitlement. He does not consider this wrong if that presumption is to happiness and others are not thereby destroyedΞ.


In the avenues of north Salt Lake there are houses and gardens he has seen only in San Francisco and Palo Alto, diplomatic fusions of Orient and West that are oddly at home in the foothills of the Wasatch. He walks among these, too, before his appointment, beginning on South Temple and L Street and proceeding east to the University of Utah, then turning north and managing through blocks of century-old redbrick homes. Gravityboys shoot downhill on their long skateboards, through piles of leaves which are down now and litter the sidewalks, not in the tidepool viridians, cinnabars and heliotropes of the Midwest or New England, but in buffs and siennas all but isolated of other hues. With adolescent delight he wades through drifts and banks of these, and sights the hazel sky through the skeletal branches of trees. A small abandoned apartment building makes him wonder at the secret life there so long ago. He thinks of his young children and smiles as their sweet faces appear in his mind, a boy and girl not yet old enough for school. He sees his wife and wonders how her life will change here. He is in Salt Lake for her. He knows that he will move her to Salt Lake even if he does not accept a position he is sure his father has arranged with a lesser hierarchy of the church3.


There is a hardness on his mother’s face that haunts him, and he thinks about the life she wished for himΨ. She had been surprised at his choice of law school, assuming he would again matriculate BYU. Northwestern was not really on the Mormon radar the way Harvard, Columbia or Chicago were. This worried her and brought back old fears in a manner she herself thought mysterious. His marriage to a girl she had in essence chosen for him mitigated her concerns only a little.


His parents fit their echelon like Darwin’s finches and he loves them in his fashion, his successful lawyer father and professional housewife mother who is coiffed and coutured in a manner that suggests a hybrid of Martha Stewart and Carmen Diaz. They are as prominent in the church as it is possible to be without a full uprooting to Utah4, and he knows that such a move will come sooner or later, probably with an ecclesiastical calling his father will accept with both pride and thanksgiving5.


Ξ For most Americans, Hiroshima today is merely interesting, like the slow violence of glaciers, or Jakarta from 5000 miles away, or the days before cocktail parties & tenure when typhoid swept the earth. (Though typhoid was more than just “interesting” back then, by god. It was the destroying angel itself.)
3 The clearest indicator of a fundamentally dysfunctional system is administration's attempt to deny all dysfunction. Then again, even profound dysfunction is not necessarily fatal.
Ψ Many of us enter or remain in the Church for reasons other than faith.
4 “Smith provided so many paths of succession that there were massive defections. The large Philadelphia branch excommunicated 40 percent of its members for rejecting apostolic succession.” Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy
“I spit on the Christian God. When the White God arrived with the Spaniards, the Indians brought down fruit and corncakes and chocolate. The White Christian God proceeded to cut their hands off. He was not responsible for the Christian conquistadors? Yes, he was. Any God is responsible for his worshippers.” William Burroughs, The Western Lands
5 “Then Gargya approached the sage and asked him: ‘Sir, when a man is sleeping, who is it that sleeps with him? Who sees the dreams he sees? The Prashna Upanishad

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