Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Occupy Snowbird

Upon completion of my final exams, I boarded a plane to Utah to visit some old friends and to do a bit of skiing. A complete coincidence found my best friend Duncan (who usually lives in Casper, Wyoming) on a medical rotation in Salt Lake City. An even more complete coincidence had found him working at the hospital with my buddy from college, Matt, who was originally going to pick me up from the airport. Duncan ended up picking me up from the airport, and we had a great dinner with his wife Amanda, neither of whom I had seen since their wedding.

After dinner, Duncan and Amanda dropped me off at my friends Bryan and Clare's house, where I met up with most of our skiing contingent for the next few days. On Saturday, we got a nice relaxing late start, ate at a brunch place named -- and got in some free skiing at Alta Ski Resort from 3pm to 4:30pm. That night the group picked up Liz and we had a really nice dinner in Salt Lake City.

On Sunday, we began our skiing in earnest, with our friend Meagan joining us for some really enjoyable runs at the Snowbird Resort. Meagan is currently very involved in the Occupy San Francisco movement, which simulated a lot of really fascinating conversation the whole weekend. I don't always recommend talking politics with friends, but this really intelligent and insightful group, it was stimulating. We continued the discussions over dinner at El Chanate, where had a waiter who was almost doing a comic rouine and spent 7 minutes describing the night's special to us.

On Monday and Tuesday, we had the rare opportunity to ride up to the top of the mountain with the ski patrol and ski patrol at 7:30am, watch the sun rise from the top of the tram lift and ski down completely fresh and empty runs. It was wonderful. After almost four days of catching up, debating the politics of equality and progress in America, and carving up the mountain, I hopped on a plane to Denver, Colorado.

In Denver, I met up with my very good friend and old housemate Becca for a day of catching up and friend time. From the airport, we went to a candlelight vigil for the homeless of Denver who had died over the course of 2011. The vigil was held near Denver's Occupy camp, and I had an opportunity to see some protest action up close. When Denver's Mayor came up to speak at the vigil, a small group near the front began to boo. Apparently, Mayor Hancock has reduced funding for services for the homeless of Denver. It got bad enough that the leadership of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless had to come onto the microphone and ask the protesters to respect the families of the deceased. One man in the crowd yelled, "This is a memorial, it's not political!" at the protesters. It is amazing how a minority of people can make a whole crowd seem hostile. After the mayor finished, the rest of the ceremony went uninterrupted, and we all joined in affirming, "We will remember" after each person's name was read. The memorial was a poignant reminder that in a country like ours, there are individuals who society has failed to help enough, and they can die out in the cold, alone.

Becca, who works with an organization that supports the homeless of Denver and the surrounding area had some interesting observations. Apparently the same types of people who usually donate to homeless services in Denver have instead been directing their money to the Occupy movement, and support for her organization has declined while the demand for health and housing services for the homeless in Denver has quadrupled in 2011. The Occupy movement definitely has side effects that might sometimes work at cross purposes from its stated goals.

Becca and I spent the rest of the evening and next day catching up on old times and discussing our futures. On Wednesday, I finished my mid-country detour and completed my journey home to San Diego.