Cheap Shot | Railroaded: Taking a ride on the FrontRunner 

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Everyone at the City Weekly knows I’m unemployed. This writing gig I do once a week is currently my only job. Some of you might think being a freelance writer puts me one step closer to fame, fortune and possibly even sleeping with Paris Hilton. Well, unless you’re Paris Hilton, you’re wrong.

Let me pull the curtains back on the behind-the-scenes for writing this Cheap Shot column. Personally, I’d love to be writing a column called, “Another Night With the Huntsmans” or “Country Club Expensive Shot,” but Writing 101 says, “Write about what you know.” I know me, and I know cheap. So that’s what you get.

A few people at City Weekly have tried to find me a full-time job. The writers, editors and photographers are connected in this community. One of the sales people even asked how much I’d charge to remodel her bathroom. Thanks.

Then I got an e-mail from my editor Holly Mullen. She forwarded me a press release inviting journalists to ride the new Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Ogden to Salt Lake City train called the FrontRunner. She asked if I’d cover it for our paper.

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According to the info from UTA, the FrontRunner isn’t even going to be up and Runnering for a couple of months, so I put on my investigative journalist cap and realized there was another reason Holly had sent me this press release. Talk about connected—Holly Mullen is married to an ex-mayor of Salt Lake City, Ted Wilson. Follow this logic if you can keep up with my FrontRunner train of thought.

Through her husband Ted, who most likely smokes fat cigars with the railway men at poker games, Holly must know there is a job available for me with UTA. Underneath the guise of writing a column, Holly genius-ly put me in a position to write a puff piece for UTA about their new train. Maybe they are looking for a public-relations specialist? There has to be an ulterior motive here, because there is nothing cheap about writing a column about a train that currently goes nowhere. If Holly wanted me to cover a train to nowhere, then she could have put me on the Mitt Romney beat.

(Here you go, UTA, this is a writing sample for my job application about your new FrontRunner train.)

Like the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point on May 10, 1869 linked the West Coast with the East, the Utah Transit Authority will link the southern city of Salt Lake with the northern town of Ogden. UTA’s new FrontRunner train is capable of traveling 79 mph. But, get this, on the media junket I attended, we were lucky to top speeds of 7 mph due to ongoing construction. I felt like I’d made a wrong turn and ended up riding a kiddie kangaroo train at Lagoon.

The FrontRunner is a luxurious railway reminiscent of riding the Eurail in Europe! In fact, I thought I was in France when I noticed the smell from some of the other journalists. With all of this European glitz, you’ll think there is a bar car on this FrontRunner train. Trust me, there’s not.

With the smell of NPR patchouli in the air, I saw that I was sitting next to some hippies from a public radio station. They were taking the “Green Angle” reporting how many cars this FrontRunner will take off the Interstate-15 corridor heading out of Salt Lake City. Meanwhile a member of a camera crew from a local TV station was heard saying, “I have our helicopters on standby. If we’re lucky, this train will crash, and we can be the first to cover our own fiery deaths.” Much to the dismay of the TV news journalists, the FrontRunner did not crash, and they had to lead their newscast with an exclusive story about puppies.

So. That’s the FrontRunner. It becomes operational end of April, maybe May 10? Ride it if you want to. Whatever.

Oh, and if anyone is sleeping with the current mayor and has a better job offer than this, please let me know.

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Phil Jacobsen

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