Der Plaza 

Jackboots and hoodlums on the Main Street Plaza.

One, two, three: “scissors.” My opponent has rock. I lose. One, two, three: “scissors.” He has paper. I win. Now comes the tie-breaking third match. My opponent looks devious. He’s trying to get me to reveal something, I can just tell. You can always tell with people like him. You just can. It’s never enough for his kind to win a little bit. He wants to win it all. He wants all the attention. He can’t stand to be without attention.

He wants me to tip my hand, to give him a clue. He has an agenda, that’s for sure. I can tell by his wispy facial hair. People with wispy facial hair always have an agenda. There’s something about his eyes, too. It’s plain as day that he just wants to embarrass me. He thinks he looks good when I look bad. He’s up to something. He has an agenda.

One, two, three: “rock.” He has paper. I lose. We had bet that I could not be forced to become gay.

But just like that, the person sitting across my desk, Derek Jones, successfully made me a gay convert. He couldn’t beat me at arm wrestling. We tried that. He couldn’t stare me down. We could have had a boxing match, a home-run derby, a drinking contest or any other manly-man duel. We passed on coin flips, guess-my-weight, and shortstraws before settling into rock, paper, scissors. Now, I begin my first day as a gay man in Utah. This will be hard news for my kids. My mother will be surprised. Once my wife quits cheering, she’ll be happy to learn that I’ve already become expert at not only separating whites from colors, but I can wash, iron and fold, too.

I’ve known Derek since he began working at City Weekly. He’s a great guy, a fine employee who attracts attention like oil attracts water. As the world now knows (my son was asked about it while vacationing on Santorini), Derek is also gay. Following a Gallivan Center concert last Thursday, Derek and his partner, Matthew Aune, began walking home. They live just a few blocks north of Gallivan, on Main Street. Between their home and the Gallivan is the Main Street Plaza, owned, maintained and black-boot protected by the LDS Church.

With a backdrop of lawsuits predicting exactly the Derek/Matt scenario, the church bought that block of Main Street from Salt Lake City in the late 1990s. In time, Main Street morphed into the Main Street Plaza you see today—a Burma Road, a gantlet, a no-man’s land bereft of the free expression that used to come with the constitutional rights afforded everyone traversing that very public section of Main Street. (I get it: It’s private property. The church can do what it wants. Some behavior is tolerated, some is not. Policy is inconsistent. Now, shut up and go back to the Tribune comment boards.)

On July 9, just yards from exiting the Plaza, Matt pulled Derek towards him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Derek says that particular public display of affection (PDA) was spontaneous and nothing more. But, I asked him, all those people commenting on the Deseret News, KSL and Salt Lake Tribune Websites can’t be wrong, can they? You can tell me, Derek, I cooed—you were really getting it on just to prove a point, weren’t you? You were having sex, weren’t you? You knew people were watching, yet insulted them and the LDS Church, too, didn’t you? You have an agenda, don’t you?

Since I’d only been on Derek’s team a few minutes, he had no reason to lie to me. “No,” he said. “We were just walking home. It was late, and it was dark. We couldn’t see anyone. If we had an agenda, wouldn’t we wait until someone was looking?” Someone was. Derek’s cheek was still moist when security guards dressed in black approached from the darkness and asked the couple to leave. They said PDAs weren’t allowed on the plaza. But as plaza-walking veterans who, like everyone else, had witnessed plaza saliva-sharing before, Derek and Matt knew better. They didn’t know better to shut up, though. They asked why their PDA was different than that of other couples.

The security goons were stumped. Derek and his partner became defiant. More security guards were summoned. Take a question, add two parts differing opinion, one part confusion, 10 parts homophobia, blend with some fear and swearing and, before you can say Liberace, the two shouting and scared gays were separated and handcuffed, and Derek was forced to the ground. At very nearly the same time, Derek heard one of the rent-a-cops say their PDA was disgusting. He could have been looking in a mirror.

On Monday, July 13, Carole Mikita (aka KSL TV’s ace-in-the-hole Church apologist) held up the Salt Lake City Police report citing Derek and Matt for trespassing. That report says Matt smelled of alcohol. The nitwits commenting on the KSL.com site understood the secret signal to smear the couple by alluding that smelling alcohol equates to public drunkenness. In Utah, being gay is one thing, but being a drunken gay is a whole other kingdom.

“It was already reported I had one beer at Gallivan,” said Derek. Ah, come on, Derek. What was your real plan? “Our plan was to go home. We weren’t drunk, and we didn’t have an agenda,” he repeated. “All anybody has to do is look at the security cameras.” Yikes! They have cameras?

If they do, here’s the rub: The jackboots who wrestled Derek Jones to the ground, did so stone-cold sober; no excuses. At about 120 pounds when sopping wet, Derek’s not only a great rocks, paper, scissors player, he’s a better man than the hoodlums patrolling the LDS Church Main Street Plaza.


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