You know your town has an image problem when even your bicyclists are armed and dangerous.
If there's a less-threatening label out there, I'm all ears. ("Florist," maybe? Or "volunteer librarian"?) Why, the very word "bicyclist" brings to mind peace-loving, latte-drinking liberals who would no more kick a puppy than needlessly burn fossil fuels. Not exactly your typical candidate for ending up in the newspaper's Weber County Jail mug shots.
Still, a couple of days ago, when the story "S. Ogden police scuffle with armed bicyclist" appeared on the Standard-Examiner's website, I was pretty sure things couldn't get any worse.
This is South Ogden we're talking about, not some inner-city neighborhood. Basically, it's the suburbs of Ogden.
Yes, sir, you've definitely got troubles when your bicyclists pedaling around the 'burbs are packing heat.
Which might explain why the folks in West Valley City don't particularly appreciate being compared to the Ogden area.
In last week's column, responding to those whose image of Junction City is a place filled with grime and crime, I wrote: "You must have us confused with West Valley City."
Reaction was swift. The very next day, I received an email from West Valley City manager Wayne T. Pyle, who playfully but firmly defended his fair city's reputation.
"I respectfully request an apology," he wrote, adding that "of all other cities in the state, you guys should know better."
Mr. Pyle went on to explain that he and his wife own a place in Ogden Valley, and they often pass through the valley's namesake on their way to and fro. Not only that, he pointed out that he has a sibling who owns a business in Ogden. (And to you cynics who immediately guessed "Meth lab?" I say: Shame on you. Go stand in the corner.)
And then Mr. Pyle came to the point: "I go out of my way to defend Ogden's honor as well as ours whenever I get the chance. We feel kind of a kinship with you. How about some reciprocation?"
And just in case the carrot wasn't working, he followed it up with the stick: "For the record, WV's crime rate according to FBI stats is lower than Ogden's."
Message received, Mr. Pyle. And you're right, our oft-maligned cities should be working together, not arguing among ourselves as to which of us is least likely to be mistaken for Provo.
So I wrote back to Mr. Pyle and offered a sincere, heartfelt apology. Furthermore, I explained that "I would have delivered this apology in person, but I work an 8-to-5 shift, so I couldn't possibly get down there until after dark. And well, frankly, we all know THAT ain't gonna happen ..."
So then he wrote back to me with an intriguing suggestion: "Maybe a column on Ogden and WVC as sister cities, or arm-in-arm versus the hoity-toity of the world? Could be fun."
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why Wayne T. Pyle is city manager of the second-largest municipality in Utah, while I'm still stuck at a second-rate newspaper writing third-rate columns. His Sister Cities idea is, in a word, nothing short of brilliant!
So here's what I say: I say we kick Hof, Germany, to the curb and take up with fellow tough-guy town West Valley City.
Think about it: Guys in mullets and beer-stained undershirts who've already appeared in several episodes of "Cops" are a lot more intimidating than yodeling dudes in lederhosen. "Fear," to quote Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, "will keep the local systems in line." Why, together, Ogden and West Valley City would rule the state.
No more symbolically getting stuffed in our lockers by the popular kids of Salt Lake and Park City. No more having to apologize for our blue-collar roots. No more Mr. Nice Town.
"Golly, Mark," you ask, "how do we make that happen, like, right now?"
Relax, everybody. I'm waaaay ahead of you. I've already approached Mr. Pyle about this very thing -- an official Sister City affiliation, complete with regular cultural exchanges between our two populations -- and I expect a formal response any day now.
What exactly would a Sister City relationship between O-town and WVC mean? Well, for starters, Mr. Pyle and his city could host an annual "Ogden Festival Days" (transient relay races, bar-hopping contests), while every year we here in Ogden could celebrate "West Valley Appreciation Week" (cars-on-blocks auto show, tramp stamp art exhibit).
OK, so technically, that would just be the return of the old Ogden Street Festival.
But above all else, being Sister Cities would mean somebody's got our back. Mess with me, mess with my sister. Who's foolish enough to want a piece of that?
And supposing that doesn't put the fear of the almighty in them?
Don't make me call one of our bicyclists ...
Hey, Roy residents! Sister City is taken, but wanna be our Stepsister City? Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.