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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The mysterious disappearance of Seor Raphael Baldwin and the Azteca Resort

Sitting around a table at my parent’s house this weekend, something really unsettling happened.

I’d come up from the valley to catch up with a handful of my parents’ old friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years. For the record, these are not the types of “family friends” that you dread dealing with, faking every disease known to man just to get out of the obligation. These people are the other kind.

These are men and women who, even though I haven’t kept in the best touch with them these days, have had a lasting impact on my life and personality-the man who taught me to ride my bike without training wheels; the couple who took me out on their sailboat when I was four years old, forever affirming my love affair with large bodies of water; the man who read the first story I ever wrote (and had the kindness of heart not to tell me precisely how much it sucked).

These are my role models and my family.

As generally happens when my family (or people whom I consider to be family) gathers, we ate, we drank and we told stories. Mostly, the story-telling was done by my parents and friends. The listening was done by me.

By and large, the stories centered around the fact that, although nowadays these people are well-educated, respectable and intelligent, they were not always this way. The stories were about parties that became legends, week-long road trips that lasted for months, walks on the beach with strangers that resulted not in new love but in lost shoes. And wallets.

Then there was the story of the mythical Azteca Resort and its proprietor, the improbably named Seor Raphael Baldwin.

Legend goes, the Azteca Resort was a utopic paradise south of the border, with $20 rooms, full beaches and fuller mini-bars. Also at the resort-a place far away enough not to be measured in distance but time (two weeks from Salt Lake City, to be exact)-was Seor Baldwin’s family: A charming and hospitable wife and his six beautiful siren daughters.

However remarkable it may seem, the kicker of the story (the details of which I cannot completely divulge, but include no fewer than three of the following four things: A tortilla factory, Jose Cuervo, a renegade packmule named Burton and a run-in with Las Federales) is not simply that such an Eden existed. The kicker is that literally every person at my parents’ house who had been to the Azteca Resort had fallen head-over-heels in love with one or another of Seor Baldwin’s daughters, never to have their love reciprocated.

That is to say, the story of Seor Raphael Baldwin and the Azteca Resort is a story in the older, grander sense of the term: a tale of impossible love and impossible places, replete with mythological implications, fantastic surprises and a sense of adventure that most young Americans now only experience in a movie theater.

This is what started to upset me.

Understand, this is not an unusual set of circumstances: My dad’s a talker. So are his friends. They tell stories. It’s kind of their thing. So, it wasn’t the fact that my role models were themselves once young and recklessly irresponsible people that unsettled me (actually, it made me feel somehow happy), it was the fact that halfway through the story, I realized nothing these people were telling me seemed real. It all seemed too incredible, too epic. I could not, for the life of me, manage to truly relate.

I am sure the story was true. I am sure Seor Baldwin and his universe truly did exist, and these people did know how to get there. I know these story-tellers very well, and they are not liars.

It was the fact that such a true story as theirs-so full of possibility, triumph, tragedy and this feeling that not only could anything be done, but that we could be the ones to do it-struck me as impossible that freaked me out. I realized that I, and my generation, no longer have the same capacity for boundless imaginative thinking that previous generations did. We do not live like anything is possible. We are a generation without incredible stories. I realized that mine is a time without its own mythology.

Look at the evidence: Reality is a genre of voyeuristic television programming. Life is a cereal. We are culturally trained to give up on pressing issues and problems after their headline shelf-life (usually about four days) expires. Memory is necessary for myth, and we live in a culture of amnesia.

I am personally less concerned with levelling blame for this sad fact (namely at the powers that be in mainstream media and our own irresponsible slothfulness) than I am with recognizing its consequences and working toward a solution before we fully morph into a generation without the ability to view our own lives as the most remarkable stories ever told.

Yes, we’ve gotten to a point where the mysteries of the world, and of ourselves, seem more-or-less nonexistent. Yes, we aren’t living like there is still something very, very important to be discovered tomorrow. Yes, we live in a universe of simple answers and ignored complexities. And yes, this is downright terrifying.

But we can fix things.

And we must-what is at stake here is no less than our own ability to imagine our futures as open and possible. What is at stake here is our control over our own lives.

Due in part to the fact that a dogma of fear has been cultivated by our leaders, rendering us afraid of the unknown, and due in part to the fact that the increasingly volatile state of our world has made us weary of all that we recognize as anomalous, we have lost a kind of idealism. And we need to get it back. Fast.

We’ve lost a way of thinking about the world as full of stories and possibilities and lyrical ways of being. We have immediate worries now, more conservative modes of living. We have lost a valuable grandeur. The question is: With what has it been replaced?

The answer is essentially emotional atrophy and imaginative vacancy. We’ve lost a narrative quality in our culture and replaced it with a perpetual stream of easy-to-understand headlines. We’ve gained a feeling of complacency.

So, the real question is not: Does our own Seor Raphael Baldwin exist?

The answer is: Yes, he does (even if we don’t know it).

The real question is: How will we even find our own Seor Raphael Baldwin if we never go out looking for him?

The answer is: We won’t.

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