Letters from an Anonymous Friend are letters and emails that my friend sends me almost weekly that I get permission to publish. And yes, I am still quite butt-hurt that Utahns don’t say coke when referring to (shudder) pop.
There’s something to be said about Utah country.
Recently I took a quick weekend jaunt up to Cedar City to visit a childhood friend and as I crossed the Utah state line and the landscape went from dusty rocky outcrops to majestic still snow covered mountains I could feel a change in me. It was like stepping into the motherland or slipping into a skin that felt second nature. That might sound strange, but I swear it’s true. Every time I cross that state line and see Beehives on the freeway signs, my cultural mentality shifts.
I have to think differently, act differently, even speak and expect to be addressed differently.
You see, things are different in Utah. Not better, not worse, just different. Just like visiting Dallas or New Orleans, New York or Boston, Los Angeles or Las Vegas, human nature is the same, but the culture-the way things are done-is just different.
When you buy food, instead of asking, “For here or to go?” they ask, “To stay or to go?” They say “pop” instead of “soda” (sorry, no “coke” out here), and it’s illegal to sell alcohol on Sunday. You see signs for Deseret Industries (DI) instead of Salvation Army; instead of ads for the latest casino buffet, the place to go is Chuck-a-Rama (Screwed Up Texan interjection: “The music is hilarious on their website). And the closer you get to Provo/Salt Lake City area, the more bill boards you will see for modest bridal attire and sturdy missionary clothing. In these parts, the arts are more emphasized than sports (though there are plenty of sport-loving folk), everyone owns a cabin, and cities exist with names from the Old World, like Jordan, Moab, Ephraim, Kanab or Manti.
Suddenly, driving along the I-15 with snow capped Rocky Mountains rising up on each side of the wide endless valley, I felt the urge to pop in a MoTab CD (f.y.i., that’s short for Mormon Tabernacle Choir), and of course all those white steeple buildings that dotted the neighborhoods were LDS meeting houses.
I’m not sure how I’d be able to live in Utah culture.
For one thing, I like a little diversity to spice up my life; every other person with a Scandinavian last name (and the genetics to go with it) doesn’t quite cut it. (My own last name has 5 different spellings that I know of and Utah is the only place where I pronounce it differently because Utah is also the only place where people acknowledge and care about the difference.) On the other hand, I wouldn’t have to explain to people what a Mormon is or why we have Temples. On the other hand, I’d have to put up with the uptight zealots who take their religion to the nth degree and want to take their children out of public schools in order to have a more gospel related curriculum. Then again, I’d have a much better chance of meeting someone with my same belief system. Plus I love the mountains and cold weather, and I’m rather fond of the sage dotted, burnt orange soil that is so common in southern Utah.
It’s kind of funny. I currently live in the bi-polar opposite city of the cozy-wholesome-goodness-kind-of-atmosphere that Utah promotes, yet whenever I return it’s like I’ve never been gone, slipping into that second skin that comes so natural from growing up in the LDS culture.
It’s a toss-up; in the meantime, there are always friends to visit.