Before moving to Salt Lake City in 1998, I had been to Utah three times.
The first visit was a ski trip in 8th grade. Garside Junior High was hosting a ski trip and I decided to risk life and limb on the slopes of Brianhead. Growing up in Las Vegas led for limited winter sports activities but I figured it would be a good way to spend a Saturday in February. Waking up at the crack of dawn, my mom drove me to the school parking lot where I was loaded up with my classmates and promptly fell asleep for the four-hour drive. I only had a couple of friends in junior high and none of them were on that bus. I guess the $40 fee plus rental was a little too rich for my D&D pals.
Getting to the resort, I rented my skis and took a 30-minute class on how to stop. That was all I gleamed from the class—how to make the pizza shape breaking maneuver and try to avoid hitting a tree. Being dismissed, I headed up the mountain and tried to make a go of it. I had a lot of beginner’s luck but no bigger luck than running into a girl from one of my classes. Her name was Jennifer and I always thought she was pretty. She asked me if I wanted to ski with her and I spent the most heavenly three hours doing my best to keep up with her as we buzzed around the mountain.
As a rule, you always get hurt on your last run, and for Jennifer, she was no exception. As she sailed down the mountain, I saw her take a particularly tough turn and wipe out into a cloud of snow. Meeting up with her, she was in tears complaining that she really hurt her leg. Waiting with her as the ski patrol came to her rescue, I found out after the fact that she had snapped her tibia and fibula. Jennifer was loaded up on one of those sleds and pushed down the mountain while I tried to keep up with the ski patrol.
Because I was and still am a very poor skier, it took me a long time to meet up at the bus and to discover that Jennifer had already had her leg casted. Nothing interested the bus more than Jennifer’s cast and thinking I would get to continue hanging out with her for the long drive home, I was quickly pushed aside in leau of more interesting boys to keep her occupied.
Lucky in love, eh?
Instead of passing out or making out like most of the kids on the bus did as we headed back to Las Vegas, I turned on the overhead light and started reading one of my fantasy books. My classmates were enraged that there was even the hint of light on the bus as it interfered with kids rounding first base that I was openly ridiculed during the ride home.
Score it 0-1 in favor of Utah.
The second trip to Utah was Zion National Park.
I guess technically it was the first time I was in Utah for I was in 6th grade but I didn’t feel like editing the above story about watching Jennifer break her leg then my heart. I was briefly in the Boy Scout’s before I quit over a mouthful of marshmallows (but that is a much different story for another date). I enjoyed scouting because I enjoy being outdoors, knot tying and earning badges. The trip was for our troop to climb through The Narrows, a large slot canyon for 13-miles. Seemed amazing but it was through deep water and I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The night before I carefully packed all of my gear into Ziploc bags into aluminum framed backpack. My scout leader, a Mr. Bates (my father constantly reminded me that he was the villain in the movie Psycho but having not seen the movie and not understanding the reference I just assumed my dad though the guy was nuts) broke the trip into two days. The first was an introduction to the slot canyon with a campsite made at the middle inside the wall of the canyon. Because we didn’t have any wood for a fire, I remember eating a cold can of soup and pretty much shivering myself to sleep that night. Because I had taken so much care first packing my gear, I figured I didn’t need to worry about water sealing my gear for the second half.
As it turned out, my sub-five-foot frame was shoulder deep in most of the water. Worst than that the water weighed down my backpack to the point of wet concrete. I was in living Hell. Because no one would help me with my bag, I was forced to carry that sloppy wet bag the remaining six miles, slogging through the water, cold and misery. I honestly thought I was going to die of hyperthermia or depression during The Narrows and no one was going to help my sorry little ass. I eventually was able to finish the hike and essentially collapse in the parking lot waiting to get shuttled back to Las Vegas. I was proud that I was able to finish the hike but more embarrassed that I didn’t have the common God damn sense to repack my bag for the second half.
To the scoreboard, 0-2 for Utah.
The third time I visited the Beehive State was in high school with my mother. We drove out in her blue Ford Aerostar for my sister’s volleyball game. Tee was in a tournament in St. George and I agreed to go with mom to watch her play. I had given up on high school sports after my freshman year because I was horrible at wrestling, basketball and baseball. It’s funny that the three sports I mostly watch now are the NBA, MLB and WWE but I’ve always been a better supporter than participant.
I remember the drive being absolutely painless because my mother both let me drive and she is the best co-pilot. Mom is a good travelling companion because she is quick to point out interesting things alongside the road or harshly judge the driving habits of the other cars on the road. Pulling into the Holiday Inn, Mom commented loudly to anyone within earshot that she needed a drink. It was after 5 and she just endured her oldest son’s erratic driving for two hours, so who could blame her.
Stepping into the restaurant, Mom was immediately irritated that she needed to order food to get a bottle of beer or Scotch and soda. Debating the poor server at a volume level that mimicked a 737’s engines, Mom was frustrated that she needed to order mozzarella sticks to get a drink. I was happy for the fried cheese but Mom kept saying it was a racket to make people spend more money than they wanted to get alcohol.
This conversation was almost 23-years ago but I remember it very well whenever people complain about Utah’s liquor laws. I don’t know what Mom expected but whatever it was turned out to be disappointing. She was quick to point out that she wanted to get the Hell out of the state as soon as the volleyball tournament was over.
To the scoreboard for the last time: 0-2-1. I’m putting the fried cheese in the tied department.
That was the last time I stepped foot into Utah until July 3rd, 1998. I came up with Steve Keyser and that is the beginning of the end of my time in Nevada and the third chapter of my life in Utah.
Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. He’s surprised that he has lived in Utah for almost 16-years.