Go on. Guess.
I've just returned from a business trip to UTAH, of all God-forsaken places.
At least I always thought of it as God-forsaken... If you ask any of the two million descendants of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young who inhabit the state, Utah is not only NOT God-forsaken, it is very much The Promised Land.
But that's another issue. Maybe. Or maybe not. Read on.
I currently live in Alabama. BIG joke, Alabama, right? People don't wear shoes, houses are not built with indoor plumbing, most people's craniums do not contain more than a half-dozen teeth and of course nobody can read.
That's what I thought about Alabama before I moved here - and it is still the perception of most of the world and especially Jeremy Clarkson.
The brutal truth is that there is a sizable portion of the Alabama population that honestly does not give a rip about dental hygiene. This will never cease to give me the Willies. I've lived in four cities, in four distinct regions of the US, and this is the first time I've encountered dental issues. It is pervasive. My - Alabama native - dentist is astounded by it. Upstanding, upper-middle-class people walk around with gaping holes in their dental work. I don't get it.
The rest of the stereotypes, of course, are complete rubbish.
Until this week I had as many unfounded, uneducated notions about Utah as I originally had about Alabama. I may even have called Utah "The Alabama of the West" at some point.
As my plane prepared to land in Salt Lake City (SLC) it banked hard to the right at which point I looked out the window and was shocked - SHOCKED - to discover that we were not descending into a state in the U.S. but were in fact about to land on the surface of the MOON.
Honest. To. God. It looked like the lunar landscape: bone dry, monochromatic, pock-marked and without a sign of life for as far as the eye could see.
How in the WORLD could the Mormons have left Missouri in all it's Midwestern loveliness and settled HERE? Religious persecution, clearly, is a powerful motivator.
As we landed I thought about what it must have been like for the first woman to come over the mountains and into the arid valley from which SLC eventually sprang.
"Honey! We're home!" cried proud Pioneer Husband.
Poor Pioneer Wife took one peek out of the covered wagon, recoiled in horror, cracked open a box of Belgian chocolates and retreated to a rerun of Oprah.
Religious freedom is great - it is wonderful and we all (in our cozy Western democracies) take it completely for granted - but...Wow. Just wow.
Anyway, I get to SLC and find it to be pretty - very pretty as a matter of fact. I once lived and loathed in Arizona and between that experience and the view from the plane I was honestly not expecting much in the way of scenery: Brown dirt. Brown hills. Brown vegetation.
But I was pleasantly surprised. The mountains are beautiful, trees are plentiful, lots of grass - and SLC is so incredibly clean...our hosts could have served lunch on the sidewalk and I believe it would have been edible.
And everyone is so YOUNG! I nearly fell out. (There's a good Southernism). It was like living in Florida again - everyone was SO young and SO attractive I felt like an escapee from a museum. Or mausoleum - take your pick.
Everywhere I looked in SLC I found new construction, beautiful landscaping, young beautiful people, impossible cleanliness and a flat-out abundance of civic pride.
Umm...Excuse me, but can Alabama import some of that pride from Utah? Seriously?
During the course of this flabbergastedness there persisted one, small, nagging niggle.
Yes, every man, woman and child was attractive...but they also were very...similar. Stepford similar. Eerie sort of...I don't want to say Aryan...but Aryan.
Everyone - EVERYONE - had blue eyes. I've never seen so many tall blue-eyed blonds, light brunettes and light-ish redheads in one place. Of course, I've not visited Sweden, but...It was just really, really...odd.
Back up two paces: So I noticed - because I am human - on the flight to SLC that - Hoo! - there were a lot of really attractive men on the plane. An inordinate number - definitely not a normal sampling of the US population. Very attractive and very similar.
It wasn't until I met the staff at our office and then spent time mingling with a larger sampling of the natives at dinner that I realized the extent of the anomaly. By the time I flew home yesterday morning I felt that I could, with a fair degree of accuracy, pick out the native Utahans from the visitors in the airport terminal. I didn't go so far as to ASK anyone, but it was pretty obvious.
Anyway, long story longer - I learned a few things this week: I was completely wrong about Utah - it is lovely. I am completely impressed by everyone I met in SLC - they aren't just SUPER friendly (again, a bit unnatural) but they have a lot, truly a lot, going for them.
Finally, I've learned that handsome men are best appreciated in moderation. Go, Hubster!