From a portico of the state capitol of Utah in Salt Lake City (Jay Nordlinger)
People and sights in a very American place

On the flight from New York to Salt Lake City there is a missionary from Mormon, whose nameplate identifies him as an "older & # 39 ;. This always makes me smile a little. These young people with a fresh face, also called & # 39; elder & # 39; called.

He has served in Virginia for just two years. I think I should have described him above as an ex-missionary & # 39 ;. He is done with his service (this one service, at least). He comes from a city just outside of Salt Lake. He has not been home in two years (according to the rules I have collected). So this is an exciting day for him: a home.

Beside him is a man from Israel. The two start a conversation. (The Utahn is in the middle seat.) The Israeli is on his left, I on his right.) After he has determined that the other guy is an Israeli, the Utahn asks: "Are you Jewish?" Indeed.

This is perhaps a strange question, but not a bizarre question: there are non-Jewish Israelis.

In turn, the Israeli says to the Utahn: "I hear there is a Broadway show, The Book of Mormon. "" Yes, "replies the Utahn," I have heard of that. "

I admire the young man's tact. He will not discuss further about the subject. The show, as I understand it, makes a mocking of the Mormons. Bret Stephens wrote a memorable column about it in 2012 (here, although a subscription is required, I fear). The Israelis do not know much about the show, of course. He just makes a polite conversation.

If I listen to this, I can not help thinking about the 1976 presidential campaign (political junkie that I am). Jimmy Carter came from Georgia, remember. And when he arrives somewhere in America, the band would play "Marching through Georgia". Carter once said to an assistant: "Does nobody realize that this is a Northern song?"

• At the airport – Salt Lake – there is a sign: Visit Salt Lake, Different by Nature. There is a big, big emphasis on nature here, as in the whole American West. Rah, nature.

• A sweet voice is heard from the speakers around us. "Hello, I am mayor Jackie Biskupski." (I'm going out of my mind.) "Let me be the first to welcome you to Salt Lake City, where you'll find …" Later on, I'll do some Googling: "the first openly gay mayor of the city."

I remember what a friend of mine-a resident of the city-said to me: "Salt Lake is not just the Mormon tabernacle and white bread." (Not that something is wrong with the tabernacle or bread.) "It is a diverse city, with all kinds of communities and subcultures."

• At the airport a small group of people is ready to greet the returning missionary. Welcome home, elder [So-and-so]says a banner. There is an elderly woman in a wheelchair, perhaps a grandmother. Another sign is: Mission accomplished. The scene is quite moving.

• I have often wondered whether Mormon missionaries feel ripped off when they are assigned to an American state or region, rather than to an exotic or otherwise appealing foreign environment. (Of course I'm talking about American missionaries.) Virginia versus, say, Papua New Guinea? I am extreme, but you understand what I mean.

• I noticed Mormon missionaries in magazines from various foreign cities. I admire their guts, evangelism, "being out there". I sometimes hate to bother someone by asking where the bathroom is.

• Salt Lake City appears to be surrounded by mountains – snow-covered mountains – and it is beautiful. Who knows? Everyone who has ever been here, I assume.

• Let me dwell on the nomenclature: when you point to the city, you & # 39; Salt Lake City & # 39; say if it is ok to & # 39; Salt Lake & # 39; to say? Or does "Salt Lake" only refer to the lake? I have been told that you are the city & # 39; Salt Lake City & # 39; or & # 39; Salt Lake & # 39; can call. As far as the lake is concerned, you can use the & # 39; the large salt lake & # 39 ;, & # 39; the lake & # 39; or & # 39; the salt lake & # 39; to mention. In any case, "the" comes around the corner.

Okay, what do you think of this? I have the word & # 39; Utahn & # 39; used. There is also & # 39; Utahan & # 39 ;. Frankly, I prefer to always have the last term. (I also prefer "Alabaman" for "Alabamian.") But the most common is "Utahn."

• The Great Salt Lake is indeed a large salt lake, but it is also a vast swamp, or you could even say "swamp", I think. (I'm not sure why "swamp" should be unfavorable.) Who knew? Again, those who have been here …

• See, a license plate. It shows an arch – a natural arch – in the desert and says, "Utah: Life Elevated." That is meant to have a spiritual connotation, I come together.

• In the city I see a street called John Stockton and a street called Karl Malone. These are legends of the Utah Jazz (an NBA team). (Why are they called "the Jazz" because they moved from New Orleans.) (Why are the Los Angeles Lakers called "the Lakers" because they moved from Minneapolis.) I also see a sign for Japantown.

I was not prepared for that. (Later I meet a hostess in a western restaurant, a farm in the farm, an elderly lady, she comes from Tokyo.)

• I have a memory of George W. Bush – then who no one has ever been around people. All the people. He once spoke to a New Orleans man who had escaped Hurricane Katrina. The man had fled all the way up to Utah. Bush squeezed his eyes together, leaned forward, and asked, "Were you the only black man in Salt Lake City?"

• A restaurant, the red iguana, advertises with "Killer Mexican Food." That's it too.

• I am happy to see a sign for Abravanel Hall. I remember Maurice Abravanel. For many years he was conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra. Nice name, is not it? Sephardic Jewish.

• There are many young Mormons around the tabernacle – many sporting name cards. There is a feeling of beneficence and well-being about them. The girls are remarkably beautiful. Can I say that? Probably not, but I do not care, and the older I get, the less I care about it.

• I have known Mormons in my life – not many, but some – and they have always seen me as particularly good citizens. If your car crashed on a country road in the middle of the night, you would want one of them to come by. They would stop and help.

I also have a memory of the NBA in the 1980s. Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge were teammates at the Celtics. McHale said of Ainge: "He lies all the time and cheats on golf, he is the worst mormon I have ever seen."

• Mormon history is a very interesting part of American history – dramatic. (All of them to dramatic, especially in the early years.) I look at a monument of which I quote the accompanying sign:

The Handcart Pioneer Monument is a tribute to the thousands of hardy Mormon pioneers who, because they could not afford the larger oxen pulled wagons, walked across rugged plains in the 1850s, pulling all their belongings and pushing them into handmade, fully wood handcarts. Approximately 250 people died during the trip, but nearly 3,000, mostly British converts, completed the 1350-mile trek from Iowa City, Iowa, to the Salt Lake Valley.

And that is just one episode, a tidbit.

• Now I look at the Bijenkorfhuis – actually, to name an old board with accuracy, the Bijenkorfhuis. (You know the pattern: sentences start as two words, get a hyphen and are then kneaded in one. wanted to live, wild-life, wild animals.) Built in 1854, the Bijenkorf House (or whatever) was an official residence of Brigham Young. Utah is "the Beehive state." I never knew why.

Do you remember that hairstyle, long ago? The Beehive?

Let me quote from an online source:

The nickname of Utah is The Beehive State. The beehive is a symbol of hard work and industry, and is in fact the official state emblem of Utah (Utah's state motto is simply the word "Industry"). The beehive appears on the Utah flag and state stamp, the Beehive Cluster is recognized as Utah's official star cluster, and of course Utah's state bug is the honeybee.

An official star cluster? I do not think my home state Michigan has one of them. (A cluster with a higher peninsula?) Anyway, I quote from a second online resource:

Young had an expansionist view of the area he and the Mormon pioneers established, called it Deseret – which according to the Book of Mormon was an old word for "honeybee".

• I walk to the capitol of the state of Utah. This is really a capitol hill, let me tell you – steep. Incidentally – not so coincidentally – a local told me: "The capital of the state towers over everything.It is the first place It was important that the government, the secular authority, claimed that authority. ;

• Before I get to the capital, I see another building. The Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Nice – another one of those & # 39; bright spots & # 39 ;, as the first president Bush said. Here, look at:

• What the …? When you cross the street, you can bring an orange flag, "for extra visibility" (says a sign). There are two on each side of the street waiting for you in the containers. I've never seen this before. And I think: "They would be stolen in Ann Arbor in one second" (my home town). (Maybe that's too cynical.) (Maybe it's not.)

• On the lawn of the capital there is an eventful monument for the dead in Vietnam. The theme: "but do not forget."

On a stone or tablet there is an eagle that symbolizes the national defense – and the words: "For those who have fought for it, freedom has a taste that the protected will never know." Other tablets mention the dead. In the middle you read the following:

This memorial is a tribute to all residents of Utah who unselfishly served the cause of freedom in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

The names engraved on these tablets represent the diversity of Utah citizens who answered their country's call in the same spirit as those who served in previous wars. [That’s tellin’ ’em.] Many served in the innocence of youth. [Ditto.]

They kept the faith. They have brought the ultimate sacrifice.


The most interesting tablet, I think, says this: "Woe to the statesman whose reasons for starting a war do not seem so plausible at the end as at the beginning."

Utah has an unusual – unusually blunt, unusually pointed – war memorial in Vietnam.

• There is another monument, another monument, here on capitol grounds, unusually beautiful:

This is the monument to the Mormon battalion that served in the Mexican War. They were the only religion-based unit in American military history.

• A school group visits the monument. The following appears between two children:

"Ooh, you've eaten snow, dirty."
"It's not dirty."
"Yes, someone has peed on it."
"No, they did not, then it would be yellow."

An adult says: "Not if you were well hydrated."

I only report …

• Someone is driving around the capital in a truck, with a big electronic sign: Utah has voted to expand healthcare, not to cut it out. Respect voters.

I can not tell you about this problem …

• Guarding the capital are four lions – four impressive looking lions, whose sculptor is Nick Fairplay. Is not that a nice name? From Shakespeare or Dickens. The lions symbolize steadfastness, integrity, honor and patience.

• I find it strange to stand in the snow while wearing shirt sleeves (not a jacket). We do not do this much in Michigan. If there is snow on the ground, it is usually cold.

• Take a look, y & # 39; all:

• Back on the nasty streets of Salt Lake, there is a Brink's truck, paused. There is a man outside, waving a machine gun (I believe). A bit of a shocking scene, although normal at the same time. Strange.

• As in other cities, there are many, many homeless people, tramps or beggars, or street people, or whatever wording you prefer. Mostly white and Indian.

• Just like Greenwich Village, Salt Lake has a Washington Square. In it is the town hall – majestic and beautiful, do not you agree with me?

• View a statue in honor of the promise of loyalty. The boy points to the flag (outside the photo). Norman Rockwell would blush positive.

• I see the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse. Years ago I would use it as an example. In the right circumstances, given the right candidates, Republicans can be elected in Democratic States and Democrats can be elected in Republican states. Massachusetts had a large number of Republican governors. And Scott Matheson – a Democrat – was governor of Utah (two terms).

• Salt Lake City has light rail, I see. We conservatives used to cry at light rail. Nothing can make us cry or sniff harder. Light rails! I wonder if it works and is efficient.

• I am on foot. At crossroads cars often wait for me – even if I have the red light and they are green. And even if there are cars behind it! Nobody honks. I have seen this in a different place in my life: Oxford, Miss.

• Do you know the old joke about "Martin Luther King Boulevard"? Do you buy drugs here? It is in the bad part of the city? Well, it also seems to be right here. I have an idea: why does not a city call one of them best streets – an important, glittering hall – after MLK? That would be a switcheroo.

• The University of Utah is here. They are the Utes. Do they still have that name? JEP. In the city of my birth – Ypsilanti – Eastern Michigan University had to give up "Hurons" a long time ago. How long can these Salt Lakers stick to "Utes"? Maybe forever, because they have held so long …

• Look, Jimmy John & # 39; s can be a sandwich place. But where do they advertise? An ice cream cone. That says something.

• I see this sign, I can not help thinking about a Texas Senate race. Can not they also turn that apostrophe?

• I have no idea. No idea.

• This is funny, you have to admit. You too? Come on.

• If you get the chance, go to the Maddox Ranch House Restaurant in Brigham City. (That's where the Japanese hostess is.) And, by the way, you say "Mad-ox," not "Maddicks." I've had rolls as well, I've had a burger as well. Better? Never never.

Thank you for coming to me, all of you, and going to Utes.