Thanks to my profession as a traveling ukulele salesman, I get to see some of the best and amazingly awkward places our country has to offer. For example, in September of 2014, I started my week off by judging a ukulele competition right outside the Mormon capital of the world in lovely Orem, Utah. What makes me qualified to judge a ukulele competition? Absolutely nothing. I know how to tune them, and I can strum a C chord in 5 different strumming patterns, but other than that my ukulele skills are shockingly underdeveloped. The competition itself went off without a hitch, and I ended up learning quite a bit about the local religion in the process.
The next morning, I woke up early to go see America’s longest, consecutive running broadcast, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Upon entering Temple Square, I came across someone who looked indigenous to the streets of Salt Lake City. I checked my cash and gave her a $5 bill (my rule is that, if I have money in hand and see someone who could use it more than myself, I freely and gladly give it away). Since I was obviously not a practicing Mormon, my action seemed to cause a bit of a stir amongst the congregation, because I saw people who were already inside the square turn around to walk back and share with her as well. I wish I could have done more to help, but I am hopeful that my actions, even as a Heathen, may have inspired some of the Enlightened to help out someone less fortunate than all of us. I continued across the plaza, and entered the performance hall to see one of the largest auditoriums of my life. I am not now, nor have I ever been, religious in the slightest, but seeing this performed live was seriously awe-inspiring. The pitch and acoustics were absolutely unbelievable. I felt so moved by the piece that I had to post about it online. The weirdest thing about my “Mormon Experience” was receiving a message from an Elder from the church within a couple of hours of my initial post. It was as if Orwellian thought had interposed itself upon the great state of Utah, and Mormon Big Brother was watching me. I assured the Elder that even though I was a giant fan of the performance, I wasn’t in the market for any spiritual guidance.
After a couple of days in and around the Mecca of the Mormon world, I decided that I would balance things out and spend the remainder of my trip in the den of iniquity that is Las Vegas. The drive from the Great Salt Lake to the desert of Las Vegas is incredibly long, though, so I allotted a day between, where I stayed in Mesquite, NV and worked in Saint George, Utah. The upside to staying in Mesquite was that I found a great deal on a room for only $30 a night; at the hotel’s casino, I met an incredibly nice lady with whom I played hours of bingo. She also taught me how to play Pai Gow, which is still my favorite thing to play in any casino.
The downside to staying in Mesquite was that staying in a $30 room made me wake up with an electrifyingly itchy sensation in and around my butt hole. To say that my day started off uncomfortably is an understatement. Thankfully, after a couple of hot showers and a small motivational pep talk where I reassured myself that I didn’t have bed bugs, I was prepared to journey back to St. George. I punched the address into my GPS and read that I had less than thirty miles to go. I checked my fuel and it said I could go 50+ miles on what I had in the tank, so off I went. What the drive is lacking in distance it makes up for in beautiful mountainous winding roads. I was paying so much attention to the roads that I barely noticed my gas gauge plummeting due to the incline of the drive. As I was pulling into St George, it said I had less than 2 miles left on my tank. I was lucky enough to make it to the gas station right as my fuel was bottoming out. While it is quite the view to drive through, I would have hated to be stranded in the mountains between these two cities. I had absolutely no cell phone service and, with my luck, was likely to be eaten by a mountain lion.
While the car was filling up, I hit the rest room and was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a Burger King attached to this gas station. Somehow, through the magic of science, the Burger King French toast sticks are vegan friendly. I purchased some along with an order of hash browns before I left the gas station and headed back to the rental car. Purchase in hand, I walked up to the car, removed the gas pump from the vehicle, put it back on the cradle, grabbed the receipt and made for the driver’s side door. While I was putting my hand on the handle, the passenger door opened up, and a hulking six-and-a-half-foot tall dude got out of the car. He looked at me confusedly and blurted out, “You aren’t my friend!” I looked inside the car for the first time and replied, “This isn’t my rental car.” We both stared at each other, waiting to see how this would all play out, before I glanced one pump over to see my little white rental car waiting for me. Not only was his car gray, but also it was bigger and didn’t really look a thing like the one I had been driving all week. For a perpetually sober individual, I sure have the ability to make some monumental mistakes.
The rest of the week was spent without further incident. I enjoyed myself a little too much in the City of Sin, but that is a completely different story.