This is the last column I will write from my beloved condo in Orem, Utah. Why? Because I am dying.
No! I kid. I’m alive and well and have at least another five years in me before my body succumbs to the steady barrage of chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts it is forced to absorb. The reason I will no longer be writing from Orem is that I have sold the condo and, by the time you read this, will have moved to an apartment in Salt Lake City.
Out-of-state readers may not recognize the significance in this move, so I will explain it in clear, lucid terms: Orem is in a place called “Utah Valley,” and Utah Valley does a thing called “suck.” Utah Valley is for families and college students, and has little to offer someone who belongs to neither category. I have lived here since 1995, first as a BYU student, then as a professional journalist, and now as neither. I did not generally get along with Utah Valleyans when I attempted to amuse or inform them as a newspaper writer, and my subsequent dealings with them have not inspired any emotion beyond what you would call passing apathy. To me they are like second cousins: nice enough, I suppose, but I feel no strong kinship with them.
Salt Lake City, on the other hand, located 40 miles to the north, is in a whole different valley and is a good deal bigger, hipper, cooler and awesomer. A majority of its citizens AREN’T Mormon, which is a rarity in Utah. And while I am a Mormon, and love the Mormon religion, and even love Mormons in large groups when they are acting in their capacity as Mormons (i.e., at church), I am not fond of them in large groups when they dominate every aspect of everyday life. I like a little variety, a little nuance, a little shocking worldliness every now and then. Sometimes it’s good to see examples of what you don’t believe in to remind you of what you do believe in. Besides, maybe I’ll start drinking beer, and maybe I’ll want to buy it on Sundays. You never know.
Why love a religion and its principles, yet decline to live in a place where 95 percent of the people believe the same way? I dunno. It makes sense to me. I love the ocean, too, but I wouldn’t want to live in it.
Anyway, it’s the SLC for me now, and that meant having to move all my stuff. Moving is one of the few things that everyone in the world can agree on: We hate it. Some people enjoy packing, some people enjoy unpacking, some people might even enjoy lugging boxes onto a U-Haul. But NO ONE enjoys ALL of it. There is always some part of it — for most people, it’s most parts of it — that is loathsome and agonizing.
You think you’ve established a nice existence for yourself, with a lot of comfortable belongings to surround you. Then you move, and you realize your entire life can, in fact, be put into boxes and carried away.
More sobering is when you’re actually lifting and carrying those boxes, and you realize that maybe you do have a lot of belongings after all. In fact, maybe you have TOO MANY belongings, because maybe there are what, A MILLION BOXES HERE?!?
Since I hate moving so much, I felt awkward asking friends to help me. If I were honest, all I’d be able to say is this: “Look, I know how much I hate moving, and I assume you feel the same way. And of course you know that if the situation were reversed, I would find any excuse not to help you. In fact, some of you have moved in the past, and when it happened, I did indeed discover ways of not helping, often going to elaborate lengths. But you knew not to take it personally, because you knew me and you knew my ways. And now I am asking for your help. We both know you are a better person than I am, and now is your chance to prove it.”
Luckily, several friends either had not personally experienced my unwillingness to help them move, or managed to overlook it and help me anyway. One of these was my Fat Brother Jeff, whose familial connection obligated him to help. For some reason, he was wearing shorts that were too big for him, as he has recently lost 40 pounds (only 300 to go!), and so they kept falling down when his hands were occupied with carrying boxes or furniture. We all found great amusement in this, as it was like watching an episode of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” (Which episode? All of them.)
Another task I had to perform was to evict Raoul (names have been changed), my ill-tempered, absent-minded Argentine roommate. He couldn’t stay in the condo, since I was selling it, and he certainly couldn’t move to the SLC with me, since I don’t like him. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here, that was the gist of it. He moved out while I was out of town a few weeks ago, so I returned to find myself living in a 100 percent Raoul-free environment. Surprisingly, he remembered to leave the door key behind. (I thought for sure he would forget and take it with him.) But, to remind me how scatter-brained he was, he left the toilet running (you have to jiggle the handle) and the sliding glass door open. He had also ordered two pay-per-view films of a questionable nature from DirecTV in my absence, as I discovered upon examining the bill a week later. So Raoul was gone, but his spirit lived on.
This was especially so when I had to clean his bathroom prior to vacating the premises. A normal person would have cleaned his own bathroom before he moved out, and maybe Raoul did address the lavatory in some way that to him meant he had cleaned it. But this is the same man who believes merely wiping the raw meat from his hands with a dishtowel after he has made hamburger patties is the same as “washing” them, so his idea of “cleaning” something is probably different from ours. Maybe he spat on the bathroom floor, rubbed it around with his foot, and called it a dia. My point is, his bathroom was a frightful mess.
The shower, in particular, did not appear to have been cleaned ever, at any point. Somehow the filth replicated itself, because while the shower was only three years old, it was encrusted with at least five years’ worth of dirt. I tried all normal cleansers, but my weapons were useless against it. Finally, with a lot of elbow grease — which I’d been saving in an empty can on the stove every time I cooked elbows — and some heavy-duty industrial-strength cleaning products, I made the shower inhabitable. How long it stays that way is up to the new residents, who, if they are true Utah Valleyans, probably wish I hadn’t said “suck” earlier.
My mom probably wishes I hadn't said "suck," either. She hates that word. "Crap," too. Probably others, too, I guess, but you get the idea.
I had never intended to live in Utah Valley after BYU, but then I got hired at a Utah Valley newspaper immediately upon graduating and thus never had a chance to leave. Once I no longer worked there, and with so many of my friends moving away (though I do still have a few close ones in Utah Valley), it was only a matter of time before I vamoosed.
I only knew Raoul for six months, yet he found his way into three columns. And I bet I could write another three, just about him and the odd things he did. In the sitcom of my life, he was the brief, failed attempt at a wacky neighbor. We had a few laughs at his expense, but his character got old FAST.