Robert Kirby: This is the place ... for me

Robert Kirby

Utah is the best-run state in America. I’m not the one saying this, even though I just did. It’s according to Samuel Stebbins, senior editor at 24/7 Wall St.

Stebbins bases his conclusion on unemployment, pension funding, GDP growth, poverty and some other stuff I read but didn’t understand. Utah, aka the Beehive State, tops all other states.

We’re followed by Washington and Minnesota. Coming in last: New Mexico, just behind Louisiana and Mississippi.

Utah topping all other states as far as “best managed” no doubt comes as an outrageous surprise to those of us who hate it here.

I did at first. Even today, nobody could possibly hate this place as much as I did when my family moved here in January 1970. Compared to California, from whence we came, Utah was full of self-importance, cold weather, dogmatism and Latter-day Saints.

Being Mormons ourselves that last one should have been a plus, but it wasn’t. So I ran away. Couple of times. The cops or the Old Man always found me before I could get clear.

That was almost 50 years ago. I’ve been stuck here ever since. Has my attitude changed over time? A bit. I wouldn’t live anywhere else today.

I know. It’s a horrible claim for people who hate Utah, almost a betrayal of what I once believed. You’ll get over it. Or not.

For me, loving Utah has nothing to do with how well it’s run financially. I can do my times tables up to only three, so I wouldn’t know sound money management from a traffic-squashed rat.

Like everyone else, I have my own reasons for whether Utah is No. 1 or No. 1,283 (one number above actual hell).

My military-brat experience probably made me a tad more flexible about where I lived. I was used to not having a say in the matter. The Old Man went where the Army told him. If we didn’t like it, tough guano.

So how did I come to love this once-odious place? Time was a factor. Griping about it got old, so I focused on what mattered to me. Ironically, it was there all along. I just needed to peer carefully through my contempt.

Mountains • Utah has lots of them. Some people like them because of the hiking and skiing, which are unrivaled in nearly every other place in America. I like them because I’ve been shooting stuff at them for decades. It’s impossible to shoot through them. They make great backstops for the irresponsible.

Mormons • Calm down. I’ve lived in places where I never understood the local population, considering them inbred droolers at best. Being a type of Mormon myself, I understood us from the beginning. You can’t put too much of a price on having the locals figured out way before you get there.

Weather • Inversions are horrible. My lungs probably are carbonized from breathing — or wheezing or gasping or gagging on — Salt Lake Valley air for so long. But I do love the changing seasons. Utah is absolute heaven for roughly 10 days each in the spring and fall. I live for them.

Friends • Most of my closest friends live in Utah. I owe them a lot. Sonny is a good … well, he’s an example. Without his adult sense of caution, I’d be dead by now. His wife, Sue, has operated on me when things didn’t go entirely according to plan.

Family • Finally, the main reason why I love it here. If my family lived in the Gobi Desert, I’d love it there. The thought of not having all my girls and their kids in close proximity to me is too horrible to consider. If that changed, I could easily start hating Utah all over again.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.