So I’m down in St. George for a business conference – the cushiest business conference ever – and I’ve brought the family down with me. Yes, we’re renegade parents – we yanked the kids out of school to have a Southern Utah adventure. Yesterday we went spelunking through Zion’s Canyon and had a wonderful time. It’s all good.
We’re no strangers to St. George. We lived down here for three years, and our twins were born here. I spent another year commuting down here from the Salt Lake area – not a good plan, by the way – so I have a pretty good sense of what I’m talking about when I say that I don’t fully understand why people think this place is paradise.
Don’t get me wrong. There are things about this area that are absolutely delightful. The landscape is remarkably unique – you’re not going to find this kind of red rock country anywhere else – and the weather, at least in the spring in the fall, is much nicer than the freezing Salt Lake winters that seem to last from September through May.
But St. George winters aren’t heaven. It doesn’t snow much, but it’s still deathly cold, especially at nighttime. And the summers are unbearably brutal. Even after the sun goes down, you’re lucky if the temperature drops down into the double digits. That made life especially difficult when my job was selling tickets to an outdoor amphitheatre where the patrons had to sit in sweltering heat to watch old warhorse musicals that don’t make them feel any cooler. We did really well with frozen lemonade sales, though.
The weather was a real sticking point for Mrs. Cornell, who comes from the great state of Washington, up past the Seattle area. St. George is sort of a Bizarro Washington – dry, hot, deserty where Washington is wet, humid, and lush. Mrs. Cornell was a good sport while we were here, but she was never climatologically suited for a place like this.
And the city itself? Well, it’s been one of the fastest growing cities in the nation for several years running, although that’s slowed considerably in recent months with the dip in the housing market. But the city has no real character to it – it’s sprawl and more sprawl. And while I’m decidedly not an environmentalist, I’m really bugged by the big black lava hill in the center of town that has a huge red gash in the side that was carved in the hill to make room for ugly condominiums. Come on, guys. Can’t you do better than that?
And then there’s the restaurant issue. There aren’t any good restaurants down here. No, that’s not true – there are occasionally good restaurants down here, but they never last all that long. The only ones that thrive are the national chains – the Chilis and the Red Lobsters and the Applebeeses. I think that has to do with the hardcore Mormon influence. Most restaurants make most of their money off of booze, and the Mormon teetotalers are bad for business. I suppose I should start boozing it up to help matters, as I’m part of the problem.
I’m not trying to be universally negative. There’s much to love down here – especially the people. We’ve made some of the best friends of our lives with St. Georgians. And the pace of life down here is just about right – very few folks wear ties unless they absolutely have to, and everyone seems genuinely cheerful. Those who are born and raised here find every excuse to stay here, and it’s not really hard to see why. Once you get used to 110 degrees in the shade, you’re a St. Georgian for life.
And I should temper my restaurant criticisms, as they just opened the first In N Out Burger in Utah right on the city outskirts. That’s reason enough to move back right there.