I have just returned from a Society of Professional Journalists convention in Houston, Texas. I must tell you: I did not see a single cow, long-horned or otherwise, nor did I see a Southern belle.Those weren't the only preconceived notions I held that died a fast death during my four-day jaunt outside Utah.
Some died shortly after takeoff, as I winged over Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas aboard a Delta DC-10 at an altitude of 35,000 feet or so.
It has been seven years since I last traveled by air. But I now realize there are some things that only become apparent from certain perspectives. Such as the fact that America is no longer parceled into nice, equally sized squares of farmland, forming a patchwork quilt of hay, grain, corn and alfalfa over the land. No, today farming is done in circles: in some fields, because of the way the crops have been cut, it appears to be 6 o'clock, in others it is going on a quarter to three. Do crops grow better in circles? Is it easier to care for crops set in such configurations?
Another revelation: Telephones are not just for homes, businesses and cars, but also for airplanes. From thousands of feet in the air, soaring from one state to another, it is possible to reach out and touch someone anywhere in the world; all you need is a telephone credit card. It is now possible for someone in an airplane to call someone in a car. Incredible.
And today people are not the only things transported by air. During a layover in Dallas, a Delta employee walked by, gingerly carrying a small red box on which was written in large white letters: "Human Eyes in Glass Jars."
Were a group of people somewhere in the United States about to receive the gift of sight? A cornea transplant, perhaps. I imagined and hoped so.
More revelations: Our problems in Utah are not all that unique. Once in Houston, I religiously scoured the local papers to peruse what was on the minds of Houstonians. The state and city were different, but the news stories were not. On Saturday, the Houston Chronicle featured a story about a Vietnam vet who died in early October of alcoholism; he died penniless, homeless and alone, much like Jerry Wayne Graham, who died at the end of September in Salt Lake City.
And the Houston Post ran a story Saturday about 800 students who walked out of classes at Austin Senior High School Friday to protest overcrowded classrooms, a lack of basic supplies for teachers, a shortage of textbooks and class scheduling errors. Sound familiar?
Despite my efforts to escape thoughts of home, at least for a few days, it was inevitable. If it wasn't a familiar-sounding story in a Texas newspaper, it was a conversation with a fellow journalist that brought my attention back to Utah.
Apparently, more than one person associates our state with Donny and Marie Osmond. Almost every person I talked to, regardless of whether they were from San Francisco or Atlanta, asked me to say hello to the smiling duo.
So, from your journalist fans across America: Hello, Donny and Marie.