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About Utah: For once, son is planning to pick up check

DENVER — I'm on a business trip here in the Mile High City and have been for the last couple of days.

You might be wondering what's going on in Denver. There haven't been any disasters here lately, other than the Rockies. And Denver hasn't tried to annex Utah, or given back another Olympics. There's really nothing special for a newspaper columnist to write about.

I know. That's the great part.

This is not my business trip. This is my son's business trip.

A couple of weeks ago, my son Eric said, "Dad, I've got to go to Denver on business. Why don't you ride shotgun?"

He said this nonchalantly, like it happens all the time. But it does not as a matter of fact happen all the time. Until now, it had never happened, chiefly because Eric spent his first quarter century on this planet seeing how long he could avoid anything having to do with actual commerce and business.

He went to school and then he kept going to school. He spent as much time in flip-flops and Abercrombie & Fitch cargo shorts as any human alive.

But last spring it all came to a screeching halt when he graduated from law school and discovered he was $90,000 in school loan debt.

He had two choices: flee to Argentina or find a job.

To his horror, and my astonishment, he found one.

The federal government, as it turned out, hired him as a law clerk. (The fact that they're the ones he owes most of the $90,000 to may have had something to do with it).

It was the feds who sent him here to Denver for "orientation."

They even gave him a government credit card to pay for his hotel and per diem expenses.

Along with my personal invitation to come along came the words that, if you shot me full of truth serum, I'd admit I never thought I'd hear: "Leave your wallet home. I'm paying for everything."

So anyway, here we are and yes, the roles have done a complete 180. It used to be me with stuff to do. It used to be me saying, "No, you can't order the steak and lobster from room service." (Or, more often, "You ordered WHAT from room service?"). It used to be me not sleeping in. It used to be me not using the pool and hot tub.

Now, I'm Jimmy Buffett. Now, I'm just along for the ride. The most strenuous thing I've done since we got here is watch the Rockies lose.

Life does have its twists and turns. Topsy has gone turvy. Live long enough and it all doubles back on you.

The last time we were here together was for a Final Four in the early '90s. I was a sportswriter back then. Eric was a teenager, constantly hitting me up for cash. As opposed to this time, when he refuses to let me pay for anything.

But no plans are foolproof.

Just yesterday we were at a store picking up some healthy food to take back to the room when Eric laid down his government-issue credit card and, after swiping it through the machine, the nice woman behind the counter said, "Sorry, declined."

Either the federal government is in more trouble than we realize, or someone didn't read the fine print on his per diem rules that you can't use the government credit card at the 7-Eleven.

Whatever the case, Eric looked at me with a Big Gulp in his hand and, as the years melted, said, "Dad, you got some cash?"

It sounded good to be asked.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to and faxes to 801-237-2527.