December 27, 2011
I’ve got this Jackson Pollock-esque swash splashed across my bedroom wall. One could call it a collage, I suppose, but, to these aging existentialist eyes, the events and times evoked by its many varied component parts have in quite short order turned it into a spiritual shrine of sorts.
The seeming dichotomy of "existentialist" and "spiritual" notwithstanding, the wall flat-out turns my crank, especially in the morning when I awake and click on my reading lamp to illuminate this mural of seemingly haphazardly plastered relics. Rapture has been known to enter the room.
The process began a while back when, after digging into my personal archives and lending relevant artifacts from the 1970s to the Park City Museum for its exhibition on local music history, I dropped by to check out their display for myself. It was like meeting them for the first time.
Once back in my possession, the photographs from the borrowed memorabilia in question were immediately affixed to one of my living-room walls. How much better they looked than during their previous existence stuffed inside various containers in the back of a closet.
Now this was all fine and dandy, but I still had all these posters, newspaper clippings, concert and special-event flyers, blow-ups of iconic Richard Avedon photos, esoteric bumper stickers, and 8×10 glossies from Park City’s past to go along with a vast assortment of equally-arcane cultural "treasures." What to do with all that, I wondered?
Figuring that adding them to an already book-cluttered living room would not help its overall impoverished aesthetics, I opted for the spacious unused canvas afforded by a wall in the bedroom. It proved perfect. The keystone to the project was obvious: a poster that came with the deluxe edition of Bob Dylan’s "Together Through Life" album.
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Surrounding it went a classic poster for Dylan’s "Theme Time Radio Hour," old photos of Ramblin’ Jack, first with Woody Guthrie and then with Dylan in Greenwich Village circa 1964, the same summer I passed through. With a bedspread full of dumped-out boxes, briefcases, and backpacks worth of items to choose from, the muse and a small stapler had little trouble filling the space.
Soon, a pic of my favorite poet, Alex Caldiero of Orem, Utah (of all places), and a Ralph Steadman interpretation of "sodbuster poet" Ed Abbey had joined a couple of group shots of my Compton, California, tribe, one at the Long Bar in Tijuana and the other on a Marsac Avenue porch taken once we’d all moved to Park City.
The shot of legendary Wyoming barkeep Stan Taggart looks to have been taken back about the time he won the "Mr. Utah" competition. Stan would dig being in close proximity to the likes of guitarist Clarence White, Western singer Ian Tyson, and poet Allen Ginsberg.
Then there’s the iconic clipping from the front page of The Park Record of my brother O.D. McGee’s run for mayor in 1975 residing not far from a piece I wrote in the winter of 1978 for the second issue of Lodestar (now Park City Magazine) prophesying the coming of the as yet unnamed KPCW.
McGee, with my then-toddler son Smokey in his arms, also shows up in the 14×11 photo of the actual shuffleboard table Norm Hall had just dragged out of The Club and across Main Street to repose between the Post Office and the "Electric Company."
A collection of flyers from the old Blue Note Concert Hall in Salt Lake advertising separate upcoming November 1977 shows with John Lee Hooker, Michael Bloomfield, Albert King and Herbie Mann serves as a stark reminder to the good old days.
As does Pat McDowall’s iconic group photo of our bunch of Merle Haggard "freaks" just off the bus in front of the Salt Palace and the vintage Clown Day shot where the stairs of the old Alpine Prospector Lodge are packed with costumed and over-prepped buffoons on their way to the slopes.
Classic stuff, all right, not to mention bumper stickers touting Kauai’s Pono Market, the all-girl Sister Wives band ("No Toms, No Harrys and No Dicks"), and New Orleans radio station WWOZ, as well as full-sized posters of John Trudell, Alejandro Escovedo and Doug Sahm, and Richard Avedon portraits of performing artist Patti Smith, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and "weatherman" Bernadine Dohrn.
The wall contains many other holy relics, as Proust would say, to trigger remembrances of things past; but all in all, existential spirituality remains in the eye of the, seemingly neurotic, beholder. Be careful what you throw away. There is absolution in a staple gun.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for the past 40 years.