Prior to hiking the ridgeline up to a favorite stone outcropping, I had been lazing about listening to the latest album release from Conor Oberst, perusing the Bill McKibben climate justice piece in Rolling Stone, and reminiscing about now-gone friends and family. It was Memorial Day after all.
Rightfully so, Oberst ("Freedom's the opposite of love") and McKibben ("You can watch the endgame of the fossil-fuel era with a certain amount of hope") have tapped into the somewhat darker sides of human life on earth. Hitting the trail quickly added much needed light, however.
With so much buzzing about in what I laughingly refer to as my consciousness, the walk up through the sage to the sacred stone seemingly took no time at all. Anyone who has ever spent much time in my presence can attest that I mumble to myself quite a bit, an activity that, when alone, can not only warp time but shrink it.
This time I wasn't alone, however. The oftentimes-hilarious aura of my recently passed, longtime friend Lena Fontana had joined me to easily gobble up the steepest section she doing the needling and I the mumbling.
Her last days had seen her San Francisco Giants leave my Los Angeles Dodgers pretty much in their rearview mirror and I was getting it from both barrels. Actually it was wonderful to once again be on the receiving end of her mouth-to-ear missile attacks.
We talked about her equally cantankerous and hilarious daughter Carole, who was due back in Park City any day after helping take care of whatever loose ends Lena's passing may have caused. "An hour's worth at most," were Lena's thoughts on the matter.
We had to talk golf, of course. Going back to when she and her husband Lou would wait in the bushes so they could stalk and belittle any foursome of which I was a part, the verbal abuse was never left in the bag. When it came to one-liners, Lou had a million of them and Lena was a quick study.
Following Lou's passing in 1997, we would often secure tee times even before she arrived in Park City for a visit with Carole. There was this one time, however, when we showed up at Park City Golf Course without a reservation and were instructed to hustle down to the 1st Tee to hook up with the rest of our foursome one of whom happened to be NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olson.
Well, suffice to say that Merlin and Lena, who was 80 at the time, got along famously. At one point in the round, after Lena had sunk a double breaking 20-footer, Merlin graciously asked for and received a quick putting lesson. "Only count the ones that go in," she instructed. She never forgot her round of golf with "that guy from the TV commercials."
Lena, along with Lou and Carole, had also been known to stalk the wild mushroom. It was a family tradition. Many were the times, when dropping by Carole's house up on Sandridge, you would find Lou, after a day's successful hunt, filleting mushrooms and laying them out on planks so as to cure and dry.
When they returned home to California with sacks full of the fleshy fungi, their friends, of course, would be curious as to where they had located such bountiful habitat. If, in fact, it had been up in the Utah's Uinta Mountains, Lou and Lena would go on and on about this special, hallowed hunting ground they had, after much searching, located in some obscure forest of north-central Wyoming. They were that way. They kept the faith by keeping mum. That was also a family tradition.
Before we knew it, Lena and I had arrived at the stone outcrop. To no one's surprise, Lou, with that big, wide, mischievous grin, was already waiting for us while taking in the visual magnificence of that exquisite alluvial plain that is the Heber Valley.
Now that Lou and Lee are together once again and romancing the stone, all bets are off at pesto and Chianti counters beyond the pearly gates. And, no doubt, Lou has the hunting grounds all staked out for selective fungi acquisition. In those parts, however, they probably won't be able to get away with fibbin' as to the actual locations. I also doubt if Lena's "foot wedge" will be of much use on the local golf courses.
With my own angle of repose releasing me to mosey on down the ridgeline, I quickly fell in with the auras of a couple of familiar Irish rovers, Bob and Mary by name. Utilizing our collective mutter-infested blarney, we made it down through the sweet smelling sagebrush in no time memorializing life, as it were.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.