It was love at first sight. Dawn had broken just as we began working our way up the two-lane from the highway into the snow-covered mountain valley that, at the time, none of us four road buddies thought of as playing any significant role in our future lives.
From my roots in a not-dissimilar space in the lower reaches of the Idaho panhandle, I had come full circle. Not that I hadn't found the left coast, or Mexico for that matter, stimulating enough at the time. It was just that old Western mountain mining camps had a pull all their own.
And that singularity, along with the relatively new ski area, would be what pulled me back to put down another set of roots a couple of years later. That's really not true. The roots planted themselves. I was never actually aware of the process. I was just having a ton of fun in an unimaginably inviting setting.
She was more than easy on the eye, that Park City of the late '60s and early '70s. Flaunting a movie-set ambiance of the old west of creaking doors and dusty floors and cobwebs flowing from moose antlers to spittoons, it was especially attractive to newcomers as an antidote to the age of anxiety playing out on the rest of the planet.
Locating ski-in, ski-out digs at the base of the one-gondola, two-chairlift resort didn't hurt either, of course, but it was the beauty of the valley playing upon the senses that first winter, that first spring, that first summer, that set the hook. Even annual end-of-season treks to Mexico couldn't come between us. The affair we had brokered was deeper than that. It was an unconditional love. Or so we thought.
At first, there were only incremental changes in her attitude. She became moody and wanted more -- of just about everything. She began inviting barbarians to the gate. Soon, word arrived that we could no longer drag our coolers and chairs out to the expansive pastures of the church farm and play football to dusk. It seemed a subdivision was in the works.
My reaction was totally selfish, to be sure. I had found a utopian lover and, beyond subtle limits, wasn't looking to share her with an invading horde of additional suitors. More than likely it was a reaction similar to the one that began to fester within the local mining culture when our un-kept and unruly tribe first descended upon their comfort zone.
Keeping with my "it's-all-about-me" ethic, I had lesser issues with that New Orleans corporate bunch, Royal Street, when they took over the resort and began developments around town. That's because they gave me employment as a bartender within moseying distance of my digs. Typecasting, you might call it.
Actually, when breaking down my love affair with Park City during its relatively early stages, it appears most likely that she also had issues with me. I certainly wasn't very welcoming to newcomers as they arrived, even to those of a cultural persuasion similar to my own.
Clones of my "already know everything of importance" self that only arrived in town a few paltry years earlier would show up and, as Kerouac would say, I wouldn't "even have enough time to be disdainful." I'd roll my eyes and chuckle at their naïveté. "Get a load of that wannabe," I'd sneer, totally ignoring the fact that, only a short time previous, it was my mirror image.
It was as if we were having a lover's quarrel, Park City and I. With each new change to the cultural, political, and geographical landscape, I would rebel. I assumed the position of "Whiner-at-large." I anointed myself with the trappings of an arbiter of good taste.
Commenting ad nauseam on everything from architecture to the culinary arts, I continually drove the wedge deeper. Not that the Planning Commission didn't bring into play a sledge of its own. The chasm widened as we slowly drifted further and further apart, our visions, seemingly, diametrically opposed.
What kept the relationship from deteriorating even further were the "highs" that always seemed to arrive at the most opportune times in order to cancel, or at least, diminish the impact of the string of "lows" that had come between us. McGee's run for mayor, TuTu's production of Clown Day, and the comings and goings of quite unique watering holes. That sort of thing.
More than a few remnants of that fetching burg I first fell for are still out there, of course. It's just that we both are a bit older and a bit more set in our ways than when we could do nothing wrong. When we pass on the street, we still wink at each other, though. And that's a good thing.
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.