"Sacred cows make the best hamburger." Mark Twain
"Work is the curse of the drinking class." Oscar Wilde
"You can’t handcuff an unarmed man." O. D. McGee
The word is out all over town, or if not, soon will be. One-time local street operative and political satirist O. D. McGee is "coming to America," as he puts it, to, first, touch bases with his misspent youth up in the Idaho panhandle and, soon thereafter, head south to the Wasatch Range to catch up on yet another quaint old mining town turned ski resort.
Whether or not history will look back upon his impending week-long visit to Utah with the same fascination it accorded stopovers by a young Mark Twain in 1861 and Oscar Wilde a couple of decades later, only time will tell. There are, of course, similarities aplenty as regards how the three social commentators intuitively viewed less perceptive members of their species.
The news arrived via cell phone from Kauai on a recent morning that found me mostly pacing the floor while impatiently awaiting a text message from Barack alerting me as to who would be joining him on the Democratic ticket this fall. Alas, the text never arrived.
However, getting a call from the one-time Park City mayoral candidate quickened my pulse sufficiently, as it were. McGee, who dropped the "O.D." years ago both in lifestyle and nom de cool, continues to employ a vocal style that is difficult to misplace. You know immediately you’re not talkin’ to Wilford Brimley. Groucho Marx, maybe.
And, although rumors as to a possible visit to these parts by his eminence had been circulating most of the summer, the official announcement, replete with travel itinerary, arrived with less fanfare than anticipation. You get the sense that the entire northern Wasatch is holding its breath.
McGee uprooted from Park City several years back and joined his sister Mary Beth on Kauai to ensure that their mother enjoyed the quality of life she deserved during her waning years. They became shipmates and, indeed, elevated the degree of well-being she felt during the final stages of her voyage.
But enough of his saintly virtues; it’s those from the other side of the equation that we who know him best hold closest to our hearts. The McGee of the "slow-speed chase," for example, who led a gaggle of local gendarmes, lights flashing and sirens blaring, out of town and through Browns Canyon with speeds reaching up to eleven miles per hour.
Or the guy who pioneered the "Ho Chi McGee" bike trail hereabouts where he was known to give the slip to fellow riders and lead damsels into distress. He would go on to pathfind a similar route, with similar results, on the windward side of Kauai. No doubt, it didn’t take the "wahinis" long to pick up on his value as a "life compass."
There was also his quite singular campaign for mayor, a wildly flamboyant and irreverent foray into politics that would inject much needed comic relief into the local democratic process. He fearlessly took on a variety of controversial issues. When responding to a question as to his stand on taxes, he replied that he didn’t care all that much for Dallas but had become rather smitten with Fort Worth.
One of the major planks of his "Fun Ticket" platform, during a time when the canine residue from the free-wheeling ’60s completely overran the town and the busing of school children dominated the national debate, was an initiative to bus in dogs from outlying areas. "More Dogs on Main Street" became the campaign’s rallying cry.
On the economic front, he championed bringing in more businesses like "Pressure Vessels," a manufacturing plant on Park Avenue with a propensity to set itself ablaze every other week or so.
Although he wouldn’t win the mayor’s seat, his antic-rich run for the office endeared itself deeply within Salt Lake City’s radio and television news community. On election night, following a rundown of O. D.’s rambunctious campaign, they finally got around to announcing the official results.
Locally, writers from The Newspaper, a competitor of The Park Record, had a field day offering prose worthy of the ongoing campaign chaos they covered.
A somewhat fond personal memory of our favorite usual suspect from an earlier time has the little brother accidentally clocking me with a 5-iron just below the left orbit bone leaving my eye swollen shut for the better part of a week. As always, he over-clubbed.
As with many from that era of Park City’s early history as a ski town, McGee left a rather large cultural footprint upon the landscape. No larger than the one the community as a whole left upon him, however. He always told me that the old town that we knew and loved was still here, that you just had to look for it. Maybe so, but I hope he’s bringing a microscope.
So pack your seabags! Hide the womenfolk and any other stash you may have laying about. Raise the anchors and haul up the mizzen topgallant! Scuttlebutt has it we set sail the week after next! Joy, shipmates, joy!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.
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