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Core Samples

Sunday carried with it more optional gut plugs, oils on canvas, and golf matches seemingly gone "dormie" than one could normally be expected to get one’s arms around on an otherwise conventional weekend September day. You’ll have that!

First of all there was the problem of locating a passable repast in the breakfast category down in the Salt Lake Valley where everyone, it seems, has nothing better to do than queue up and ritualize such goings on. Most any eatery open for business on the Sabbath in those parts attracts a religious following.

The throng milling about Ruth’s Café up in Emigration Canyon should have been a tip-off. There seemed to be more of the faithful attending services where fresh-baked biscuits and eggs hollandaise were served as communion than down at Temple Square.

Not that the estimated 45-minute wait would not have been worth it, what with, once inside, the ambience of lounging under a tree on Ruth’s patio while checking out the talent. But when the option of heading over to that diner on the north side with the "hot rod 1950s greasy spoon" motif was broached, all bets were off.

So it was off to the other side of the tracks near West High School with visions of a velvet Elvis on the wall and chopped ’32 Chevy coupes parked out front. No way they would be closed on a Sunday, would they? But alas, the joint was dark and there wasn’t a purring buffed-out original inline-six engine to be found.

With reserved tickets for the 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. window for the final day of the "Monet to Picasso" exhibit waiting in "will call" up at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, pressure to peruse a menu sooner rather than later was mounting. Stomachs grumbled. Options dwindled.

Then, of course, the fact that it was Sunday at the Ryder Cup and that the Yanks were a couple of points up on the Euros prior to the singles matches loomed large. Admittedly, nothing much else torques my golf crank more than the biennial team competitions between Europe and the USA.

And, by this time, the now-starving aficionado knew that, in the least, the first couple of twosomes were out on the course. Rumor had it that Anthony Kim and Sergio Garcia were leading off the day with the rest of the usual suspects following suit in some unspecified order.

That was the moment the day took a turn for the better. The epiphany had to do with target identification. The question arose as to whether or not the Red Iguana restaurant, which was right around the corner, might be open for breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Well, suffice to say, Joy lay upon the land. Not only was the Red Iguana open for breakfast, but there was no line and the table just below the Alejandro Escovedo photo had made itself available.

About the time the bottle of cerveza arrived (only 3.2 percent alcohol by volume before noon), the 10:30 to 12:30 p.m. bunch up at the UMFA had probably made their way to the sacred space between the Cézanne and Van Gogh offerings and, at Valhalla, Kim had just begun to deconstruct Garcia.

While flour tortillas busied themselves with the mop-up operation of what turned out to be quite extraordinary huevos rancheros, that previously mentioned batch of fans of European modernism had, more than likely, now worked their way into the blue, rose, and cubist periods of Picasso. And, possibly, Phil Mickelson had just spotted the black cloud overhead.

With this being the second visit to the museum space inhabited by Claude Monet and his chums de art this summer, the plan initially unfolded as one whereby more time would be spent with particular works that, for whatever reason, might have been slighted the first time around.

And, even though the entire breakfast bunch from Ruth’s, the complete Mormon Tabernacle Choir and all their devotees from the Tabernacle, and the whole student body of the University of Utah with loan counselors in tow, showed up for the sold-out last day of the exhibit, for the most part the formula worked.

They greeted me as an old friend. The Renoir of the woman selling apples flat-out beamed. Van Gogh’s poplars subtly swayed in the breeze while Matisse’s flowers fluttered in the bright Nice sun. All this and more as team USA’s point total steadily rose toward the required 14 ½ for a victory in the Ryder Cup and the residual after-bite of Red Iguana salsa sang a norteña upon the tongue.

There is a difference, of course, to having the art exhibit pretty much to yourself, as it was on the earlier visit, and the stockyard-like environment of Sunday, which, actually, passion-wise at least, proved rather interesting.

Being in such company, a top-shelf display of original modernist art coupled with a throng of enthusiasts searching for a bit of right-brain intuitive insight, carries a clarifying component. But, as the short after-exhibit lecture concerning poet Charles Baudelaire and his somewhat seminal excursions into art criticism drew to a close, it seemed that putting it into a coherent package would be about as easy as holing out from a bunker at Valhalla.

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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