You go in, look around, pull up a chair or a stool, and plop yourself down. Subtle anxiety pools in your boots. You heard the joint was cool but you had to see for yourself. It is a haunt of sorts, has a certain cachet, as it were. It’s in Park City or Heber or Salt Lake and the probing eyes are more curious than challenging.
Over time, you build a comfort zone. You darken the door and, most often, there is a sense of welcome. You are recognized, if not "known." They’d seen you around and, for the most part, "knew-where-you-were-coming-from." Why would you even be there if you didn’t "get it?"
In one instance, you might be hangin’ at "Mama Eddy’s Right-On Beanery" down on State Street dishing that tragically organic aura while casually working the room for an extra ticket to Taj Mahal’s upcoming gig at the "U." The girl in the corner in the sweater is changing strings on her Martin D-18 flattop guitar. Her focus is elsewhere. She could do it in her sleep. You feign disinterest.
Over off Redwood Road at the "Mr. Lucky Club," the scene is hip-redneck with poets pulling on long-neck Buds over wry discourse. Waylon’s playing one of his final club dates and the band hauls you out to their new bus in order to show off their new "record" on their new "reel-to-reel" tape player. They are about to blossom and they know it.
The next night has you at the "Terrace Ballroom," where you could waltz across Texas or turn a rig around on their 40-acre dance floor. McGee, after giving the slip to a bunch of bikers, is barely able to escape with his 20-gallon Stetson — which is more than you can say for the 12-pack he smuggled in.
Then there was Otto Mileti and that music magnet of the gods known as the "Zephyr Club." Populated by pickers and grinners and situation-ethic sinners, this shrine to art deco and art-blotto put us on the road to fruition. Often you could find Park City expatriate enclaves within the friendly confines. "I know the owner" always trumped "I’m with the band."
Frequently, after shutting down one of these joints, the ambulance convoy would adjourn to "Bill and Nada’s" intensive-care cafe for some "brains and eggs" and a cup-of-joe. Not that the coffee was strong, but you could turn your diner-goblet upside-down and not spill a drop. It was the same with the waitress staff.
When you began to hang at "Pop Jenks" up in Park City, you were on vacation and there was time a-plenty to slip in with your road mates and wager as to whether his long and curved cigarette ash would fall into your eggs or into your hash browns. Chaos theory may well have been born during just such a session.
If it was a Sunday morning and Porky was trying to sell his ex-wife Debby’s Head-360-all-metal skis, then you were more than likely in the "Buffalo Grill." You once made the mistake of asking Porky about that dog-eared novel lapping-up his pre-omelet drool.
A blunder of larger proportions would be hard to imagine. Patty Hearst suffered shorter captivity. Before he wrapped up his metaphor-laced synopsis, Stockholm syndrome began to set in. You ended up excusing yourself – something about seeing a man about a horse, or maybe it was a house, or, quite possibly, a hose.
Better to be lynched up the street at the "Robbers Roost" by that sun-crazed posse from San Diego. Theirs was a menu featuring specials from way out West where beef was never removed from the roaster before its time, or the fire wagon arrived – whichever came first.
Another beverage house preceded the Roost in the same space. The "Crazy Horse Saloon" featured a co-op mentality that operated totally on the honor system. You’d show up to grab a cool one only to find the door ajar and the previous evening’s barkeep in a total state of disrepair. Without hesitation, you would assume the apron and the mop and the condiment-slicing blade. You were on-shift.
Across Main Street at the "Oak Saloon" you would more often than not find your boot heels resting on the low-slung stage while "Slumgullion" or some other musical outfit of the day did that folk-rock-country-blues gumbo that had become almost de rigueur in western ski towns.
During one of its not-few incarnations, "The Forge," down in the New Park Hotel, became the haunt of choice among a relatively elite cadre of the local intelligentsia. As they liked to expound, they "drank mash, talked trash and smoked hash." For a time it also served as one of the larger repositories of high-camp graffiti in the Intermountain West.
Cult luminaries on the order of Elizabeth Cotten and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott played the "Handlebar" during its somewhat high-profile Main Street run. The bar at the "Utah Coal and Lumber" Mexican restaurant also had its day, providing musically-active locals with Park City’s hippest record collection while serving as launch-control for busload concert invasions of the Salt Palace.
What these haunts all have in common is the simple fact that they all went missing. They disappeared. They were deemed passé, outmoded, and obsolete – so they were done in. There flames were extinguished to make room for the less-archaic. Being no longer bona fide, they were snuffed-out and superseded. Their shelf life had expired.
And the list continues to grow. Last fall saw the closing of one of Utah’s greatest haunts, Clyde’s Billiards, best known locally as "Tink’s," over in Heber. Then, more recently, Junior’s Tavern, a long-time shrine to jazz and blues and a most elegant Salt Lake old-school watering hole, shut its doors.
And now comes word of a couple of additional shifts in the paradigm. Due to what is more than likely a response to supply and demand, Snowbird’s longtime Jazz and Blues Festival has become a "Rock" and Blues Festival. "Jazz night" will henceforth be "Rock night."
And, finally, if you haven’t already got the memo, scuttlebutt down at the Mount Air Cafe has it that they will be shutting down at the end of this month. Thirty years in a blink of an eye. You don’t miss your water ’til your well runs dry. Funny how time slips away.
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.