July 14, 2009
The cusp of the millennium loomed just around the corner and, early on, 1999 had all the makings of a quite intriguing year. Beginning in late winter and moving through spring and into summer, the cultural calendar, like erupting wildflowers along the Timpanooke trail, bordered on overkill.
Initially, the plan centered on participation in as many events as possible and, if things worked out, writing about them, hopefully for publication. Over the previous couple of decades, mainly during spaces between regular music columns in a succession of now-defunct Park City newspapers, Lodestar magazine, now Park City Magazine, had provided the occasional outlet.
Although a quite-well-produced "glossy," its twice-a-year publication cycle didn’t lend itself all that well for what I had in mind. I began by "pitching" my longtime friend and, by then, editor of The Park Record, Nan Chalat-Noaker, for space within which to set up shop as a recurring contributing writer.
Well, she fell for it and, lo and behold, my pieces began to appear. First came a review of a February Delta Center stop on the Rolling Stones’ "No Security" tour. My son Smokey and I had "gone large" for the VIP Party and floor seats and, during the small-stage "garage band" segment, joined the McMullens and McGee a paltry few feet away from the "Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World." Life was good!
Next, I heard that the brand-new acoustically elegant Eccles Center for the Performing Arts would be hosting my favorite contemporary Irish band, Solas, as part of its grand opening. It was the beginning of annual St. Patrick’s Day musical associations by the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that carry forward to this day.
Then, as it was her turn to "pitch" me, Nan asked if I would do a review of a Utah Opera production of Mozart’s "Marriage of Figaro" down at the Capitol Theater. What a gas it proved to be, both the opera itself and the review.
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Having absolutely no expertise in the field, an approach that has stuck to my ribs, I took the angle of a music fan looking for a good time. The line worked much better with Mozart than it ever had in a bar. I was on a roll!
When word began to circulate around town that the Bob Dylan & Paul Simon Tour would be stopping at the Delta Center in early June, I quickly dispatched a Dylan profile to Nan. As a fellow longtime Dylan obsessive, I knew her excitement level would match my own.
Among what were many musical highlights that evening, one featured the two old folkies in a brilliant duet section having their way with Simon’s "The Sound of Silence," the Johnny Cash-Bill Monroe roots-medley of "I Walk the Line," and "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and Dylan’s "Knockin’ On Heavens Door."
A week later a preview of an Eccles Center concert with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter saw print. Having not seen these two alumni of the famous Miles Davis 1960s Quintet since their heyday, my piece was, as usual, pretty much over the top. Being allowed to get carried away came with the territory.
It was then that the paradigm shifted. Park Record columnist Jack Fuell was set to retire his weekly "Tales from old Park City" column, a fact that would create an opening on the Wednesday wannabe-pundit page. Nan let me know that if I thought I could handle a weekly deadline, the void was mine to fill.
So it was in this way that "Core Samples" was born. The first column, "Haunts as a plural noun," appeared on July 14, 1999, and featured my all-time favorite lead: "I didn’t recognize it as a German shepherd until it had flown past me at eye level and crashed into the far wall." It dealt with the coming and going of comfort zones.
The next, dealing with the Hemingway Centennial and sporting an Oscar Wilde reference, carried the title "The importance of being Ernest." Obviously, I was pretty full of myself. A rereading, however, posed this question: How could a true Hemingway buff discuss his short stories and not mention "Big Two-Hearted River?"
A Moab piece called "Redneck Redrock Reservation" followed. It seems I was worried about the disappearing redneck scene at Woody’s Tavern now that the town had been invaded by the fat-tire bunch.
Then a column entitled "Brains and Eggs" grieved the impending loss of the iconic Bill and Nada’s Café in Salt Lake. I still miss that place! Ten years in the blink of an eye. But, thanks to my editor’s often saintly patience, the beat goes on.
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.