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Core Samples

Jay Meehan, Record columnist

Transition comes with the territory. Nothing remains the same. Not that I’m totally comfortable with that reality but I’ve come to accept it. Plus I get my nose rubbed in it whenever I attempt to return to scenes of past crimes. Not that that’s a bad thing. It can be rather intriguing, actually.

A case in point would be a recent visit to The Canyons for a Langhorne Slim concert, part of Mountaintown Music’s free-concert series. There was a time I knew every twist and turn of ParkWest, as it was named during my heyday. But each attempt I made to superimpose that place upon this new one came up way short.

Although one’s overview of the space between the lower parking lots and the "village" at the base area is enhanced somewhat by riding up on the Cabriolet lift, it only added to the visual confusion as to the original layout of the joint. Obviously the vagaries of memory (or lack thereof) make appearances in this production.

My historical roaming résumé out at ParkWest showcases three quite separate, though equally comfortable, relationships. The first related to my being handed the organizational responsibilities for KMOR radio’s annual "Spring Fling" promotional free ski and party days out on the Snyderville slopes.

My fellow radio geeks and I would string up welcoming banners, organize beer-infused obstacle courses, and set up slalom gates for the younger set. With very little trouble, I can still picture 3-year old Smokey Meehan, wide-track and without poles, negotiating the course with a sense of urgency similar to the one he would now use on his way to a poetry reading.

Then came the ski season of ’79-’80 when I responded to a newspaper ad that the resort was seeking an electrician. Notwithstanding that this move would lead me down a somewhat questionable path, there was instant gratification to be added to the mom-and-pop-like operation with a cast of characters you could only find on the fringes of an old mining town turned ski resort.

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This was about a month or so prior to the scheduled opening date and, already, a good foot or so of snow lay frozen upon the ground. Now, normally, in a ski town, this would be cause for jubilation. And so it was to those not involved in — by using a variety of accelerants — setting fire to the snow so as to thaw away pathways for electrical conduits to worm their way into on-mountain restaurant and lift-shack retrofits.

During the season, I would remain onboard as the entire building maintenance department while, during off time, sliding with my new workmates down those signature ridgelines on boards way too long to turn — not that exaggerated "counter-rotations" weren’t employed for show.

My third tenure evolved over the years as a frequent attendee and oftentimes newspaper music reviewer during ParkWest’s golden age as Utah’s top outdoor concert venue. The lower slopes became a place where you could catch the likes of Dylan, Muddy Waters, Jackson Browne, B.B. King, Jimmy Buffet, the Grateful Dead, Jerry Jeff Walker and other icons of the day.

The shows out at "West" served as a refueling stop and the culturally thirsty among the townsfolk would raise a cloud of dust trekking uphill like wildebeests in search of a desert watering hole. The shows now seem to have existed only in the distant past.

Which brings us back to imperfect memory and the sense of loss of place. Imagining where the old maintenance shop might have been located, or even the main lodge or the saloon or the concert stage for that matter, is pure guesswork. Especially to one who seldom dropped by during the intervening years when huge hotels and such began to play out.

Time changes everything. Adjustments were made to the paradigm with nary a nod. Correction and distortion sat around the table with transformation and refinement waiting for metamorphosis to show its cards. T.S. Eliot once said that in a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. I’m not sure Tom ever envisioned Park City.

I must say the new place lends itself quite well to concerts. Langhorne Slim flat-out blew away the joint! In my day, Jim Beaver was ParkWest’s only rock star. Two peas in a pod, I say. Returning via the Cabriolet with past visions of Emmylou Harris, John Prine, J.J. Cale, Asleep at the Wheel, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Stevie Goodman dancing in my head, it worked for me.

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.