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Core Samples

It started with a bunch of free-lance "writerly" types gathered around a table and playing the past like ping-pong. They weren’t in the habit of seeing each other all that often and that served to stimulate conversation, but then again so did the flowing Cabernet Sauvignon and the fact that the 30th anniversary party for Park City Magazine doesn’t pull into the station every day.

For the most part, these wordsmiths had been around the block long enough that all references to the magazine utilized its longtime heading of "Lodestar." Not that this bunch was set in its ways or anything but some of them came from a mindset closer to Johannes Gutenberg than Bill Gates. "Word processing" had once been totally a brain function — but that, in itself, didn’t keep this outfit from, for the most part, meeting deadline.

When it really got cooking, a passerby might have thought he or she stumbled upon a Pentecostal gospel choir rehearsing their call-and-response chops. No doubt about it, there was "testimony" in the air. It was about thumbing through the "Winter/Spring 2007" issues littering the table top and locating each other’s pieces. Guffaws were generally kept to a minimum.

The magazine cover art, a wintry rendering of the old Park City Coalition building by Lanny Barnard, served to jog memories and produce tales and the shaking of heads. The fire that destroyed the town’s favorite icon and longtime logo had burned deeply into the collective conscious and, as is obvious each time the subject is broached, the wound has yet to heal.

Long dormant conspiracy theories were alluded to with somewhat wry subtlety as were recollections of witnessing the middle-of-the-night conflagration and, equally depressing, driving into town the following morning to that all too familiar after-smell of fire. It’s an odor Parkites have come to know only too well and one with which they never quite come to terms.

Once again, molecules of wood and oxygen had chosen to duke it out in the old mining camp and the emotions kindled that July morning in 1981 would become permanently etched in memory. Many locals viewed the circumstance as yet one more omen that they would, indeed, lose the battle to preserve the quaint space in which they had chosen to hole up and, quite possibly, put down roots.

Well, in these parts, talk of one good blaze usually begets another and, when coupled with additional fruit-of-the-vine, this confabulation was no exception. Tales of manning fire hoses in support of our brave volunteer fire department when an entire block on the west side of Main Street went up in flames back in the summer of ’73 took their turns, as did those concerning later infernos at Dolly’s Bookstore and Car 19.

Conversation quickly turned to the ghosts of Lodestar covers past and with more than a few of those contributing photographers, painters, illustrators and, well, unclassifiable artists joining the soiree, the banter bar raised itself. For whatever reason, however, Park City artsy types don’t get off much tooting their own whistles.

Now, there’s a behavior you won’t find running rampant among the aforementioned prose practitioners. Not that ours is a practiced modesty, an acquired skill as it were, it’s just that having one’s text appear alongside the visual arts tends to humble. And therein is born our inclination toward allowing verbal praise of our efforts to continue uninterrupted.

But, back to the Lodestar covers, many of which were downright classics. An early Dave Chaplin work captured our vibe like few others. The scene, an impressionistic snapshot of a lazy summer day has Art Durante lounging in his doorway in front of Main Street Hardware while a cowboy and rugby player amble up the sidewalk. You can just sense that Art has a stinging one-liner at the ready in case he gets any "lip" from the passersby. Art knew well how to return serve.

Chaplin contributed other quintessential work, of course, as did Marianne Cone, Don Weller, Kim Whitesides, Patricia Smith, the late Judy Taylor and a host of others. Many of the winter covers tend to radiate warmth while inviting you in from the cold to a metaphorical hearth, while summer issues are often fronted by scenes on horseback, a golf course, or trails for boots and bikes.

Anniversary celebrations have a way of gathering both peer and muse in improvisational counterpoint and this one proved quite worthy. Media-types are actually somewhat quick on the draw and, when prodded by moderate stimulants, often demonstrate an ability to engage that which is rather refined. Whodda thunkit? If only it showed in their work. Remember, to bash one’s own is bliss.

Arriving at the homestead later on that evening, with a bit of residual stimulation from the fermented grape still intact, produced an effect whereby all past issues of in-house Lodestars were pulled from shelves and laid before the fireplace. It had become apparent during the tableside dialogue that, over the years, there was much I had missed and much that needed a revisit.

Grabbing the earliest issue of the collection provided additional theater-of-the-absurd. Another favorite cover, this one a "pointillist" work by Dusty Orrell, led me immediately to a second of McGee’s hilarious pub crawls and a piece by local artist "Kran" on "A Nordic Fool and His Wine." Now there’s a "pair" to beat a "full house."

The irony of all ironies, however, played out upon discovering a love letter written by my dear friend and editor, Nan Chalat-Noaker, to the "Silver King Coalition Mine" building. It was her beacon, her muse, her grounding rod and it filled her heart and her dreams. When the fire arrived a few years later, it was a loss shared by many, but for some, it cut much deeper.

All Lodestar pieces are nothing short of history recalled in the abstract — as subjective as all get-out, and chock-full of the singularly atypical sensibility that so defines this town. Not unlike the ping-pong yarns spun around the table the other evening, many of these also arrive with a backspin all their own. They are labors of love with quirky takes on an intriguing space. They are part of us.


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