Teri Orr: Here’s to summer guests: being them, having them
Sunday in the Park
July 7, 2017
The barbeque — where the retired firemen set off the fire alarm from the smoke on the grill, where perfect plump chicken breasts and beautiful brats were turned out to the guests — was a start to the long, fake four-day weekend.
I mean most people still worked on July 3, but some stretched Friday night to Wednesday morning out in a celebration of American values that are best served al fresco.
That dinner was up in the hills above Park City, still in the city limits but in another time zone and atmospheric layer. The guests were an international mix of local folks and parents of adult Parkites joining guests of guests who came for the meal and the conversations.
The view was of Park City and beyond — the Wasatch Mountains stretching out past county lines and into the next state. The night was that clear (aside from the little aforementioned smoke created from perfecting "the char").
Conversations were filled with travels taken and planned to multiple continents and a few states. No one mentioned politics or even a news story, as I recall. My table mates, whom I did not know before the dinner started, turned out to share a friend I had lost track of over a decade ago.
The setting of green lawn under some beautifully twisted oaks was unlike most Park City back yards. We were at the top of a mountain, and this was the last house. There were no other homes whose backyards touched this one. It was the kind of peaceful place of suspended time and civility.
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My dinner the day after the holiday was more robust with a much smaller crowd. A home across the little valley of hills in Park City this time looking at the Park City Mountain Resort.
This is a second home for a couple who found each other later in life and have a more perfect union this time around. She is a Stanford-educated doctor dealing in women's fertility issues now based out of Harvard…or was it Yale? He is a lifelong newspaper man from the hills of Texas to the corporate offices in New York of some the most recognized papers and publications in the country.
I had been introduced to them by my friend Ruth, a 73-year-old woman who runs a several-hundred-acre horse ranch in Montana but grew up in Philadelphia, who also has a place in Park City. Her two adult sons of different fathers came along for the dinner.
We were joined by the hosting couple's friends: a former New York lawyer from the east side?, and a woman who started a charity to give seed money to women to help start businesses from the west side?. This dizzyingly accomplished group was all from outside of Park City, and the conversation was the kind that had me trying to stay up to speed.
On their deck overlooking the pines, we had a cocktail hour opened by the host with a toast: "Confusion to the enemy!" I laughed and asked him if that was his own. He said he didn't think so, but he didn't know who might have said it. He'd been using it for some time. And, didn't our enemies need confusion right about now? At 84, he doesn't suffer fools, but something tells me he never did.
There was that polite Q&A that followed where we learned Ruth's sons — now both back in Philadelphia after time in the West, even in Park City for one son — were a bit in awe of their mother.
Ruth helps run a camp for returned veterans called something like Heroes and Horses. She needs adventures, her son explained. She needs the expanse of the west, said the other. She had already done the Philadelphia life, said the one. It bored her, said the other.
Over dinner we spoke of many things — of walruses and kings and NPR and Jeff Bezos doing a damn good job of being hands-off but owning and feeding the Washington Post.
We speculated the New York Times — which has sold off assets and closed down foreign desks and may have tumbleweeds in some hallways (according to Fran Leibowitz who spoke on the Eccles stage this winter) — might have a new owner in the works there.
We hoped it would be a benevolent soul who appreciated good journalism and had deep enough pockets to rebuild what longtime journalists remember as The Gray Lady (it was the last hold-out to not put color on its front page). Maybe a Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg?
This is the kind of conversation where being invited into the room can be enough but being at the table is divine.
There was some kind of heavenly Huckleberry liquor Ruth brought from Montana poured over vanilla ice cream for dessert. I watched the man at the head of the table in his perfectly starched blue and white pinstriped shirt with suspenders attached to gray slacks as he sat back and let the conversation flow. He always waited to add a story of his own…just so.
Those suspenders told a tale, too: His charity work in New York is legendary and the suspenders were a repeating print of "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" by Vermeer. It all seems a long way from San Antonio.
One of the gifts of living in a resort community are the guests who come and expand our lives and horizons. Visitors from afar or those who have traveled afar who live here… sometimes. Those who take us along on their journeys. Who expand our world and certainly our conversations. Who make us grateful to call this home on long summer days — and nights — including Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.