Park Record columnist
It’s an expression from the ‘60s. “I’m holding” meant that you, at any particular point in time, had in your possession the building blocks required to enhance the moment.
Back then, it could have meant anything from tickets to an upcoming Jimi Hendrix show to a freshly minted paperback of Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums,” or an ample stash of a substance with consciousness-expanding potential.
Most everything was in-flux in those days, especially music and literature and chemistry. If you wished to be part of the vanguard, to be “holding” proved most satisfying.
Once on a hitchhiking trip from Los Angeles to Daytona Beach, I carried a hand-printed cardboard sign that could easily be flipped over, depending upon the situation. One side proclaimed “Honolulu to Nassau” (a blatant lie to enhance the overall hipness of the scruffy vagabond in question) and the other side, of course, just “Holding.”
Looking back on that trip in particular, I must admit it would be the latter signage that produced the most rides. Although, to keep an aura of subtlety about them, most drivers would first broach the topic of how I managed to navigate the somewhat large road-less section east of Oahu.
Once the ‘60s wore themselves out and many of us relocated to the backside of the Wasatch Range up in northern Utah, the expression evolved to suit the circumstance.
From that vantage point it came to mean anything from “you stumbled upon affordable housing” to “you found a night job so you could ski days” to “you knew the chick checking ski passes at the bottom Gondola terminal” to “your roommate just got hired flippin’ burgers at the Summit House.” The connotation quickly took on communal overtones.
And, if you were fortunate enough to find employment with family ski benefits, as I did, first as a resort employee at the Rusty Nail and then as a disc jockey down in Salt Lake, well then, you were truly “holding.”
All this came rushing back over the recent holiday weekend and it mostly related to my son Smokey. His mother, Virginia, had passed away quite suddenly a month back near her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Smokey, as is his nature, dropped everything at his job up on the backside of the Tetons and responded to the aftermath.
Suffice to say, it was tough duty, but Virg’s family gathered in support of each other and took care of business. Once things were cleared up, New Mexico was put in the their rear-view mirror with Smokey flying back to Utah and the others back to LA.
I had long been aware Smokey had kept in close touch with the cultural (especially culinary) side of his Mexican ethnicity, but with Virg now gone, to see how much of her lives within him is, although really not surprising, still startling.
During this past Christmas weekend, as he and I got on the outside of a few beverages with Smokey in charge of cooking up the holiday feast, the epiphany kept returning. Virg lives!
Much of the spirit of the weekend had been embodied in the fact that Smokey was, indeed, “holding.” His stash included various strains of Hatch, New Mexico green “chile” peppers (not chili). In New Mexico, chile-with-an-e refers mainly to the green and red type chile peppers grown throughout the state.
Chiles grown in the Hatch Valley, however, seem to hold special significance, at least to us gringos with an ache to appear culturally erudite. I don’t really know how I would fare in a tequila-like taste test but flavors involved with Hatch green chiles are, if I could borrow a chile critic’s phraseology, nuanced and multi-layered with a quite intricate and lingering finish.
And let me just say that, with stinginess never having been part of his behavioral makeup, Smokey infused each and every dish with more than a quantum of the necessary essence. Which is an amount quite similar to that with which, it appears, Virg infused him.
One of the aftereffects of the weekend is that when I creakily made my way from the bed this morning, it was with the knowledge that Smokey had turned me on to a good chunk of his stash and that, with my heart now brimming with essence of Smokey and my freezer with essence of Hatch, I, too, was “holding.” Big time!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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