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Sunday in the Park

My eyes have always been bad. I was in the fourth grade when I got my first pair of glasses. Somewhere floating around my house is a picture that never fails to elicit gales of laughter from whoever sees it. I am in the seventh grade, wearing a madras sleeveless shirt with my hair not exactly side-parted, but the attempt was made. Perched on my nose is a pair of white, mother-of-pearl glasses. This was the early ’60s. I was such a dweeb.

Right after that picture was taken I decided to stop wearing my glasses. Oh, sure if I wanted to say, read, I had to wear them. Or watch a movie. But I thought I could will my legally blind vision into something more socially acceptable. In high school I got my first pair of prescription sunglasses. I started doing the Jackie O thing and wearing them on my head when I didn’t need to do something like, say, drive. Vanity is a harsh master.

I still do that but I’m better about wearing them to actually see things I want to see, like people, or films or beautiful fall days like those this week. In fact, I was driving to meet an old friend for lunch Thursday, when I reached the stop light at Kearns Boulevard and Park Avenue. I looked up at the mountainside while I waited at the red light. The hills were covered in butterscotch-colored aspen trees. And then there was that perfect line of brilliant red maples, or burning bushes, I wasn’t quite certain. When the light changed and I pulled into the new lunch spot, Squatters, I parked the car and stared hard at the perfect symmetry of those bright, otherworldly bright, orange, perfectly aligned, trees. It was in the location of the old mining buildings Rory Murphy et al turned into fabulous offices for the Sundance Institute. Where new condos are popping up as part of his Silver Star project. That’s when the bright orange perfect line of trees revealed themselves for what they really were, a line of orange, an area of disturbance, fencing. I laughed pretty hard at myself before I met my friend for lunch.

It was a good exercise for our conversation. He is successful in work. Married late, small children, terrific wife, and at the place of questioning whether Park City is really the last best place for him? He has lived here about a dozen years and seen enormous change. He has a solid job, makes the kind of money that would have been so solidly middle class until recently. He asked me, after living here all these years how could I stand the change? At gatherings in his neighborhood, an attractive but rather average subdivision, he is surrounded by film people who moved here after 9/11, folks who quietly live here and commute to Los Angeles or wherever for work. They are joined by investment bankers and hedge fund managers and folks who are angling for their kids to be on the same soccer teams. The days of my friend hitting a bar after work to eat some chicken wings and watch a ballgame are on the shelf. He is a co-contributor to the raising of his children and, at that intersection of 40-something in life, he is questioning not only his life, but his lifestyle.

I left my glasses on my head for most of our lunch except for that nasty, reading-the-menu part. I have learned to see with my ears, and what I heard was not new. I hear pieces of it from my younger neighbors and even my own children, who live not here but in Salt Lake City. It is undeniably true, the very socio-economic ecumenical community I moved to in the late ’70s is gone forever. So is Randy’s ice cream parlor next to the post office. And Day’s market next to the Egyptian Theatre. And the Mt. Air Market that existed long before Albertsons. That Park City is gone. The town with no stoplights. No fast food. No drycleaner. No full-time fire department. No Eccles Center. No trolley car. No Deer Valley Resort. And though some of the changes make us sad, especially the demise of Randy’s ice cream parlor, progress isn’t all bad.

This is a remarkable community still. Yes, there are more and more people discovering what a handful of us thought could be our own private secret. Those folks who are arriving may be better heeled than many of us living here but they are coming for the same reasons we did. A small town, good people, great schools, a place to worship and a natural environment that puts on a spectacular show for free month after month.

Being a good parent and a good mate should be rewarded in some tangible way in your mid-40s, so you know what you are doing and sacrificing is of the most value in life. You are the curator of the most revered gallery/portfolio of investments, clichéd, as it will sound. You are creating memories for your children and yourself. The stuff that you can laugh and cry over as those children all-too-soon become adults and maybe share a beer and wings with you watching some ballgame. You will laugh over the years spent at soccer games, backyard barbecues and bad movies. And it will all have mattered. It is about the time spent. That is where my friend is rich beyond measure. His current job allows him time to be at school functions during the day. I couldn’t figure out how to tell him Park City and the overall closeness of work/school/life here is pretty hard to replicate on the planet.

I told him he was lucky and blessed and yes, Park City had changed, would continue to change. But I still maintain it is a magical place to raise children. A rare place for friendships with people of all ages, and a place of such access to natural beauty and a drycleaner, it’s difficult to duplicate.

I hope he stays here. He is an asset to us all in his job, but he is an asset to the fabric of what Park City still is, a group of folks with diverse incomes dedicated to amazing opportunities for children and adults that no other town our size can equal.

We stood outside in the sun and I put my glasses back on my face before we hugged and went back to our workday. In the parking lot I looked back up at the perfectly aligned splash of orange. It would disappear soon, along with the butterscotch trees. Best I take it all in. The changes are coming but I hope they will help strengthen the resolve of good people to stay and contribute, day after blessed ordinary day, like any Sunday in the Park


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