Jay Meehan: A cultural flashlight in the dark of 2018
It wasn’t like hardcover novels, paperback books, signed CDs, DVDs, and ticket stubs formed a pyramid on the dining room table as testimony to 2018’s influence on my personal growth, or anything.
But what did survive the dippings of my big toe into various cultural waters this past year certainly cleared the qualitative bar. In fact, notwithstanding the looming darkness at the edge of town, ‘twas the light within the arts once again that kept me psychologically afloat.
Not that the current environmental funk that has swept our land the past couple of years never came calling. Often, its pompous smirk kept my feet rooted in place. But just as often, I found myself enveloped in the light of promise and off I’d ride in a trail of dust.
These will be random pickings in that there no longer is an order to things, chronologically and otherwise, around these parts. Let’s just make believe it all came down at once. Also, there is little pretension to one thing being better than another. It’s mostly just about what stuck to my ribs.
For whatever reasons, and I’m sure there are many, the feminine mystique among indigenous poets continues to rock me no end. Linda Hogan’s “The Book of Medicines” probably got me strung out in the first place but Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo and a band of others were continually pulled off the shelf.
Luis Alberto Urrea has owned the literature decade up here in this particular Heber Valley foothill space when it comes to keeping up with a particular writer’s output. His “House of Broken Angels” continues his singular touch of magical realism and, in style and DNA, is a total delight.
The family of Segundo, whom we first met in “The Hummingbird’s Daughter,” gets a well deserved fleshing out this go-around, and just when you think it’s safe to casually re-enter Urrea waters, he sets the hook as only he can.
John le Carré hasn’t lost any distinction hereabouts. I still do backflips when even the faintest rumor of something new comes knocking. Fortunately, however, in his somewhat recent “A Trail of Spies,” I possessed the 50-year backlog of MI-6 contortions necessary to negotiate his amazing maze.
From the music shelf, I’d have to cop to binging on everything from young jazz pianist Joey Alexander’s Thelonious Monk tribute to a wide swath of box-sets from Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. John Prine’s reemergence, of course, shivered me timbers as did the Dave Alvin and Jimmy Dale Gilmore collaboration.
Catching Dylan on back-to-back nights at Salt Lake’s Eccles Theater with the wonderful Mavis Staples opening satisfied that particular “jones.” And when coupled later on with that most outstanding Tedeschi-Trucks band at the same venue, well, let’s just say there were blessings aplenty upon the local live music community.
Have to mention Park City Institute’s miraculously programmed frolics in City Park this past summer. Catching Grace Potter and Bruce Hornsby were two shows that once again turned my crank and finally seeing “The Wallflowers” in person was truly a gas. As was making it back to Boise for the Famous Motel Cowboy Reunion.
Living alone gives me the freedom to be as retro as I wish without getting slammed too much by my peers. The Russians long ago hacked my taste buds so everything from Shostakovich to Dostoevsky reappeared at one time or another.
Similar old-school fare abounds in my cinematic binging. Black and white offerings, especially film noir, might as well be on a loop. Adaptations of Dashell Hammett, James Cain, and Raymond Chandler may lead the pack, but as I’ve discovered over time, there are plenty of hardboiled auteurs bursting through doors with a gun and a dame.
From Bogart and Bacall to William Powell and Myrna Loy to Fred McMurray and Barbra Stanwyck, my cup runneth over. Not that the film adaptations equal the published work on a regular basis, but enough to satisfy this old film fogey.
Two documentaries that I streamed almost ad nauseum were the Jonathan Gold piece “City of Gold” and “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold.” If I could configure a loop for them, I might never have to watch anything else. A big thank you to the arts for keeping me somewhat sane in 2018.
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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