Jay Meehan: Evanston’s healing waters
There is this dialogue in the film “Casablanca,” where Captain Renault, played by Claude Rains, asks the Humphrey Bogart character, Rick, why he ended up in Morocco in the first place.
“My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters,” Rick responds. Renault returns serve with: “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert!” Rick ends it with a forehand volley: “I was misinformed.”
That particular repartee has occurred to me more than once over the years. Usually after an evening soaking in the healing waters of Pete’s Rock N Rye saloon on the outskirts of Evanston, Wyoming. With apologies to Saint Bernadette, my own private Lourdes, as it were.
Often arriving with the flickering light of period technology while fumbling in the dark along the wall of some obscure motel for the light switch, these cinematic visions, while not assisting me in gathering my bearings, do invariably entertain.
And it’s when my chuckling morphs into a species of sonar that my actual goal is reached and I stumble “into” the bed. Not “onto,” mind you. Accessing the horizontal plane requires more karma than I usually bring to bear. Who needs light when serendipity is in play?
As one who’s been rather “stove up” during the recent timeframe, it proved well worth my effort, not to mention my aches and pains, to join some friends in this most recent pilgrimage to Pete’s.
Healing comes naturally to Stanton Taggart, the joint’s longtime overseer and Head Monk. As one with the prescience to properly prescribe restorative elixirs prior to the patient actually entering the premises, he will somehow deduce the physical or psychic malady in question and have an unopened 750 ml jug from the Speyside region of Scotland waiting on the bar.
The other night, one from Dublin also stood its ground, more than likely rescued from the shelf as a panacea to control the incessant blarney popular to the landscape. Looking back, it didn’t appear to have much effect.
The temperature sank like a stone for most of the night, causing my problematic right knee all sorts of discomfort. That’s where my quite possibly overzealous use of the blended concoction from Speyside came to the rescue.
To put it mildly, I got soused to the point where my left knee’s lack of articulation came to equal that of the right. Proper balance in all things, as Cactus Ed Abbey used to say. So, come morning, my gait, rather than its normal list to the starboard, lurched fore and aft in a “clave” rhythm reminiscent of Louie Prima.
With all the lurching that the Sundance Film Festival requires of its habitués, the fact that Park City houses a few spas of its own is a good thing. Sufficient healing waters to serve the chronically afflicted should give the community a sense of cultural pride.
Standing in line for various film screenings in temperatures of this nature has almost come to mandate flasks as much as tickets. I’ve come to learn that jogging-in-place only goes so far. In the parking lot of Pete’s they could have served Scotch on a stick.
I once heard a rumor that they recovered stone flasks among the dinosaur fossils in the geological strata known as the Evanston Formation. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if one of them flaunted a logo from Pete’s Rock N Rye. It’s comforting to know that the locals also got soused during the late Cretaceous.
Temperatures have moderated somewhat over here in the Heber foothills with prognostications showing an additional degree or two of Fahrenheit by the time they roll film for Sundance. Yesterday morning, however, the road apples populating the perimeters of the corrals maintained the density of a shot put.
Heat has usually been more of a problem than cold for me. That’s because I make it a habit to include sufficient layers of somewhat recent thermal materials in my dress code. But, lo and behold, that was not the case when I found myself among the shivering pronghorns in big, wide, wonderful Wyoming last weekend.
Live and learn. I’m ready to attack the Sundance Film Festival with parkas and vests and flasks and Irish coffees and earmuffs and mufflers and gloves of the Antarctic persuasion. Maybe I’ll toss in a knee wrap and heated socks for good measure. There I go again: exaggerating to make a point.
I would have dressed warmer for Wyoming, but I was misinformed.
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.
“Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun.”