Jay Meehan: Media massages
“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.”
~ William Gibson
The great notion to tag along with a few L.A. expatriate buddies as they negotiated their way westward toward a movie show in Salt Lake coincided with the arrival of our final round of cocktail fixings. The nearly empty bar of the Alpine Prospector Lodge provided the perfect backdrop.
With 1967 having only recently morphed into ‘68, and with future stops in Aspen and Vegas on the road trip itinerary, it just sounded like the right thing to do. It really didn’t matter what we saw. I was packing a shiny new copy of Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Massage” and I caught its drift.
Having only recently arrived in Park City via Provo Canyon and Hebertown, not only would the trip downstream be my first ever visit to brother Brigham’s promised land but almost every step I took was into terra incognita. You see, it was my initial foray north of Beaver.
Fog had settled in about my head and shoulders and, being pretty much up for anything, I signed on.
“You’re either on the bus or off the bus,” as Ken Kesey once warned a previous lineage of pranksters.
The rate at which the seemingly never-to-be-completed section of I-80 through lower Parley’s Canyon crawled toward the valley floor had brought the detour through Immigration Canyon into play. At the time, being a young, disgruntled (the LBJ years), and somewhat adventurous road-tripper, I couldn’t see any downsides.
So we tossed ‘em back and jumped into the hotel “limo,” a questionable station wagon with few identifying marks somewhat feebly disguised as an airport shuttle. Then, having pooled our collective wealth at the gas station to satisfy the vehicle’s legendary thirst, we topped it off with twenty-five-cent-a-gallon regular and pointed it downhill.
I recall more the movie options that got bandied about on the drive down than the name of the show we ended up seeing. Roger Corman’s “The Trip” with Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Susan Strasberg and “Riot on Sunset Strip” were the first to get shouted down. If memory serves, the dude riding shotgun had a Sunday Trib.
Subsequent viewings of each would prove that Hollywood had once again attempted to jump onboard after the ship had left the dock. The former, when parked alongside the latter, however, really wasn’t all that bad.
The protests over the closing of “Pandora’s Box” indeed had become a cause célèbre but, for what it’s worth, Stephen Stills more accurately painted the “riot” scene with a more lucid and impressionistic brush: “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear/There’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware.”
An interior and exterior darkness pervaded the edge of town, especially in the backseat where the usual suspects of the day were being passed about. It was a benign darkness, to be sure, but it would be a good two years, following a final move to Park City, before I partook of the journey in daylight and registered the surroundings.
The ambient air showcased fewer particles per cubic inch over Salt Lake in those days so my intro to its night sky upon emerging from the canyon took my breath. More than likely I had to exhale first. Dazzling is what it was. Diamonds in the windshield.
By that time a coalition had built around two Paul Newman films: “Cool Hand Luke” and “Hombre.” “The Dirty Dozen” sat at number three. Funny how quickly pacifists could come out of the war movie closet when prodded by viral giggling.
I truly can’t recall which film we finally took in that night but I do remember the friendly cop who pulled us over for a “California-stop” at some red octagonal signage informing us, following some hectic contraband dumping, that he and the family had caught “The Graduate” a few weeks back.
“But it left town,” he added.
Although it had once taken me well over an hour to travel a mile-or-so on a Harley down on the hard sands of Daytona Beach, for some reason now lost to time I voted to see Jack Nicholson in “Hell’s Angels On Wheels.” Go figure. God saw to it that there were no videos.
Obviously, I had troubles locating myself geographically that night. Must have been those free-pour cocktails back in Park City. But there’s this screenplay I’m able to immediately access on the before and after. Media massages will do that.
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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