A crushing blow
A clap of thunder arrived last week that jarred an entire community to the bone and for what seemed like eons afterward, words were not deemed worthy. And, unless they could repair the fabric that had been ripped from so many hearts, not much else, other than misty-eyed hugs, made the grade either.
The suffocating pall associated with the senseless killing of popular Park City local Jose Fernandez settled like an urban inversion over the Wasatch back. The effect was crippling. In an instant, the personification of elegant presentation had taken a Glock round to the forehead.
A welcoming presence at both the No Name Saloon and Grill and the Boneyard Saloon and Wine Dive, Jose had become a fixture in the scene — so much so that his sudden departure was all the more seismic.
With Park City’s extended street family still attempting to get its collective head around the devastating loss of one of their own, all manner of old questions are resurfacing. And, although they come in the form of words, worthy or not, they strain their bonds to gain voice.
You’ll have to help me on this. Did we lose Jose, seemingly one of the most beautiful souls to ever grace Main Street, because there were too many guns at the after-hours party he attended or not enough? Myself, I have issues with the notion that if everyone everywhere is constantly "packing," that the world is a safer place.
But, such words are not wanted now. Certainly not needed. Even when read and not spoken, they intrude upon the interior. Now is not the time. Now is the time to give it all a rest. There are rituals to be attended to. Preambles to recriminations, as it were. Even thoughts, the building blocks of words, should be checked at the door.
More than ever, it is the time to summon peace for both his family and ours. Easier said than done, as they say, but no less an imperative. As the reader has no doubt already discerned, that same inner battle between outrage and serenity is currently underway at this keyboard and shows little sign of abating.
It’s about turning thoughts elsewhere. Achieving even a quantum of solace, as James Bond could tell you, is no mean feat. But if you could just occupy your mind’s eye with the smile and the efficient body language that has busied itself building your favorite cocktail before you even ordered, possibly some sub-strata of tranquility would follow.
Although our smiles had met more than a few times and we had exchanged small-talk across the polished bar of the "No Name," we did not really know each other. The days when I nurtured close ties with most every barkeep in town, especially those on the night shift, have faded into the proverbial sunset.
But it was an inherent part of Jose’s psychological makeup to treat the portly gray dude who now-and-then drank a "JW Black with a splash" and had wandered the west coast of Mexico during the ’60s the same as he did those who had, over the past decade, become an integral part of his extended family.
One did not need to be familiar with Jose’s life story to recognize his value to the community — or to feel, in the aftermath, the loss of a friend. You could sense right away the sheer amount of esteem in which he was held. Competency, wry humor, and warmth just radiated from the guy. Moving on from this is going to take a while.
I can’t imagine the changes Jesse Shetler and the staffs at the No Name and Boneyard are going through over the suddenness of it all. For now, with the funeral and a fundraiser on the docket, lending their support to others will be on the front burner.
Over many years, Park City has honed its manner of bestowing proper sendoffs to its own. Practice makes perfect, I suppose. So many of value have been taken. This pall has visited us before and, if the past is any indication, its rate of dilution will not be swift. But, that being said, it will slowly lift and words will once again assume a place at the table.
In saying that, I do not mean to infer that Jose was one among many that, over time, we have lost. Rather it was to include him in the pantheon of those who became legends in the old mining camp turned chic ski destination. He belonged here. He made us better! He raised the bar, as it were!
Adios, Jose! Know that you were singular, that you touched deeply even those whom you knew only in passing, and that there were those among them who saw your subtle and unhurried ballet behind the bar as an art form. Watch over us, if you would.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.
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Beverly Hurwitz writes that Parkites should be concerned about lead poisoning given Park City’s mining heritage. We “must come together to make sure that a beatable, old enemy doesn’t hurt Park City’s next generation.”