Bona fide memories
As an outsider who had played his "I’m with the band" card in order to gain entry in the first place, it was somewhat ironic that, by the end of the evening, I found myself as part of an insider, hand-holding, bell-tolling, ritualized circle of remembrance at the Elks Lodge last Saturday night.
Following my always-quite-modest contributions to the Barfly Wranglers instrument and sound-system upload drumsticks, guitar picks, the occasional microphone cord, that sort of thing and not being in possession of any bona fide reason to remain at what was, after all, a private party, I took a deep breath and set off to see what the rest of Main Street had to offer.
There was time aplenty to kill before taking advantage of what would, more than likely, be my last chance to catch the purportedly well-out-of-the-box film version of Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina" then currently showing down at the Jim Santy Auditorium as part of the Park City Film Series.
So I burnt some daylight, and nightlight for that matter, in a few old-town haunts before moseying on down to see what liberties director Joe Wright, screenwriter Tom Stoppard, and their muse, Keira Knightley, had taken with Leo’s homage to marital infidelity as practiced by the late-19th-century Russian aristocracy.
Far from resembling earlier Wright-Knightley collaborations ("Pride and Prejudice," "Atonement"), this adaptation, from the theatrical staging to its somewhat surreal character development, was all about risk. In their reshaping of a literary masterpiece for the screen, these folks showed absolutely no fear. I guess that’s how high art is achieved!
Making it back at the Lodge Hall in time for the band’s final set of the evening and with bona fides no longer an issue, I settled comfortably into the endearing comfort zone of the Heber-dominated "mosh pit."
It would be later after all the plugs were pulled and the guitar cases snapped shut but before the download got underway that the remaining Elks gathered us all in a circle for a bit of meditation on those of their brotherhood who had passed away. It wasn’t long before my own memories of past encounters with that same hallowed space began to play out.
The third floor of the Elks Building has a long history of hosting events that are part and parcel of our folklore here in Park City. Father Pat Carley’s annual St. Patrick’s Day shindigs certainly come readily to mind. Raising our glasses and our voices in honor of Irish heritage became a rite of passage for many of our kind and also for those among us who had become Irish only for the day.
Flaunting "Kiss Me, I’m Irish" buttons and bedecked in all manners of tweed and green, we would fashion blarney out of Jameson whiskey and bellow Irish Republican slogans with nationalistic fervor. We were rebels with a cause that, although we often threatened to march on the Post Office, seldom manifested itself beyond song.
The quite-festive wake we held for Kenny Binatena also took place under that roof. Kenny, and many of the rest of us for that matter, embodied a wild streak or two. Kris Kristofferson probably captured it best: "He’s a poet, he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, he’s a pusher, he’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he’s stoned."
As an early "hot-dog" skier, they showed film that night of Kenny and John Jenkins linking turns "tip to toe" in similar fashion that they went through life. We continued to be stunned by his passing but plowed forth celebrating his life, as he would have ours. None who were there will ever forget how honored they felt being part of that communitywide salute to their friend!
A happier moment upstairs at the Elks came when it hosted a surprise birthday party to honor longtime Park City resident Carole Fontana a few years back. This bash brought friends from all over the country and packed the joint to the rafters. We partied ’til the elks came home, as it were.
It’s a bit more difficult to recall exactly what year the ASCAP Music Café began holding its daytime Sundance Film Festival concerts in the Elks Building, but a rug-and-pillow-strewn area hosting a still-quite-young Nickel Creek comes immediately to mind.
And there was that year, just before they packed up and moved up Main Street to the Plan-B venue, that they featured Rodney Crowell and Guy Clark on the same program. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of great musical ghosts floating around those parts.
Plus, as part of the Film Festival itself, all manner of celebrity folk have participated in panels and such when Sundance annually morphs the room into the Filmmaker Lodge. It’s a very welcoming space, even if you’re not bona fide.
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.