Jay Meehan: A Park City fairy tale
February 19, 2014
It’s been going on for about a week now. I’ve been jabbering! Almost incessantly! And the folks to whom I’ve been jabbering? Well, they’ve also been jabbering — incessantly.
And whatever spaces exist between the increments of what outsiders would probably consider gibberish are driven more by respiratory considerations than grammar. Except for the seemingly random gulping of air, these conversations go on non-stop, simultaneously, one upon the other.
Although we totally understand where each other is coming from, no one is actually listening. That’s because we’re too busy jabbering. It’s a condition, of course — more ecstatic than medical and showing few signs of abating anytime soon. This is mostly because our collective level of excitement far exceeds our vocabulary’s ability to express, in real time, a lucid emotional reaction to recent events.
As it’s a symbolic representation problem, we could blame the cerebral cortex, I suppose. But where would that get us? It’s just not used to adequately process unadulterated joy at this level. Like the laws of physics on the event horizon of a black hole, it just breaks down. This level of communication is obviously way beyond its pay grade.
Pinpointing the beginning of our rapture is also problematic. We could say it began way back in the day when we first met J.D. and Debbie Christensen probably at a party or gang-ski or softball or rugby game or some such community gathering and later witnessed, from afar, the birth of their sons, Charlie and Joss.
As with many within the quite-close community then nestled amid the geological anticlines that define Park City, their easy smiles were always at the ready, as were their helping hands. It just always seemed that the Christensens were a bit more approachable, warmer, if you will, than the rest of us. They took things to heart.
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I recall their reaction when we lost our close friend Kenny Binatena back in the mid ’80s and again when, out of the blue, the young Michael Shaffer passed away some 14 years ago. Just a quick glance across the room at the memorial services was all that was needed. With the Christensens, pretense was always checked at the door and emotions worn on the sleeve.
Michael had been part of a young Heber posse, which included my son Smokey, that J.D. hired to join his painting crew those, seemingly, many years ago. In many respects, J.D. gave birth to and mentored Park City’s soon-to-be-burgeoning commercial painting industry.
Most of us within the community were always aware that J.D. suffered from a lifelong congenital heart disease and that, over time, he would continue to have episodes that would occasionally keep him away from work or fishing or golfing trips with his close friends. That knowledge, however, would do nothing to soften the blow when, last August, his heart finally gave out.
J.D.’s physical exit from our midst hit us hard, taking the air out of our sails, so to speak. However, as we’ve come to understand, this natural order of things operates on a somewhat irregular sine-wave, an oscillation as it were. Losing J.D. put us at the bottom of the wave. Recent events in Sochi, Russia, however, have us riding on the crest.
A few weeks back, Smokey called to let me know that J.D. and Debbie’s youngest son Joss, had won the final slopestyle competition at PCMR, and then a few days later he sent a text alerting me to the fact that had been named to the first-ever U.S. Olympic Freeskiing Team.
The Christensens, including J.D., were taking us to the Olympics! We were totally invested! It couldn’t get any better! Or, so we thought. This sine wave still had further amplitude to unfurl.
Smokey’s next set of messages began arriving a little after midnight on the day in question. There’s this time zone thing afoot with Heber and the Black Sea, you understand. As with many friends of the Christensen family, Smokey had put sleep on hold. They would stay up all night, following the qualifying and finals on television and online.
The story of how close friends stepped-up to help Debbie make the trip to Sochi and how Joss dominated the Slopestyle event to run away with the Gold Medal and lead an American podium sweep has gone viral, of course. There isn’t a sports commentator on the planet that didn’t mention "J.D." at least a dozen times. Whoda thunkit? Fairy tales really do come true!
All I know is that, in a phone call to Kauai last night, my brother McGee and I jabbered at each other for about an hour and I couldn’t tell you what either of us said. It was quite obvious that dry eyes were in short supply, however.
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.