Jay Meehan: Forging a path
September 15, 2015
I suppose the main reason I came upon the notion that "The Forge" possessed all the trappings necessary for a literary watering hole had to do with the manner in which sentence structure evolved as the nights wore on. The more "slurred" the pronouncements, it often seemed, the more profound the message.
In its early ’70s incarnation within the New Park Hotel, an habitué could enter the hallowed haunt spewing at a level of "See Dick and Jane run" and, only a few hours later, just prior to "last call," be heard spouting Eliot or Pound or, at least, Vonnegut or Mertz or Mueller or Onn or McCarthy or T. C. Lee.
More so than any other Main Street saloon, the Forge attracted a clientele who not only had spent the ’60s expanding their consciousnesses in the pharmaceutical sense, but had also used the time to stuff their heads with books. The joint reeked of blue-collared intelligentsia. Encyclopedic was what it was!
Up the street, the "Oak," to be sure, had a bit of that feel before it shut down and, of course, "Pete’s Roc N Rye" in Evanston, due mainly to its renaissance barkeep and proprietor Stan Taggart, has had it in spades for, seemingly, millennia. But the Forge, just a short stumble down Main, was much more easily accessed.
To enter was not unlike what we now envision as free-falling into the matrix of the Internet. Not that it totally resembled the futuristic "Chat" bar in William Gibson’s "Neuromancer," where tips on the latest in nerve-splicing came with your draft beer, but, to be sure, its coefficient of awareness gave it a certain cachet among the pilgrims of the day.
Many are the times I now come upon text of a highly intriguing nature that my first thought is "Damn, I wish I could stroll into the Forge with this. We’d be off and running for hours!"
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And that’s exactly why we find ourselves revisiting that special space-time in the here-and-now. I recently came upon a piece online that I’ve been coveting ever since I first heard of its existence a few years back following its publication in the 2011 Christmas issue of the New Statesman, the left-of-center British political and cultural magazine.
That issue had been guest-edited by one of my favorite writers and thinkers, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and featured his discussion with Christopher Hitchens, my favorite cantankerous intellectual humorist, in what turned out to be Hitch’s final interview.
Dawkins’ 1995 "River out of Eden," a Darwinian shot across the bow of evolutionary skeptics, created quite a stir among those with creationist notions.
And Hitchens? Well, let’s just say that he was quite prolific on all sides of most any issue. Over his far-too-short lifetime, Hitch contributed to the New Statesman, The Nation, The Atlantic, London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Slate, and Vanity Fair. You want column-inches? Hitch could round them up!
Well, there it was, the New Statesman interview finally online. Two of the most strident atheists in, excuse the term, Christendom, conversing on a variety of socio-political topics in the Christmas issue of a relatively mainstream magazine. It was just the type of topic to jumpstart the regulars at my favorite literary watering hole.
Only the fact that The Forge no longer existed in the physical plane kept me from storming into the joint and plopping a printout down on the bar. Within the metaphysics of my mind, of course, it and its rabid and thirsty habitués are still there, having just ordered another round.
I don’t mean to give the idea that all who entered The Forge were well-read and astute on a wide variety of subjects and that the banter only centered on the intellectual pursuits. I vividly recall an arm-wrestling match ending up on the sidewalk outside and proceeding uphill until finally locating its angle of repose.
But, for the most part, The Forge maintained a lofty demeanor. Not that higher art wasn’t made of the lower chakras. This was a ski-town watering hole after all, with all the inherent mischief such a designation brings to the table.
It’s just that the regulars were well versed in the literature of their times and that which had gone before. The pedantry and hubris were mostly of a healthy nature and self-deprecation in most all things proved to be a quite comfortable perch. And the graffiti? Well, it could have hung in the Louvre!
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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