Jay Meehan: Labor daze | ParkRecord.com

Jay Meehan: Labor daze

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

A fire moving north from its origin above Deer Creek dam in the upper reaches of Provo Canyon kept my Labor Day weekend, which seemingly had already gone on for months, in flux. The calendar mattered little. The physical and emotional residuals of the past few days weren’t going anywhere.

The wildfire and the attendant smoke, which had been growing exponentially in its early stages Monday evening between my perch in the Heber foothills and Mt. Timpanogos, appeared first to creep up the Sleeping Princess’s flowing hair before engulfing her head entirely.

Once the stars came out, the smoke seemed to dissipate somewhat as the glow of the fire head itself became more pronounced. I could see myself up and about throughout the night monitoring its progress as the fire kept biting off chunks of Timp’s silhouette.

The weekend began at a roadhouse up the Beaver Creek drainage along the Mirror Lake Highway. Omens as to how it would unfold, for the most part, however, kept their own council. It would be business as usual with libations and music and dancing dominating the proceedings.

It’s a joint where strings get bent, snares get rapped, doghouses get plucked, and kegs get emptied. There’s usually a jukebox, of course, or something of a more digital persuasion, and a pool table or two where balls slappin’ leather lend a collective percussion to the overall soundtrack.

From outside arrive rhythms of pickups and vans negotiating the "upload" with doors getting flung open and slammed shut in a syncopation that goes back at least as far as Lefty Frizzell. These are the musicians, some fresh from their day jobs, casually morphing into "roadies" as they hump amplifiers and instruments toward their own private Idaho.

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For the most part, spittoons have been relegated to storage. As have bartop ashtrays. For a spell now, there’s been a new day dawnin’. It’s even possible these days, without the atmospheric smoke, to check out the talent as it moseys from barstool to dance floor. Everything’s a tradeoff.

There does come the time, of course, when the fiddler must be paid. And not just the bar tab. Something also must be done to weather the impending discomfort of overindulgence, those physiological and psychological effects that always seem to lurk in the wings following a night of improvisational musical appreciation.

Which brings us to Day 2, an all-day radical concoction taking place in Sugar House Park and dedicated to the life and times of union organizer, troubadour, writer, cartoonist, and labor martyr Joe Hill. Not that we didn’t arrive early and stay late, but let’s just say that the spring may well have been totally missing from my step.

Not that kicking back in a low-rider lawn chair in front of the stage following an 800 mg ibuprofen didn’t lend itself to overcoming the inherent discomfiture of a night on the town, or, actually, a few miles outside of town.

In fact, not even the immoderation of the night previous could take away from the magic of a day that greeted us with news that the two families at the center of the 100-year-old murders that led to Joe Hill’s execution had met and, although agreeing to disagree on the specifics of the case, saw each other as victims of history.

Representatives of the Hägglund and Samuelsson families had journeyed from Sweden and had met with members of the Morrison clan and, when it was over, the air had been cleared of lingering animosity. The day itself was a celebration of Joe Hill’s life with music, some bordering on the ecstatic and hilarious, filling the air.

Sunday overwhelmed! Beginning with a celebration of life and a wake for "Packy" Lennon, one of Park City’s most beloved characters, not even the sum total of tears and laughter could shake the sense of loss. It will remain with his family, workmates, ski buddies, fellow Muckers from the local rugby side, and many friends for as long as we all live.

Packy was a flat-out treasure and now, save for memory, he is gone. Not even a joyous concert by Aloe Blacc at Deer Valley Sunday night or the festivities of Miners Day Monday have been able to lessen the sense of loss.

And the fire above Deer Creek continues to burn. So it goes! Life is a test!

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.