Meehan: O Captain! My captain!
Park Record columnist
Upon entering, I slid right up to the bar – a default move in such situations on my part and more than likely predicated on anxiety.
Seldom comfortable in crowds of strangers but at the same time unable to stay away, I arrived at the 35th anniversary celebration of the then-designated Park City Mountain Resort mostly to witness a posthumous tribute to longtime friend and mentor Loran Larsen.
Not that I didn’t expect friends to be in attendance but I knew many would be unfamiliar and, no doubt, above my social pay grade. Hence the double scotch with a splash of water.
In an instant, however, even prior to my first slug of liquid sedative, much of my unease would dissipate. Sitting at the front table amid a slew of resort and community movers-and-shakers, a glowing smile held me firmly in its crosshairs.
Nan Chalat-Noaker, editor of The Park Record and a longtime partner in cultural mischief began reeling me in. She had been pitching me to possibly fill an upcoming vacancy on the Opinion page and not much in my writing history had assured me I would be up to the task. Even now, nearly 20 years later, the jury is still out on that.
At the time, as a “Guest Contributor,” I would submit, quite sporadically, brief cultural pieces on, say, an impending live performance of the Irish-American “Trad” super-group “Solas” at the brand new Eccles Center along with career overviews associated with Ernest Hemingway’s 100th Birthday and Bob Dylan’s upcoming gig at the Delta Center with Paul Simon.
We both knew, however, that meeting a weekly deadline would be another matter entirely. Let’s just say that Nan became my shepherd and kept me, for the most part, from getting tangled-up in the barbed wire.
While attempting to recollect when I first met Nan Chalat and, soon thereafter, her beau and husband to be Tom Noaker, there is this huge wrinkle in time. Fuzziness ensues. You’ll have that. What I do remember about the era, however, is that Park City’s place on the growth curve seemed more inclusive and that I very much felt a part of it.
What isn’t fuzzy at all is the honor I have had being associated with the two of them over the years and the joie de vivre that radiates from their collective aura. Of course, it would be Nan’s impending retirement as editor of The Park Record that is driving this babble. Paraphrasing Duke Ellington here, I’m going to miss her madly.
I’m fairly certain I would have been introduced to Nan at the Main Street digs of The Newspaper, probably not long after the short-lived Park City Coalition got out of the racket.
Although they didn’t overlap production-wise, both papers pandered to the new, hipper readership that had invaded the old mining camp and, while not averse to usurping a slice of its advertising pie, had left the local demographic to the 100-and-some-year-old Park Record.
I don’t even have to close my eyes to see me rushing at deadline into The Newspaper office with a fistful of Bic-ink-blotted and wadded-up yellow legal tablet pages filled with the music ramblings of a local Salt Lake disc jockey and substance abuser of note.
Often, upon taking in the chaotic scene, editors Steve Dering and/or David Hampshire would find themselves, with eyes a-roll, somewhat good-naturedly shaking their heads. Who could blame them?
The rest of the staff, including Nan, however, would seem to get more of a kick out of the weekly intrusions of the highly undisciplined and untrained wannabe wordsmith. Anyway, It was probably nothing more than being McGee’s brother that got me in the door in the first place. Later would come the merger of The Newspaper and The Park Record and the deck would be shuffled.
So by the end of this week, the odds of finding myself rising from a chair in Nan’s office at The Park Record to strap on the virtual reality goggles she has just slid across her desk will exit the realm in which mathematics play a role.
In the category of taking burlesque to an art form, however, our clandestine skulking of Main Street after dark during the Sundance Film Festival should remain on the menu. I’m only willing to sacrifice a certain amount of ritual to aid in Nan’s break for freedom no matter how well earned.
She is slouching toward deep breath and speed bumps would be well served to stand aside. Godspeed, my Captain!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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Amy Roberts saw a fawn in pain and compassion dictated she take it home, she writes. Her reward: A $400 fine.