Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Jon Jon" Stainbrook

Tim O'Reilly met up with Jon Stainbrook in Washington DC and kindly sends us a report:

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I did my best not to call him “Jon Jon” as we coordinated a meeting over the phone; I had coffee with Jon Stainbrook last Thursday.

We had corresponded via email about a year ago (thanks to the “Dirty Jack dust” originally thrown into the air by Rick Davis when he engineered this site), but we never got our respective acts together. Jon and I established that we both lived in the national capital region, but that’s sprawling. I spent the best part of last winter in Baghdad, Jon was busy, and there were a couple of subliminal factors at play.

First, there’s something Rick ran into (and myself later) when he tried to reassemble the cadre of folks that were lead and supporting actors (metaphor intended) in a magic portion of both our lives--the summer of 1976 in Jackson Wyoming. What do you say to someone who was a fond acquaintance (or friend) and who helped shape your life 30+ years ago?--especially since you waited 30+ years to contact them?

Second, how does one convey an appreciation for the impact made through relationships that are defined by depth--and not a time continuum?

I had met Jon Jon a couple of times in 1976 as a member of Dirty Jack’s Band, but hadn’t seen him since 1978 (when I returned and did a solo gig as the entertainment in the Chuck Wagon). Even then he reminded me of Toby Tyler--and all of us as part of the circus.

There was a lot unspoken. I didn’t recognize Jon--he approached me at the place we’d agreed on. He commented that he favored his mom--probably correctly assuming I was expecting a younger version of Dirty Jack. Jon bought us both coffee; before we realized, an hour had passed.

I mentioned that the whole catalyst for dusting the Jackson memories was Rick’s web site. I continued that the underlying challenge was that memories do not get clearer--keeping the Site energized was difficult at best. Jon mentioned he’d reviewed the Site and some of the things that stood out were the pictures of the 4th of July parade (’76). He talked about memories of the (Stainbrook) “white house” where Jon (Senior?) had held an ice-breaker barbeque for the cast and band when we arrived early that summer. I shared how I was hired as a guitar/banjo/vocalist and had laryngitis for the first week I was in Jackson (looking back--it was probably the altitude). He asked whether I remembered Kathy and Gretchen (yes). Jon asked about Doc (Pat) Holt and I reminded him Pat passed in the 80’s--and we both agreed that Pat had been a exceptional showman. I shared that Rick and I had had no luck finding Marco, the drummer--Jon volunteered Marco’s last name: “Marco Fleming?” He asked if I remembered John Dorish or if I had seen his work. I mentioned I’d had an email exchange with John about a year ago and seen some of his work on line. Jon said he was in contact with John and hoped to meet with him some time in New York. We talked about Jon’s grandfather and the tour business, the white-water rafting company (where I’d worked part-time in 1978), and Ben Franklin’s. We talked about the A-frame (Al’s?) down the street from the theater where we often ate breakfast. Jon asked when I was in Jackson last--(1978)--and he remarked how much it had changed. He mentioned the empty lot next to the theater where his dad would park his rig and the donkey would graze before and after the show. He mentioned the Chuck Wagon (post empty lot next to the theater)--the unique roof and the corn on the cob and baked beans. I went through some of the other band members--Jon seemed amazed (?) that Tom Dunham had been a music teacher in ‘76--did some years as a weather broadcaster--and returned to teaching music in Jackson. He seemed similarly impressed that Sean was teaching high school music in Seattle and that Rick was actively playing music in Denver.

I think we both did our best to stay away from the melancholy. Jon did share a brief glimpse of the auction of Dirty Jack’s and how it was like a yard sale--parting with chandeliers and costumes and stage lights--material pieces infused with so many memories. I asked about the (awesome) script for Paint Your Wagon. (I thought it was a collaborative effort between Jon and Kathy). He shared there wasn’t much to do in Jackson in the winter and he remembered his dad working on it. I told him we never knew how long the show would last--because if his dad started a dialogue with the front row--telling Pollock jokes--the show could go over by an hour. We agreed that his dad has a rare sense of humor; Jon shared that on good days, the nurses comment that they still see glimpses of that sense of humor every now and then. I shared that we all had a crush on Nancy--and we all thought that Scotty was the future husband. He mentioned Nancy’s beautiful singing voice; I shared that her acting impressed me most. He said he wasn’t sure about his dad’s singing voice--and I told him I would give almost anything to hear a few phrases of Jon’s rendition of “I was born under a wand’rin’ star....”

We both had to get back to work. Jon (maybe realizing a “logic hole”) asked: “How did you get to Jackson?” “I was a music student at the University of Idaho. I saw an ad on our bulletin board. I think Jon must have canvassed all the colleges in the Northwest. I put together a demo tape (a bathroom recording) and sent it in with a picture and a cover letter. I was accepted.” Young Jon just shook his head: “My dad was amazing!”

Tim O’Reilly