by C. Jeanette Tyson
had already been to the bar at Christina’s and had tucked away in the
corner where there was barely room for the chair between the stone and
the bar. There we sat talking and watching a few men, old Sun Valley, at
their cocktails. We were the women half their age but not dripping in jewels
and not their women. There was one conversation, a grey-haired man talking
haltingly about his marriage, maybe confessing, his friend telling him how
it was the greatest thing, the most comforting thing, the most honorable
thing; the first man agreeing, yes, without a doubt, but keeping his eyes to
the wood in front of him.
the men, old Sun Valley, with their cocktails and the brutal air
of those who’ve managed to gather things such as houses and cars and
women and offspring, had been watching us without discretion and
watched more openly as my friend’s new boyfriend joined us. (He is not
new to her, only to me). Big, vital and possessing of a long,
brownish-blond ponytail, he seemed half their age though he was more
than that and more than ours. The bartender knew him, so the bartender
gave me an extra splash of red wine. The waitress knew him, the waiter,
too. That is how Sun Valley, if you live there all of the time, is.
We did not stay long at Christina’s but walked a few blocks and now
stood at the entrance of the restaurant where we planned to have
dinner. My friend’s new boyfriend knew the chef and had arranged it for
us. He even stopped there earlier in the day to inquire about the menu,
to be able to tempt us with visions of scallops. The words Vintage
Restaurant were carved into a piece of wood. A sign informed us this
was the historic Burt Cross Cabin but we never talked about Burt Cross
and I still don’t know who he was.
The boyfriend stopped and so we stopped. You have to make a decision,
There are four tables outside, in this small but wonderful garden. One
of those tables is ours. But it may rain, he said. That is the risk, he
said. We could go inside instead?
There had been a few sprinkles of rain earlier. But the days before had
been hot and brilliant. The sky over Sun Valley, Idaho, is a pure,
undiluted blue, blue as the posters said it would be, when they built
the resort and ran a railway line direct from Hollywood and told all
the stars to come aboard. It was designed as a place to indulge, and in
Later in the week we would be in a lodge, farther north, and “one of
the Hemingway wives” would be at the table behind us. The new
boyfriend would have tales of the family’s excess, with alcohol, drugs
and general bad behavior. I would ask if they were trying to live up to
the myth. No, he said, that was just Sun Valley.
Let’s say somehow you find yourself living removed from some of the
accountabilities of life, as my friend did, in a place with perfect
skies and good food and honest hiking or skiing, and there it is that
your eighteen-year marriage finally falls apart.
Here’s a theory: that people come to Sun Valley to escape and instead
they’re forced to slow down, to let go of all the distractions, to get
quiet and face their demons or their wives across the breakfast table.
For some, that’s a surprise.
But that was done now. Now we had a decision to make and it was: we’ll
take our chances.
Small white lights sparkled along the fence. The new boyfriend provided
a bottle of Tower Barossa Shiraz his friends had brought back from
Australia. We ordered Spicy Cajun Oysters and Sweet Corn Rock Shrimp
Tamales. Along with the wine and the lights, and the lightning in the
near distance, it was magical. The rain began. Big drops. One of the
four tables had an umbrella and they offered to share it with us but we
declined. We wanted to last in the rain but we couldn’t and took our
wine and last bites into the foyer and waited.
It was here, nearly knee to knee, with the beating of the rain and the
loud talk from the tables inside the cabin, that I began to replace my
memories of my friend of twenty years with new images and thoughts,
with where she was now. We had talked about it all but this was
different. Here I could see that where she was happened to have some
rain falling on it, but it was perfectly comfortable and the food was
good. It wasn’t bad at all, here in paradise. She’d be ok.
The rain didn’t last long. We went back to our table and had sea
scallops with pineapple mango salsa and egg foo young on the side. The
boyfriend had a leg of lamb, seared on the broiler with grilled Spanish
ratatouille. It was all delicious.
When it got chilly and when the wine was finished, we moved into the
cabin. I was glad we hadn’t eaten inside, that is more a wintertime
coziness. We shared grilled peaches and nectarines with a crème fraise,
bread pudding and The Delights of a Naked Stranger which involved
A few days later, after all the good food, hiking, kayaking and
swimming in cold rivers, the kids and I returned home. Paradise, after
all, is a place you visit, but cannot stay.
C. Jeanette Tyson is a writer and mother of Jackson and Maddy.
Vintage Restaurant is at 231 ½ Leadville Avenue in Ketchum, Idaho.