As has been so often noted, one of Aspen’s favorite games is subtly (well, OK, blatantly) slipping “I’m a local” references into any and every conversation.
Like rhinos battling at the waterhole — or, more aptly, dogs pissing on a fire hydrant — everyone here seems desperate to mark the town as their personal territory.
The most obvious territory marking, of course, is the standard, “Well, I’ve lived here since ...” followed by a smug little smile and whatever outrageous claim the speaker might want to make.
“Well, I’ve lived here since 1963, and I think we should make everyone carry waffles in their pockets at all times.”
(Actually, I do believe that. Pocket waffles are vital in these troubled times — but I haven’t lived here since 1963, so pay no attention to what I might think.)
Or: “I’ve lived here for 30 years and I know we need to outlaw body piercings for dishwashers and repeal the Seventeenth Amendment!”
(Not so sure about that one. I think I’ll stick with the waffles — and, while we’re at it, maple syrup. And butter. Definitely butter.)
There is, of course, the (slightly) more subtle, “All of us locals” variant.
“All of us locals know the town was better off before they paved Main Street.”
Then there’s the “used to be” form of giving directions.
“It’s across the street from where La Cocina used to be.”
Or, “It’s where Second-Hand Rose used to be.”
Or, where the bowling alley or the municipal swimming pool or the Ice Palace or the Mouse House “used to be.”
All such obscure references are accompanied by a smirk and shrug, as if to say, “Of course, you know where that is, don’t you?”
And then you walk away, mission accomplished.
OK, now ... with all that in mind, I am ready to suggest a brand new “Aspen Dating Service.”
Wait. I don’t think that came out quite right. But you know what I mean, don’t you?
And, no, I’m not going to suggest cutting off your leg and counting the rings.
No, here’s my “Brand New Aspen Longevity Index” (OK, that works. Let’s trademark it: Aspen Longevity Index™. Yes!): How many lame changes in the Aspen post-office parking lot traffic pattern have you survived?
And, for extra points: How many dents have you put in your car as a result of those lame parking schemes?
A little background (hmmm, I think that phrase counts as an Aspen Longevity Index™. I’ve been here so long I can offer you newbies “a little background”):
First, as far as I can tell, the post master runs a sort of feudal fiefdom, in which he (or she) can make up rules and post appropriate signs on a whim.
So then, if you have lived here as long as I have (Aspen Longevity Index™), you will remember when the new post office was first opened (please note, calling it the “new post office” is yet another Aspen Longevity Index™).
The original design had traffic flowing clear around the post office.
There were two entrances to the post office parking lot, a north entrance and a south entrance — both from the Clark’s Market parking lot road. Cars came into the parking lot from either of the entrances and left by driving around the back of the building and out onto Puppy Smith Street.
The entire traffic flow was one-way and reasonably smooth.
Then, not too long afterward, the Feudal Lord and (Post) Master decided that all the space at the back of the post office was required for the mail trucks and that mixing those trucks with ordinary cars was a bad idea.
That’s when the big chain went up, cutting off the rear exit from the parking lot. (Bet you wondered why that chain was there, didn’t you? Um, ... Aspen Longevity Index™!)
Suddenly, we were left with a vast confusion of entrances and exits and entrance/exits and traffic merging from two or three different directions. There were nasty confrontations and pile-ups, with people backing out into traffic, backing into each other, backing into cars stopped at the drive-by mailboxes.
A genuine mess!
And who loves to fiddle with a genuine mess more than the Postal Lord and Master?
So, as Feudal Overlords came and went, the traffic rules began switching back and forth at something approximating random.
“One-Way” and “Exit Only, Do Not Enter” signs were posted.
Fists were waved. Fenders were dented. Bumpers were crushed.
Then the signs were removed.
Pedestrians scurried like fleas at a dog fight. Fenders were bent. Sides were swiped.
Then the signs were posted again.
All very random — but all looking so very, very official.
Most recently, the signs are back.
We’re in the learning curve now. Some people obey the signs. Some ignore them. (There’s a sign they should post: Warning Dangerous Learning Curve Ahead!)
And those who have been around long enough (Aspen Longevity Index™) just give a helpless shrug. Today required. Tomorrow forbidden. Who knows what the future will bring?
But at least we now have our new Aspen Longevity Index™: “I’ve lived here since you could drive out of the post office around the back and I know we have to paint our buttocks blue if we ever want Aspen to flourish again.”
Actually, if I may make a modest proposal (and I’ve lived here since ... well, it’s none of your business, is it?): I think we should move the post office back to where it used to be (Aspen Longevity Index™).
You know, where the Wienerstube used to be (Aspen Longevity Index™).
Yes, I know, that’s where they’re building the new cutting-edge Art Museum (Aspen Arrogant Newbie Index™).
Which means that — with a little elbow grease (and dynamite) — we can solve two problems at once: traffic at the post office and a nasty blot on the downtown core.
Remember, folks: In Aspen, demolition is the soul of preservation. (Oh yeah. Let’s trade-mark that baby too. Aspen Body, Mind and Spirit Index™.)
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.