Roger Marolt: Under that Range Rover is a rusty old Willy’s Jeep
February 5, 2004
What a surprise! My wife and I witnessed two drivers fighting over a downtown parking spot the other day. Check this out: The first lady pulls up in a champagne-colored Range Rover to parallel park across the street from City Market. She tries backing into the spot once and isn’t within a mashed fender of making it.
I can hear warning sirens blaring out of the driver’s rolled-down window as the car’s rear bumper gets dangerously close to solving the problem of opening up a bear-proof trash container. I thought I even heard a polite voice with an English accent ask, “What in bloody hell are you doing?”
Anyway, she apparently decides to exact the ultimate revenge on the backseat driver. Both front doors open up and the driver and passenger trade places. Meanwhile, a little white Subaru sneaks up from behind and slides right into the space.
A woman hops out of the Subaru and starts briskly across the street toward the grocery store. The new driver of the Range Rover hops out and yells, “Hey! I say there, that’s my spot.” To which the Subaru driver turns and says, “Sorry, it looked like you were pulling out. I’ll only be a minute.”
As you can imagine, the ensuing
skirmish was uglier than a Texan reciting Tennyson in a Soho fern bar. We saw lots of finger pointing and not many pointer fingers.
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“What is this place coming to?” my wife said as we continued on. “You never used to see this kind of thing here. Why are people so uptight these days?”
“Well,” I said, “maybe it’s because folks aren’t finding what they’re looking for here anymore. Twenty years ago people came here looking for nothing more than a hall pass from the school of hard knocks.
“They wanted a clean slate, a chance to start over. Inconveniences were a pleasant reminder that they were in a place far removed from where they came from. Opportunity was fresh. From high in the Rocky Mountains, on clear, cool nights, people realized that what they were taught in the lowlands wasn’t true ” the sky wasn’t the limit. There was much more beyond that.
“Everyone thought it was a magical place. It seemed to transform the people who moved here.
“But I don’t think that the place was necessarily magic. It was the people who it attracted that possessed all the magic. They could become anyone they wanted to be here. The fact that the town was different gave everyone who lived in it a chance to be different too.
“Back then, our shopping choices included a State Teachers’ college without any students and a Flying School without any airplanes. Could you get what you wanted to buy at those places? Not really. Were you satisfied with what you got there anyway? Somehow, yes.
“Things are different now though. As this place gets more and more expensive, people’s expectations rise faster than white flags in Paris.
“I see it like this: I had an old 1948 Willy’s Jeep in High School. It cost me 200 bucks. The engine was so simple that I could fix anything on it. The gas gauge didn’t work so I had to stick the handle of a sawed-off broomstick into the gas tank to see when I needed to fill up.
The broom was doubly useful because I didn’t have a roof on the Jeep and had to sweep the seats off every time it snowed. The pre-space race aerodynamics of the vehicle created an obstinate wind vortex that forced you to wear goggles to see through the maelstrom of snow and debris swirling around in the cockpit.
“But that Jeep was beautiful. It took us everywhere we wanted to go. The thing underpromised and overdelivered every single time we fired it up, whether we were heading to the Grottos for a dive into the icy waters of the Roaring Fork or up to ski Montezuma Basin in August. It took us on more great adventures than you can imagine. Driving to school when it was 5 below zero was an expedition. And, getting to the ski mountain was almost as fun as the skiing.
“Now we’ve got our big Toyota S.U.V. It’s clean and comfortable. It’s fast. It’s super-reliable, safe and, just like my old Jeep, takes us everywhere we want to go. In a whole lot of ways it’s far superior to that old Jeep. The only thing is, it costs as much as the price of my old Jeep multiplied by the length of an old pair of giant slalom skis.
“My expectations for that new Sequoia are a whole lot more. And because of that, the occasional squeak in the dashboard irritates the hell out of me.
“And that’s what I think is happening in Aspen. Everyone expects perfection. People are paying so much more to live here than ever before, the squeaks are starting to drive them crazy. And guess what? There are always gong to be squeaks. Because underneath the shiny new Range Rover exterior, this town is really just an old Jeep.
“And that’s what I think has changed more than anything else in this town; people’s expectations. So, what do you think, honey?”
“I think we need more parking spaces.”
[Roger Marolt knows this place ain’t perfect. That’s why he’s stayed for 41 years. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org ]
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