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Sean Beckwith: Sean-shack Redemption

The end of an era is near (or is it the end of an error?) as my stint of living with roommates for 15 years is over Oct. 1. From 2004 to 2019, I lived with 25 different people in three different states. From randos at Club Commons to former and future brother-in-laws and a plethora of friends in between, my saga — albeit extended due to Aspen’s lack of affordable housing — has been comical, occasionally contentious and, above all else, long.

Like a sitcom too lazy to come up with a serviceable storyline at the end of its run, I’m going to forgo any kind of substance and just play the hits. Below are some very true stories from my time enduring an excessive number of derelicts (no offense to some and all of the offense to others).


One’s lifestyle changes dramatically from 18 to 33. Where there were once mountains of Coors Light cans, there is now only a mere hill. Raucous birthday parties are now dinner gatherings.

Fat kid feasts featuring heaps of nachos and heartburn-inciting pizza and raviolis have made way for steak and rice, cheese boards and other more flavorful, less artery-clogging fare.

However, you occasionally get an urge to sit on your balcony and throw empty beer cans in the air for pellet gun practice; to play drinking games until one of you drives through a fence; bathe in applewood smoke before a spritz of barbecue sauce and pork fat; spear tackle a friend into a kiddie pool over a lingering fantasy football feud; take breakfast and bloodies to new heights and blurry downloads; play College Football and scream “It’s going the other way!” until the sun comes up; polish off brown liquor with each errant dart throw; or play beer pong or beer die while in a fog of cigarette and weed smoke.

That said, not too many people long for the days of Pretty Lights rattling their walls; people using your laundry table as a sex swing; that unwelcome guest/guy with the neck tattoo greeting you for morning coffee; holes in the drywall; police raiding a party of 25-year-old delinquents; auto theft; clouds of cigarette and weed smoke; angry neighbors; the smell of stale beer; and mystery liquids that make walking through your kitchen sound like somebody removing patches of Velcro.


After the party and the after party comes the reckoning. I’ve been witness to all sorts of cleaning shortcuts. Substituting lint rollers for vacuums, waiting for the messy roommate to blink as dishes pile up in the sink and using Febreeze as an all-purpose cleaner are all such examples. However, some messes require resorting to more drastic measures — like incineration.

Waking up to your roommates discovering a damp couch after an acquaintance with a notoriously loose bladder slunk off in the early morning hours is terrible for obvious piss-related reasons. The biggest of which is buying a couch on a budget usually means swapping a sofa with a known stain for one with a mystery blotch.

What’s worse is investigating a roommate because he’s actively checking furniture like it’s an NHL playoff game only to find him approaching your davenport as if it were a urinal. No matter how loud you scream, your obliterated buddy isn’t stopping that stream until you physically accost him.

Criminal activity

Speaking of physical assaults, I’ll spare you the actual fights over phantom/perceived girlfriends and go straight to the one where trying to play peacemaker was an awful decision. You know that one friend who gets a little aggro when he has been drinking? Imagine him trying to rouse his equally aggressive doppelganger from a state of blacked-out slumber. Then imagine stepping in to break it up before both culprits knock you off balance and use your body as a sled down the stairs.

Not all assaults are of the physical nature, though. There’s also ocular and aural assaults or just an assault on common decency. Working out in your own personal space is fine; I’ve done it. But “training” for a 5K by doing pushups with your feet on the coffee table while listening to Alex Clare’s ode to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer will force even the best roommate to drink your Miller Lites.

Also, while I’m on the subject of passable decorum, please don’t ever snag a pair of your roommate’s boxers because you hate laundry day. We all hate laundry day; keep your grundle in your own garments.

Alas, the days of extended bromances and suspect substances are over. Impromptu parties will now have to be self-motivated and created via texts and not by yelling upstairs.

I would say I’m torn but the empty couch greeting me after a long double will be just as satisfying as the silence-breaking crack of that pre-shower-beer beer. Sure, there are perks to having roommates — lower rent, developing/handling relationships, blunts, column fodder — but after more than a dozen years and more than two dozen roommates, I’m good.

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at sebeckwith@aspentimes.com.

John Colson: Are we simply too dumb, or too numb?

Just what is wrong with us?

And by “us,” I’m referring to the more compassionate, progressive and truly populist (not the kind practiced by demagogues and political pirates) side of our national electorate — or the Democratic party, which by default is the party that espouses some version of such values.

As I watched the fallout from the most recent Democratic presidential debate, I was struck by how firmly we seem to be locked into a forever-loop of high drama and fervent hopefulness in assessing candidates for the highest office in the land, even as we insist that the candidates be perfect in every way and able to instantly come up with plans that will solve everything once they’re elected.

Such delusional insistence is a guarantee for disappointment, as we saw with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

Obama, thanks to his intelligence, his speaking abilities and his left-leaning politics seemed to many of us to be an answer to our political prayers, though in the end he failed to live up to that promise for many reasons.

Of course, it didn’t hurt his election chances that his opponent, the late Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, seemed to lose his marbles momentarily during the race and named former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

As Palin’s vacuous mental state and ignorance about nearly everything became more and more clear, the electorate went with Obama despite the racist rumblings from Republicans and the extreme right wing of our benighted country.

The resulting outburst of racist rants and acts are by now legendary, and perhaps none were more blatant and outrageous than the 2010 incident on the steps of the U.S. Capitol when a rabid Tea Party protester spat on U.S. Congressman John Lewis as he walked past an angry mob gathered to protest the proposed Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislation that was poised for adoption at that point.

Anyway, back to our delusional demands of perfection on the part of our candidates.

Throughout the aftermath of the latest Democratic debate, commentators, one after another, lamented that not one candidate had risen above the rest and “won” the debate, as if it were a competitive exercise on a reality television show.

That comparison, naturally, leads to consideration of our current president, whose popularity (if it can be called by such a moniker) stems largely from his work as a reality TV host on the show “The Apprentice.”

On that show (which I never watched on purpose, though I often caught broadcast clips of his performances of his more outrageous pronouncements), Donald Trump learned a lot of things, but mostly he realized that outrageous acts and language were not only perfectly acceptable, they were outright demanded by his viewing audience.

Once he seized on the idea of running for president, Trump naturally put his TV triumphs at the top of his strategy, presuming that what worked for “The Apprentice” would work just as well in the election campaign.

He was proven correct, of course, as the most racist, xenophobic, misogynist segment of our electorate responded wholeheartedly and loudly, probably in as much of a reaction against the Obama presidency as a validation of anything Trump might say or do.

And that is the standard by which we now, apparently, judge all candidates. If someone running for office cannot titillate us with his or her words and persona, too many of us deem them somehow a failure, or at least not worthy of trust and support — at least, not until they do come up with some leftist version of Trump’s nasty, intolerant and basically anti-human rhetoric.

The national media, unfortunately, seem to validate this kind of thinking, as they rush from one political scoop to the next and search pantingly for the same kind of vitriol and condemnation as Trump has given us.

This is a betrayal of our basic duty as voting citizens, which is to carefully examine the candidates, their proposals and philosophy on our way to deciding which of them should get our vote.

Part of the problem, of course, is the fact that our educational system has been grindingly diminished by years of government neglect, most determinedly by Republican politicians who understand that a smarter electorate would spell doom for the party, which is unabashedly in favor of destroying government and privatizing our education system.

The outcome, if not the intent, has been to reduce our schools to the level of factories cranking out docile and compliant workers rather than thoughtful, rational citizens with all the tools needed to properly exercise the electoral franchise. Not all schools have fallen prey to this systematic degradation (our schools in the valley, for instance, seem to still be pretty good).

But too many have gone down the rathole, nationally speaking, and this dumbing down of America has given us today’s political reality, under which the populace seeks emotional gratification rather than education, spectacle instead of substance, and easily digested soundbites rather than well-considered explanations of the complex and difficult questions we face as a nation.

Overcoming these obstacles is not easy, but it’s necessary, if we are to pull ourselves out of the awful tailspin that has this country in its grip.

Or are we simply too dumb, or too numb, to cope with all this?

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.

She Said, He Said: Bartender spouse’s biggest worry is threat of infidelity always on menu

Dear Lori and Jeff,

My husband is a professional bartender at a nice restaurant, makes a good living and, for the most part, really enjoys his job. Several weeks ago I went to pick him up at the restaurant but had to sit at the bar for a while, waiting for him to finish his shift. I noticed one of the cocktail servers being overtly flirtatious with him. She didn’t know I was his wife but she certainly knows he’s married. I don’t think my husband would stray but she’s young and very attractive and seems to be presenting him with an opportunity that leaves me a bit worried. Should I start a discussion about this with my husband or should I let it go, trusting that he’ll do the right thing?


Worried Wife

Dear WW,

Lori: While trust is paramount to the health of a relationship, so is not being naïve. The bar industry is built on charisma, charm and alcohol, so being passive on the sidelines of this one will only bring you worry at best and heartbreak at worst. Look, I’m not saying that every relationship in the booze slinging industry is doomed, but there are a few factors in your question that raise concern. First is your reluctance to have an honest conversation with your partner: “Hey babe, I noticed the hot cocktail waitress trying to get up on your bottle service. Are we OK? Is there anything you need from me?” Yes, as an adult in a relationship you need to have this conversation, but in an “I care about you and us” manner rather than a “you’d better not” accusatory way. What’s been the hesitation? Are you tiptoeing around other important topics too? Second, potential for straying often starts with problems in the relationship. If you’re seeing opportunity, it may be because part of you has already been noticing issues. Have you gotten into a routine? Has the business of life led you to neglect the emotional or intimate bond with him? If so, consider tying on a little apron and bringing his waitress fantasy into your relationship. (And for all my feminist friends out there, yes, I would tell the same thing to a man if the genders were reversed.)

Jeff: What you do depends on your assessment of the vibrancy of your marriage. If things are good, the connection is strong and the level of interest in each other is high, then up the game by playing into the situation. It’s a bit like claiming what’s yours and letting it be known that you aren’t going to allow someone else to move in on your territory. The attention your husband is getting from this shiny new thing is surely piquing his interest but criticizing him for having his ego stroked will only create resentment.

If you and your husband are in a rut and it feels like he may be losing interest in you (or you in him), consider the advice of relationship guru Esther Perel. She talks about the “shadow of the third,” which is the potential reality that our partners might be interested in someone else. We’re encouraged to figuratively invite the shadow into our relationships by acknowledging that our bonds are not immune to external forces. We never want our partners to be unfaithful, but knowing the possibility exists can rejuvenate our sexual interest and keep them from straying. When asked if there were any secrets to long-lasting relationships, philosopher Alain de Botton replied, “Infidelity. Not the act itself, but the threat of it. An injection of jealousy is the only thing capable of rescuing a relationship ruined by habit.”

Lori and Jeff: Take a moment to see your husband through her eyes. See how handsome, strong, talented, warm and funny he is. Remember that everyday marriage is a choice, and if you value him and the relationship, show him by giving him the same level of attention he may be getting at work.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.

Paul Andersen: Hiking the “real world” of wilderness

You can still find places with no human impacts … hidden places, rare and sacred havens, trail-less enclaves of remote wilderness, settings of beauty, grandeur and primeval purity, places of salvation that exist in our very backyards.

Where else can one find an antidote to the constant demands of electronic devices? Devices that not only prompt a connection, but also prompt responses with canned language and pre-processed words. Devices that make us automatons who no longer need to think about how or what we communicate.

The future of these wildernesses is imperiled by these very same electronic devices. How many of our future generations will want to preserve a personal connection with pure nature when they are addicted to the pacifying comfort of a device in their pocket? Happiness is a warm iPhone.

These wild places have no designated trailheads, no signs marking boundaries or routes. They are vague jumping off spots where elk, deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goats have beaten in faint depressions in the forest duff, the highland grasses, the alpine tundra. Here you discover that your trail eyes can be tuned to hoof prints and scat, your senses keened to the ways of wild animals.

When the trail braids across a wetlands bog, you make your best guess and go with it. You may find yourself scrambling through a maze of downed timber. And if it’s wet, the going is slow and laborious. Legs get scratched and nicked. A sense of humor is necessary, plus a good measure of humility.

Go high enough and eventually you break out into open tundra where timberline is marked by the interface of the Krummholz ecosystem, the visible boundary of stunted trees between the sub-alpine and alpine life zones where trees stop growing and the tundra begins. Here the wandering is easier, unless a storm is brewing and lightning and thunder issue crackling, rumbling warnings.

Eventually, you come upon a hidden lake, a serene reflecting mirror that shimmers in a breeze and shines in the sun. Here, the limpid water reveals cutthroat trout lazily swimming the shore, looking for the right fly, which you happen to have in your kit. With fry pan and butter — no seasonings necessary — you savor their succulent pink meat that has the flavor of lobster from feeding on a diet of high mountain lake shrimp.

My son, Tait and I, had such an experience last week where we followed faint game trails — or no trails at all. We spent nights in lake-filled cirques with no signs of human activity. No trails. No fire rings. Only jets roaring overhead.

In one deserted basin, storms pounded our tents with rain and hail. The next morning dawned blue sky and cool. Hiking out, we watched a herd of 15 mountain goats scamper up an impossible couloir while we climbed our own vertical ridge on a series of narrow ledges.

The hiking was breath-taking, not only in stark vistas, but in thin air over 12,000 feet. We filled our bottles with headache-cold spring water rushing from snow-crested boulder fields, tasting the snow from last winter.

At one timberline camp, tucked into my warm down bag and wakened in the dark of night, I unzipped the bag and the tent fly and stood out in the cool of night. My consolation for a midnight pee was a star-filled sky with the Milky Way arching overhead in a cloud of cosmic dust. I stared up and was both lost and found in the vastness of our home galaxy.

At one camp, Tait ventured off to find an overhang under which to weather the next onslaught of storms. I wandered off in another direction toward the sound of rushing water from a nearby waterfall gushing off granite slabs planed smooth by a glacier.

I perched on a boulder between stunted Krummholz trees and took in a magnificent landscape of vertical escarpments and noisy creeks, just me and the Great Mystery, a transcendent experience that is so beautiful when one steps away from the demands of devices, away from the news cycle, away from manmade stressors into the “real world” of wilderness — man’s original home.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at andersen@rof.net.

Tony Vagneur: September always gives us something to remember

Overnight, it seems, fall slipped in the back door just as we were getting used to summer. If you listen to the old-timers, everything is running about a month late this year, and maybe that’s true. The leaves are taking their time changing colors and to be honest, there’s nothing we can do about any of it, anyway, except enjoy it.

By the way, I’m not sure who the old-timers are anymore; most of them have moved on to greener pastures, a notable exception being Jim Markalunas who actually writes stuff down so you can take his word for most of what he says, particularly in reference to the weather.

The other guy who writes stuff down is the man who will never let me mention his name, but who claims to have more runs down Summit (my favorite ski run) than anyone else. You can’t argue with him, because he writes that stuff down every day when he gets off the mountain. Besides that, he used to play golf with Charles Schultz, something I never did. Maybe it was the Peanuts.

Speaking of Summit, isn’t that the ski season hovering just over the horizon? It keeps coming up in conversation and these nippy mornings with a dusting of snow on the peaks gives credence to the possibility. Pandora’s expansion seems to have hit a snag so that’s not something we can look forward to in the near future.

An opinion on that one escapes me, although I will say that Bob Snyder and I have probably put more tracks in there the past few years than most folks in recent history. Not sure how I feel about sharing it on the big board, but smiles are what it’s all about.

Before we get back to winter, we have to survive fall, which is, if nothing else, my favorite season of the year. If the months came in color, September would be gold, not only for the vibrant colors that blast forth, but a lot of good things have happened to me in September.

My birthday is Sept. 27. My little brother Steve was born on the same day of the month, as was good friend Mary Eshbaugh Hayes. There’s a clique for you right there. My dad was born Sept. 29. My first wife, Caroline, and I were married Sept. 7. There’s a group of us who grew up in Aspen whose birthdays are all in September. We usually have dinner or lunch together each year to celebrate.

That’s the most of the historical good news, date-wise. My dad died Sept. 7, and the divorce from my first wife became final Sept. 7 of the same year. My dad and brother both are dead. September is gold and bittersweet. Yes, I guess you could say bittersweet.

My grandson just started kindergarten this fall and it brings back memories of my own beginnings at the Red Brick school. However, when I was 5, there was no official kindergarten and I clearly remember driving by Florence Prechtal’s house at the northwest corner of Bleeker and Monarch, and noticing the young kids inside, lined up on either side of a long table, sitting in those same little yellow chairs we had at the Community Church Sunday school.

At my insistence, my mother had to explain that was the kindergarten class in session, a private enterprise separate from the school district and one that we couldn’t afford. That was a disappointment I’ve never been able to banish from my memory.

No matter how much school might have disinterested you, September and the start of school was always exciting, at least for me. New kids, where had they been hiding all summer, suddenly showed up on the first day and friends were made. It seems like it all happened so fast.

Recess baseball teams were soon established, or else we just played “work up,” meaning as one person was struck or thrown out, he was banished to left field and everyone else moved up one position. We never had enough kids to make it complicated.

Say what you want, there’s just a special feel to September, an ambiance that makes one’s heart a little bigger, our eyes a little sharper, and one’s mood a little better. Most days, anyway.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.

Roger Marolt: Whining at any cost

I have been nominated for “best whiner” in The Aspen Times’ annual “Best of Aspen & Snowmass” contest. The 10 finalists have been whittled down in a primary election of malcontents that theoretically included everyone in town. If 40,000 votes were cast, as claimed for last year’s contest, it’s like I’ve beaten 4,000-to-1 odds to get here. I don’t know if that is resume-worthy, but it is an achievement. I can’t decide if I would be proud to win. Why not? They aren’t exactly handing out trophies to everyone my age just for showing up.

I don’t actually know what they mean by “best whiner.” Are they looking for quantity or quality, force of delivery or creativity? I may be good at this, but it’s not through extensive practice. I’ve never even had a Facebook account.

If I come to my senses and figure out that this might be a booby prize, I won’t immediately protest the nomination by arguing mistaken identity. It would be prudent to first explore what the prize is. If it is only bragging rights, the decision will be tough. If, on the the other hand, there is a gift card, then I might put some effort into campaigning. Even if the card comes with all kinds of restrictions or is for an insultingly low amount, at least I will have something else to moan about.

I don’t want to get my hopes up, because I think I am at a disadvantage. I am a writer. This could sound like whining, because it well might be, but how would you know? And that is my point. A whine is a “long, high-pitched cry usually expressive of distress or pain.” You can’t hear a writer, so how do you know if I’m whining or just going through the motions? It’s the silencing of the lambaster. I’m not saying that I am not sitting here yowling like a teething baby in a wet diaper, but there is no way for you to know this except, perhaps, if you live in my cul de sac.

When I first started this job, I figured out quickly that direct routes to monetary success are nonexistent. With accumulation of wealth out of the question, I decided to shoot for longevity. The obvious reward in this being that, when you die, people temporarily overwhelmed with their own graveside sense of mortality might say nice things to your next of kin like, “I read his column every week. I am really going to miss them.” Even though these would be lies, what is said in a cemetery stays in the cemetery, at least temporarily. My thinking is that, filled with guilt after fibbing like this, they might go buy one of my books on Amazon before remembering what I was really like.

With stamina in mind, I knew the avenues to success could be accessed by several literary on-ramps. A columnist can give advice, gossip, talk about history, be funny, cover sports, dissect politics, analyze business, whine, or thoroughly research complex topics of great importance in order to enlighten and inform a broad readership with hopes of making the world a better place.

I chose whining. OK, yeah, I occasionally touch on baseball, but my go-to is stuffing the complaint box. I wouldn’t say that I gravitated to this because it is easy. It’s not. Try pissing and moaning on a beautiful spring day ripe for a mountain bike ride. I have come to accept that I am gifted.

Think about it: I whine about new hotels, base villages, traffic jams, trail grooming, weather forecasts, the housing shortage, health insurance, lousy local airline service, Vail, the length of City Council meetings, the eviction of Paradise Bakery, RFTA’s dinosaur mascot, farts, Trump, dog poop, golf, a twice-canceled drone show as a proxy for fireworks, Snowmass, Lo Semple’s hair, the price of gas, April (the month), RVs on Independence Pass, “Uncrowded by Design,” the exaggeration of X Games crowds, 5K fun runs, potholes, skiing backwards, Highlands’ measuring stick, relaxing because it’s Aspen, smoked goat cheese, USPS letter mutilation, the way tourists carry their skis and even shirtless hot yoga (for men). I could go on.

In closing, I want your endorsement. A vote for me is a vote for unfiltered griping. As long as there is coffee, I will be complaining. I will be your bitcher. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, because that’s what mud-slinging is all about. I hope the other finalists for this award realize their bellyaching is mild gas by comparison and direct their supporters my way. I intend to whine at all costs.

If Roger Marolt wins this contest, he will donate $1,000 to Aspen Education Foundation (AEF) to be used for bullying awareness, because bullies oftentimes don’t realize they are bullies. He encourages you to vote, make a donation to AEF for this cause, or both. He hopes no child is ever nominated for “best whiner” in a school popularity contest. We adults can set better examples. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.

Aspen Princess: Sometimes a little self-reflection is good for the soul

It has taken me most of life to stop trying to be something I’m not and to accept myself for who I truly am.

The one thing, the only thing that has always come naturally to me is writing. That’s always been true — until recently.

In the past few months I’ve received some negative feedback, passed along to me from my editor. It’s rare that someone will actually tell me to my face when they dislike my writing. It happens occasionally, and when it does, I have always taken it in stride, as part of the job. I always thank the person for taking the time to read my column and sit down and write me an email. That’s success in my book.

I’ll admit that this time, I’m not taking the constructive criticism so well. It’s starting to block the channel I’ve always turned to when I sit down to write. My head is filled with static, interference and fear.

“Maybe I’m too happy to be an artist,” I told a concerned friend on the phone yesterday.

“If you’re going to go out, you better do it in a ball of flames,” he said, and made some Game of Thrones reference that totally went over my head.

Some of the feedback that’s been passed along is “Why does she write a column about Aspen when she lives in Basalt?” and “What is the point of this column? All she does is write about ME, ME, ME.”

Here is what I am not.

I am not a socialite who never misses an annual Aspen event or whose name is on the guest list of every cool party. I don’t maintain a social calendar or coordinate the perfect outfit or pose for photos that will run in the back pages of the local glossy magazines. These days, when I’m invited to something, I’m almost amused that people think I live in a world where consuming alcohol or staying up past 10 is even an option. They don’t understand that the rhythm of my life means we are all happily settled on the couch in front of the TV in one big cuddle puddle by 8 p.m.: me, toddler, husband and the pugs I’m not supposed to write about. And that is how I like it.

I am not a hardcore athlete who manages to organize her life in such a way that she has time to devote to raising her heart rate above 140 for several hours at a time. Women who do this with young children mystify me. I get self-care, I understand the need to continue to be who you are after you have kids, and how important it is to take care of yourself. My own mantra since Levi was born has been, “Happy healthy mommy, happy healthy baby.” It’s how I abstain from nibbling on the kid snacks I happen to love, how I manage to pull off a liquid cleanse in the midst of preparing hearty meals for my family and how I justify the cost of my own grooming, which isn’t cheap. But I will never rise to the standards set by Aspenites who always want to go farther, longer, faster and lighter. They are a different species to me. They are beautiful, exotic creatures and I revere them, but I will never be one of them.

I am not a hardcore ski/snowboard bum who feels compelled to count how many days I hit the mountain each year (I get it that the app keeps track for you these days). I don’t approach my recreation with such alacrity that it’s almost a full-time job, a requirement, or an obligation. You will never see me in the Ajax gondola line on a powder day or at Bonnie’s eating pancakes with the cool girls who skin up before the lifts start running, before the sun has risen over the ridgeline in what I imagine is a cold, dark, early-morning sky. I’ll roll up to Highlands after noon when parking is free, and I might get lucky on a rope drop in the Bowl where fresh tracks can be found anytime, anywhere, at the whim of the ski patroller who is there to let it happen. It is possible to catch those sweet, pristine turns quite often, especially in the late afternoon on a storm day when the powder hounds are long gone.

I suppose I am not technically an Aspenite because I have lived in Basalt for seven years now and I love it here. I have never understood the “us versus them” mentality sometimes exhibited by people who are either too proud to go past the roundabout or who think Carbondale is some kind of Chosen Land. I have always believed we are a valley-wide community. Who hasn’t been to Mountain Fair?

And while I am a princess in the sense that I have been born into privilege (relatively speaking; my dad, a humble psychiatrist, probably earned less than 1% of a billion dollars in his lifetime), that I have been coddled and sheltered by my parents most my life and have rarely been denied something that I really want, I am just a regular mountain mamma who rarely wears makeup and is happier in flip flops and one of those dresses with a built-in bra.

What I am is someone who is not afraid to share small, honest insights into everyday life that are relatable. I am someone who can articulate what you sometimes find yourself thinking but have not had the courage or occasion to say out loud. I am someone who tries to capture some tiny observation about this beautiful mountain life we all have in common in a way that brings a smile to your face, a chuckle to your lips, or a tear to your eye.

That’s what’s sustained me for the past 17 years. I hope it’s good enough for you.

The Princess loves you. Email your thoughts to alisonmargo@gmail.com.

Meredith C. Carroll: Donald Trump’s unforgivable 9/11 sin

The old adage about forgetting what people say but not how they make you feel usually holds true, except maybe in the case of Sept. 11, 2001. If you’re old (or young) enough to remember the tidal wave of explicit panic, hopelessness, helplessness and anguish from 18 years ago today, chances are strong that also seared in your memory is the valor, goodness and light that sprouted up from the flames, debris, cracks, interminable holes and splintered hearts.

It’s not as if any one event or date on the calendar — Sept. 11 or otherwise — magically guarantees an articulate, warm or inspiring version of President Donald Trump. Still, someone may have told him that summoning “the leaders of a rugged militant organization deemed terrorists by the United States (to) be hosted in the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that led to the Afghan war,” according to The New York Times, would not rank among this brightest moves.

But that’s not all. After news broke Saturday that the Camp David meeting fell through with the group that harbored 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, the next evening Trump, while apparently watching an MSNBC special on criminal justice reform, began rage tweeting at Oscar winner John Legend and model Chrissy Teigen for generally failing to acknowledge his signature on a related piece of legislation. He followed that up Monday by announcing the Bahamian survivors of Hurricane Dorian attempting to escape the devastation to the United States would need to be carefully vetted, warning of the “very bad people” among them.

“Everyone needs totally proper documentation,” he told reporters, since “the Bahamas has some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”

(Thankfully that shouldn’t be a problem, because if there’s one thing people in life-or-death hurricanes do before seeking any port in a deadly storm, it’s ensure they have the official paperwork that declares them not rapists and drug dealers — or, you know, Mexicans.)

Then yesterday, while lay leaders, politicians and news organizations began their annual solemn look back on the tales of tragedy, heroism and bravery from Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, Trump started off the morning by firing a shot at the media via Twitter:

“One of the greatest and most powerful weapons used by the Fake and Corrupt News Media is the phony Polling Information they put out. Many of these polls are fixed, or worked in such a way that a certain candidate will look good or bad. Internal polling looks great, the best ever!”

The gratifying news is that whatever Trump says or does today will be forgotten almost as soon as he says and does it (please, God). His rampant narcissism and serial insensitivity while flashing his spurious smile and tasteless thumbs up as he keeps a vapid distance between himself and, say, some first responders, 9/11 widows and widowers, and the children who never got to know their parents who perished on this date — will fortunately be lost to more profound moments of reflection and remembrance.

The 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks may not smart as acutely as in the hours, days and weeks that immediately followed. Enough time has passed that there are those who even remember the day more for the mercy and humanity that it spurred, rather than the actual death and destruction it caused. Either way, we can count on a new Trump tantrum, tirade or other tomfoolery to inevitably move the focus from his disrespect for the solemnity of this occasion to his mishandling of yet another one (copy and paste, ad infinitum).

But while what Trump says and did over the past few days will ultimately be disregarded, including firing the national security adviser on the day before the anniversary of the least secure day in American history, the culmination of what he’s done, including the monumentally sickening emotions he evoked by inviting the Taliban to Camp David, which the New York Times calls the “crown jewel of the American presidency,” will be harder to shake. What happened 18 years ago can’t be changed, but what’s happening now can be — on Nov. 3, 2020.

Follow Meredith Carroll on Twitter @MCCarroll. More at MeredithCarroll.com.

Giving Thought: Foundations play key role in disaster response

Many of us have been following the impacts of Hurricane Dorian as it scoured the Bahamas and made its way up the East Coast. When a natural disaster like Dorian strikes, charitable organizations are often the first to respond, gathering funds, supplies and volunteers to help the affected communities. These organizations are the ones you see providing medical aid, food and shelter, supplies and cleaning up. Think American Red Cross or Mercy Corps.

While typically not in the business of providing boots-on-the ground relief, foundations often play an essential role in responding to disasters. There’s even a term for it: “disaster philanthropy.”

Foundations can create specific disaster recovery funds to focus on medium- and long-term recovery with the understanding that individuals and communities will need the support of private philanthropy for months or years as they navigate the road to recovery.

In addition to funding, foundations can offer support in other ways by leveraging their relationships and expertise to help organizations and civic leaders respond to all stages of a disaster. Effective disaster philanthropy not only addresses the immediate relief and short-term recovery of impacted communities but also pays attention to long-term needs such as planning, preparedness and mitigation.

Part of the work — often the first step — of effective disaster philanthropy is to educate, to be a source of information for donors wanting to give in response to a disaster. Foundations are well-positioned to use their knowledge and relationships to share which organizations are responding and in what way. These resources are invaluable to donors as they determine what to do with their disaster-giving.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) is the go-to resource for foundations seeking to support communities affected by disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes and earthquakes. CDP was conceived by several funders in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. These funders wanted to make disaster-related contributions more effective and strategic including knowing when and how to respond.

The CDP created the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook, a compilation of philanthropic strategies, promising practices and lessons learned to help communities be better prepared when a disaster strikes. In particular, it is aimed at helping philanthropic organizations and individual donors be more strategic with their investments and recognize the importance of supporting long-term recovery for vulnerable populations.

The Playbook provides a framework for effective disaster philanthropy. This framework includes four key focus areas for funding and support. They are:

Response: Addressing the immediate needs of individuals and families, particularly those who are low-income, whose lives are seriously affected by the disaster.

Recovery: Providing continued health and social services for survivors, helping first responders to replenish depleted supplies and equipment, and supporting environmental restoration efforts.

Mitigation: Supporting efforts to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impacts of natural disasters.

Preparedness: Creating networks of government, emergency management officials, local first responders and nonprofits to effectively and efficiently respond to future disasters; raising community awareness and communicating vital information about disaster preparedness and planning.

Since Hurricane Katrina through this most recent devastation left by Dorian, Aspen Community Foundation has played a role in educating donors and funneling philanthropic dollars to impacted communities. And, with the Lake Christine Fire, we gained important insights into handling disaster philanthropy in your own backyard, including that planning and preparedness lay the groundwork for effective response.

Donors are quick to respond to disasters and generous in their support of relief efforts. As a foundation, we know that helping communities recover is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to discern long-term needs. Philanthropy must be patient and flexible, willing to stay invested in communities long after the spotlight has turned away.

Tamara Tormohlen is the executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Judson Haims: It’s never too early to start preparing for flu season

September is the time of year to drive over the passes and throughout the mountains to check out the changing of the foliage. Fall is one of the most beautiful and colorful times within the Rockies.

As our weather cools off, many people are outside getting in their last hurrahs cycling, running, playing in the rivers and golfing. This weekend while in Edwards having a late breakfast with my wife, I couldn’t help but notice the table of cyclists sitting next to us warming up with their hands cupped around mugs of hot cider and hot coco. Just a week ago, I would have expected to see people reaching for cold glasses of water.

Winter is around the corner and with its onset comes flu season.

First and foremost, the No. 1 thing we can do to protect ourselves from a cold or flu is to wash our hands thoroughly and frequently. Unfortunately, viruses can linger on surfaces for as long as 48 hours. That means when you grabbed a shopping cart at the market, a pen at the bank or place of business to sign your credit card receipt, or got change from a purchase you just bought, a virus could be waiting to infect you. Using a hand sanitizer lotion and being diligent about washing your hands is your first line of defense.

Option other than the flu shot

While the flu shot has been proven to help fend off the flu, many people are not sold on its efficacy and safety. For these people, there are options available that can aid in reducing the chances of catching the flu.

Many years ago, my doctor suggested to me and my family to start taking elderberry prior to flu season as a natural way to fend off the flu. Elderberry has been known to supply the body with antioxidants that assist in fortifying the immune system. Elderberry can be found in teas, extract, syrup and even gummies for children.

Another antioxidant found to be helpful in flu prevention is an antioxidant called N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). Many studies have shown that it inhibits the replication of the flu virus.

Probiotics also have shown to be beneficial in fighting the flu. There is quite a bit of evidence suggesting that good bacteria provided in quality probiotics can aid the body’s immune function and can have a preventive effect for both the cold and flu viruses.

Our gut is integral to our overall well-being. Our gut determines more about our health and emotional/mental well-being than you’d imagine. If the bacteria within your gut is not healthy, you will not be as healthy as you could be and you will leave yourself open to a greater risk of health concerns.

If you are contemplating trying a natural product, please make sure you buy a quality one. Just because a product contains elderberry, NAC or probiotics, potency and purity can vary dramatically. At the back of Carl’s Pharmacy is well-stocked vitamin section. The staff there can help direct you to a number of quality products.

Tips to prepare for flu season

• Don’t let yourself get run down and sleep deprived. Research has proven that proper sleep is integral to helping the body’s immune system battle all kinds of invading infections.

• Try using a humidifier. As the weather turns cold and dry, the tiny hairs inside your nose (cilia) become less effective at protecting foreign pathogens from entering your nasal cavities and possibly triggering an illness.

• High doses of vitamin C. Experts have found that high doses of vitamin C can be effective in preventing and treating the common cold and flu (talk to a medical profession for dosing suggestions).

While supplements have the potential to help keep our body and immune system healthy, it is important to make sure you get the right ones to properly help you prevent illness. If you have questions, please reach out to your medical provider or pharmacist.

Seasonal and H1N1 flu

Over the past few years, seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses have made big headlines. Different strains seem to have become resistant to vaccinations and thus our ability to more thoroughly protect ourselves has become more difficult.

While it is a good idea for everyone to get the flu shot, if you are older than 65 and have a chronic disease, you are more likely to have problems from the flu. Recently, new high-dose vaccinations have come to market that are designed to specifically assist older adults whose immune defenses have become weaker. Data from clinical trials indicate that these new high-dose vaccines assist in promoting stronger antibody levels.

Complications of the flu in seniors may include pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, including lung conditions such as asthma and emphysema and heart disease.

In addition to getting the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine, it is recommended that you consider the following steps to help protect your health:

• Wash your hands frequently.

• Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. (Don’t sneeze into your hands. You may infect everything your touch).

• If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone — unless you need to get medical care.

• Keep your home stocked with a supply supplements, alcohol-based hand rubbing solution and tissues.

By practicing good health habits, you can help yourself from getting sick from the flu this winter.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for the elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.