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Glenn K. Beaton: In an age of terror, what is the responsibility of Islam?

I remember September 11, 2001. Terrorists hijacked civilian airlines and flew them into the two World Trade towers and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field after the hijacked passengers heroically overcame their captors.

Late in the day, our phone rang. It was a friend informing us that four of the passengers on the plane flown into the Pentagon were a couple with whom we were friends and their two young daughters.

At that point, I sat on the stairs, buried my head in my hands, and wept — for my friends and for the other 2,992 dead.

So much has happened since. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Boston Marathon massacre. Videos showing men beheaded and women burned alive in cages. Terror in Paris, again and again. It’s horrific savagery committed in the name of Islam.

So are all Muslims terrorists? No.

There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims in the world — about a quarter of the world population. Even if a million are terrorists (and I’m certain the real number is far fewer), that’s less than one-tenth of 1%.

So is it fair to blame 9/11 on all Muslims? No.

The vast majority of Muslims had nothing whatever to do with 9/11, and were as appalled by it as I was. In fact, a large percentage of today’s Muslims had not even been born on 9/11. Blaming today’s Muslims for 9/11 is like blaming today’s Germans for the Holocaust.

I posted my sentiments about this on Facebook a few weeks ago, and received over 800 comments. Many people disagreed with me. A few expressed raw bigotry, and I was forced to unfriend them. But many others were worth considering.

One point they made is that a disproportionate number of modern terror attacks are by Muslims acting in the name of Islam. That’s true. But it doesn’t take a logician to recognize that this point alone doesn’t go far toward indicting Islam. It’s like saying that because nearly all acts of terror are committed by men, nearly all men are terrorists.

Another point made by some is that Islam as a religion advocates violence against non-believers whom it calls “infidels.” That’s also true. The Quran does urge violence against infidels. But so does the Old Testament, which urges violence by Hebrews against non-Hebrews.

Implicitly acknowledging that there’s been violence in Judaism and Christianity, some of those commenters observed that they have largely put their violence behind them while Islam seems not to have.

Well, yes and no. The fact that well over 99.9% of Muslims are peaceful people suggests that Islam, too, has largely put its violence behind it.

Furthermore, violence and even terrorism are not exactly extinct in Christianity — witness the violent terrorism against civilians in Northern Ireland within my lifetime between two sects of Christianity.

And in India, it’s Muslims who are typically the victims of religious violence, perpetrated mainly by the majority Hindus.

All that said, the data does suggest that today’s backward Muslim countries tend to be more violent. But I submit that the reason is that they are backward, not that they are Muslim. When Christian Europe was a backward society in the Middle Ages conducting pogroms against the Jews, the Muslims in the Middle East were leaders in mathematics.

Here’s the strongest point offered in response to my Facebook post. Peaceful Muslims are often reticent in condemning violence and extremists who engage in it. Many Muslim organizations did condemn 9/11 and other terrorism, and for that they deserve credit. But too often, they fall silent or issue an equivocal criticism.

For example, a newly elected Muslim congresswoman whom America rescued from violence and starvation in Somalia, and who seems to think that the problem in Washington is that too many legislators owe “allegiance” to the Jews, recently referenced 9/11. The words she chose were “some people did something.”

That offends me. What happened on 9/11 was not just that “some people did something.”

What happened was that psychopathic Muslims in a perversion of their religion murdered thousands of innocent men, women and children in the bloodiest attack on American soil since the Civil War.

Still, I won’t blame all Muslims for that attack or for one congresswoman’s stupid remark about it. I firmly believe that to do so would dishonor my decent friends who died that day.

That leaves me with the question posed at the outset. What is the responsibility of that congresswoman and other Muslims in today’s world of terror?

It’s this: They need to step up. They need to man up. They need to Allah up. The many decent and devout ones need to distance themselves from — nay, they need to condemn, ostracize and, if necessary, destroy — the few psychopaths.

In short, the responsibility of Muslims is the same as the responsibility of Jews, Christians and all other people of faith and civilized secularists. In the battle against violent bigotry, there’s no middle ground. You’re either with us or against us.

Be with us. Be our brothers and sisters in our battle for humanity. We want you.

If that’s not reason enough to be with us, then be with us just to be on the winning side. Because we will indeed win, I promise you.

Correspond and subscribe at theAspenbeat@gmail.com

Tony Vagneur: Casey Tibbs, a horse-riding idol

In the strangeness of the dream, my dad told me we were going to (Old) Snowmass to meet Casey Tibbs. That name hadn’t crossed my consciousness in maybe 20 years.

Casey Tibbs (1929 to 1990), in case you didn’t know, was a big deal, and still is. He won six Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association saddle bronc championships plus two all-around cowboy championships and one bareback riding championship. That’s what you call one tough and talented dude.

I’d never heard of Tibbs until around 1956-57. Up there on our Homestead Mesa, working with one of the hired hands and talking about how I’d like to be a saddle bronc rider when I got older, “You mean like Casey Tibbs,” he said. “Who’s that?” came my reply.

We didn’t have television and only the occasional magazine or newspaper on the ranch so it was difficult to keep up with national or international events on a regular basis. For a kid like me, hired hands often brought the exciting world outside of Aspen and Woody Creek into my daily life. Besides, the Vagneurs were known as ropers, not bronc riders, so I didn’t really have any role models.

Things come and go and I rode all the bronc-type horses we had on the ranch and during junior and senior summers, a buddy and I rode the W/J bulls two or three nights a week, including Snuffy. Nobody in the Roaring Fork Valley seemed to know much about saddle bronc riding. And then college, where I rode bareback in some eastern slope rodeos, and before it seemed possible, I was 23 years old and riding in wild horse races, about as close to saddle bronc riding as I could find.

Moose Rusher, a man I admired, took me under his wing. He knew about saddle broncs and told me I should go to school for such a thing. Couldn’t, for some reason. Moose and I put together a bucking barrel in his backyard, a 55-gallon drum tied off to trees or posts in four directions that could tear you up good with four strong people pulling on the ropes. Precursor to a mechanical bull. We wore it out almost before we got started.

Casey Tibb’s dad, a true horseman who at one time ran about 2,000 head of horses, told Casey that if he ever rode in a rodeo, he would never speak to him again. At 13, his dad intentionally left him at the rodeo grounds in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, after Casey did the unthinkable by riding in the annual rodeo. The rift was never repaired.

Here was a man who, at 19 had made more money in one rodeo than his dad might have ever seen in a lifetime, and was accused of robbing a bank. That has to color a young man’s attitude toward life. But as Casey said about bronc riding, “Get back up and get back on. And don’t be afraid to get bucked off again.” Hurt makes you tough.

Casey was a helluva bronc rider, but he wasn’t the hero he might have been, not in my mind. I’d have liked to have been another Casey Tibbs, but to me the hero was the rodeo, especially behind the chutes. The dirt, the dust, the stomping of snorting horses, the slinging snot of raunchy bulls, the s— that is always prevalent around grass-eating animals, and the noise of the crowd when you did something right, or terribly wrong. Ride hard, party hard, and stay up all night. That’s how I thought it was supposed to be done, following in the mold of the world champion. And I was good at it.

Out of all Casey, the “Rainbow Man,” did, taking his only child, his daughter into his life after many years of separation might have been his greatest act. The separation wasn’t exactly anyone’s fault, nor was the unmarried pregnancy, but things happen. Casey, who was on the road almost continuously, paid child support until the child’s mother got married and insisted her new husband be the sole father and supporter of her daughter. Visits with Casey were strongly discouraged.

Casey’s daughter, at 21, approached him in the hospital where he was recovering from an injury, a visit during which Casey asked if they could begin to get to know each other. Of course, if you read of things his daughter has said about their relationship, the love and respect shine through, especially Casey’s love for his granddaughter.

You can be the world’s best at anything, including bronc riding, and you can make rodeo a popular sport amongst the populace, but when you show yourself as human and work with what family you have, then you are a true hero. Casey Tibbs, who knew the importance of fathers, ultimately rode the rainbow to the end as a man of strength and courage.

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

Roger Marolt: Confusing philosophical calculus with writing on the wall

In springtime, it is only natural for the thoughts of a man, skiing the slush alone on deserted ski slopes, to turn to geometry. Or so I tried to convince myself after the fact when my concentration was broken and I started to feel weird about it. Show me a skier who complains about traverses and I will show you a person who does not understand the angles of skiing the steeps.

While it is true that flat traverses across the mountain after a good run, as in the case of Highland Bowl, or before one, like one must endure to tackle Aspen’s T-chutes, can be a pain in the wax, it is a fact of skiing that you must go sideways across the mountain in order to enjoy the most challenging runs. The scant exceptions are the trails that run directly under rapidly rising ski lifts.

You can make a straight line between point A (the top of Ajax) and B (the Ajax Tavern) through Spar Gulch and never have to traverse, or you can traverse to descend S1 then traverse again to get Shoulder of Bell and then make one last traverse to “Niagara” before you end up at The Tavern. Who has the better story to tell?

On the drive home I was thinking of this and a little trigonometry trying to decide if my magical sports watch is calculating the slopes of the runs I ski accurately (I have my doubts), when I realized I was doing 27 in a 45 mph zone next to the airport on Owl Creek Road, and I almost missed all the private jets parked there, which is inexplicable during the offseasons.

There were certainly not a lot of jets by comparison to the holidays, but there were definitely more than there are restaurants open downtown now. I could not figure the inverse sine for the adjacent angle on this one. Why were they here?

Then it came to me: It was the end-of-season party at Highlands that afternoon. Crap! I missed it again!

At any rate, the people who flew in on those jets did not miss it. They flew here during mud season expressly for it! And, yes, I know it is circumstantial evidence, but I’m sticking to my story because, if true, it’s interesting.

My first impression was these folks are trying too hard to fit in. I hope I am not sounding like an elitist here, because my intention is to sound like an anti-elitist.

I mean, isn’t the end-of-season party for locals who have worn themselves out waiting on and bending over backward for the jet-set crowd all winter? Isn’t it about blowing off steam? Isn’t it reminiscing about experiences over the entire season, not just when you had the chance to pop into town?

The end-of-season parties have traditionally been for the working stiffs and ski bums. It is what we do when no one is looking and the chamber of commerce is closed. I suppose we should take it as flattery that our rich and famous visitors, deep down in their hearts, only want to be like us. OK, let’s go with that.

But, here is the thing, and we have seen it countless times: The coolest things of this town came about by people living here zig-zagging from point A to B to C … all the way to Z, just because that was the casually interesting route, taking detours through places like La Cocina and Cooper Street Pier along the way. Most of the time they probably didn’t know where they were going and, most likely, didn’t have any particular time they needed to be there.

It is a generalization, I understand, but people in private jets don’t seem to be like that. They demonstrate a desire to get from point A to point Z as directly as possible, and have transformed this town in many ways with that shallow angle of attack. Then, when all the stuff in between is overlooked, it actually becomes virtuous, in their minds, to simply smooth over what appear to be rough spots.

And now to point X: It is a matter of time before billionaire trigonometry angles-off the Rorschach blot that is the Highlands end-of-season party into a neat right triangle. It will get polished. It will be made “more successful” because of its own success. We will have big name acts for entertainment. It will become a three-day event with early-bird tickets going on sale for $150 in July. And yet, this is not worth crying about. A couple years will pass and we’ll only vaguely remember how it used to be. Then, we will build another big hotel to try to bring it back.

Roger Marolt inadvertently reset his magical sports watch back to 1987 when he tried to get his heart-rate measurement. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.

Meredith C. Carroll: Aspen’s epic winter season, by the numbers

Last year at this time, winter had already been wrapped for several months (and that’s only if you’re in the camp that maintains there was even a winter at all). The 2018-19 season, though, is a different story, with statistics that deserve not just a footnote but also their own volume. With only a few days to shred remaining, the year that was will go down in the record books for more than just a surplus of snow. According to just-released figures:

  • In the 2018-19 winter season, 84% of Aspenites reported having an easier time getting into USC than seated at a L’Hostaria bar table.
  • It was 46% more convenient to drive to Denver for groceries than find a parking spot at Aspen’s City Market.
  • The number of cocaine bindles that magically materialized at the feet of people “Just trying to live my life, man” when approached by a member of the Aspen Police Department spiked by 246%.
  • Sunday’s Aspen Highlands closing-day party showcased 83% more adults in costume than on Halloween, which already saw grown-ups seven times likelier to play dress-up than their own children.
  • The percent of Highlands revelers still reveling in costume today, three days after the party ended: 58%.
  • The number of times in Aspen this winter when someone’s real clothes looked liked a costume: 324.
  • The percentage of Aspen parents with mug shots more than doubled this season at precisely the same time the number of Aspen kids who know better than to get caught grew four-fold.
  • The percent change of fun in Snowmass Village now that it actually resembles a village: 180%.
  • The amount that Snowmass Village still really needs to up its parking game: 1,000%.
  • Social media posts about the quest for a 100-day pin ticked up 136% in the 2018-19 season, whereas those breaking a sweat trying to count other people’s ski days climbed by 174%.
  • Fifty-nine percent of season-pass holders spent 70% of their lift rides complaining about the “Ikon Effect,” 0% griped while waiting in line — because there still weren’t any.
  • The number of gondola-conceived babies (or attempted conceptions) rose by 3,092 feet.
  • In a move roundly applauded by 100% of those surveyed, 28% of Aspen’s white men in power were sent back to try again (anywhere but here).
  • The total amount of money that Woody Creek native Felicity Huffman and former West Ender Lori Laughlin could have saved by hiring Aspen tutors instead of spending $15,000 and $500,000 respectively to get their daughters into college: $42.
  • The Aspen Club promised a happy ending 49% more often during the 2018-19 season — at the same time that 104% of its credibility continued growing mold on the east end of town.
  • The percent of cyclists and pedestrians who angrily wagged a single finger in the air at motorists driving more than one block on West Hopkins Avenue: 94%.
  • The percent of West Hopkins Avenue drivers who cared when having a finger wagged at them: 0%.
  • Competitive ice walking grew 78% over last year, with emergency room visits, knee braces and rounds of shots toasting torn ACLs almost tripling.
  • The number of people who apparently stopped caring about being seen vaping cannabis in public: all of them.
  • Four percent of Aspen residents commented on just how much their lives have improved thanks to the upgraded Castle Creek Bridge sidewalk. The percentage of times those comments came from Mayor Steve Skadron: 100%.
  • Ninety-seven percent of Aspenites showed 1 million percent more restraint by not mowing down the pedestrians who thought crossing at crosswalks was for walkers other than them.
  • The presence of Rolls Royce SUVs in Aspen tripled this season, during which time the number of people scratching their heads wondering why anyone would want a Rolls Royce SUV quadrupled.
  • Aspen saw an 84% rise in entitled visitors, with the number of Aspenites feeling entitled to bite the hand(s) that feeds them more than doubled.
  • The amount of goodwill that will vanish at the precise moment the Silver Queen Gondola stops running and construction picks up where it left off in the fall: just about all of it.

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

She Said, He Said: Having children has to be for right reasons, not an expectation

Dear Lori and Jeff,

My wife and I have been married for two years and we both expressed ambivalence about having kids when we met and throughout our relationship. For the past several months, my wife has been dropping hints that she’s getting close to moving past her “prime childbearing years” and if we are ever going to have kids, we need to do it soon. I’m surprised by her shift but want to be supportive. I didn’t think I ever wanted kids, but maybe now it’s a compromise I could make. Any suggestions?


Not Sure About Kids

Dear Not Sure,

Lori and Jeff: Talking about whether to have children can be tricky for any couple. But if you allow communication only to happen through hints and intimations, your true wants and needs can get lost in the shuffle. It’s time to sit down face to face and lay all your cards on the table. Partners can compromise over where they live, how they spend money and whether to get a dog, but compromising over having a kid is a very different situation. Even if your wife agrees to take on most of the parenting responsibility, that child will look to you as dad and will make assessments about his worth, belonging and the safety of the world based on how much you’re willing to show up.

Jeff: One of the most important questions to address is whether your wife’s shift was fueled by the honest, authentic desire to be a mom and to bring another life into this world. We’ve worked with more than a few couples who had kids for less than ideal reasons. Some thought it was simply the next thing they were supposed to do as a married couple. Some thought having a common purpose in raising a child would bring them closer together and revive their marriage. Some bowed to the pressure of their parents wanting grandchildren. Some subconsciously wanted the unconditional love they mistakenly imagined their children would provide for them. Others began to realize their time was running out and made the decision based on panic or fear of missing their opportunity. If any of these dynamics fit your situation, it’s not necessarily an immediate deal breaker. It would, however, certainly warrant a very open, heart-to-heart conversation and possibly a re-examination of your goals and intentions as a couple.

Lori: Life-changing decisions, like having a child, need to be explored through both an emotional and analytical lens. The most skilled salesperson will tell you people shop with information but buy on emotion. Before each of you come to the table for the baby-or-no-baby negotiations, you need to be clear about the facts and feelings. The facts are often the easier part to assess: Can we afford children? How would our schedules look? How would we divide responsibilities? What parenting techniques or approaches would we use?

The more important (and often overlooked) factor is understanding the emotions involved. When you imagine having a kid, do you feel fear, frustration, escape, newness or unconditional love? When you think of your future sans “Sprout” do you experience regret, sadness, freedom or joy? The feelings you carry into this conversation will ultimately drive your decisions. It’s important to know not only what the feelings are, but what their source is. Feelings come from our perceptions, so spend some time thinking about the stories you have about parenting. What does being a dad mean to you? Ultimately, you’ll have to consider this information about yourself and decide if you can be all in.

Lori and Jeff: If the draw to having a child is to fill a void then the foundation of your relationship will need to be addressed. Otherwise you’ll surely pave the way for resentment and regret. Having a child can ultimately be rewarding and fulfilling, but only if you’re diving in for the right reasons.

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: A glimpse of life in Lalaland

Terence, the Uber driver, wheels his Audi down Topanga Canyon like Parnelli Jones. Traffic is light for LA on a midday jaunt to Santa Monica, when you can avoid gridlock.

But no one seems to mind gridlock anymore. Traffic jams have become so commonplace that road rage is a fruitless waste of energy. Drivers have adapted to stop-and-go as part of their everyday lives — just like commuters on Highway 82 suck it up now that Aspen gridlock is the new normal.

I ask Terence, my young black driver, what he does when he’s not an Uber mensch. He says he produces music, not for sale, just playing around with synthesizers and rap lyrics. He’s making plans with a few of his homeys to open a cannabis outlet in Santa Monica, where he hopes to make his fortune.

I ask if he thinks race is a barrier for his success. Terence pots down the hip-hop on the stereo. Yes, he says, race is a determining factor. The whole of American society, he says, is built on white racial preferences that the black community has to accept, like it or not.

I tell Terence I’m from Aspen where there are hardly any black people. He says he visited Aspen one summer when he was living with his mother in Denver and was arrested here.

Terence claims it was a matter of racial profiling. He gives no details, and I don’t probe. After that, he moved to LA, where he says the culture is diverse and easier for people of color. Still, implicit racial bias makes it hard for blacks looking for a break.

Terence deftly navigates me to the Santa Monica boardwalk where we both notice a young woman on the sidewalk wearing a minimal thong. “Sun’s out, buns out,” quips Terence as we wish each other well in the bright sunshine.

I saunter along the pier taking in the beach scene. Pacific swells are washing up along a wide, sandy beach where the diversity cited by Terence is wading in the ripples, playing in the sand, and sunning itself on a warm spring afternoon.

I’m confronted by an up-front young black man who asks me where I’m from. My country mouse naiveté makes me an easy mark, so I stop long enough for him to sell me his “big hit” CD for $10. “I’m gonna be bigger than Michael Jackson,” he announces as he pockets my bill.

The pier and the peddlers are too much, so I stroll up a street away from the beach and lunch on pizza and red wine at a sidewalk café where in one hour I encounter more diversity than I see in Aspen in a year.

I ask the waitress about a bookstore, and she directs me around a corner to an open-air market of books, CDs, DVDs and pot paraphernalia. I buy a handful of used CDs, including Best of the Beach Boys, so I can reminisce on antiquated beach culture.

Bryan, my next Uber guy, drives a well-worn Toyota Camry with an air freshener dangling from the rear view mirror. When we get stopped by pedestrians at a crosswalk, he fumes. “These people! All these people! And all the same! It’s like they’re in a movie or something!”

Bryan is between regular jobs, says he’s been a wildland firefighter, and points out the burnt and blackened signs of a brush fire as we twist and turn up Topanga Canyon. He’s from Cali, but isn’t stoked to be here, just passing time before something better comes up.

We’re in a string of cars that winds in the sinuous choreography of urban life flowing into the hills. Soon, I’m back at my hotel where people come and go in the constant business of business. They are either coming from LAX or going back, either going to a meeting or coming back from one.

The next morning, I’m gazing at it all from the friendly skies, relieved to be on my way home, far beyond the LA fray and back to the tempest in a teapot we call Aspen.

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

Mike Littwin: Colorado GOP picks Ken Buck to make the case that the party is Trumpier than ever

In response to its all-but-unprecedented disaster that was the last election cycle, the Colorado Republican Party has come up with a plan — to do the same thing all over again in 2020, only more so.

No, seriously. This is their plan.

It begins with Republicans choosing Ken Buck, a Donald Trump loyalist, as party chairman in order to loudly proclaim to Colorado voters that they are, in case anyone was confused, the proud party of Trump. It was, of course, at Trump’s feet — with or without bone spurs — that the 2018 disaster lay. But here’s a thought — maybe the real issue was that Colorado Republicans just weren’t Trumpy enough.

Buck is not only a loyalist. He’s the same Ken Buck who spent his Tuesday busily defending commentator Candace Owens as she testified before the House Judiciary Committee, accusing Democrats of fear mongering on hate crimes and white nationalism in order to win minority votes. Sound like anyone you know?

We all know George Santayana’s adage about those who cannot remember the past being condemned to repeat it. That doesn’t apply here. This past was 2018, last year. I remember, it was on all the calendars. I mean, how does a party forget losing every statewide race, both houses of the legislature, the governor’s seat, Mike Coffman’s seat, not to mention many of the recliner seats in houses across the Denver metro area?

Not only do Republicans remember, they want you to know they remember. Which is why they have chosen Buck, of all people, to lead the party out of the wilderness.

Forget Santayana. We’re in Marx (brothers?) territory now. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

I understand how difficult it is for Republicans to run away from Trump, who does dominate the party. But whose fault is that? His party approval numbers can run as high as 90 percent, for which you can blame the spineless GOP politicians who have enabled him. Just ask the spine-free Cory Gardner, who in 2016 refused to vote for his party’s candidate because, he said, Trump was a “buffoon” and worse. Now Gardner has endorsed Trump, years in advance, because he’s scared witless not to endorse him.

And Colorado Republicans, who voted for Ted Cruz in 2016 as the party briefly proclaimed itself #neverTrumpers, are eager to back Trump. That’s why they chose Buck — who, it’s probably forgotten, once called Trump a “fraud” himself — despite the fact he already has a day job as a congressman from the 4th District. More to the point, they chose Buck to lead the way despite his questionable skills as a campaign strategist. Or maybe people also have forgotten his entirely winnable Senate race against Michael Bennet in 2010.

Come on, you have to remember that Buck’s closing argument in that race came while debating Bennet on “Meet the Press.” That’s when he compared gays to alcoholics. It was a typical Buck gaffe. He was already living down the “joke” about voters choosing him in the GOP primary that year against Jane Norton because he was the one who didn’t wear high heels.

But if you think that the unplugged version of Buck is yesterday’s news, it’s not just Candace Owens. Let me bring you up to date on your Buck references. It was just last week that Buck was questioning an LGBTQ witness during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill to amend the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as legally protected classes.

The witness testified that she had been denied treatment for her child by a pediatrician, who passed her off to a different doctor willing to do what any normal doctor would do, which was to give the kid a checkup.

And so, Buck asked this question:

“Um, is it your position that a Orthodox Jewish doctor … whose grandparent was killed in the Holocaust be required to work with a, um, a Nazi patient?”

That’s right, it’s not gays as alcoholics anymore, it’s LGBTQ people who shouldn’t be a protected class against discrimination because … Nazis.

That’s the person who has been chosen to lead the Republican Party back to power in Colorado. I mean, it’s not only reprehensible to compare just about anyone to Nazis, but we shouldn’t forget here that the doctor is presumably not being asked to, you know, touch the, um, parent here. It’s the kid. The doctor refuses to treat the kid. I wonder what Hippocrates would have to say about that.

I can guess what Trump would say about it — that there are very fine people on both sides.

Look, you don’t have to be a genius to realize Trump has put Colorado Republicans in a bind, and that he tightens it daily. If he’s not firing nearly the entire leadership of the Department of Homeland Security for not being tough enough or willing to break a few laws — this, in the name of protecting us from desperate families seeking asylum at the border — he’s considering bringing back his plan to separate kids from their parents. I assume those cages are still available.

According to the last poll I saw, Trump was 13 points underwater in Colorado. The question now is not whether Trump, who lost by five points to Hillary Clinton in 2016, can win Colorado, but whether Colorado is even a swing state any more. National Republicans are, at best, skeptical. Who wouldn’t be?

The hot Republican plan in Colorado now is recalls, in a nod back to 2013, but the recallers have run into a few problems, like a pastor calling a legislator a “homosexual pervert.” And then there was the pair of anti-Semites involved for a time in the absurd bid to recall the governor.

OK, so there have been a few slip-ups. But Buck knows all about slip-ups. And yet, he is convinced that Republicans are set for a comeback.

“We will re-elect President Trump, we will re-elect Cory Gardner, we will retake our state legislature and we will hold our heads proud and high as Republicans,” he said at the Republican convention. “We will let the world know this is not a blue state — not on our watch.”

That could be a plan, I guess, if not for the indisputable fact that these were same folks who were on watch the last time out.

Mike Littwin runs Sundays in the Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.

Tony Vagneur: A love-hungry pianist

The call was unexpected and came to the house in Woody Creek. Would I be interested in playing the piano for the day-care service at Aspen Highlands during the upcoming winter? “Wait, before you say ‘no,’ let me explain that the job comes with a ski pass and a free lunch at the cafeteria on the days you work, which will usually be Saturdays.”

Sixteen years old, a junior in high school with a million social obligations and extracurricular activities, it was an offer that required some consultation with my parents, either for support or the expected grinding of teeth. Probably somewhere in the conversation, my dad was thinking there might actually be some return on the piano lessons he’d been shelling out for, even if it wasn’t exactly cash.

It would be the first job I’d ever had off the ranch, other than a one-night, junior-high school stand, setting pins at the bowling alley, a location which was precursor to some good-time bars, including the Shaft, and finally Boogie’s now-erased building.

“When will you have time to do your homework?” asked my level-headed dad when I told him how cool pin setting was. The reality was that I never did my homework, but that’s not the sort of argument you can use trying to influence your father about how responsible you are, and besides, my dad wasn’t about to drive the 12 miles to town every night to pick me up after work. Dad put an end to that very quickly, which in hindsight kinda makes sense.

Nobody wanted me to audition for the piano gig, so it might have been an inside job, although I had occasionally been playing a song or two with whatever band was providing the apres-ski entertainment. Who’s to say, but the first day was rather nerve-racking.

My supervisor, a mid-20s, svelte blonde with dynamite looks, explained that it was my job to play during lunch. Play whatever I wanted, unless there were special requests, which she would try to get to me beforehand. We had this conversation over at the corner of a table, sitting down, our faces about a foot apart, my left eyelid twitching uncontrollably just by the force of her presence. “Go get your lunch and I’ll see you next Saturday.” Whew, she didn’t say anything about that weird eye of mine.

A high school kid tends to eat a lot, especially an active one, so I loaded up my tray with a couple of cheeseburgers, a piece of pie and some kind of drink. The letter I handed the cashier seemed to confuse her so she called the manager over; you might remember him, a bald-headed older guy in beige pants with a big belly who was always telling everyone what to do in a loud voice, and that was my downfall.

Blowing spit in my face, he forced me to look at him as the veins popped out on his neck and face, explaining that “free lunch” meant one entree and one soft drink. Did I think he was stupid, he asked, and it looked like he might come over the counter after me. “That’s kind of a rip-off,” I retorted, a comment immediately regretted, but his look of unbelievability at my insouciant remark fortunately ended the conversation. He later apologized, sort of, but kept me on restricted rations.

There wasn’t much piano playing to be done, although a couple of times we had celebrities in our midst, like Walt Disney’s grand kids and some others. I’d hit a couple of licks and then, as the kids were all busy eating, Liz, the director, would like to visit and talk about issues of the day, like how great the skiing was, how crazy the bars could get and why so many men had an over-abundance of testosterone.

It was one of those days, a guy she had fallen for had turned into a jerk and she wanted a serious woman-to-man talk. We sat at the corner of that same table, face to face, her eyes searching mine for some kind of reasoning, some solace from the brutalities of life. There wasn’t much a 16-year-old could say in those departments, although I’d had a heartache or two by then. Our faces were getting closer together.

And then my left eye started that weird twitching again and I could no longer concentrate. Under her spell, I was a wreck. That’s about the last I remember of my piano gig at Aspen Highlands.

The skiing was good that winter.

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent. Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.

Roger Marolt: Work builds character like odd jobs build … ?

I was thinking the other day — if work builds character, what do odd jobs do? The proof might be in the piddling.

My first job in Aspen was at the graveyard, which may explain a few things. I was not a typical 12-year-old and there is a carryover effect. Was I scared to go to work in that place? Heck, yeah. I told my mother as much one afternoon when I was supposed to be out there polishing headstones, but she caught me eating a large bowl of chocolate ice cream in front of the tube watching “Gilligan’s Island” instead.

The understanding daughter of a Wisconsin dairy farmer that she was, consoled me by acknowledging that the cemetery gig was scary, but there were plenty of other jobs out there and I had better get one before suppertime or I would be introduced to a different fear and hunger, to boot.

I knew better than crying. I played the frugality card instead, pointing out that a heaping bowl of chocolate ice cream was a terrible thing to waste. She told me to plop it in a cone and get going. You have to admire the street smarts.

I landed a job washing and painting red stripes on range balls in the rickety clubhouse basement at the municipal nine-hole golf course. Aside from the enamel paint fumes compressed into the unventilated dark space, the frayed electrical cord to the ancient washing machine-turned-ball-scrubber perpetually submerged in 2 inches of water on the floor, and the resulting mold on everything, it was maybe the best job I ever had. As long as we got them all picked up, nobody told us how to do our work — zero supervision! And, we got our 50 cents per hour in cash without any squabbling.

My next job as a bag boy at Tom’s Market couldn’t compare, but it paid better and once in awhile I’d get a tip, which I previously had no concept of, that I got coaxed into handing over to the cashier in exchange for a “free” cold pop. It seemed like a good deal at the time.

Between jobs, I did what every local kid did — I sold copies of The Aspen Times weekly newspaper. It’s where I learned about risk. They made us buy the papers for a nickel apiece up front and told us we had to sell them for 20 cents, this at an age when it was easy to get distracted by the opportunity to crawl around in an old mine shaft and lose your stack of papers in the dark along with any chance of breaking even for the day.

Selling papers was all about location. It was a sprint to the most profitable spots. The Red Onion was the baby with a handful of candy. I look around at the newspaper boxes today and I can almost recall whose spots those were. Technology. Pffft.

When I wasn’t on the clock, I volunteered at St. Mary’s as an altar boy and sitting on my great-uncle Steve’s porch listening to his stories about things like Injun Joe, the crazy barber with a straight razor, who couldn’t handle constructive criticism of his work. It made me grateful for the opportunity to shovel his sidewalk. It felt like I was doing it for nothing, but I realized years later that wasn’t the case.

I also was a baseball coach for the city of Aspen. I freelanced as a lawn boy. I worked the yard at Bosie Cascade before I landed a plum position indoors stocking shelves. I grew muscles on Hans Brucker’s concrete crew. I painted houses for Aspen Painting. I was a laborer for Harriman Construction. I cleaned Burt Bidwell’s ski shop and I hand-tuned skis at Poncho’s, Pomeroy’s and Molterer Sports. I was a ticket-seller at Buttermilk before I got promoted to Aspen Mountain, where I was either so good or bad at that they let me be a ski instructor. I worked on the original boot-packing crew at Highlands for a ski pass. I sold clothes at Pitkin County Dry Goods. I worked at The Gant as a van driver and then the night auditor. I was a softball umpire. I landscaped at the Aspen Business Center. I was even a real estate broker one fall. I sold a couple of listings I got through the buddy system, back when that was a possibility, and then quit while I was ahead.

A lot of my former employers were really successful and, one thing for sure, it’s not because I didn’t work for them. Even at the graveyard, people were just dying to get in. Sorry.

And, there you have it — the building of a character.

Roger Marolt is a jack of all trades except bartending, but there is still time. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.

Aspen Princess: All dogs go to Heaven, so enjoy the clouds, Aspen pug

“Do you always drive with a live animal in your lap?” the state trooper asked, as if looking for a reason to throw the book at me.

I wanted to say, “Why, is it against the law?” But I bit my tongue.

Yes, I drove with Gertie in my lap. I know it was wrong, dangerous, irresponsible and stupid, but Gertie was always in my lap. She was always attached to me in some way, skin-to-fur, like an appendage, like she could never get close enough.

Gertrude Angel Margo came into this world on March 21, 2013, and she left us on Monday, April 8, just five days after being diagnosed with Granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME). I knew this because it was disclosed in the breeder’s contract that the sire of the litter had died from this very disease shortly after the litter was born, at exactly the same age Gertie was when she passed.

You would think that might be a red flag, but we had already met her, so it was moot. We fell in love with our baby girl at first sight. She walked right into our arms as if she’d been waiting for us and not the other way around. On the long drive home from Cimarron, Kansas, a tiny town on the dusty plains outside of Garden City, she slept and behaved as if she knew exactly where she was going, like she’d summoned a ride back to Aspen.

We’d just suffered a miscarriage after a long struggle with infertility, so she immediately became our baby. As a pup, she was only 5 pounds, so we carried her everywhere and she loved us as if she was put on this Earth to do so. No, she was not an athlete, but we took her on hikes anyway, carrying her in our backpacks if we had to. She still managed to summit every hike in the area from Smuggler and Arbaney Kittle to Cathedral Lake. Ryan used to like to tell stunned passersby she was a rare breed of mountain pug. Our friends were a little bit horrified. “Why would you get a dog like that when you live in the mountains?” they’d asked, doing nothing to hide their disgust.

I didn’t care. I loved that dog like nobody’s business. She completed me like the perfect accessory on a mind-blowing outfit, not with me but a part of me, strutting around town in princess style. I biked through the streets of Aspen with her on my pink cruiser, perched comfortably in the front basket on the pink blanket she’d come home in. I couldn’t get 2 feet without someone wanting to take her photo. Once, we were on the 6 o’clock news, and the reporter referred to her as “Gertrude, the Aspen pug.”

When our human baby finally came, forget about it. She took to that baby like he was her job, always lying as close to him as she could manage. Cruising town with the baby in the stroller and Gertie riding up front like the hood ornament of a fancy car, people went nuts. They’d come running up and go, “How old is your pug?” as if the baby were just extra baggage. Once, we found ourselves in the center of a large crowd in front of Paradise Bakery, that little butter ball being passed around with a look of total entitlement on her face, like a movie star who couldn’t get from the limo to the red carpet without having to sign 100 autographs first.

That dog has been everywhere with us, riding on the plane in her little pink harness with the emotional support animal badge attached, her chest puffed with pride. We used to joke that she provided emotional support for everyone. She was like this little joy-spreading machine. We took her to Target, Lowes and once or twice into the supermarket, smuggled in my big purse. She’s traveled with us everywhere, often paying fines for the abundant dog hair she left behind when we’d rent a car or an Airbnb. She always slept in our bed and under the covers, either spooning me or on my pillow with her little head on my shoulder, her breath hot in the crook of my neck. I was always pushing her over, and she would complain, letting out this noise that sounded like something between a screech and a whine, more like a cat than a dog.

Mostly people knew her as the fat little white dog that was always perched on my lap at various local coffee shops with her paws up on the table as I worked on my computer, as if she were helping me in some way, ever my muse.

Her passing was sudden and traumatic. She was diagnosed on Thursday and died early Monday morning. She took her last breath on a big white down comforter on our king-size bed with me by her side. I scooped her into my arms and gently lay her to rest in her leopard-print dog bed, wrapping her in the pink blanket she arrived in.

Ryan says she was our angel. She came to us when we needed her after my miscarriage and got us to where we needed to go, with our beautiful baby boy who isn’t a baby anymore, robust and flourishing. “It was time for her to go so she could help someone else,” Ryan said.

I have never cried more tears or struggled so hard to breathe in this clean mountain air or felt suffocated by my own skin, like it’s on too tight. My baby girl is gone, and I can never replace her. There will never be another Gertie. She was one in a million. I can only hope her spirit is soaring high and that we will meet again.

Until the next life, Gertrude Angel Margo. Thank you for being our angel.

The Princess needs a remedy for puffy eyes. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.