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Roger Marolt: The marriage and separation of ‘Enough’ and ‘Already’

Roger Marolt

I wonder if my facial expressions change when I read a letter to the editor explaining simple solutions to one of Aspen’s complex problems. “Eliminating traffic jams on Main Street is simple. We just …” “The solution to Aspen’s affordable housing shortage is simple. We just …” “Parking downtown can be easily fixed. We just …” “Addressing our high depression and suicide rates is simple. We just … develop more skiing.”

If you can’t see my eyes scrunch and the corners of my mouth screw counterclockwise, it’s because these contortions of bemusement are camouflaged against the permanent wrinkles from the accelerated aging process from living at 7,908 feet above sea level for longer than Snowmass Ski Area has. Quick fixes for our woes have been suggested for years. They have been discovered, discussed, dissected and discarded many times over. Note to newcomers: It’s best not to show up and assume the locals are a collection of know-nothing knuckleheads.

There was a time when simple solutions worked. In 1972 when traffic backed up all the way from the Maroon Creek Road traffic light to the S-curve in front of the Agate Lodge, an astute roads department worker might have noticed some fallen orange cones around a pothole near Cemetery Lane as she was heading to the golf course for evening rounds of golf then beer and stopped for a second to move the impediments out of the way. Traffic problem solved!

It doesn’t work that way anymore. Traffic is snarled when everything is perfectly in place today. Congestion is normal. The hard truth is that we are too big for simple solutions. In lieu of them, we must resign ourselves to either expending massive amounts of time, money and energy that complex solutions demand without any assurance of resolution, or accept incremental change which, more often than not, is hardly noticeable.

Some question whether or not Aspen really was better in the old days. “Didn’t the erection of the gondola make Aspen better?” “Certainly the Labor Day music festival in Snowmass Village did, right?” “How could more skiing terrain not, too?”

Much like the way our problems become less solvable, new amenities in Aspen become less enjoyable the bigger we get. The first ski lift in Aspen undoubtedly had the most positive effect. The next one slightly less so. The new one they will build to replace the old Lift 1A, probably not much at all.

One thing I have learned in this land of never-ending fun is that it is a mistake to take these individual amenities and activities, draw circles around them, and pull them together expecting the sum of the parts to add up to a whole lot better life. It just doesn’t work that way.

From a philosophical perspective the explanation is simple. If you are already as happy as you can be, as so many profess to be in amazing Aspen, then how much happier can you get by adding more to it? Already so close to perfection, there isn’t much upside potential. The risk is on the downside. We have a better chance of screwing things up.

On the practical side, the addition of the Aspen Mountain gondola, the Labor Day music festival and opening Highland Bowl are fun things. And yet, these along with other “improvements” have not made Aspen a better experience than it was before. That is my observation. I have doubted this many times, chalking up good times past to a figment of youthful perception, but that never rang true. Aspen really was a nicer place to live in pre-gondola times.

The problem of accumulating improvements to Aspen is the same as accumulating in general — you make clutter. The food processor was a great kitchen addition until it ended up in the pantry jammed between the snazzy coffee bean grinder and the incredible homemade bread maker. Now it’s a chore to find a place for the Oreos.

The Silver Queen Gondola is great, even though all the powder is gone by 10 o’clock. The music festival is a blast, even though we dread having to make a trip into a packed downtown on Labor Day weekend. The prospect for expanded skiing terrain is exciting, but it will bring more people, otherwise why would they do it? It’s not cynicism. It makes sense.

“Already enough” is a simple way to express contentment. “Enough already” is a fair way declare nonsense. Either way, we should put these two words together more often in Aspen.

Roger Marolt wonders if pursuing the simple life in a place becoming increasingly complex causes graying hair amid male pattern baldness.

High Points: I’ll Take the Pass

It has been a little on-again-off-again these past few weeks but, as of now Independence Pass is open to vehicular traffic. With a forecast showing no precipitation for the next three days or so (there’s a hint of some Tuesday snow) this might be your best last chance to get up and over the “Top of the World.”

We live on the western end of one of the great American roads. Hwy. 82 between Twin Lakes and the edge of Aspen provides us with not just a way out of the Valley but a spectacular drive with quaking Aspens, precipitous drops and see forever views. You can look up just about any list of America’s best drives and the 37-mile jaunt between Main and Mill and the Lakes makes the grade. Or at least it should.

On average the Pass closes for the season around November 7, just a couple of weeks away, so this might be the weekend to hit the highway for a slow cruise up and over the 12,095-foot precipice. Be sure to make some stops.

While the Pass itself is as old as dirt, or at least glacial formed rock, the first toll road over the top was completed in 1881, the same year the paper you are reading today published its first copy. That November, the road opened to help supply the small town of Independence, which was formed on the 4th of July 1979. For a quarter, well 25 cents (yes, they had quarters then), a hardy soul could saddle up the horses and head through the late fall scenery to Independence. The trip took 10 to 25 hours depending upon the conditions.

Today you can hop in your Audi, Tesla, Rover, etc., and power up the winding road from the Jerome to the “T” on Hwy 24 in a little over an hour. Turn right at the T and you can swing into Buena Vista for a milkshake and a corn dog at the venerable K’s Dairy Delite. You’ll also get an up close and personal view of the Collegiate Peaks with your lunch, topped by the 14,421-foot Mt. Harvard. I always thought it was cool that the Ivy League schools were named after mountains in Colorado. 🙂

Turn left at the “T” and it’s just a short jaunt to Leadville, home of the Tabor Opera House (built in 1879) and the Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon which includes collection of ghosts who come out to celebrate this time in October.

I have yet to try it but am told there is an epic Cuban restaurant in Leadville called Buchi, which is as authentic as if it were in Havana itself. Opened by a couple from Key West, it offers Café Cubano, mojitos and Cuban sandwiches that will make you feel the tropical flow at 10,000 feet.

Many of us look at Independence Pass as a way to get from here to there, but it is a destination in itself.

Take a drive.

Roger Marolt: A little-too-odd job

Roger Marolt for the Snowmass Sun
Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun

Dear Ask Ann,

I have a dilemma regarding my wife and friend. I will call my friend “Bill,” because that’s what he goes by, but I bet it’s really “William.” I would like to know your opinion on this, but that will be a topic for another letter, which I will send next week. I hope you got the others. I will call my wife “my wife” to protect her identity.

Anyway, I barely know where to begin — but don’t worry, I will anyway. First of all, Bill is my neighbor in the small town of Snowmass Village, Colorado. You never know what he wants when he walks in your door. He still acts like a Minnesotan even though he has lived here almost 50 years. He loves talking and beer. He is also the HOA president and I always get the feeling he is checking out our place for violations. He stole the job from me years ago, but hey, I don’t hold grudges.

I have a strategy to control conversations with him. He is a builder and so I keep a list of things that need to be done around our house and I throw projects at him before he has time to settle onto a stool at our kitchen counter. The downside is that this gets him looking around at some of my DIY improvements, which he loves to laugh at.

But this isn’t the problem for today, either. Details for that will come in yet another letter to you. I will be sending a “save the date” note beforehand, so you can set some time aside to give it your full attention. By the way, I assume you are compiling all my letters to answer in a new book. I can’t wait!

At any rate, the problem today is not that Bill takes on most of the projects. It’s that my wife enjoys doing them with him!

I noticed this a few years ago when we redid a bathroom. I thought he would take care of everything, but she jumped in and started picking out tile and fixtures and such. He encouraged her input, sharing ideas and design options of his own. Sure, they invited me to talk about these things, but to be honest, I felt like a plumber without a plunger on those occasions.

Anyway, I didn’t think too much more about this, then a couple of weeks ago Bill and his wife (name not given to protect the innocent) joined me and my wife at a mountain cabin to winterize it. One of the chores was to dig out the well.

Here is where it gets kind of weird: Both Bill and my wife seemed to enjoy the project from the start! I admit the weather was perfect out there with the stunningly beautiful mountains surrounding us. Honestly, we all enjoyed it. We also ended up repairing the chimney, getting the shower house functional, washing the windows and basically making the place look better than it has in years. It was satisfying, no doubt, but still work after all.

I tried to put this idea of “fun work” out of my mind. I suggested a bushwhacking hike through the quagmire to nowhere to match my mood. We actually stumbled upon parts from an old airplane that must have crashed there decades ago. We took a group selfie in front of some mining ruins. We found an abandoned (or forgotten) hammock in the middle of nowhere that was creepy, to say the least. It worked to take my mind off things.

I thought my wife’s enthusiasm for doing projects with Bill was behind us. Then, this past weekend, we were sitting around drinking coffee and the two of them decided it was a good morning to hook up the ice maker on our new fridge. To make a long story short, they sent me to the hardware store for parts while they “got started.”

Well, lo and behold, when I got back the kitchen was a mess, sawdust, tools and empty coffee cups everywhere. In the middle of the chaos, Bill and my wife were on the floor, one under the sink and the other behind the stove stringing a chord to pull the flexible water line through. My jaw dropped!

I think you can see where I’m heading here. Obviously Bill and my wife have no intention of ending these projects together. My question to you is this: How do we turn it into a profitable business?

Roger Marolt loves living in a small town and good neighborhood with no fences. Email him at roger@maroltllp.com.

Sean Beckwith: Living, er getting by, in Aspen doesn’t equate superiority


When someone asks me where I’m from, I say Omaha. When someone asks me where I live, I say Colorado. It’s a weird thing being more proud of a place that everyone makes fun of than a place that often elicits jealousy.

When whoever is interrogating me finally backs me into a corner and I have to admit I live in Aspen, their response is pretty much always, “Must be nice.” Yeah, it is nice, but I don’t actually live in Aspen; I get by in Aspen. This city carries a certain amount of pretension with it. It’s like saying you summer in the Hamptons or “I just love Ibiza” or “My family has a place in the Vineyard.”

I’m not sure how Aspen can get the public to reshape the perception of its residents, which is funny because it seems like the draw for a lot of the people who can actually buy property in Aspen is the Gonzo effect. They think that because they’re in Aspen, they are counterculture by association.

It’s like a rich white kid from the ‘burbs thinking he’s a gangsta because he sells eight balls of coke. I mean … what? You trying to emulate Hunter S. Thompson because you were moved by “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” isn’t as much an homage to HST as it is an insult to individuality.

Buying property in Aspen — or Colorado for that matter — is similar to asking someone if they’ve seen “Squid Game.” Man, you’re ruining it for the rest of us. I always get on my Writing Switch co-author, Ben Welch, that the more popular a thing is, the more he hates it.

I don’t know if it has rubbed off on me, but I’m starting to resent Aspen for that very reason. Quit telling me how great the place I live is because, honestly, you don’t know. I didn’t move here so I could tell people I live here. I moved here because it was the only internship I could get and my sister had a spare bedroom.

Oh, you’re inspired by Aspen’s beauty, too? How many oil paintings of Maroon Bells sunsets is enough? Next time you see a picture of the Bells, I want you to conjure an image in your head of a shit-sprayed toilet bowl filled with puke if not for any reason other than it makes me laugh.

I think that’s one of my favorite aspects of Kurt Cobain; the guy loved the ugly parts of life from his doodles to singing “Rape Me” on MTV. Perhaps that’s how Aspen solves its growth problem. Instead of Aspen Skiing Co. and ACRA posting stunning photos of technicolored mountain ranges, they post a shot of the stream of trash water that’s always flowing from the dumpster in the alley behind RootsRx onto Mill Street. Or in lieu of beautifully constructed sashimi platters featuring bright orange salmon and aura-dized tuna, they opt for a candid of the slowly oxidizing mystery steaks in the discount meat bin at City Market.

This notion that if we simply stop advertising Aspen or Telluride or Crested Butte, scores of tourists and second homeowners will stop invading is asinine. At this point, social media unknowingly does the liar’s share of advertising.

Holy hell, I think I may have found my new calling. Attention, mountain towns of Colorado, let me coordinate your new anti-marketing campaigns. If all the locals gave up exercise and took up fast food five times a week, we can turn people off using an ad campaign centered around excess body fat and back-ne.

Give me pictures of your gross, your disgusting, your muddled masses of downed, browned leaves, the refuse of your holiday weekends teeming with maggots.

Do that and I’ll have people turning up their noses at Aspen like it was Cleveland in February. If you want to end the reputation of Aspen that’s fueling so many to move here and get “good at skiing,” you have to make people realize — or, at minimum, think — that living here doesn’t equate superiority.

There may not be as much ugly here but that doesn’t make you better than a resident of a flyover state. What’s that kids book? “Everyone poops.” Maybe that takes the mantra mantel of “Uncrowded by design.”

John Colson: A Colorado ‘solution’ looking for a problem


It’s nearly election day in Colorado, and at least one of the state ballot questions facing voters Nov. 2 is in need of some explanation.

Amendment 78, as I see it, essentially is little more than a fiscally oriented pissing match between the state legislature and the administration of Gov. Jared Polis.

And, as often is the case in intragovernmental pissing contests, the law of unintended consequences looms in the background, since proposals such as this have a history of being not very well thought out, and of causing massive governmental headaches long after the pissing match has ended.

I’m thinking, for example, of the old TABOR Amendment, otherwise known as the Taxpayer Bill Of Rights or the Bruce Amendment, named for Douglas Bruce, the slumlord and government-hating hack who got the TABOR Act on the statewide ballot back in the early 1990s.

Although TABOR was characterized at the time as a simple anti-tax measure aimed at trimming the fat from governmental coffers, it actually was a stealth missile intended to throttle state government over the long haul, which Bruce sought as a way to keep the government off his back.

As far as I can tell, Amendment 78 is just another effort to hogtie a popular elected official whose fiscal actions in office have pissed off certain factions of the legislature.

To explain: A little over a year ago, as reported by The Colorado Sun, it came out that Polis was using money from private sources (meaning wealthy, politically progressive donors) outside the state’s tax funds to pay for staffers working on a number of his pet issues, including addressing climate change, dealing with immigration issues, and paying for early childhood education.

As it turns out, Polis’ use of this private-funding model to pay for staff positions is in line with his recent predecessors’ use of the same model, both Democrats and Republicans.

So, what’s the big deal, you might be asking.

For one thing, the proposal is a solution looking for a nonexistent problem — this is how our government has functioned for a long time, and the amendment is basically a move by certain disgruntled politicians to give themselves control over all spending by the state, even if it is not necessary or even productive.

Plus, it turns out that Amendment 78 has been the brainchild of basically one man, conservative political activist Michael Shields. This is a guy who at one time reportedly worked for the foundation created by the infamously big-spending Koch brothers, Charles and David, who worked and spent lavishly and relentlessly in support of various right-wing causes, policy initiatives and politicians.

But what’s good for the goose, apparently, is not also good for the gander, since Polis is benefiting from the very same kind of support from the Kochs that helped, for example, former Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin gerrymander his way into office and pollute the state’s politics in ways we won’t fully understand for years.

Seems the red side of the bench has its own view of which causes and personalities deserve private financial support, which definitely does not include Polis or any other left-leaning politician in this country.

In reading over the 2021 State Ballot Information Booklet’s treatment of Amendment 78, the first thing I noticed was that it is deeply bureaucratic in its language, thereby guaranteeing that it will bore the living hell out of many readers and, therefore, may not be well understood by an unpredictable percentage of voters.

Boiled down to its bare essences, Amendment 78 would take away from state agencies, other institutions and the governor’s office itself, any and all authority to spend what are called “custodial” funds, or money contributed to the state by private interests, the federal government and other sources.

Certain factions within the legislature have long sought to undermine the governor’s independent grip on money matters, but existing state law going back to the 1970s has concluded that it is within the governor’s powers to be in control of such funds and of any interest earned from those funds.

And I believe it is that last bit — control of earned interest — that is the true target of this amendment.

According to news reports, even some Democrats in the statehouse want to get their hands on this money, which can then be turned into the kind of fiscal weaponry that so often ties legislation into knots as bills are debated and often defanged, as partisans make deals to excise objectionable portions of proposed laws.

Seen in that light, one of the most troublesome outcomes of enactment of Amendment 78 is that it would be a big step in forcing Colorado to move toward a full-time legislature, rather than the part-time nature of the body today.

Passage also would add potentially millions of dollars worth of additional bureaucratic staff to handle the paperwork load imposed by the new law.

All in all, I think Amendment 78, while it may ultimately become something worth serious consideration, is too much of a political stunt and potential bad bet for it to win voter support on Election Day.

jbcolson51@gmail.com

Judson Haims: Caregiving through stages of dementia


There are many types of dementia — Alzheimer’s disease is just one. While it is common to hear people use Alzheimer’s as a general term for dementia, like using “Kleenex” in lieu of tissue, not all types of dementia are Alzheimer’s.

Dementia is not a specific disease. Rather, it is a group of symptoms that most often occur together. Dementia is a rather general term for the impaired ability to remember, make decisions and reason such that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

There are many types and causes of dementia. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type, there are others. Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD), Lewy body dementia (LBD), and vascular dementia are a few of the most common types.

Causes of Alzheimer’s dementia are often due to an abnormal buildup of two proteins called amyloid and tau. Deposits of amyloid cause clumps to build into plaque deposits between neurons and deposits of tau form “tangles” within brain cells — both proteins cause brain degeneration.

The cause of Parkinson’s disease dementia is unknown. However, scientists believe that it may be due to an abnormal clumping together of a protein called alpha synuclein. While alpha synuclein occurs normally in the brain, scientist do not yet understand what causes it to build up in large amounts. As more and more of this protein clump together, nerve cells die and affect functions such as memory and thinking.

Lewy body dementia is a type of progressive dementia very similar to Parkinson’s disease dementia. Like PDD, alpha-synuclein protein deposits are believed to greatly influence this disease. Deposits of alpha-synuclein protein affect chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters that act as messengers between brain cells. As these neurotransmitters decrease, memory, learning, behavior, cognition, movement, motivation, sleep and mood are greatly affected.

Vascular dementia is a decline in thinking skills caused by an interruption or blockage of blood supply to the brain. When blood supply is impeded for a few seconds, the brain cannot get oxygen and cells can die, causing permanent damage to one’s memory, thinking and reasoning.

All of these dementia types will at one time cause behavioral changes.

Learning about the various behavioral changes associated with these diseases will help provide perspective, understanding and context. For the most part, people who have dementia will at some point behave in ways that may be vastly different from how they have acted in the past. Frequently, these new behavior types are expressively reactive; however, they may be passive, as well.

Reactive behaviors are behaviors that depend on external events that are outside of one’s influence or control. A good or bad day depends completely on what happens around someone. They often present when someone is agitated and protests (sometimes with violence), cries and/or laughs uncontrollably, or falsely accuses someone as a result of something said in conversation.

Passive behaviors are when a person hoards objects, keeping feelings to themselves, hide feelings from others, acts with suspicion, paces the floor, or acts paranoid. Often people with passive behaviors appear quiet and sometimes nonchalant giving up their own rights and (directly or indirectly) defer to the rights of another person.

These behavior changes frequently interfere with relationships and cause difficulties. Here are some suggestions I hope may help:

Do not take their behavior personally: What often drives someone’s difficult behavior is that they perceive an obstacle to what they want.

Separate the person from the behavior: Look beyond the behaviors and ask yourself what’s triggering that behavior. Someone’s behavior does not always define them as a person. Find out what their intentions are.

Provide an alternative behavior: “I want to listen to your concerns, but I need you to stop yelling.” Try explaining how you perceive the behavior and why a different behavior may be beneficial.

Those who care for someone with dementia should understand that they cannot change the disease and the resulting behaviors, but they can learn to cope with them. Understanding that changes in the brain are causing challenges to one’s ability to make sense of the world around them is important.

Here are two great websites I often refer people to learn more about managing changes in dementia: the National Institute on Aging’s managing Alzheimer’s changes and the Alzheimer’s Association page on stages and behaviors.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.

Kaya Williams: Inside Out

Kaya Williams, reporter for the Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun

Every time I report on mental health in the Roaring Fork Valley, I hear the same two messages: One, that our unparalleled access to the outdoors in this valley is an outstanding resource for solace and healing when we struggle with our mental health, and two, that it is perfectly OK to struggle with mental health in a mecca for outdoor recreation and natural beauty.

I cling to that first message, and I always have. The trails are my place of bliss and relief and release. Rolling, smooth singletrack helps me space out when I’m overwhelmed; steep technical terrain helps me manufacture a distraction when I need to force a reset.

It’s not by coincidence that my highest highs (and comebacks from some of my lower lows) have all come surrounded by snow and dirt and rocks and trees at altitudes well above sea level. I seek out the pain cave on steep, tough climbs because it is rewarding, sure, but also because I know that if I’m focused on how my legs and my lungs feel then I’m less likely to spiral deep into my thoughts; I spend time in the mountains seeking joy, yes, but also an escape from the things in life that aren’t so joyful.

I don’t think I’m the only one in this valley with that penchant for outdoor escapism. It’s probably the reason a lot of us came here in the first place. It’s easy to ignore what’s challenging us when we’re concentrating on flow trails and route-finding; besides, exercise releases endorphins, sunlight can yield serotonin, and we’ve got plenty of access to both. Even on a day that royally, cosmically sucks, we know we can sneak out the back door with our boots or bikes or skis in tow and feel a little better than we did before we left.

Maybe that’s why I find the latter message — that despite our surroundings, there will still be times we struggle with our mental health — so much harder to accept.

If I’m here because the outdoors are so key to my wellbeing, then what am I supposed to do when the usual mental health fixes — a long run in the backcountry, a few hours in the mountains — aren’t working as well as they used to?

At first, I thought it was a good kind of problem to have: the more time I spent recreating outside, the more I wanted and needed to recreate outside to keep my head screwed on straight. Whenever I was overwhelmed or vexed or struggling to articulate how I felt, I knew I could hit the trails and feel the problems melt away.

I figured it couldn’t hurt if it required a few more miles or a bit more elevation gain to get back on solid footing; smiles per hour beget more smiles per hour, right?

The feelings didn’t actually get resolved. They just got deferred. And in September, compounded by a work schedule I knowingly overpacked and a series of comically escalating car troubles brought about by a combination of hubris and misfortune, those confusing, stressful, overwhelming emotions I had so adamantly denied all summer steamrolled me.

Ignoring the dread wasn’t an effective solution anymore. I know because I tried, and on the longest run of the season, 15 miles through groves of golden aspens and forested trails that would normally elicit a big fat goofy grin and a lighter skip in my step, I couldn’t escape the deadweight feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I didn’t know what to do, because all I’ve ever done when I need to feel better is go outside. It was foolproof, until it wasn’t.

Logic and several phone calls with my mom suggested that time, rest and patience would help me address some of the things that were sucking me in, but even that was a hard pill to swallow without the deferral-by-distraction method I’ve relied on my whole life.

I still don’t really have a solution for now, except to write about it here. Maybe it means I start placing less emphasis on outdoor recreation as the be-all and end-all for wellbeing; it’s just one of many resources we have in this valley for mental health, though my own stubbornness and resistance to change means it will probably take me longer than most to embrace the alternatives.

In the meantime, I’ll probably still be out there on the trails almost every day of the week, trying to figure it out one mile at a time.

Kaya Williams would like to acknowledge that her mom was right, by the way: sometimes, it takes a bit of time, a few deep breaths and a bit of collective problem-solving to get back on solid ground. She covers education and the town of Snowmass Village for the Aspen Times and the Snowmass Sun; email her at kwilliams@aspentimes.com.

Tony Vagneur: As Aunt Dula says, you’re never too old for an ice cream cone


A faithful reader, known to his internet friends as “Ski Bum,” sent me the following quote after my last column. It seems fitting this week.

“And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to the past.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

There are those events that come at us from long past, happenings over which we had no control but return to the fore from time-to-time. The sizzled, permanent brand is deep and there is nothing we can do but deal with it as we dance along our path.

How I got to Denver, is not clear. A friend and I had gone to Nebraska to visit his grandparents, a four- or five-day trip. We’d left from Aspen and the drive there is still fresh in my mind, but as to getting to Denver after our visit, it’s uncertain. Maybe I rode a bus from Nebraska, maybe my friend dropped me off somewhere in the city. My step was light and I felt good even though at 17, I’d never been alone in the city before.

What I do remember is getting out of a taxicab in front of a small hospital, with a large faux alligator-hide-covered suitcase in tow. (The suitcase had belonged to my paternal great-uncle Dellore, and when he died, my dad brought it home along with some furniture and other items, the suitcase falling to me.) Pulling a rumpled piece of paper out of my pocket to double-check the address, I paid the driver, disembarked and walked through the large double front doors.

Directed to a room on the first floor, I could hear her hollering for a nurse to bring her some pain medication before I got there. Her spirits brightened for a few moments when she saw me, and we had a short visit, although most of it was about the pain she was suffering, and could I get her some relief. She was not herself.

Both arms and her right leg were tied to the bed in a fashion that didn’t give her much freedom of movement. The other leg sported a fracture at the hip, one of those catastrophic medical events in older citizens that many times lead to death, especially in earlier days, such as 1964.

Back at the nurse’s station, I tried to explain the situation with the pain, whereupon I was told she didn’t need any pain medication, it was all in her head. “Then why is she tied to the bed? She can’t go anywhere with a broken hip.” “Leave the nursing to us, we know what we’re doing,” was the reply. Being 17, I wasn’t really in a position to carry much authority, but those remarks hit me somewhere deep down inside.

My great-aunt, tied to the bed with a fractured femur, 77 years old, had gone to Denver with her remaining Aspen sister to spend the cold days of winter with another sister who had married and moved to the big city many years before.

Did they have plans to return to their Aspen house? Maybe; she asked if her car was still in the garage, but that is lost to history, and probably doubtful. With my aunt’s accident, plans were likely in the air. Additionally, our world was quickly changing as my parents had sold the Woody Creek ranch and were moving to Denver. After reporting the hospital situation to my mother, she immediately took control.

In the end, my great-aunt, who was a fireball of personality, born in Aspen in 1887, who had ranched, taught school and traveled most of her life, named Buttermilk Mountain (it was part of the family ranch) long before it became a ski area, and who wasn’t afraid to give me a cigarette from time-to-time, never walked again.

Shortly after my visit, my mother got her placed in a nursing home close to the house my parents had bought, and visits were done regularly. Painfully, the next time I saw my great-aunt, maybe two or three months later, she didn’t know who I was.

She died in 1972, but her unique way of looking at the world never left her. Shortly before her death, sitting beside her in one of those long, black limousines in a funeral procession for another family member, she turned to me with an impish grin and asked if we could tell the driver to stop for an ice cream cone. Rest in Peace, Aunt Dula.

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

Roger Marolt: Bleeding orange through hot wing-induced arterial sclerosis


There is a group of immensely talented guys. Their careers are doing something they love. They make millions. They are famous. They are gifted. They will retire before they are 40. I say I love them, but I don’t know them.

I am talking about “my” Denver Broncos. That’s the way they have sold them to me, anyway. The stadium announcer yells over the PA system, “Here are yooooour (big pause) Denverrrrr (another pause) BRONCOOOOS!” You got that? They’re mine? … But, they possess me!

Why am I emotionally attached to a football team? Honestly, they have provided more misery and disappointment by far than the joy “our” three Super Bowl victories brought in the half century I have hemorrhaged orange blood.

This says something about the product the National Football League puts on our shelves. Unlike Colorado peaches, the end of football season leaves most fans with a bitter taste. Only one team wins it all. There are far more bruises to cut out and woody skin to bite through than delectable cobblers topped with Cool Whip.

I wonder how the NFL brainwashed me. They are a business that produces basically the same product and puts 32 different labels on it. There are small differences in quality, like some bags of gorp end up with more chocolate bits, but basically every team is a mercurial mix of continually shuffled players. As an informed and intelligent consumer, why don’t I pick the best one to enjoy each week? It’s not like I have to pay more to pull for the best? Why do we become loyal followers of the teams that cause the most heartache. The more they let us down, the more we love them.

We know there is no such thing as a real home team in pro football. It is rare that a player grew up in the town he plays in. It’s highly improbable that a player will be on one team his whole career. Credit the NFL hypnotists that create the craving to spend a $150 on a replica jersey of a star player, making us believe he is our best friend for doing so, even though we call him a “bum” for fumbling at the goal line.

We wear our jerseys on the weekend acting like we’re in the starting lineup and then switch to golf shirts with the team helmet embroidered on the breast to play coach during the week.

We are loyal to a logo, mascot, the color orange and the poor suckers sitting next to us who have bought into the madness, too. We are in essence choosing our wine by the label. We’re judging books by their covers. Broncos fans hate the Raiders with a passion, but if all our players swapped jerseys with their players at halftime so that the rosters were completely reversed, we would still go bonkers for the guys with the angry horse on their helmets during the second half. It is ridiculous.

Despite grinding my teeth behind a crooked, good sport’s smile as you gloat, I know you are not a better person than me because your team beat the Broncos last Sunday, even though I will believe that I am better than you if the Broncos prevail next time.

It kills me, literally, to think of all the greasy hot wings, chips, cheese dip and bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers I have nervously gnawed on and washed down with who knows how much beer during my storied career as the Broncos 12th man. My arteries can’t recover. Add the days my life will be shortened by this to the time I’ve wasted on the couch watching, and you begin to understand my despair.

Look at me: I am making fun of the NFL and the Broncos, because I continue to be obsessed with both, even though I fully understand that I am willingly being bamboozled. It is how I know that I am at least partially insane.

I think back to almost six years ago when the Broncos won the Super Bowl. I was overjoyed, and we celebrated as if we, ourselves, had something to do with the victory. It made up for all the heartache. The last-second losses and misery of the past made that one victory all the sweeter. But, honestly, … it didn’t feel as good as we said it did. That damnable rational person inside kept pointing out that nobody else really cared. I had to get up and go to work the next day anyway.

Roger Marolt has never painted his face for a Broncos game. He feels this preserves his self-esteem. Eroger@maroltllp.com

Guest commentary: BOE candidate’s platform includes stability, community and building bridges

Aspen School District Board of Education candidate John Galambos is running for one of three open positions in the 2021 school board election.
Courtesy photo

I am running for the Aspen School District Board of Education as both an involved community member and parent of three kids who went K-12 through the Aspen schools. My wife, Robin, and I have been rooted in this community for 28 years. We were involved in our kids’ classes, Outdoor-Education experiences and Project Graduations. Since they graduated, I’ve stayed involved by serving on the District Accountability Committee and the middle school principal search committee. In 2020, I served as co-chair of the “Funding our Future” campaign, securing $94 million-plus in bonds and renewed taxes. My candidacy is endorsed by the Aspen Education Association (teacher’s union), and I have a broad base of support.

What has impressed me most about our kids’ education is not the IB diplomas, college opportunities or various accomplishments. It is the fact that my kids are products of a school system that taught them to think critically and become their own unique citizens in this world; skills that they are now applying to their professions and lives. I am running for the BOE with gratitude for the exceptional quality of education our kids received.

This campaign is about leadership and the tone the BOE sets for the district and the community. I will lead by creating stability, building bridges and restoring community.

Creating stability: Our kids and staff need stability. Administrative turnover over the past five years and COVID have brought upheaval. I’ll work at ushering in a period of stability for staff and students by giving the administration time to implement their goals; creating better systems of support for teachers, including housing; and overseeing curricula alignment between the schools through the IB framework. By creating stability, the board can foster an environment that trusts our administration and teachers to equip our students to excel.

Building bridges: I am a collaborative problem-solver. Decisions must include all stakeholders in our community. Many challenges in our schools are familiar to Aspen: emotional/mental health; huge gaps in resources; self-medication and substance use. These need to be tackled in partnership with and collaboration between the schools and our governments, nonprofits and faith communities to help our kids thrive. As BOE member, I will listen, ask questions, find a collective solution and then give direction. We have the resources to work together to build infrastructure where kids leave prepared for whatever awaits them in the future.

Restoring community: I love how our community always rallies around our schools. However, we have divisions on how best to do that. I will work at ways to restore our sense of community and shared values for our schools. As a BOE member, I will work to foster open avenues of communication between the board, teachers, administration and community. We need to compromise to restore the district’s culture to be one where people want to work and are empowered to do what they do best.

Two years ago, the campaign was a referendum on the past administration. Now, it’s a referendum on the future. As we emerge from the pandemic, our town’s demographics are changing. New parents bring good ideas and I will listen. However, we can’t lose our sense of place. Our mountain environment informs our kids’ education. ASD is doing many things very well. Let’s build on our strengths in partnership with our community. I want excellence in academics, but more than that I want our schools to give all kids the tools to develop their unique skills and passions. By creating stability, building bridges and restoring community, we can provide a place for all students to grow as thinkers, dreamers, innovators and world changers.

Editor’s note: There are six candidates running for three open seats on the Aspen Board of Education. The Aspen Times has offered each candidate a guest column of 600 words or less. The election is Nov. 2; ballots were mailed out Oct. 8.