Aspen’s Common Sense: Catch him if you can
June 26, 2011
ASPEN – The man behind Aspen’s Common Sense might know who you are. But he’d prefer you don’t know him.
He’s lived here two years, is in his late 30s, and works in retail.
And in April, he debuted Aspen’s Common Sense, a satirical street-sheet and website aimed at knocking the city’s movers, shakers, politicians, well-heeled and influential down a few notches. He changes their names to protect the guilty – using such monikers as Debbie Wrong (for ACRA president Debbie Braun), Dick Fireland (Mayor Mick Ireland) and Ruth Cougar (commercial real estate broker Ruth Kruger).
He’d only talk to The Aspen Times on the condition that this article would not use his real name, so we’ll call him “Ed.”
Between sips of Coors Light at an undisclosed location last week, Ed, if you will, noted that he does not discriminate.
“I slaughter everybody equally,” he said. “If something strikes me as funny, then I write it. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican. And it doesn’t matter which side you fall on. If your position or quotes especially strike me as ridiculous or funny, then that’s material for me to use.”
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When Aspen’s Common Sense launched just a week before the May 3 city elections, Ed delivered copies of it to downtown retailers, businesses and government buildings. Headlines included “Cougar Comes Clean, Admits Multiple Personality Disorder” and “Mayor Arrested for Assault,” respective barbs at both Kruger and Ireland, who had locked horns in the mayoral race. He also referred to the plight of Jan Hamilton with the headline “Crazy Lesbian Arrested Again.”
A self-described news junkie, Ed said he consistently reads both local newspapers, watches government meetings on GrassRoots Community Television, and occasionally listens to radio reports.
The political climate in Aspen is unlike anything Ed, who says he’s world-traveled, has ever seen.
“The people that are the easiest targets are the most ridiculous,” he said. “It’s like they’re all caricatures of themselves to one degree or another.”
Two of the most outspoken and powerful critics of local government – Marilyn Marks and Elizabeth Milias – he said, have an air of entitlement that wouldn’t fly in other cities.
“If they did what they do in other cities,” he said, “they’d be laughed out of city council chambers and onto the streets. They’d be humiliated back into their corner, not because of what they believe, but because of the way they present themselves.”
But their adversary, Ireland, can be equally absurd, Ed said.
“You watch Mick Ireland on GrassRoots, and every week he does the same ridiculous thing: He tells people they have only 3 minutes to talk, and he takes a 15-minute speech to tell them they only have three minutes to talk. Where else does that happen? Who else would do that?”
The subjects of Aspen’s Common Sense, Ed noted, are deserving of the ridicule they get.
“I never try to just target the same person over and over again,” he said. “Some people appear more because they put themselves out in the media more often. … A lot of people in this town get free passes [from the Aspen media] – the Markses and the Miliases of the world. Just because somebody writes 800 letters a week doesn’t mean they all have to be printed. Just because someone stands up at a city council meeting and vomits a bunch of BS doesn’t mean it has to be reported on.”
Ed also sends an email blast of the latest edition of Aspen’s Common Sense to his subjects and what he says is a growing fan base.
“People do email me back,” he said, “and some are not happy about it. Mostly I get praise, 90 percent, but 10 percent is not so nice about it. But that’s OK; I take it with a grain of salt.”
He’s only met one or two of his subjects, and Ed said he doesn’t plan to forge any relationships with the people he parodies.
“It would make it harder for me to do if I knew them,” he said. “I’m perfectly happy not knowing the leaders or the people who make the news.”
And, Ed explained, “It shouldn’t matter who’s doing it. [Aspen’s Common Sense] has a point of view, all of its own, that should stand by itself. It shouldn’t require a who. It’s not as if it’s Elizabeth Milias lobbing serious attacks and trying to sway the elections or sway influence over people. To me it shouldn’t be about who’s writing it. It should be whether it’s meeting the requirement of satire.”
In the meantime, Ed said he might ease back the print version of Aspen’s Common Sense. Just four people know that he puts it out, he said, and he’s come close to blowing his cover while distributing copies when he thought no one was looking. Life would be a bit more stress free, he said, were he to abandon the print product and use just his website – aspenscommonsense.wordpress.com – to promote his satire.
“When I was distributing either the third or fourth issue,” he recalled, “I was on Mill Street trying to be cautious of who’s watching. This guy in a black Mercedes was looking at me and I was at the corner, by Wells Fargo. I turned in the alley to get off Mill Street and he made a U-turn by the fountain and chased my ass down the alley in his Mercedes. I don’t know who he was, but he clearly wanted something, but I don’t know what.
“But he didn’t catch me.”