Carbondale is what Aspen could have been
August 2, 2010
Further to the last sentence in Alison Berkley’s Thursday column, “… what I loved the most about the Carbondale Mountain Fair was that it was so totally and completely not Aspen,” let me make an observation.
I lived in Aspen for many years. When Laurie Loeb moved to Carbondale from Aspen in the 1970s many of us scratched our heads in disbelief. How could anyone want to leave the earthly paradise that Aspen so clearly was in those days and move to poor little old Carbondale overrun as it was with coal miners and cowboys? Back then Aspen had several places like Steve’s Guitars where you could go to hear good singer-songwriters and good bluegrass, and in summer all the music students lived right in town, where you could hear them practicing.
Months would go by without our having to go downvalley beyond Woody Creek. Then, Laurie started the Mountain Fair. Until the early ’90s the coal mine in Redstone was still active, and the coal was trucked to the Mid-Continent siding on Catherine Store Road, where it was loaded onto coal trains that still ran up to Carbondale. The miners used to show up in the bars looking like they were in a minstrel show with coal dust all over their faces. Except for Mountain Fair in the summer and Potato Days in the fall and the infamous Carbondale Talent Show, Carbondale remained pretty quiet.
The years went by.
Pretty soon up in Aspen the billionaires began to drive the millionaires out, and we working folk found we couldn’t afford to rent there anymore and the music students no longer lived right in town. Last year, wanting to rent a room in my house, I put an ad up in the Pitkin County Library which began, “Are you tired of Aspen and do you want to know what Aspen was like 30 years ago?! Come on down and rent a room in Carbondale …” It got me a renter or two.
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And here’s the point of my observation: Believe it or not, Carbondale today truly is very much like the Aspen I knew when I first moved there in the 1960s – filled with very different kinds of people and above all – and this is very important – filled with their children. The live music at Steve’s Guitars and the good movies at the Crystal and the good restaurants and our bookstore and library and now our Third Street Center all combine to make Carbondale a place where we like to live with our friends and our friends’ friends. Our view of Mount Sopris is even better than Aspen’s.
Though there are a few black SUVs that pull into the post office parking lot, there are not that many. Steve Skinner drives by my house almost every day in his all-electric vehicle. The Aspen Valley Land Trust is not in Aspen, it’s in Carbondale. I like to think that Carbondale is what Aspen could have been – if it had wanted to. So there you are, Alison, as they say, “up Shit Creek without a paddle!”