Cocaine, Mike Pence and the viral power of Aspen
Combine modern social media with an Aspen dateline and stories from our little corner of the Colorado Rockies can achieve astounding viral reach.
Most of the time the global interest is short-lived, though in rare cases like one that occurred around here between Christmas and New Year’s, the stories keep reaching and reaching.
I write about crime in Aspen and Pitkin County, which means local shenanigans — often related in some way to cocaine — frequently get picked up by larger media outlets and disseminated.
One of those stories I wrote in my brief tenure here at The Times involved a Saudi Arabian man who repeatedly offered a local taxi driver cocaine, spilled the drug on the driver, cursed him and America in general and then exposed himself to the man.
That one landed on the front page of the New York Post — with someone else’s byline, of course — though they included a link to my original story, which so many people clicked on, it crashed not only The Aspen Times website but the website of every paper owned by The Times’ parent company.
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Another involved a local man caught chopping lines of cocaine on a downtown park bench. When police spotted him, he denied any drug use until an officer stood him up, looked up his nose and asked what all the white stuff was. “Of course it’s cocaine,” the man admitted, according to the officer. “It’s Aspen.”
As an aside — if there’s any doubt that cocaine and Aspen are inextricably linked, there’s a story from a month or so ago that never made the paper.
In that one, a man I don’t know friended me on Facebook, then sent me a personal message saying he’d Googled “Aspen” and “cocaine” and reported that my name came up. He wondered if I could obtain the drug for him.
But the story I wrote that’s gone the craziest — viral-wise, anyway — since I arrived in Aspen had nothing to do with cocaine.
It was about the gay flag and Vice President Mike Pence. Frequent Aspen Times readers will remember that the anti-gay Pence visited Aspen between Christmas and New Year’s and stayed in a mansion off Owl Creek Road.
The mansion’s neighbors — who happened to be hosting their bisexual daughter and her girlfriend for the holidays — hung a rainbow flag on a stone pillar near the driveway to the home where Pence was staying emblazoned with the words “Make America Gay Again.” The daughter later told me via email that she and her girlfriend also placed hundreds of small, rainbow flags in the snow between their property and the home where Pence stayed that only people in the two homes could see.
Once that story hit Twitter it exploded. I gained something like 50 new followers in a matter of days, while the story was picked up by news outlets all over the country and beyond.
And, now, three months later, I’m still receiving Twitter notifications on a weekly basis about people liking my original tweet sent out Dec. 29. It’s kind of unbelievable.
But such is the viral power of our fair burg.
I’m hoping the next one might combine the above themes. A homophobic politician caught having a wild coke party at The Little Nell with a gaggle of gay porn stars ought to do it.
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The new ballet company DanceAspen, founded by an featuring former Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dance artists, will give its premiere performance on Friday night at the Wheeler Opera House.