To have and have not, in Aspen and beyond |

To have and have not, in Aspen and beyond

By the time these words reach the printed page, I will have been gone for a week visiting “the North Country fair,” in Bob Dylan’s immortal words, and who knows what will have happened in the interim.

But, due to the vagaries of holiday deadlines, I peck away at the keyboard on the day of my departure, in my weekly effort to make sense of days that have not yet passed.

I note with interest that Aspen jewelers are banding together in the face of thievery, after a crew of clever crooks made off with more than a half-million dollars in baubles and trinkets from a local boutique. It is amusing to realize that in this overpriced milieu the haul amounted to only a half-dozen items. Small wonder that the criminal class has discovered Aspen as ripe for the plucking.

There is a certain amount of irony in all this, since for most of us the brand of commerce perpetrated by these kinds of stores is little more than a form of highway robbery in itself. The fevered brain conjures images of stylishly dressed brigands facing each other across a sparkling countertop, each eying the other suspiciously and watching the hands closely.

All of this might make a fine subject line for a Hitchcockian film, along the lines of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly trading quips in “To Catch a Thief,” but starring the likes of Edward Norton and Queen Latifah for a more modern twist. And perhaps, by the time I return, the evildoers will be behind bars and the merchants breathing easier again.

Political pundits have declared that the Democrats and the Republicans are mired in a hopeless jumble of competing lies and persuasive propaganda as the Iowa caucuses draw near, with nobody appearing to have a lock on victory. My favorite candidate, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, has been relegated to “also-ran” status by the national media. This leaves me nursing the vaguely disquieting hope that John Edwards, the only “viable” candidate who says anything I care to support, can pull a political rabbit out of his hat and surge ahead while I ride the rails through the very state in question.

Having just spent the week watching Vlad “The Derailer” Putin plunge the knife of tyranny into the heart of Russian democracy (gotta love that New York Times headline, “A Tsar Is Born”), I can’t help but think our own King George II is feeling a little jealous at the way Putin has manipulated electoral politics to ensure his position.

Of course, I firmly believe Shrub pulled off a comparable bloodless coup not once, but twice, in the U.S. presidential elections of ’00 and ’04, which should salve his despotic bruised ego just a bit.

Bush also should take great satisfaction at presiding over the train wreck that is the U.S. economy right now, just as Putin has guided Russia into a tailspin of epic proportions. The sub-prime lending fiasco, with its roots in the deregulatory orgy that started with Ronald Reagan and Bush the Elder, is adding more bricks to the wall between the “haves” and the “have-nots” here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Back on the home front, the “haves” have successfully routed the Aspen City Council’s efforts, in the guise of historic preservation, to put the brakes on the scrape-and-rape juggernaut that is ruining the region’s housing market for all but the well-heeled.

The juggernaut is rapidly turning Aspen, as well as nearby towns, into a canyonland of starter mansions staring gloomily at each other across streets packed with Hummers, Porsches and other automotive status symbols. Meanwhile the masses hold on tight to the tiny cracks they have managed to fill, or are pushed further and further away from their realization of the American Dream.

As Christmas ’07 recedes into the dim reaches of recent history, we can all be truly thankful that we don’t live in a nation where guns, bombs and deprivation are the currency of the day.

But even here, amidst the splendor of the mountains and a bountiful winter harvest of snow and money, too many feel the pinch from the jaws of the wolf at the door.

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