Tracy’s Day was a shot of Aspen soul |

Tracy’s Day was a shot of Aspen soul

John Colson

It’s a constant comfort to see how this community comes together and out of the woodwork to show love and support for locals in need, locals who have died or some cause that resonates with the things we care about.For one thing, it’s become almost the best and only way to catch up with a crusty and somewhat recalcitrant subset of the local population, shall we call them the “new old-timers?” I’m referring to people who have been here for two or three decades, and have gone from active participation in community life to a sort of determinedly isolationist posture that would have made Howard Hughes proud.The most recent example was Tracy’s Day, several hours of music, food and convivial conversation to honor the memory of the late Tracy McLain, and to raise money for the two daughters she left behind when she died in a car accident last year. McLain, daughter of Doug and Arlyce McLain, lived in the Roaring Fork Valley her entire life. She was 45.As I strolled the grounds of the Aspen Community School campus, sipping a strong margarita and chatting with dozens of people, I noticed one thing in particular. Even those who never knew Tracy (and there were many) had either heard of her through friends or simply heard about her impact on the valley as a music teacher and musician.They knew that she taught hundreds of local kids how to play the guitar, and all the lessons of life that come with an education in music, and some of them understood that she was a marvelous person, if the testimonials flying around the school grounds that day were even half-true.And that was enough to bring them to the event on a glorious Saturday, when they might have been doing anything else and not had to pay for it, whatever it was.A friend of mine, one of those who never knew Tracy but who came for all the reasons mentioned, waxed eloquent about the event, saying, “With all the shit that goes on around here, I forget sometimes that this is a good place. This kind of thing reminds me of that.” Of course, there were just as many who had known her, from the musicians who donated their talents to make Tracy’s Day a success, to the various longtime locals one normally sees only at such events, or in a beloved and hallowed watering hole.”Tracy was a great gal,” enthused biker, bar worker and general hard-core local Michael Adams, who met Tracy in the mid-’70s and has been her pal ever since, and who characterized her as “full of big music, full of life.”From other music teachers, musicians and music lovers, the accolades flowed like a bubbling brook. One of her students, Eleanor Bennett, who was Tracy’s student at the time of the car wreck, spoke warmly of Tracy’s encouragement and teaching prowess, saying simply, “I miss her.”Pitkin County’s animal-control maven ReRe Baker told a story about how Tracy called her once when a llama got loose and tried to mount Tracy’s horse while Tracy was riding it around Holland Hills. That’s right, illogical as it may seem to think about a llama coupling with a horse, it happened to Tracy and remains one of ReRe’s favorite stories about her.I interviewed Tracy’s dad, Doug McLain, toward the end of the afternoon, shortly before he was to go onstage and perform, and he was blown away by the number of people and the intensity of affection.”This is just the most fantastic tribute to my daughter that I can possibly imagine,” he said softly, calling an earlier performance by the Celtic Megaband (40 musicians cobbled together specially for the event) “the greatest single thing I’ve ever seen.”My friend was right, I decided as the sun dipped westward and I motorcycled away. There’s enough crap flying through the air around here to distress even the calmest, most understanding observer. But every now and then something happens to remind us of what we’ve had and, to a diminishing degree, still have.So long, Tracy.John Colson can be reached at

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