`Zen Paperboy’ flows with ink of changing Times | AspenTimes.com

`Zen Paperboy’ flows with ink of changing Times

Luke Nestler is the valley’s own paperboy, a Colorado native and self-proclaimed “silver-braided vagabond.”

As circulation manager for The Aspen Times, Nestler supervises seven other drivers, and does some of the driving himself.

That means picking up heavy bundles of newspapers at 2:15 a.m. at the printing press in Gypsum and getting them in 400-plus boxes all over the valley – sometimes by as early as 6:30 a.m.

“The drivers and I bet we lift between 5 and 6 tons of papers a week,” he said. “I couldn’t do what I do without my drivers – they are the best. Believe me – it’s not easy getting 12,000 papers from Gypsum into boxes by 7 or 7:30 a.m.”

Nestler can be identified by any of several trademarks. He wears his hair in two thin, silver braids, sometimes connected beneath his chin with a rubber band. He wears a scarf wrapped across his forehead, and often keeps earphones around his neck.

No matter the weather, his feet are usually clad in socks and sandals. He always wears sleeveless shirts. And his dog Lele, a chow-Lab mix, is always at his side.

Born in Grand Junction, Nestler grew up in Boulder and then went to Ft. Lewis College in Durango where he studied English. After college, he didn’t know what he wanted to do (and still doesn’t), so he came to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1979, worked odd jobs and lived in his car. Sometimes he found shelter in the basement of the Aspen Meadows.

Lucky enough to find someone who would let him live on his mining claim on the backside of Aspen Mountain, Nestler pitched a teepee (22 feet across the base and 18 to 20 feet tall) and lived in it for 12 years.

At the time, living in a teepee wasn’t all that unusual – Nestler estimates there were 10 in the Castle Creek Valley and another 30 in the Hunter Creek/Lenado area.

“We somewhat sarcastically called it `Third World Aspen’ and somewhat flattered ourselves thinking that it was another expression of the Aspen Idea,” Nestler said. “We were dealing with the elements, but all of the luxuries of Aspen were only 10 minutes away.”

He claims his penchant for sleeveless shirts comes from living just an eighth of an inch of fabric away from the cold winter weather.

Nestler left the teepee for a cabin that was built on the mining claim, living there until 2000. After marrying the daughter of the then-advertising manager at The Aspen Times, he decided to deliver newspapers in 1988.

He was there for the first issue of The Aspen Times Daily in 1988, and delivered it in spite of a huge snowstorm that shut off some of the power in town.

Nestler moved downvalley in 2000, which puts him several steps closer to one of his passions: deejaying at KDNK in Carbondale. His radio show, every other Monday night from 9 to 11, features world music.

In his spare time, he’s writing two books: one is a book of poetry, the other has a working title of “Zen Paperboy.”

“Part of the concept comes from sleep deprivation and mental gymnastics it takes to survive that,” he said. “I try to dance through any route I’m doing – I try to keep it a flowing Tai Chi thing, even though I’m lugging big bundles of stuff around.”

It’s a form of meditation, he says, as a constant challenge to be efficient and precise with his work. In college he used to wish he could get paid for watching clouds. Two weeks ago while driving upvalley he spotted a beautiful cloud over Mt. Sopris at 3 a.m., and thought “Holy cow – I’m getting paid to watch clouds.”

“To the millionaires or other people here who are all wrapped up in their own things, that may be trivial, but for me, it was quite a revelation,” he said.

Nestler also recently realized that many people in Aspen – including himself – would simply nod a quick hello on the street instead of stopping to talk to friends and acquaintances. He said he’s trying to change that.

“We get so locked into our routines and patterns, and Aspen has become more sterile and colder than it was before,” he said. “I’m really trying to make time to stop and say hello to everyone.”

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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