Aspen Princess: Happy Fourth of July, Aspen! |

Aspen Princess: Happy Fourth of July, Aspen!

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

By the time you read this, you’ll probably have been to at least a few festivities, maybe competed in Buddy Race or squeezed in an early-morning workout or yoga class, the detox before the re-tox. You probably laid out a few outfits, something that works for the day but still says “sexy all-American,” like an open-back halter top with cut-offs and platform wedges, a short sundress with cowboy boots, or a flimsy white skirt and a red halter top finished off with a wide brim cowboy hat. You’ll cruise around town by bike in heels or flip-flops, handle bars mounted with a cup holder for your beer cozy.

I remember those days. My first year in Aspen, I lived one block off Main on Aspen Street in a house that was torn down 10 years ago and replaced with a brick monotonicity that took up the entire lot and blocked all the neighbor’s views of Aspen Mountain. The house I lived in was an unfortunate shade of yellow, like the color of rotten bananas. I shared this nondescript, three-bedroom ranch style house with six guys, four very large dogs and a roommate from Canada who never came out of the basement. Originally it provided housing for the priest at the Catholic church across the street, and I was told it was a meth lab at one point.

When we lived there, it was sorely neglected, with holes in the carpet, doors missing from the kitchen cabinets, mold growing in the bathroom and the roof littered with various random items that had been tossed up there and never retrieved. We’re talking everything from skateboards and basketballs to random tools and parts to things that would never be identified.

On the Fourth, we’d drag our metal beach chairs to watch the parade right in front of the Sardy House. The guys from Johnny McGuire’s had the best float. Johnny McGuire’s was a legendary sandwich shop that fed the stoned and hungover masses for 24 years before it closed in 2015. They dished out these giant subs made from bread so dense yet porous that it was guaranteed to absorb whatever toxins were floating through your veins and then sit in your gut like a brick, making it that much easier to catch that afternoon nap. Their tagline was “Health food sucks!” and their delivery vehicle was a beat up Volkswagen bug with a giant pickle on top.

They’d fastened a bunch of skateboards to a wooden box they towed down Main Street by that infamous Volkswagen bug, and all the guys piled in. At some point the skateboards ripped off and the car dragged the box along the pavement, sparks flying everywhere. The guys, dressed in giant colorful wigs and oversized sunglasses, reveled in their homemade fireworks. I worried for just a moment that the friction might actually start a fire.

I’d run into these same guys later, still clad in wigs and shades on the bus to Snowmass where there had been a free concert. They were drunk out of their minds (at the very least), and thought it was fun to “surf” the bus by standing in the aisles and trying not to hold onto anything for balance. Whenever the bus stopped, they burst into song to greet the new passengers, singing, “Welcome to the back of the bus! Come and ride it with us!” at the top of their lungs. I also remember running into a whole crew who from The Aspen Times, including then-advertising sales girl, the late Gunilla Asher whose obvious zest for life left a lasting impression. She eventually went on to become the newspaper’s publisher, and I remember being impressed by her ability to maintain such an awesome life/work balance. I don’t think the paper was ever the same after she died. That carefree spirit left with her, I think.

Many years later, after I’d met Ryan, he’d host a slip ‘n’ slide party on the hill outside his apartment at Centennial where he worked as the maintenance man. A true Minnesotan, he did not mess around when it came to yard games. This thing was amusement park grade. It was steep, it was fast, and it was a guaranteed good time. The guys would grab the string of our bikinis just as we were taking off, so by the time our top flew off, we were flying down the hill at warp speed and it was too late to do anything about it. Ryan was the host with the most, gallivanting around dressed in a silk robe with a dragon embroidered on the back and I was madly in love with him. All my friends came and were happy to see me so happy, and there was so much to celebrate.

Somehow, we managed to pace ourselves through the day and into the night so as not to miss the fireworks display. We’d bring a blanket down to Paepcke Park and lay on our backs, feeling the world spin just enough to make it a really great show.

Naturally my Fourth of July celebration doesn’t amount to much these days with my little one. We still love to catch the parade, either in Redstone or Aspen, and might even make it to a friendly barbecue, but that’s about it.

There’s no more Johnny MacGuires, no more yellow house, no more Gunilla or slip ‘n’ slide parties or wild boys being dragged down Main Street in an old wooden box. By the time you read this, I’ll be at a campground somewhere in Minnesota with my crazy in-laws, drinking Nordeast beer out of oversized cans and eating all kinds of white flour and dairy and sugar and gluten. The only fireworks I’ll get to see will be the ones exploding in my heart, with the love I have for my family.

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