Aspen Princess: VP’s motorcade quickly became an afterthought
The Aspen Princess
On Monday, I got to revisit my old neighborhood at the Aspen Business Center, hanging out at Mawa’s Kitchen sipping cucumber mint lemonade and savoring every bite of the fresh Maine lobster salad, food that quiets your mind and soothes your soul.
That peaceful feeling ended abruptly as I pulled out onto 82 only to discover I’d unknowingly entered some kind of bizarre police state. I was the only car on the road when the vice president’s motorcade procession came flying by in the other direction.
I kept looking around for someone to wave their arms wildly and shoo me off the road, or maybe the FBI to follow me in an unmarked car and arrest me, but that never happened. I continued to drive west on the desolate highway as police flew by, one after the other with enough flashing lights to induce a seizure. Then came a series of unmarked black cars, which was what my first clue as to what was actually going on.
My first thought was, only in Aspen. Only in Aspen would you encounter the motorcade of a dignitary this deep in the mountains, on a Monday. (Though I’ve been told that Jackson Hole did have Air Force 2 parked in the hangar at its airport for much of Dick Cheney’s term.)
My second thought (and I’m embarrassed to admit this) was, “Wait. Biden?” I had to stop and think about who the vice president of the United States is. I know, I know. I should be ashamed. Blame it on slightly mushy quality my brain has taken on in motherhood.
No, this is what I would call selective amnesia, the ability to hear only what I want to hear and see only what I want to see. It’s a skill I’ve been working on all my life, and I’m pretty damn good at it after all these years. This might enrage the activist in you, and I don’t blame you. This is not the way things get done. This is not how progress happens. This is not what creates social change.
Trust me when I tell you this isn’t a matter of apathy, but survival. This is about managing political post-traumatic stress. When the orange man became president (I still refuse to put his name and the word “president” together in one sentence), I followed the news obsessively, hoping beyond hope that something or someone would save us.
But as time went by, it became clear that nothing would happen, no matter what he did. At this point I would be not be surprised if he murdered someone on the street in broad daylight, say, in Times Square and get away with it. The news cycle continued to spin, with one story more outrageous than the next, all fueled by the orange man’s Twitter feed. As a member of the media myself, I’m ashamed that the mainstream media continues to take the bait. He had them chasing their own tails and eating out of his palm at the day’s end, always hungry for more. It was exhausting.
Back when it seemed like we were on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea, I decided I had to stop paying attention. I was losing sleep worrying about my family’s safety and the future for my 3-year-old son. I worried if a nuclear war didn’t destroy us, then climate change would. We were doomed either way.
One of the hardest parts about being totally and completely happy in my life is the fear that it all might go down the drain any minute. The fact of the matter is I have a lot to lose. I think that’s the very essence of what love is.
I would lay awake in bed at night worrying the end of the world was near. I would have very vivid visions of different horrific scenarios, like learning that a nuclear bomb was headed our way and that we only had so long to live; or imagining a world for my son that had no snow in it, that he would inherit a barren wasteland where water had to be desalinized and cost $20 a bottle. He would look back to this time when he was young, when the hills were green and the flowers bloomed and the rivers were full of cold, clear water and the snow fell in winter and it got cold. As a writer, my imagination can run wild with this stuff.
Nope, it’s not healthy.
That’s when I stopped. I turned off my notifications and took myself off mailing lists and went back to reading celebrity tabloids and listening to popular fiction on Audible. I might catch a little news tidbit on Bill Maher or from John Oliver on HBO or listening to NPR in my car, but increasingly found I had little patience for it, often flipping the channel.
Apparently, it worked. For one blissful moment, I forgot who the vice president is.
I try not to think about how sad it is that the Caribou Club, with its liberal roots and history in our beloved little town, had to host this man. Or why the taxpayers had to foot the bill for what looked more like a funeral procession. Or that there are people in this town who are willing to fork out 35 G’s to be in this guy’s presence. Listen, I get it that people have the right to their opinion and views and that’s what democracy is all about. I just always thought of Aspen as being more progressive, a liberal stronghold where radical ideas are born and take hold and are the magic that make dreams a reality. Aspen is not a place I’d imagine what’s-his-face, this vice president guy, would receive a warm welcome.
But he has come, and he has gone. I’m determined not to let him take my hope with him. And Aspen remains.
The Princess is late for yoga. Email your love to email@example.com.
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“My first home was on the Elkhorn Ranch in Woody Creek. My dad was 26, my mom 20 when I was born (the same year Lifts 1 and 2 were built on Aspen Mountain). It’s difficult to imagine what my parents were thinking when they put it all together,“ writes Tony Vagneur.