Carroll: Boogie’s and the five stages of grief
The good news is that my 6-year-old daughter, Petunia, has not experienced a great deal of sorrow in her life. There was the time this winter when we watched “E.T.: the Extra Terrestrial” and she jumped on my husband’s lap in distress, tears splashing down her cheeks by the oceanful during the scene in which Henry and his alien buddy needlessly suffer at the hands of some unidentified government agency. Then there was my breast cancer ordeal last year, although the blow of that trauma was somewhat softened for her by being on the receiving end of a gift nearly every time I returned from a surgery or doctor’s appointment in Denver.
So when my husband broke the news to Petunia on April 22 that Boogie’s Diner closed forever, to her it was Category 5 catastrophic. To say she has a complicated relationship with food and a love affair with being picky is an understatement. Boogie’s, though, has always been a place where she’s felt among her people — that is, if her people are macaroni and cheese and an Oreo milkshake.
When she was a baby and her diet transitioned from formula to people food, we would take her on Friday nights to Boogie’s, where she would promptly immerse her entire body in a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce. Eventually, her go-to meal there became the macaroni and cheese, and Boogie’s would become the standard to which all other mac-and-cheese dishes would never measure up.
Sure, it was puzzling why a restaurant purportedly catering to kids ceased dispensing crayons after its remodel in 2013. (Boogie’s said it was to protect the new tables, although they were noticeably chipped, dinged and scratched anyway within weeks of reopening.) She also was suspicious when the fries on the 2.0 menu presented as curly instead of straight, but ultimately, Petunia took some pride in tasting and actually enjoying them. (Surely curly fries don’t count as a new food for most people, but spend five minutes with Petunia and you’ll realize within the first minute that she’s her own brand.)
Ailing aliens, cancer and restaurant closings are all facts of life (arguably some more than others). However, to Petunia, the closing of Boogie’s evoked a partly primal reaction: Since there are so few foods she’ll actually eat, she imagined there was a chance she might actually starve in its absence (never mind that we only went there five times in 2014).
The shuttering of a place like Boogie’s in an increasingly fancy community that was already pretty fancy can also be a hard pill to swallow for some young children (and their parents) who sometimes just want to escape to easy surroundings with comfortable fare.
Petunia would probably make Ryno’s her new go-to place, except if I wanted her to play video games instead of eat, I could just give her a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and my iPhone at the rock park next to Wagner Park and call it a night while saving some tip money in the process. Brunelleschi’s would work, too, but for the $14 it charges for a kid’s make-your-own pizza, we can get Taster’s to deliver an already-made 8-inch one for $8.
I’m actually pretty sad for Petunia that something so familiar to her has gone away (or as sad as I can get knowing one less unhealthy meal will find its way into her belly). I’m mostly indifferent to the loss otherwise except for how it’s unfolding. A legal fight over a commission between friends and rumblings of a gazillion-dollar penthouse atop a building so classically ’80s-ugly is hardly a storybook ending for a joint that had, in some ways, become a modern local classic.
It’s one thing for a mainstay to close because the longtime owner wants to retire. However, instead of going quietly into the night — and with some warning — Boogie’s is on track to become more of a four-letter word than anything as cheerfully nostalgic as its decor. Aspen always has been and will continue being bigger than its buildings (even the big ones) and people. This exit, though, feels a bit more personal, particularly when you have to explain it to a crestfallen 6-year-old.
Obviously, my family’s problems are enviable when one of the worst things ever to befall Petunia is the loss of what is most likely a can of Velveeta dumped atop some elbow-shaped pasta. But instead of saying it’s closing because Boogie wanted to spend more time at the beach with his grandkids, she already knows it’s just about money. This episode might make her more resilient in the long run, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not a (relative) tear-jerker.
I’d say someone should make a film about it, but Boogie already had his 15 minutes. The movie about Petunia’s character being shaped at any early age when her most favorite restaurant closed? That one still needs to be written.
Read more at www.meredithcarroll.com.
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