A few rules for Aspen critics
July 19, 2006
There’s a classic song that says “You always hurt the one you love.” And whether you believe that or not, I’m sure that many a philosopher (or many a marriage counselor anyway) has pointed out that you always criticize the one you love. (Right, dear?)That may shine a little light on why so many of us who love Aspen spend so much time criticizing it. It’s the same way your parents told you to sit up straight, put on clean underwear, and don’t belch in polite society. (And if you’d only listened to them, your wife wouldn’t have to keep telling you the same darn things. She’d find something else.)The point is, we criticize Aspen because we love it.One thing I have noticed is how often people declare that Aspen was just about perfect when they got here – no matter when that was. Whether they got here last year, last century, or half a century before that, they declare that the town was magnificent “back then” and that it’s really in decline now. And, of course, they always preface those remarks by announcing exactly when it was that they first hit town.Well, please note: When you say Aspen was great when you got here and then went straight to hell, what you’re really saying is that you are the problem.Yes, you.Think about it. Suppose someone said, “Boy, that was a great party last night – until you showed up.” Would you be flattered? No. They’d be telling you that you were the jerk who ruined the party.So, if this town was at its peak when you got here and it’s been on the skids ever since – then clearly you’re the skunk in the punchbowl.Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t criticize Aspen. As noted above, it’s a sign of love. But here are a few suggestions (what the heck, call them rules):1. Stop telling everyone how long you’ve been here. No one cares. (People who have been here longer think you’re a newbie. People who haven’t been here as long think you’re a pretentious jerk.)2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. (There have always been too many T-shirt shops. There has never been enough parking. Rents have always been too high.)3. Don’t lose sight of the fact that some things are better now than ever. (Skiing, for example. Think about the gondola, Highlands Bowl, the double-black-diamond runs on Snowmass. Or, if you’re not into skiing, consider the newly revitalized Aspen Institute. Or Jazz Aspen.)4. Focus on problems that really matter: the massive, permanent traffic jam that has everyone choking and fuming; the out-of-control development that has this town looking and sounding like a war zone from dawn until dark, at least six days a week.5. And while you’re at it, stop pretending that we can take care of those genuine problems with simple-minded “obvious” solutions. “Solving” the traffic jam with a four-lane right into the heart of town is like trying to cram 10 pounds of stuff into a five-pound sack by stretching the neck of the sack a little wider. It still won’t fit and you’ll just get stuff all over you. And thinking that the development madness will calm down on its own is like pretending that dark spot on your lung X-ray is going to take care of itself – it will, but only after you’re dead.6. Finally, if you really, really, really want to insist that Aspen was at its best the day you got here, remember that points to one very clear solution: Leave! We’ll all thank you.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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