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A persistence of memories

I was struck by a persistent sad memory as I walked into the Sundeck on Saturday. It was a memory that cast a small moment of shadow on a glorious sunny day of skiing.Maybe I was just a little more sensitive to it because of the recent sad death of Chris Bove. I never knew Chris, but it was clear that many people knew him and loved him – and that he died much too young.Maybe it was that, I’m not sure. Actually, that memory comes back to haunt me almost every time I walk into the Sundeck.It’s a mixed memory – happy and sad. Happy because I am remembering a funny, pleasant moment. Sad because it is the memory of a friend who died. Died too young.As the years go by, I find that Aspen is becoming haunted for me, haunted by memories tied to certain specific places in town. The side entrance to the Sundeck, the one most directly off the gondola, is one of those places.The memory, from maybe five years ago, is trivial. My wife and I were leaving the Sundeck after lunch. Clomping along in ski boots, I gave her a hug and we laughed as we stumbled and hung on to each other to keep from falling.A voice behind us shouted out, “Hey, you two! Get a room!” An old childhood, high school taunt.We turned around. It was a good friend. All three of us laughed, chatted for a few moments and then went on.As I said, it was a small moment. Nothing important. Not the last time I saw that friend by any means. But a year or two later, he was suddenly, unexpectedly, inexplicably dead. And now that offhand moment is fixed in my memory – and nailed to that particular spot.As I said, there seem to be a number of those places, spots where memories are engraved like tombstones in honor of the dead.There is one particular tree in the West End, where I stood and said goodbye and had a last kiss with a woman who broke my heart.That bittersweet moment was more than 30 years ago. And it was more than a decade after that when that woman died – not as young as she remains in my memory, but far, far too young to die.And I can never go past that spot without thinking of her.Then there is – oddly and inappropriately, but inescapably – the corner of Monarch and Main, by Carl’s Pharmacy where I had a chance encounter, an unexpected moment to say goodbye to a desperately sick friend who was leaving town in hope of finding a cure.We shared a brief moment and a warm smile. And I never saw him again.And now, damn it, I can’t walk past that corner without thinking of him.I wonder if that happens only with people who die too young. As if the briefness of their lives somehow creates a lens that focuses memories to that one place, that one moment.If so, how appropriate for Aspen, where death is blessedly rare, but so often – as it must in a town so filled with youth – takes those who are too young to die.And maybe it happens only with those whom we know and love, but who are not the true centers of our lives. When we lose those who are closest to us, the grief spreads and diffuses until it clouds the entire world. But for those whom we love deeply but narrowly, the grief is also deep, but narrowly enscribed.If so, again how appropriate for Aspen, where friendships may be deep, but are often fleeting, as people come and go, stopping here briefly to touch our lives and then moving on.Perhaps.But, for me, all that is certain is that this town is haunted.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com.


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