Alison Berkley: Feels great to be at home again | AspenTimes.com

Alison Berkley: Feels great to be at home again

In the past five days, I slid headfirst down a water slide, made a phone call from the toilet in a penthouse in Vegas, watched a drunken law school student walk through a fire and ate a McDonald?s. I traveled through four states, flew on five different airplanes through three separate airports, almost died landing in Sardy Field, spent almost $1,000 and went to two weddings in three days.

The weddings were a good excuse to leave Aspen, or so I thought. Mind you, I have not so much as passed the “small-town entrance” of our beloved S-curves in weeks, opting to conduct all my necessary business such as shopping, drinking, eating and carousing within Aspen town proper. My car is covered in a layer of dust, dirt and sap from sitting in the same parking spot under the tree in our driveway for months. The one time I did drive it I thought I was going to kill myself. It was as if I forgot what life was like above 10 miles an hour. (Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that I have no depth perception.)

A year ago, I would?ve welcomed a trip like this. From my former home base in San Diego I would look for excuses to jump on a plane. During my illustrious career as a magazine editor I frequently hopped over oceans for surf trips to Fiji or travel features at Europe?s top ski resorts. (Yes, that?s right, kittens, there was a time when I actually got paid to write. Granted, TransWorld SNOWboarding and Surfer magazines are a far cry from my beloved Vogue, but a girl has to start somewhere.)

I learned to live in spurts ? bursts of experiences that occurred in beautiful, exotic places thousands of miles apart, most often with people I would never see again. I would go from not having a date for months to suddenly diving into a passionate fling with a gorgeous pro skier on a magazine trip to Italy, as if I was in the company of beautiful men whose photos ran in magazine ads every day. I would hold on tight to these memories, playing them over and over again in my head like a smoker who reaches for another cigarette and ends up with addiction rather than satisfaction. The only time I was truly content was on my way to an airport. I fancied myself a female Hemingway, my only attachments being to the simple pleasures in life and the lucid state of mind that only travel brings. The one long-term relationship I?d had in the past decade ended when he declared, “I feel more like your airport shuttle than your boyfriend.” To which I responded, “Are you going to be able to pick me up or not?” And that, as they say, was the end of that.

This particular trip was not that glamorous. I was flying to two places I didn?t need to visit for two stupid weddings I?d been dreading for months. This wasn?t about exploration and adventure (or even getting paid to write) but the arduous, heavy-handed concepts of lifelong commitment and family and ya-da-da. Still, who was I to miss a good party? So I went after it with practiced expertise, booking multi-destination plane tickets at bargain-basement prices and buying new outfits just for the occasion (a red ?20s-style flapper dress for the wedding in Vegas and a more conservative raw skill skirt and beaded camisole top for the Tahoe affair).

So I watched my friends get married in one of those Vegas wedding chapels with neon signs and a drive-through window for couples in a hurry. I partied in the Penthouse at the Mirage for the one hour before everyone dispersed to leave the newlyweds to enjoy their splendor. In that short amount of time I did manage to squeeze in one call from the fancy bathroom phone and play with the bidet. I got drunk in the middle of the day by mistake and went shopping and bought a dress I didn?t need. When I tried to return it, the sales girl would only give me store credit. What a wench!

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I barely escaped Sin City and made it to the aqua blue waters of Lake Tahoe, which I would have appreciated more were it not for the fact that I had only slept for two hours because of a 2 a.m. flight time in order to make good on cheap airfare. I stumbled into Meeks Bay wishing that I was the bride and not the lone, weary traveler who?d spent the night at the Airport Best Western in Reno renting porn movies for company. Whatever. I made the best of it, drinking and dancing and hanging tough with the late-night, after-hours crowd for the bonfire and handles of tequila that were passed around with reckless abandon. I dirty danced with girls (apparently very hip these days) and watched one of the groomsmen walk through the fire not once or twice but several times, until we could smell his burning flesh. You would think a kid who?s about to start law school would be smarter than that, but for some reason his desire to walk through that fire was met with the same determination that probably got him into law school in the first place. Or maybe it was just the tequila.

I stayed up most of the night, slept in my clothes and ate french fries at McDonald?s for breakfast. I wrote this BS column on a yellow pad of paper with a blue ballpoint pen I bought during a two-hour layover in Phoenix because I didn?t feel like lugging my laptop on this trip. So forgive me if this doesn?t make much sense.

It?s strange for me to feel so at odds on the road or to finally live in a place where I never want to leave. Suddenly those precious S-curves are the edge of the Earth, as if I could fall off were I to venture too close to the edge. It?s been one hell of a long journey. All I can say is I?m glad to be home.

[ The Princess is resting and does not want to be disturbed. You can e-mail her at aspenprincess@msn.com, but no phone calls, please.

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