Alison Berkley: In Aspen, age is just a number
September 3, 2002
After what I?ve seen this weekend, I?m convinced the entire town of Aspen has Peter Pan syndrome.
I don?t know if it was the Labor Day holiday, the four days of partying at Jazz Aspen, the beach volleyball tournament, or just some weird alignment of the planets, but the spirit of youth was pumping through this town all weekend like hormones in a teenager.
I guess it?s not really different than any given day. Aspen is chock-full of adults who act (and even look) like children. We talk about age being “a state of mind” so that it?s OK to be 30-plus years old, to prioritize play over work, spend all of our money on toys and still party like rock stars. We learned enough in our Ivy League schools (or at CU-Boulder) to know that quality of life is more important than quantity. “When I?m on my death bed,” we tell disapproving members of our family, “I?ll care more about the experiences I had than how much money I have in the bank.” We know how to have a good time.
So when you throw a holiday into the mix that marks the end of summer, the normal volume of festivities in town is bound to increase. So much so that it might even be OK for a grown man to throw water balloons at cars passing by on Main Street in the middle of the night and run off giggling like a fourth-grader every time he hits one. But that?s the end of the story so let me start at the beginning.
Certainly the concert-going atmosphere of Jazz Aspen had something to do with making us all feel like kids again. I can honestly say that never in my spoiled life have I seen such a fabulous spectator event. I do not like crowds and am not all that fond of public gathering places. I?m only five feet tall and the last thing I need is to have my face shoved in some smelly hippy?s armpit. I was expecting as much when I went to see Phil Lesh and Friends. I?ll admit that maybe back in high school when I was still young and impressionable (and not so well manicured) I might have even gone to a Dead show or two. But now that my toenails are clean and painted the right color I?m not all that interested in dancing in the streets, so to speak.
As soon as I got on the bus (another thing I don?t normally prefer), my mood shifted quickly. Beers were cracked open, bottles of whisky passed around, and the ear-to-ear grins (albeit on people wearing bad clothes) were infectious. It reminded me of high school ski trips when we would sneak cases of beer on the bus in our knapsacks, as if it wasn?t obvious to have 24 cans of beer crammed into a bag normally used to carry books. The RFTA bus driver was a lot smarter than that. “They will be checking your bags for drugs at the entrance to the show,” he warned. “So anyone who wants to avoid any trouble should leave all their drugs with the bus driver.”
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If we had actually followed his advice, I?m fairly convinced that I would have kept my shoes on instead of bouncing up and down in the dust and dirt singing “Tennessee Jed” at the top of my lungs, surprising myself that I knew every single word. I probably would not have exploded into hysterical laughter for no apparent reason or eaten so much at the Popcorn Wagon. I mean, what would my personal trainer say if he found out? Oh yeah, I forgot. He was there, too.
Just when I was starting to feel really mature, I met some friends at the MotherLode Volleyball Tournament on Saturday afternoon. As if watching men and women with beautiful bodies hitting a ball over a net and rolling around in the sand in their bathing suits wasn?t enough (don?t they realize there is no water around?), I was seated among a cross section of Aspen?s finest forever-young locals, including Scott “Gibbo” Gibson and Emily “Cecily” Beck. Gibbo is a 35-year-old Kiwi who never goes anywhere without his skateboard and still sleeps in a bunk bed. Cecily, a classy and beautiful Trinity graduate/man eater (my Dad says she looks like “a pedigree”), could probably conquer the world in a day were it not for the fact that she bounces around town like a pogo stick every night and needs like 40 drinks to calm herself down. Speaking of drinks, the two gray-haired guys working at the concession stand called me a wimp when I ordered soda instead of beer and giggled like schoolgirls at their own joke, as if our future in Aspen was there right before our very eyes.
Later that night after another long, sunny, careless afternoon and starry evening at Jazz Aspen (more dancing, more giggles, more late-night snacks at New York Pizza), I walked into the house to find my two friends home alone, grinning like Cheshire cats among a sea of empty beer bottles and what I assumed were party favors.
“Please tell me there was a party here,” I said. “Please tell me there were other people here besides you guys.”
“Nope,” they replied, clutching their bellies in a fit of laughter.
When the police came to our door a few hours later because their patrol car had been pegged by a water balloon, they had a hard time keeping a straight face. The main thing these fine Aspen law enforcement officers really wanted to know was something that most of us in this town ask ourselves at some point every single day:
“How old are you, anyway?”
[The Princess is 32 but is proud to say that she still gets carded all the time. You can e-mail her at email@example.com The Princess would like to send a special thanks to Sarah Murray and all the folks at Jazz Aspen.]
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