Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
It’s the end of an era.
Last Saturday, I walked out of my one-bedroom condo and left behind my one-bedroom-condo life. This time, I’m pretty sure it’s for good.
What I was feeling wasn’t sentimental, exactly, but one of those moments in life when the paradigm shift is so pronounced that you can almost feel the earth moving beneath your feet. That might cause you pause – that might make you feel a little unstable.
That might even lead to a middle-of-the-night breakdown when you wake up and start sobbing hysterically because you’re not sure you’ll be able to muster the strength to pull off this move, to put your stuff in boxes one last time until every last thing has been lugged outside and thrown into the back of some vehicle only to be delivered to a destination where unpacking it and figuring out where it goes will be equally as draining.
“Walk it off,” Ryan says, playing the tough-love card. “Go splash some water on your face, and go back to sleep.”
Ryan knows when not to indulge my hysteria, and this was one of those times. He calmly explained the solution to the riddles that had been cycling around in my head for the two hours I lay in bed awake, trying to figure out how we were going to live without any furniture for the three months I’d rented my condo furnished.
I’m not just renting the condo this time. I’m trying to sell it (AFFORDABLE ASPEN: 1BR, 617 square feet, French doors, big deck, end unit, granite countertops, Pergo floors, bright, sunny end unit for only $298,000! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Mention this shameless plug, and you’ll receive a hearty chuckle).
It’s strange to think about where I was when I bought the place back in 2003. I had been in Aspen only a year, living in a quasi-frat house with five guys and four very large problem dogs.
We are talking the short bus of the canine world here folks, a virtual herd of ill-behaved, oversized, scraggly-looking mutts that shed and drooled and panted with hot breath all over our rugs, our couches and our food, God forbid there was any food that Hank had not managed to snag from under our noses when we weren’t looking. Though I loved them to death, the guys weren’t much better. It wasn’t unusual to come home to discover them watching porn or tripping on mushrooms or wasted out of their minds, throwing water balloons at cars – or a combination of all three.
I’m pretty sure the only reason I moved was because I had to, though my memories of those early days are a little fuzzy.
What I do remember is thinking there was no way I would ever find a place to live with Psycho Paws, my 90-pound chow-Lab mix from hell.
That’s when Mark came to the rescue.
I was working for Mark doing data entry at Ski.com and was probably the worst employee on the planet. I would take two-hour lunches, show up late and spend most of the day distracting the productive people. Mark even tried to fire me at one point, which I so deserved, but then I cried, and so he let me stay – only so I could quit a few weeks later.
Anyhoo, when I told him my woes, he just so happened to have a development in the works that included this little one-bedroom condo. He urged me to wait until the renovations were done, but I didn’t listen and snuck over to see it anyway. Even when it was gutted, I knew it had good bones.
I was in escrow for months because I had the worst credit on the planet. Even when they were giving loans away, it took me almost half a year to get one, but in the end, I did.
“Just don’t flip it,” Mark said when we agreed on a price.
“I won’t – I promise,” I told him.
I know I’ve infuriated Mark over the years now and again, but at least I stayed true to that promise.
The Deer Hill Building ended up being more of a family than a neighborhood. I lived next door to Jean Robert, of Jean Robert’s Gym fame, and his beloved Bernadette, of butt-kick circuit-training Bernadette fame. On one end is Wheaton of 520 Grill fame and the other, Eben and Jean of smart-couples-who-get-stuff-done fame. My next-door neighbor was Paul, one of those too-good-to-be-true young lawyers who all my friends had a crush on.
And above me lives Gretchen.
Gretchen is the ideal upstairs neighbor because she weighs like 90 pounds and must walk on her toes because she’s quiet as a mouse. Over the years, she’s been like a big sister to me, having borne witness to the various phases of my life, some of them uglier than others.
“Go back home and put on some pants, young lady,” she told me once when she caught me in the parking lot wearing a shirt I thought I could pull off as a dress with nothing but cowboy boots. I was skinny then, and so my shirts started getting longer and longer.
“Do I look like a hooker?” I asked.
“Let’s just say I wouldn’t bend over if you dropped something,” she said.
I’m sure she saw me come home stumbling drunk or heard me sobbing or yelling at whatever loser I was chasing after at the time, but she never said anything, never judged. She just listened when I shared my struggles with her and offered her wisdom and support. She was a neighbor in every sense of the word. She was – and always will be – my friend.
I just wanted to say goodbye, Deer Hill. Thanks for putting some solid ground underneath my feet when my life was somewhat unstable.
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