Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

I feel like I’m living a dual life.

I was thinking about that the other day as I was driving down Frying Pan Road and saw a giant herd of bighorn sheep galloping along. I was careful not to slam on my brakes since the road was already under a precarious layer of ice that made me think, “So this is what people were talking about when they said this was a gnarly road.” I don’t know what Basalt has against guardrails, but if I were not so lazy I might even think about trying to do something about that.

Seeing these majestic animals made my heart skip a beat. You can even hear me suck in my breath as I’m videotaping them, my car radio playing in the background as I narrate. “So I’m driving down the road, and we’ve got a whole herd of bighorn sheep, looks like they’re going somewhere, here they go. Hi, guys!”

When I saw the same herd on the way home, I realized that videotaping might not be necessary. I’m probably going to see these guys a lot. It’s like the time I moved to San Diego and was lying out in the sun when my roommate said, “You don’t need to lay out here. It’s sunny all the time.”

Then on Saturday night, we had dinner at our neighbor’s house and decided to walk over.

“Wow, you guys sure are brave, walking at night in lion country,” Paul said when he greeted us at the door. Moments later, we were introduced to his dog Heidi and shown the nasty scar behind her ear where she’d been in the mouth of a mountain lion, so Paul had even more reason to revere them.

“There are supposedly seven lions living in Otto Creek,” his wife told us over dinner.

“Otto Creek, where I’ve been hiking every other day with my headphones on, Otto Creek?”

Jesus Christ – I thought I was moving to the land of Seven Castles, not Seven Lions.

Ryan and I were like two spooked kids on the walk home, clutching each other at the elbow as we made our way down the dark, dirt road.

“Did you see those eyeballs?” Ryan gasped, coming to an abrupt halt. “I just saw six sets of eyeballs. See them? Over there! I sure hope those are deer.”

“No! I don’t! I don’t want to see them,” I said, pulling him by a fistful of jacket and dragging him down the street, now at a faster pace. “You’re scaring me!”

Needless to say, we made it home in one piece but maybe not in one peace.

Paul also told us that the Fryingpan wilderness was named one of the 10 wildest areas in the country because of its abundance of wildlife and remoteness from civilization. When he said that, there was a voice in my head that went, “How the hell did I end up here?” I thought about my New York City-born-and-bred father who never saw an animal outside of the Bronx Zoo until he was like 60 and has a penchant for breaking something every time he picks up a tool. We were so not country folk.

Let’s just say this is quite a change from a typical Saturday night in Aspen, when the biggest hazard was trying to navigate the cobblestones on the Cooper Avenue mall in my Prada platform Mary Jane clogs.

Just when I thought I might let my roots grow out and sell all my designer shoes at the consignment store, Destiny swooped in and saved me. No, not the stripper in Miami I gave my favorite necklace to when I was drunk that one time. Like literally, Destiny. Fate.

I was up in Aspen having a meeting with one of my clients (I love to say “clients” because it makes me sound like I really have a viable business) when they asked me if I would be interested in renting a desk in their office.

Even though they said the words “desk” and “office,” what I heard was “ski locker” and “parking space.”

“Yes! Yes, I do!” I said, as thrilled as if I were being proposed to.

“I’m not so sure about this,” Ryan said when I told him the news later. “Are you sure you’re going to be productive and not just spend half the day going out to lunch, hiking up Smuggler and bebopping around town?”

“Who, me?” I said, little feathers escaping from the side of my mouth.

So now three days a week, I take the time to blow-dry my hair and put on a little makeup and actually think about wearing something other than yoga pants (though, truth be told, I am wearing yoga pants right now, but that’s only because I want to hike up Smuggler at lunch – just don’t tell Ryan I said that). I have a sense of purpose. I feel professional. I have a place to go, and I have something to do when I get there.

The truth is, Ryan was right. What I really love is when I stop at Peach’s on my way into work for a coffee and see Kiki and Chris and baby Gray and spend 20 minutes chatting about her recent trip to NYC. I love hiking Smuggler with Catherine and having lunch with Txell or Alex or meeting Jennifer for a quick drink. Come ski season, that’ll mean gondie laps at lunch and apres beers at the Sky, all in a day’s “work.”

At the end of the day when I drive up my little red canyon river valley, past the wild turkeys and the deer and the bighorn sheep to my little A-frame and my dreamy husband, I can say I truly have it all.

Aspen really is a bubble. Here’s to hoping it’ll never burst.


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