Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

The great thing about Aspen is that when it comes to the party scene, nothing ever really changes. You can leave and come back years later, and chances are you haven’t missed a thing.

I was talking to my friend Cecily the other day. She left Aspen years ago and took a real job back east, but she was one of the first people I met when I moved to Aspen in 2002. She totally owned it. She was one of those girls who just had it all – unshakeable confidence, undeniable sex appeal and a healthy detachment when it came to men, which turned out to be a very powerful thing.

From the day we met, Cecily laughed at everything I said. God knows there’s nothing I love more than an attentive audience, so a fast friendship was born. It didn’t take long to figure out that being her sidekick was a lucrative deal considering wherever we went she was given everything for free. Doors would open, glasses would be filled, tables would materialize, and velvet ropes would drop. I knew the guys feeding us free drinks had no interest in me other than that I was someone who might or might not be able to get them into Cecily’s pants, but we all believed we had something to gain.

“Oh, my God – you won’t believe what he said to me last night,” she’d say about the guy of the moment.

“What?” I’d ask, all wide eyes and open ears. From the start, I felt I had a lot to learn from her.

“He told me he loves me,” she’d say, rolling her eyes.

“Isn’t that a good thing?” I’d say.

“No way, dude. It spells bye-bye.”

She was a man-eater. She spun things around so fast that these poor guys wouldn’t even know what hit them.

“It doesn’t matter,” I told her on the phone the other day when she was telling me how much she misses Aspen. “You can leave for as long as you want, and when you come back, you’ll see nothing ever changes.”

I told her how Ryan and I went out for the first time in a really long time Friday and we went big, kind of like in the good old days – only minus the one-night stand and the puking and the tears.

We started at L’Hostaria for dinner, which I’m not afraid to say is hands-down the best restaurant in town. We’re talking about Burrata cheese that is somehow simultaneously creamy and light; prosciutto cut like fine fabric, all thin and silky; and handmade pasta worth every single calorie and every gram of carbohydrate, so help me God. It was one of those meals we talked about days afterward, like a really good movie or a Broadway play.

Then we went to Belly Up for Soul Asylum, a band we had to see because it is from Minnesota. Unless you know a Minnesotan, you don’t know how much it means to these people to be from their state. They love it so much that they automatically love anything that is from there, whether it’s a lake or cheese curds or football or some grunge band from the ’90s.

I haven’t been to Belly Up in eons. I even dug out my special Belly Up shoes, my 6-inch platform clogs I like to hide underneath jeans I never had hemmed for that reason. People think I’ve lost weight when really I’ve gained height. It’s awesome.

So I was having a great time, drinking a little more than I should when I started seeing them – the ghosts of my Aspen past.

It was almost like a dream, like a mirage, like I could’ve put my hand right through him. He stumbled up the stairs toward the back bar, his face shiny with sweat, hair as wet as if he’d just taken a shower, lids heavy, that cockeyed smile still plastered on his face. His long arms draped around the neck of another faceless girl, leaning on her as they staggered through the crowd for another round of drinks. He was exactly where I’d last seen him five years ago, doing the exact same thing with the exact same people.

Then we went to Eric’s – Eric’s! The place I’d oncelanded every drunken night out as a last stop, a last-ditch effort to find some trouble or to forget it, both of which were achieved with that one drink too many, when the last chance to salvage whatever dignity I had left was long forgotten. I just assumed I’d grown out of Eric’s, that the day they stopped carding me at the door sent sort of a reverse message, like “We don’t need to see if you’re old enough to come in here because you’re actually too old to come in here.”

But as soon as I walked in there, there were more ghosts. They loomed in the corner all hunched over, crooked teeth and eyeballs going in opposite directions, the walking dead, the past I thought I’d left behind, right where I’d left them huddled around a table of pint-sized drinks too many. It was as if time had stopped, like someone pressed pause and then, when I returned, pressed play again.

Aspen is an enabling place where it’s not unusual to see senior citizens get busted as kingpin cocaine dealers or half-cocked graybeards skiing in Hawaiian shirts and getting stoned on the gondola on Ajax closing day. And while I love the free-spiritedness, the agelessness and the lifestyle, there was something disturbing about seeing my peers stand still after I’d moved on.

I guess I realized time hasn’t stopped. It’s just passing some of us by.

“See? Nothing has changed,” I told Cecily. “Except for one thing: Without you here, the drinks are no longer free.”

The Princess wants to say “goodbye” and “thank you” to Pomeroy Sports. Send your love to


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