Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate
Last week my Mom and I were biking up to the Bells and she goes, “I still can’t believe we live here.”And I’m like, “What do you mean? You’ve been living here for what, like nine years already?””I know, but it’s just so beautiful. I can never get used to how beautiful it is. Don’t you ever feel that way?”I thought about it for a moment and said, “I guess I used to, but I don’t anymore.”Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like that first glimpse of the Bells you get when you come around that one corner doesn’t still take my breath away every single time; or I don’t stop to crouch down to get a better view of a columbine in full bloom; or I don’t notice the way the afternoon light beams in sideways through the trees like fairy dust. I see the beauty all around me, I do. But I am sort of used to it. Sometimes these beautiful surroundings and everything within it will fade into the background the way a new dress becomes old after it’s been worn at one too many events and everyone has seen you in it already. I remember my first full year in Aspen, or better yet, I don’t remember much about my first full year in Aspen. It was like one big blur, one big party or event into the next, one discovery after another. My first HBO Comedy Arts Festival, my first Food & Wine, my first Jazz Aspen Music Festival, my first time at the Grottos, my first hike up Highlands Bowl, and so on and so forth.That really came into perspective on the Fourth of July.My first Fourth I lived one block off Main Street with four guys who made everything fun (three if you don’t count the weird roommate who never came out of the basement). We dragged our cooler and our little fold-up chairs one block down to the corner of Main Street for the front-row view. I was tickled by the spirit of it all: by the character and color of the community, one big, huge party making its way down Main Street.I decided not to go to the parade this year. After the mob scene at the Saturday Farmer’s Market I didn’t want to go anywhere near downtown again. It was wall-to-wall people who seemed to be moving in a chaotic way, not walking on the right side or even in a straight line but zig-zagging all over, their eyes to the sky as if they might find the answer there. Instead, I stayed at home up on the hill where it was eerily quiet. I wanted to relax and get ready for Ryan’s annual Slip ‘n’ Slide party, one of his top two favorite events of the year (the other being Highlands Closing Day). While he was outside laying out 200 feet of plastic and setting up the hoses and moving the kegs I was in the kitchen, putting together a few respectable dishes like corn with a coconut cilantro chili rub, bow-tie pasta with pesto, and fresh-cut fruit salad. Once the food was ready I set it aside, waiting for people I recognized to arrive. Every few minutes, I’d go outside only to witness the attendance swell with super-young partiers. Ryan was totally in his element, clad in his favorite rainbow stripe board shorts, a wife beater with “I LOVE USA” he’d colored with magic markers that were not waterproof and now bleeding all over. He wore red, white, and blue mirrored shades and a tall hat with stars and stripes. He stood on the cement patio like the Grand Pooh Bah, doing his little dance, arms spread wide as if he were royalty on the balcony embracing his kingdom. Meanwhile, I was in the living room, harboring various visiting babies and older friends who were not really in the frame of mind to strip down to their bikinis and hurtle themselves down the ol’ slip ‘n’ slide that was now doused in dish soap and spilled beer and big puddles of mud. It somehow delineated a disparity in age between our party guests and me, Ryan notwithstanding. I don’t know what’s worse – feeling it or saying it. Either way, it seems like an admission of defeat. Watching Ryan make his way through the crowd, hugging and kissing everyone and anyone with red cup full of beer in hand, I realize age has nothing to do with it. He’ll be hosting this party until he’s old and gray, and that is precisely the reason I fell in love with him in the first place.The Fourth of July has never been my favorite holiday to begin with. I always wished I was from another country, maybe one with a cool accent where I could be bilingual and worldly. Aspen made it fun, at least in the beginning.Could it be that I’m just a little too spoiled? Could it be that I’ve eaten so much candy that even the sweetest sweets don’t taste like much anymore?The next day, I did a road bike ride up past Ashcroft to where the road ends. It was late on a cloudless afternoon, and as the sun began to set the color of the sky seemed to deepen to an incomprehensible shade of blue. The snow-capped peaks were cast against it like shark’s teeth, all ragged and dramatic and imposing. I took out my iPhone and snapped a photo, even though I’ve been to this very spot three times in the last week already and would be there again soon.The beauty is still there, whether it’s a late afternoon deep in the high country or the sight of my love in a tall hat soaked in beer. It might not be as new and exciting as it once was, but it’s good enough for me.
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