Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
There was this chick at Mountain Fair last weekend who was parading around dressed in this St. Pauli Girl meets Janis Joplin get-up. She was kind of like a car accident; somehow I couldn’t resist the urge turn my head and look at her.
She had blonde wavy hair that was sort of randomly tied up on top of her head so it looked like something that belonged in a tree, or maybe a forest. But it was the outfit that got me. I’m not sure if it was a vest or a half-shirt tied into a knot or what was underneath it, but this woman’s boobs were erupting out from her clothes like (oh god, looking for a new analogy here) a bottle of toothpaste that went from sea level to altitude and you just know it’s going to explode and spill all over the place as soon as you unscrew the top.
I’m pretty sure there is nowhere else in the world where you can cram all that into one shirt, er, I mean one tiny park and have so many happy, smiling people holding hands. I mean, where else can you traipse around wearing butterfly wings and headbands of glitter and red cowboy boots and whatever other random household items you chose to accessorize with? Where else can you find a concert stage decorated with prayer flags and recycled fabric with a sign that says “There’s no place like home” on it?
As soon as I got there I was kind of thinking, “Damnit! I should have used all those tennis balls George finds around the complex and made a dress out of it!”
Mountain Fair really is Carbondale’s own creation. Even the little kids are hippies already. I would sit there on someone’s blanket, or in one of those fold-up chairs with my plastic cup of beer and try to remember what I might have been doing at that age. I’m pretty sure I was at day camp at the Jewish Community Center or Renbrook Summer Adventure, a program put on by a fancy local private school I hadn’t been accepted to. We had pottery and nature class and tennis lessons, but it was all very regimented. We might have even made tie-dye T-shirts once in art but that’s a far cry from being front row at a live concert on Daddy’s shoulders with that bright orange clay stuff plugging your ears or running around naked and unattended. Although when you think about it, every child is always attended because everyone knows everyone and keeps their eye on each other’s kids. Besides, where are they going to go? There’s no escaping the happy, safe place that’s been created by so many beautiful people.
Except for that one time someone got on the microphone on stage and goes, “We have a little Latino child here who has lost his parents.”
And my friend Maya goes, “Great description. Like, we have a little Jewish white kid up here!” and we all started to laugh. That in of itself is a commentary on Carbondale, but I’ll save that one for another day.
Lost Latino kids aside, you can forget about traditional fair food. Sure there’s the usual, the cotton candy and snow cones and popcorn, but say you have an inkling for a lamb gyro or a fresh organic salad or maybe some bacon-wrapped shrimp? How about washing that down with a mojito with fresh mint or maybe a handcrafted microbrew beer?
Carbondale might be hippie town but it is hippie uptown to be sure.
The really obvious question I’m sure everyone has on their mind is why hasn’t anyone opened an Indian food joint in Aspen yet? I’m not talking about another hoity-toity restaurant destined for failure. I’m talking cart-style with a takeout window and a little dude that makes the naan bread from scratch while you wait in the mile-long line to land one of those sinkers in your gullet.
The naan bread was all the rage at Mountain Fair. Everyone was talking about it. “Did you have a naan bread yet?” or “We’ll be right back, we’re going to go get some naan bread.”
After waiting in line for a half hour with everyone else, I finally got mine. I had it with chicken, all warm and steamy with aromatic flavors and unfamiliar spices. I ate it the way you eat something that’s really good – picking at it and playing with it and tearing it up and letting it spill on my face and hands until my napkin is all crumpled and starting to disintegrate.
I think people want it so bad for no other reason than it might be the one thing in Aspen you don’t (and therefore can’t) have.
Then there are all those vendors that make you think you really do need a ceramic tissue paper holder or a beaded plant hangar. You start thinking you really should switch to raw honey and you might need that jar of peach chutney just in case you have guests over and would actually think to serve something like that. Even though you know it’s going to end up hidden in the back of the fridge unopened until someone decides it’s time to throw it out.
The craziest part of this tiny little fair is that it’s big enough to keep you coming back for more. We went back for round two on Sunday, but left when it was like 1,000 degrees out, the kind of hot when you can feel your skin burning and you start thinking about global warming, even if that isn’t the kind of thing you normally think about.
As much as I hate to admit this, I think what I loved the most about the Carbondale Mountain Fair was that it was so totally and completely not Aspen.
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