Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

No, no one slipped you any acid. Those colors are real.

At least I had to reassure myself that that was the case as we hiked up to Cathedral Lake on Sunday. My massive Ruggerfest hangover throbbed in my temples as the air got thinner, and I had to wonder if my eyes were playing tricks on me. I paused more than once to consider the possibility someone had slipped me something, maybe into my Vitamin Water bottle? Had the seal been broken when I first opened it? I could not remember.

I don’t know what it is about this fall in particular that is so stunning. The colors just seem more amped up than usual, more brilliant, more vibrant.

Or do I say that every year?

While others bemoan the onset of colder weather and shorter days, I welcome it with open arms. I am so totally a winter animal, all short limbs and small hands and feet. I could probably pass for an Eskimo were it not for my salon blonde hair and blue eyes. Or maybe I’m more like a penguin, short and round through the middle with more of a waddle than a stride. Unlike these lithe, long-legged friends of mine who love nothing more than parading around town with all their skin hanging out, I love piling on the layers. I love my sweaters, my jackets, my hats and my big furry boots.

Fall is hands down my favorite time of year, when the onset of winter starts to tease, to warn you of its upcoming arrival. There’s that little chill in the air that kind of pokes you on the shoulder (tap, tap, tap), but when you turn around there’s nothing there.

There’s the crunch of leaves beneath your feet and that smell: sort of part dirt, part plant and part sky. God, if you could only bottle that smell. It would be nice to have it around during other times of year when things are a bit more stagnant.

No, fall is all about change and renewal and goal-setting and pencil-and-notebook buying. It’s a time for corduroy jeans and Frye boots and clogs and socks and your favorite down vest. It’s a time, even more than New Year’s, for new workout routines and diets and travel plans and cooking recipes and art supplies.

It’s easy to be inspired when your senses are intoxicated by a kaleidoscope of color so intense it’s about more than just being able to see it. Where green turns to yellow and meets blue, that deep Downy fabric softener bottle blue, the colors become somehow delicious. It’s like being able to eat or taste something with your eyes.

Speaking of tasting things with your eyes, how about those rugby players?

I mean, these guys parade around town with their shirts off, all sweaty and meaty with their matted hair and cleats and striped socks and their bubble butts and calves that look like fried chicken, as if they were put on this earth to tantalize the imagination of women passing by.

You guys know how I feel about rugby players. They’re like firefighters or ski patrolers or maintenance men. If you could put them on a stick and fry them and sell them at the Minnesota State Fair I’m sure there would be plenty of ladies lined up to buy them and eat them. Someone told me they knew someone who sold fried bacon on a stick this year and made a half-million dollars in 10 days. Sometimes it’s just that simple.

Believe it or not we were out on Saturday night, playing the town the way we once did, following the circuit. You know the route I’m talking about, the whole L’Hostaria to Jimmy’s to Eric’s, the beer/wine/lemoncello into tequila shots and beer into Stoli-o sodas.

Ry and I went out to dinner with my girlfriend Connie, who is single and she was so wound up and dolled up and hot I thought the sidewalk might actually melt beneath her feet, or maybe crackle or shake or break apart as if there had been an earthquake or a tornado. Wherever we went, the men circled around her like vultures, saying all kinds of ridiculous things to try and beckon for her attention in their various kiwi/Brit/South African accents.

I was only slightly offended that they didn’t seem to notice me, but Ry says that’s on account of them knowing instinctively that I’m taken. I think it probably has more to do with my attire, which isn’t quite so hey-look-at-me as it once was. The low-rise jeans have crept up a little higher and my tops drape a little lower but I still wear fabulous shoes.

What’s really offensive, though, is when the bouncers just sort of wave me through, not with their hands but with their eyes.

I actually went so far as to ask one of them, “What is it that you look for, exactly? Is it these?” I said, pointing to my crow’s feet.

He laughed and nodded and said, “Yes! Totally! See, I have them too!”

He seemed grateful for the exchange, as it was probably one of the most honest conversations he’d had all night.

God knows the bouncers had their hands full. The testosterone was so thick you could have gone swimming in it. The rugby dudes were like gorillas in the mist, banging their fists against their chests and grunting and growling and not speaking discernible English. And the ladies were loving it. We saw women in fish nets, women dancing in their bras, women who weren’t afraid of diving head first into Man Sea.

How the hell did I go from the beautiful fall colors to manimals? Oh yeah, Ruggerfest.

See, in many ways fall is really no different than the Man Parade. The view isn’t going to last long so you gotta get out there and drink it up.

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