Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“Dude, that must have been a really erroneous throw,” one stoned guy said, dragging out each syllable so it took him like six seconds to say one word. They all stood there with their lids half closed, arms hanging by their sides all long and limp like one of those cartoon monsters that drags their hands palm up in the dirt. They gathered on the edge of the steep embankment, trying to spot the missing horseshoe that bounced down the hill when I tried to toss it and sort of missed by a long shot.
“Do they have any spares, man?” the other asked, taking a swig of piss-colored beer out of a plastic cup.
“No, dude. There’re only three,” the first guy replied, throwing his cigarette butt into the sand where the horseshoe court was set up, a long, boxed-in pit framed with old two-by-fours. Wood for the bonfire was already stacked in two big piles just begging to start a fire.
“Oh, duuuude? For reals?”
It was the first time I’d heard someone say “for reals” somewhere besides MTV. Somehow John and I had ended up at this Fourth of July party, and I’m pretty sure I was the oldest person there by at least 10 years. We are told it’s the “Red, White, Blue and Green” party, and let’s just say we smelled the house before we found it.
I didn’t even know houses like this still existed in Aspen, old teardowns that smell of mildew and stale beer, filled with six roommates under 30 who all share one bathroom. The barbecue spread included six bags of Doritos (one in every flavor) and frozen hamburgers that were tossed directly on the grill like hockey pucks. A huge chunk of the deck railing was missing, delineated by party streamers that probably wouldn’t do much good in terms of preventing the inevitable demise of some drunk, stoned person who tripped over their shoelaces.
After the little horseshoe incident, I’m pretty sure there is even less for me and these boys to talk about, so I slink upstairs and hide until they find another distraction, like maybe the fireworks.
“Dude, these guys jump off it and land in the grass. It’s sick,” one of the roommates said about the deck hazard. “In the winter, they ski off the roof, too. Pretty sketchy landing.”
“Wow,” I say, wondering if there is still a snowboarding magazine out there that would hire me to write about it now that I’ve graduated from, well, boarding school. I’m just happy someone is talking to me, since the stoned guys and John are still scavenging around in the bushes looking for the missing horseshoe. Someone hands me a glass pipe that is so long it’s almost hard to light it. I know I probably shouldn’t smoke it, since I had already sampled the zucchini-sized joint, the water bong and the one-hitter ” but only because someone twisted my arm, pinned me to the floor and forced me to do it.
Aside from feeling extremely paranoid that the horseshoe team was going to come after me, I didn’t feel much different than I normally do. After all, I started the day by parking John’s car on the parade route when I went to teach a 9 a.m. yoga class and had to pay more than three times what I earned working on a holiday to get his car out of the Rio Grande impound lot. I pulled up at 8 o’clock in the morning thinking I was the first person in all of Aspen to be up and at ’em. I was also thinking, “How nice of the city to give us free parking” when I went to get my ticket from the meter and it said, “No paid parking today” on the little screen.
Then I got a flat tire on my way to the parade and had to get it fixed at the bike shop, only to realize that the sidewall of my tire had torn, so I had to replace that, too, in addition to the new tube I’d just bought.
I spent the entire weekend wearing the same dress, a little white number I picked out at the boutique next to the studio when I realized it would have been easier to hike to Crested Butte than get to the ABC with all that holiday traffic. I simply went to Susie’s every time I needed an article of clothing, like the cool brown Roxy bikini I picked up for 10 bucks. John ended up having to pay for it when my debit card was declined after the whole $185 car-towing incident. Doh!
After the parade was over, and the bike tire fixed, and the dress and bikini purchased, we set out on a little parade of our own, drifting from one random party to the next. We went from Free Art at the Aspen Art Museum’s awesome New Orleans shindig to free beer at some mansion open house at the bottom of the Pass, where only poor locals who couldn’t afford to buy their own drinks ended up. From there, we headed down to 39 Degrees, where it looked like “Girls Gone Wild” meets “Miami Vice,” and I felt out of place without go-go boots and eyelash extensions and shimmering strawberry-scented body lotion.
Finally we ended up at the Red, White, Blue and Green party where my little story started. Just before we left, one of the little stoned dudes was walking around wishing everyone a happy birthday. All by himself, without a calculator or anything, he figured out that our country is 312 years old.
“That’s pretty old,” someone else said. It was hard to see who it was through the cloud of smoke.
All I could think was, thank god someone at this party is older than me.
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