Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
We’re almost there, guys. Just hang in there.
That’s what we always tell our students toward the end of the yoga class, when their faces are beat red and towels drenched in sweat and they start to get that look like they would kill you if they had the energy. The heat has the tendency to do that sometimes, to bring out your angry side. But that’s part of what makes you feel so good afterward, that release. So they always come back for more, and they actually pay us for it.
Instead of making an argument like that, I just say, “hang in there, we’re almost done,” in a really loving, nurturing voice. That way they don’t hate me more than they think they already do.
That’s a message I think the whole town might need to hear, what with the end of the tourist season drawing near. I don’t know if it’s just me, or the construction traffic on 82, or the tenacious efficiency of the parking Nazis (still a mystery to me how they are so on top of it) or maybe it’s that every single girl I know has told me in the last week she has PMS (could it be the full moon?). But there is this vibe of bitterness around town lately that I just can’t shake.
Like the other day, I was crossing the street at Hopkins and Hunter and this white SUV comes careening at me going like 60 so I sort of tried to look at the driver to make sure they could see me and weren’t going to run me over. It just seemed like a really stupid way to die.
The guy stops and leans out his window and yells, “Hey! You got a problem?”
He thinks I’m being confrontational. I give him my best innocent shrug and walk the other way wondering what would happen if I had stayed. What, he’s going to take me? Since I’m so big and strong and threatening? Last time I checked, I was just a little blonde girl walking down the street.
Then the other night some colleagues took us out to dinner at one of Aspen’s most popular restaurants to celebrate the completion of a project. It was a business thing but these folks are also our friends, so it was really just a good excuse to bust out the company credit card and have some fun.
There were six of us, all working locals who I’m guessing have never seen a six-figure salary. My point is despite our glamorous and tasteful appearance, we are basically all glorified ski bums who have made that “lifestyle choice” (has to be in quotes) everyone’s always talking about. We’re willing to live well beyond our means and pay exorbitant prices because being in the mountains is enough. So the point of my little story is we’re not the kind of folks who go around dropping 500 bucks on a meal like it’s nothing. If we’re acting like it, it’s only because we’re too drunk to know any better.
Dude, I know how it works. I have a few friends in the restaurant biz. I know when I go here I always get free drinks (including a lemoncello shot, whether I want it or not). I know if I go there, I always get a dessert plate (ditto). I know who will always be able to get me a table even on a busy night and who will bring us some delightful appetizer we never ordered. That is the ski bum currency, the trade network of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours because god knows we’re all crawling around on the floor of our cars digging for change to put in the parking meter.”
We decided on this particular place even though none of us is dialed in there just because tonight, of all nights, we can afford to try something new.
We go big. We order fancy martini drinks in easy-to-spill glasses and wine and a bunch of appetizers. I’m still in diet freakout mode after last week’s little pregnancy episode and can’t decide what I want for my main course, (especially after all that bread and alcohol) so I settle for a spinach salad. I ask if they can add some grilled shrimp to it so I have it as my main course.
It’s not so much that the salad totally sucked or that they charged us $20 for the side of shrimp (there were six). It was the waiter. He had such a fat attitude that he acted like we were asking him to donate sperm or lift heavy boxes up six flights of stairs every time we needed more water.
I tried to make excuses for him in my head. It’s been a long summer, I told myself.
He’s probably so burned out on demanding people he’s worn thin. Plus, having grown up with a very overbearing mother, I am usually one to back down from these types of situations. But the martinis had me thinking otherwise.
“You can tell the chef we noticed he put raw cashews in our salad even though that wasn’t on the menu,” I said.
“I guess he was a little distracted by having to make the shrimp,” the waiter replied.
His words came out like spit, but least my salad finally had some kind of dressing on it.
“Party of six or more, so the tip is already included in the bill,” was all John said.
When I moved here I loved how everyone in Aspen is spoiled rotten. Now it just feels spoiled or rotten, I’m not sure which. I figure maybe we’re all just tired of dealing with these unfamiliar faces, these people who don’t really know us and definitely don’t
I hope that moving into the off-season we can all go back to enjoy being spoiled rotten together.
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Last week, The Aspen Times ran an article about limiting home size in Aspen and Pitkin County. One might think that climate change is finally poking at the Aspen bubble.