Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I’m moving again.

No, no, we’re not leaving town. Though there are plenty of people who live within the pearly gates of downtown Aspen who act like you need a passport to cross the Maroon Creek Bridge. They think three miles is as good as downvalley, but it’s not. Even though I’m not technically in the city of Aspen, my address will still be 81611, hello.

“It’s a lateral move,” my dad said when I confessed I’d been having second thoughts. “But you’re doing it because it will help you financially.”

As if major life changes like getting married weren’t enough, we have decided to move back into my old place in the Lofts at Deer Hill, which sounds a lot fancier than it really is. It could just as easily be called “Industrial Park Apartments” or “Jet Fuel Condominiums.”

When I bought the place back in 2003, the seller told me the address was Ventnor Lane even though the building isn’t so much on a road as a driveway that goes through the business park, past the Comcast building and all the tractors and forklifts parked in front of Aspen Rent All.

Then one day, I get a call from the FedEx guy who tells me there’s no such thing as Ventnor Lane. He says the address is just 200 Aspen Business Center and the unit number. So I guess the seller guy just made it up to make it sound good when in reality, my address makes it sound like I’m living in an office building or a business park. Oh, yeah, I am living in a business park.

Don’t get my wrong; my condo is really cute. It has granite countertops and hardwood floors and French doors and windows on three sides. It’s actually very private and very quiet, especially on the weekends when the 50 laborers from the roofing company downstairs aren’t congregated in the parking lot with all their loud equipment, sitting on the tailgate of their pickup trucks eating their lunches at 10 o’clock in the morning. The Jacuzzi store downstairs is open on the weekends, but luckily hot tubs don’t make any noise. As long as you don’t mind having them stacked up in the parking spot in front of your stairway waiting to be delivered to houses in Starwood that are just up the hill from us, it’s all good.

It is only three miles away. Three miles. Where I grew up, that was the distance between us and our next door neighbors. (OK, maybe not our neighbor, but definitely the nearest grocery store.) It’s not that far. When I lived in the ABC before, I used to jog to town and back. I discovered it’s actually faster to bike than it is to drive and the bus is free. With no traffic, it takes exactly six minutes to get from our front door to Peaches. So, as you can see, it really doesn’t count as downvalley.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been incredibly spoiled living in town, even if the complex we live in reminds me a lot of the dorms I lived in during my freshman year in college. Between the kids upstairs who party until 2 a.m. with the base thumping so loud the walls shook, and the girl next door who had such loud sex the walls shook, it definitely did not always feel like the ideal place to be as I’m pushing middle age.

But when I lay in the hammock and enjoy the unobstructed views of Aspen Mountain, or jump on my bike three minutes before yoga class starts, or decide I need a Luna Bar and have to go to the store for the fifth time that day, I can do that. I can even pretend that nothing exists outside this little bubble of downtown Aspen because everything we need is right here. Our lives are so pretty and shiny we don’t have to deal with the grit of morning commuter traffic or highway dividers or things that aren’t pretty to look at. That actually explains everything about why people think three miles is far away, but still.

We’re making the move because it’s the right thing to do. Instead of throwing money away on rent, we’ll be paying it back into our investment, building our equity (assuming the real estate market will come back within 23 years) and cutting our cost of living way back. I love that it’s ours, that we can paint it purple or put shag rug on the walls and mirror the ceilings if we want to.

I’m also starting to realize I’m not alone in having to make big changes to adjust to today’s more challenging financial climate. I’m so lucky I haven’t had to foreclose or file bankruptcy or quick sell my home like so many people I know have had to do to stay afloat.

Still, I’m dragging my feet a little when it comes to actually starting the whole moving process. It’s hard to believe I’ve lived in our little apartment up here on the hill for just over two years, that I’ve seen it transform from a bachelor pad into our little home and that I only recently felt like everything was exactly how I wanted it to be.

There’s something sad about putting your whole life into boxes and saying good-bye to a space you created so many memories in, closing the door on another chapter, especially one that included falling even deeper in love and being able to walk home from the bar.

But a new chapter is exactly what we’re about to embark on, and with that, an old home that I’m hoping can be made new once again. Either that, or the Princess has found her Prince and is still waiting for the castle to materialize.