Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
So we were at Mountain Fair a couple weeks ago watching our friend Lance in the wood-chopping contest.
Lance competes every year. He doesn’t mess around. When it comes to this contest, everyone knows the most important thing is your outfit. Lance not only busts out the best outfits, he creates a whole persona to go with them. This year he dressed as a Swede with a white, yellow and blue polyester sweat suit and matching yellow and blue headband.
Mountain Fair is such a feel-good event, the kind of event that makes you go, “Wow, I really do live in small town America.” Or, “Damn, I really am a mountain girl.” Or, “Sweet man, I live in such a cool community. Give me another hit, er, I mean, could you get me another beer? Thanks.”
That is, until the chick with the microphone goes out of her way to tell you that you’re not welcome.
You know, the girl in the black halter top, I guess she was the co-host of the event, along with the guy who wore swimming flippers and a hula skirt. She was trying to be all funny and cool and sexy, asking each of the competitors how often they “handle wood.” It was appropriate enough, for the daytime beer drinkers, for the light-hearted mood. She was working the crowd, flaunting her assets and having a good time. I was digging it, the whole no-holds-barred attitude and uninhibited sexy exuberance. I was like, “I feel you, sister.” I could picture us doing shots of tequila at the Pour House afterward, totally bonding, me saying something like, “You rocked it today, girl.”
Then she says something like, “We’re so happy y’all came out, except those people from Aspen who have to park their Hummers on Main Street.”
“That was lame,” Ryan said. It’s not often Ryan complains about much of anything, especially when he’s wearing his favorite New Belgium straw hat. The guy has feathers of steel and not much ruffles them. But it definitely hurt our feelings and put a damper on the whole event – a bummer considering the fun we’d had in the two trips we’d made to come down and be a part of it.
I just don’t get the whole “us vs. them” mentality or people who separate “Upvalley” and “Downvalley” as if there’s some kind of literal and proverbial boundary line that’s as distinct as North and South Carolina or the Confederacy and New England or whatever.
Since last Thursday, I’ve been living the downvalley lifestyle, housesitting for friends who have a beautiful property in Missouri Heights. They travel a lot, so we come and take care of their dogs and play house, because they actually have a real house with a full-size kitchen and a garage and everything for us to play in.
So every night, we eat at the dinner table with placemats and turn the television off. We spend a lot of time on the patio staring at Mt. Sopris, which never gets old. I even get to drive a fancy Mercedes SUV and pretend I’m a downvalley housewife. I do things like buy groceries in the middle of the day, have my nails done, drink iced lattes and run errands in Glenwood. I wear my hair in a ponytail and go everywhere dressed in my little pink skirt that makes it look like I just came from playing tennis. The only thing missing from my soccer mom gig are the actual kids (though the car I get to drive does have a baby seat in the back).
Ryan goes to work early in the morning and comes home for dinner, and it’s super exciting to see him when he walks through the door. I try to have dinner ready, and short of wearing an apron, I’m totally domesticated. I even do the dishes, forgoing the “cooks don’t have to clean” rule.
I know what my Aspen friends are thinking: That sounds horrible. All you do is drive around in you car all day.
Guess what. They have mountains and rivers and all that cool stuff downvalley, too. They have outdoors. Have you ever seen the singletrack on Basalt Mountain or ridden your road bike to the top of McClure Pass or even just cruised up to Redstone for lunch?
What I love about Mo-Heights is that I can do Basalt or Carbondale, depending on if I take a left or a right. I’d say I like both towns equally for different reasons. Basalt feels really normal to me – it’s not super richy-rich or super hippie. It’s not too remote or too small or too exclusive. I love the way the river runs through it, like a vein bringing in lifeblood. I like the everyday feeling. It’s accessible.
We know all about Carbondale, that it’s funky and cool and community oriented. You just better hope you’re a member.
“What’s happened in Aspen is the billionaires have pushed out the millionaires,” says my friend Scott, a longtime Aspen local. “Billionaires don’t care. They have nothing to prove. But the millionaires who have been pushed out of Aspen feel insecure. They have something to prove. So essentially, they are a hell of a lot more stuck up than the people who live in Aspen are.”
One thing I’ll say about Aspen: Anyone can be a Princess. It doesn’t matter who you are. People will treat you like royalty if you ask them to, even if you left the Mercedes down in Carbondale and parked your Jeep Wrangler out front.
I don’t think of my address as a membership card, though maybe I should. Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, what’s the difference? When it comes to my attitude, I guess I really do live in the ABC.
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