Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

“Is this real life?” I asked Ryan as I grabbed another flute of champagne to wash down my tuna sushi hand roll.

We’d somehow managed to get ourselves into the VIP tent at the Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival this year, and while I realize it would probably be best to act like we paid our way, the truth is, we did not.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like we snuck in. We were fully legit, but as much as I fancy myself a VIP in my own little mind, it did not stop me from scarfing as many plates of seared ahi with seaweed salad as I could, even though the chef glared at me like I might be a homeless person.

I just loved the fresh pappardelle with arugla and truffle oil. The rock shrimp risotto was divine and did you try that venison tenderloin with sweet potato puree?

I tried to act like I get to do this every day, but that didn’t stop me from wolfing down the seared ahi with seaweed salad as if there were some kind of time limit, like I might wake up from the dream at any moment and better have one more bite, just in case.

I don’t know if it’s because I grew up going to Grateful Dead shows in high school, where the whole point of going to a concert was to be all gritty and barefoot and loose, and to do things we wouldn’t normally do in our rich parent’s house, like dress up like dirt bags and pretend we had nothing but the shoes on our feet.

I think that was part of the allure of sleeping in parking lots and wearing ugly dresses with jeans and various items of clothing made in India that had a funny smell and you could only buy at the head shop.

I’ll never forget when we were sophomores in high school and we were all hanging out before a Dead show at our friend Craig’s house-a full-on mansion in Farmington, Conn., with a pool house and a long driveway and a sprawling front lawn-and his mom goes, “You guys look like you’re going to a costume party.”

And I looked down at my long patchwork skirt and ugly Birkenstoks with the thick straps and thought to myself, “We are dressed in costumes, aren’t we?” It was a revelation, and one that led me to realize shortly thereafter that I really hated the Grateful Dead and much preferred the heavy baseline and urban energy of the Beasty Boys.

Anyhoo, my point is it’s a different story at the VIP tent at Jazz Aspen/Snowmass. Everyone looks like they went to the hair salon for a blowout and put on enough makeup to walk the red carpet. There are lots of oversized designer purses being toted around (Gucci and Louis and Chanel, oh my) and clothes that they probably bought just for the occasion, adorned designer jeans (preferably white) and fur vests and chunky platform shoes and a little bling here and there (on a collar, or a belt, or a scarf), maybe some crochet (very rock n’ roll) or leather or sequins.

There comes a point, through your champagne induced haze, when it starts to look like some kind of reality TV show, like “Cosmetic Surgery Gone Wrong” or “Cougarville, USA.” I don’t know who decided plumping your cheeks and lips and paralyzing all the muscles in your face is attractive, especially for those over the age of 50 who seem to be like the prime candidates for this type of cosmetic enhancement.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about looking your best and taking good care of yourself. But when you see these women who look like The Joker, it’s just not right. I don’t understand what doctor, one who has been through medical school and must have a brain and some kind of conscience, would do that to someone. I truly hope that someday soon, smile lines and faces that move come back en vogue the way that curves have (Thank you, Kim Kardashian).

I’m not anti-plastic surgery. I’m just anti-bad plastic surgery. There’s a difference.

It’s also a very bizarre experience to sit at a table with linens and flowers to watch a live concert. It seems to flip the experience upside down, like the band came just for you instead of the other way around.

Crazier still was going back and forth between the VIP section and the general admission vendor area where the electronic sound stage was set up. Is that what the kids are doing these days? I mean, I don’t get it: that doesn’t sound even remotely like music to me.

Then there was that country singer dude whose biggest hit was about a dog that eats glass, drinks whisky and kills a chicken. Has the whole world gone Republican? Maybe the Grateful Dead wasn’t so bad.

Where I was happiest was in front of the stage at Steely Dan, which brought me right back to eighth grade. I wondered if the fact that I enjoyed it so much means that I’m old. Then I realized at least I’m not old enough to want to stuff my face full of synthetic fillers in order to hold my cheeks up, so that’s good.

The best part of the whole weekend was at the after party when Ryan was throwing it down on the dance floor looking like quite the stud with his fedora, tattoos and serious dance moves, and all the girls in the room were drooling over him.

It was maybe the first time in my whole life that I knew I don’t have anything left to worry about. It won’t matter if my cheeks fall a little or I get some wrinkles around my eyes: I’m pretty much set for life.

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