Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
In the last week I interviewed a reality TV star, met the top 10 best new chefs, acquired 14 teenagers for a writing camp, and met a 28-year-old author whose novel about being a child soldier in Sierra Leone made The New York Times best seller list. It’s definitely been one of those “only in Aspen” kind of weeks.The sun came out for the first time in I don’t know how long, and it only seemed to illuminate this idyllic life that I am somehow living without really having done anything whatsoever to deserve it. Even when it’s raining, the sun always manages to come out so that even the darkest sky is somehow bright. It creates this stunning contrast for the mountains, so they look even greener than they already are, wild but immaculate, as groomed-looking as a golf course. After all that rain, everything is in bloom, plants and flowers exploding all at once with such power and presence you expect them to make some kind of noise.It all starts with Food & Wine, where for the first time in the seven years I’ve lived here, I’m wearing a coveted media credential around my neck. Had I any idea what this little piece of plastic gets you, I either would have tried to make a fake one or puckered up and kissed whatever respective arse needed to be kissed (or sucked, whatever the case may be) in order to get one. This thing is carte blanche. It gets you into every event imaginable, often earlier than everyone else so you can get the best seat or try the food or wine without having to wait in line. It gets to the point where the Grand Tasting starts to feel too public. I mean, why go to the buffet when you can be spoon-fed? Somehow I finagle an assignment with a small daily newspaper that wants an interview with Hosea Rosenberg, this year’s winner of Bravo’s reality TV show, “Top Chef.”For some reason, I am super nervous about this interview. And so of course everything that can go wrong goes wrong. Like, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to meet him at the media booth under the Grand Tasting tent or in the press room at the St. Regis. I frantically run back and forth between the two, sweating all over my silk camisole top and smashing my cool cowboy hat with the big embroidered flowers when I accidentally sit on it.I find Hosea in the Grand Tasting, dressed in plain clothes with beer in hand and I go running up to him like he’s an old friend thinking this won’t be so bad after all, only to get crock-blocked by the Evil PR Lady.”Hosea is waaay too stressed out right now to handle any more interviews; it’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” she said. She had short spiky hair and narrow eyes like slits that were hardly visible behind her dark, thick-rimmed glasses. “What, do you have a problem,” she says, like it’s not a question but a dare. She stares at me like she might try to light me on fire with her eyes. In the distance, Hosea shrugs apologetically and stands around looking awkward, waiting to be told what to do next.When I finally get my interview more than three wine seminars and two Grand Tastings later, I find myself staring mindlessly at his face, thankful the recorder is on since that dimple on his left cheek makes it very difficult for me to focus on anything he says. The very next day I start teaching the Youth Writing Workshop with young teens for the Aspen Writers Foundation out at the Meadows. At that age, I distinctly remember doing things like kissing boys, sneaking out of the house, and trying booze in the park by the golf course. Let’s just say writing camp might not have been high on my list of priorities. But these kids are amazing. They’re little angels, every one of them. Ishmael Beah, the author of the NYT best seller “A Long Way Gone” comes late one morning to speak to my class. We have a private audience with the 28-year-old for an entire hour as he speaks about writing a memoir about his experiences as a child solider in Sierra Leone. The way he speaks is almost lyrical. He articulates every single letter that comes out of his mouth like a musical note. The words resonate after he says them as if they’re floating around the room. At one point, I start thinking maybe Ishmael himself will start to float around the room, too. His hair points in every direction like it has somewhere to go, as if the wisdom he possesses at his young age can’t be contained in his head. His smile is wide and filled with teeth, his cheeks full and round, luminescent like a boy’s. He tells us they call people his age in Sierra Leone “The Lost Generation” because they had to go to war so young, but I don’t think he’s lost his youth at all. Maybe in some way, the miracle of his life preserved the child in him, froze it in the wake of his tragedy. So he will never grow old and never die, like an angel. The kids seem as enamored with him as I am. They pose for photos and those who don’t have a copy of his book ask him to sign their notebooks.Like Ishmael said to a larger group at a seminar on writing memoirs yesterday afternoon, when you write something down, it preserves the memory so it is something you can keep. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here. Oh, what a week it’s been.
The Princess begs you not to get bored of her happiness. Read more at http://www.aspenprincess.squarespace.com.
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