Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

My friend Shanti just bought me a plane ticket to fly to L.A. on Saturday. Just like that.

I dona€™t know anyone who can find and book a flight faster than Shanti can, but thata€™s just how she is. Once she gets an idea in her head, therea€™s no stopping her. She simply doesna€™t have the mental parameters most people have like, a€œmaybe ita€™s too last minute,a€ or a€œhow am I going to pay for this,a€ or a€œwhat the hell has Ali done for me lately?a€ She doesna€™t think about it. She just does it.

So within the course of a ten-minute conversation, shea€™s e-mailing me the confirmation for my flight. This doesna€™t surprise me and it shouldna€™t. This is a girl who grew up on a commune in some remote mountain valley in British Columbia by a woman who changed her name from Enid to Ariel.

Ariel has been married four times and has maintained close relationships with all of her exes, so Shanti was raised with not one set of parents, but three, including a stepmother who later married another woman. Shanti went to a clothing optional school when she was a child and, long story longer, has been given no real guidance in terms of setting boundaries.

I know Ia€™ve told this story before, but it really is worth telling again. Shanti and I met in the mid-90s when we were both hired at the same time to work at Transworld Snowboarding magazine in Oceanside, Calif.

It should have been obvious from the start what a misogynistic, male-dominated world we were stepping into when our employer assumed that we would probably want to live together and be roommates even though wea€™d never met, what, with us both being female and all. Can you imagine if they hired two men, giving them phone numbers to exchange so they could be roommates? It was like my freshman year in college all over again.

Shanti moved from Portland to San Diego with her boyfriend, Greg, and their golden retriever/shepard mix Bear. We wouldna€™t be roommates until a year or so later when we moved into a big house a few blocks from the beach in a sleepy little coastal town called Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

a€œYou can share my boyfriend with me if you want,a€ Shanti said one day when her boyfriend confessed to having a crush on me. a€œWe can share everything, Alison! Youa€™re my best friend in the whole world!a€

a€œBut Ia€™ve only known you for like two weeks,a€ I mighta€™ve replied.

I wona€™t lie, I did hide under the covers a lot after that and pretend to be asleep, but Shanti would whole heartedly agree with me that Greg was a creep. Eventually shea€™d leave him and move back to Seattle during one of her many, a€œIa€™m moving to [wherever] to do [whatever]a€ stints. That time she lost a ton of weight on diet pills and put blonde streaks in her hair and was almost unrecognizable, as if shea€™d made that transformation overnight.

Ia€™ve gotten used to her making sudden and drastic changes over the last 15 years. Ia€™ve watched her move her life from Seattle back to Huntington Beach to Los Angeles to Sun Valley, Idaho. Ia€™ve seen her drive everything from a very masculine, all-black Toyota Tacoma pickup to a silver BMW to her moma€™s dilapidated Volvo sedan before buying her current, more sensible choice, a Subaru Impreza wagon.

This is a girl whose idea of a quick little trip takes her to places like Sri Lanka, South Africa, Thailand, Indonesia and New Zealand. Shea€™s that girl who barely escaped by the tsunami only to return back with money shea€™d raised to help all the people whose lives were destroyed by it.

Therea€™s been career changes too as shea€™s blown through every single media job you can think of with tornado force and speed, including an audition to be the co-host of a€œStorm Chasersa€ on The Discovery Channel. Once she was on MTVa€™s a€œRoad Rulesa€ in New Zealand. But mostly shea€™s done everything in and around action sports, from television production and magazine writing and editing to everything and anything revolving around the Web.

Shea€™s one of those people whoa€™s onto new technology way before youa€™ve gotten comfortable with it. I remember when we lived together in the mid-90s and Ia€™d hear that high-pitched pinging of the dial-up Internet connection going on 24 hours a day and I thought she was insane.

a€œJesus Christ, what is it with you and this e-mail crap?a€ Ia€™d say. a€œWhy dona€™t you just pick up the phone and call the person like everyone else?a€

So you can imagine where shea€™s at these days, communicating with a million people in a thousand ways, doing all this virus marketing or whatever they call it, tweeting and twatting and scoring over 1,000 friends on that Facebook thing. Shea€™s built her own company around it, working tirelessly because that is what she loves to do. I once told her she should find some way to chain her laptop around her neck so she never had to be away from it. And then they invented the iPhone.

Ia€™ll admit I have gone through serious phases of being extremely resistant to Shantia€™s enthusiasm, her uncontainable energy, her drive, and her uncanny ability to get up very early even after going to bed very late. There have been times when Ia€™ve rolled my eyes at her or even plopped my butt down into the sand and refused to move or to listen to her go on and on about this or that (the sand incident was actually during the rehearsal for her beach wedding in Malibu, where I was as it turned out, the Maid of Horror).

But not this time. This time shea€™s onto something big and Ia€™m super excited to be a part of it.

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