Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

“Why are there so many people here?” I ask Ambere as we survey the scene. And let me tell you, it is quite a scene. “Is this like, what rich people do every day?”

Ambere, who is never one to use more than precisely the number of words that are needed says, “Well, it is Tuesday!”

As if on cue, some lady jumps up on the table in her ski boots and starts dancing. The music is loud, and to be fair, it is dance music. I realize it’s not that unusual to see this kind of thing happen in Aspen, but at an on-mountain restaurant, in the middle of the day, on a Tuesday?

The coolest part of it all is it’s my birthday and I couldn’t have planned this if I tried.

Last year I had the big, blowout birthday celebration when I turned the big four-uh-oh, which has since been renamed “F-You, I’m 40!” because the thing is, I had no idea how kick ass turning 40 would actually be.

I pretty much lived in hell throughout my 30s. Even though it was a fun kind of hell, it was still hell nonetheless. Sure there were lots of parties and shopping and snowboarding and traveling and good times. But there was also a lot of heartache and heartbreak and 10 solid years of “Looking for love in all the wrong places,” an epic well documented in more than 300 columns I wrote about that very topic.

I know some of you probably miss that; the face-down-in-the-mud stuff I used to write about. We all know the only good thing you can get out of life when you’re miserable is knowing there is someone else out there who is at least as miserable as you are. When you’re happy, though, it’s not nearly as entertaining and I realize it can be easily construed as gloating or bragging. Or maybe it’s even the ultimate form of narcissism, the whole, “look at me and how much fun I’m having,” that drives half the crap I feel compelled to post on Facebook.

That’s the first thing I did this morning in the haze of my post-birthday hangover over the first of three shots of espresso. I spent an hour uploading and posting and captioning all the party photos from the day before so people could see them and comment on them. What could be better than sitting around all the livelong day waiting for that satisfying little red icon that pops up on the top of your screen to tell you how many times someone paid attention to you?

I never expected life to be this good at this age.

And it’s just so bizarre to even be this age. I keep saying it in my head over and over: “Forty-one. I’m forty-one. How old are you? I’m forty-one!” But no matter how many times I say it, it just doesn’t sound right.

I’m thinking about this as I’m riding in the front seat of the cat up to Highlands Bowl feeling like I did when I was 12 driving my Dad’s candy red Porsche around the twisty roads of rural Connecticut under the canopy of giant oak trees as my Dad screamed, “Throw it into second around this next corner and gun it! Now that’s the way a car is supposed to drive!” over the Doobie Brothers playing full blast on his brand new Blaupunkt stereo. I feel like the luckiest girl alive.

It’s one of those crystal clear sunny days where the sky is the deepest shade of blue you’ve ever seen in real life, as if the ocean kissed the sky to create this perfect color that has to be some kind of joint effort because it’s just too good to be true.

I think about my friend Trent who lives in Minnesota and has the same birthday as me. He comes out once a year and hiking the Bowl is a big deal to him, so exciting and breathtaking and cool. It’s important not to lose perspective on that just because I can do it any old day. It’s such an amazing place to be and is something I hope I never take for granted.

“I hope I can do this when I’m 71,” I told Ambere once we got to the top. “That means I can have 30 more years of this.”

That’s when we realized we were late for our lunch reservation and began a journey that landed us at the most raging party I’ve seen in quite some time. It was as if it had miraculously appeared out of nowhere, or if maybe I’d imagined it, or if somehow it was there just for me.

“Oh, it’s like this a lot,” the proprietor said. “But then some days, it’s quiet for a while and then it’s like this again.”

“An ebb and flow,” I said. “Like the tides.” But that was probably the booze talking.

“Yes,” he said, his green eyes illuminated with the contentment of someone who has lived their life right. “That’s exactly what it’s like.”

Then he gave me some racket about what happens here, stays here. In my head I’m going, “Yeah, don’t write about me, but if you do, my name is spelled A-N-D-R-E-W-E with an ‘e’ at the end.”

It’s not as if the scene is top-secret. These people are in full view of anyone who skis by and it’s not like they’re easy to miss when they’re carrying on, sledding on shovels and dancing with their arms up in the air and making a big scene.

All I can say is I was dreading my 40s, but so far it’s been the best time in my life. What better way to celebrate another year of living the dream than by doing it on Cloud 9.