Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
So, how’d that “debt ceiling” thing work out for you?
Are we all feeling a little better today? Comfy and cozy in our nice little nests? Disaster narrowly averted?
Well, suppose we take a look at this shiny new world of ours.
Let’s take a drive down Parable Lane and see how things are going.
You just decided to venture out of that cozy cocoon and run down to the store for a six-pack – and not Bud Light. Dude, please! We’re talking micro-brew.
You’re cruising downtown in your brand new, shiny-bright Mercedes and you look down and – horrors! – the “check engine” light is on.
Dang! You don’t know anything about cars – who does these days? They’re way too complicated for mere human beings to mess with, but you know that blinking light can’t be a good thing.
So you pull over. You even open the hood, because that’s what you do when your car acts up.
And suddenly a crowd begins to assemble.
One, then two … then a dozen.
You hear them muttering. “Hmmm. Looks bad. That’s trouble.”
You scan the crowd. By now it’s a mob. You’re looking for a mechanic, but you don’t see anyone with coveralls and greasy hands.
There’s a crazy old street preacher. You’ve seen him raving on the street corners before, but you always ignored him. There’s a pack of young gang members wearing strange hats and odd costumes. There are a few respectable people – ties and jackets – but they’re keeping a safe distance.
And, son of a gun, there’s that hot waitress from the diner. She’s the one who never gets your order right and always screws up the check – she can’t figure out the sales tax – but she’s a looker, so you always tip her pretty well.
And they all start telling you what’s wrong with your car.
They agree that it’s mighty bad. Your car is in serious trouble.
The street preacher jumps up on the hood of your car, waving his Bible and shouting.
“Heal this car, Lord!” he screams. “Heal! This car has sinned! Cast out the demons!” He’s putting a pretty bad dent in your hood, but you’re too nervous to say anything.
The gang members yank the doors open and tear out the back seat.
“Too much weight,” they say. “You need to lighten up.”
They open the trunk and throw away your spare tire. And the jack. “Too much weight,” they shout.
The preacher kicks in your headlights. “The good Lord will take care of the light. Let there be light!”
The waitress is rummaging through your glove compartment. She pulls out the street maps and throws them into the gutter. “These are all lies! You’re lost!”
“But you shall be found,” chimes in the preacher. He’s got a big screwdriver and he’s prying off your hubcaps.
The gang members siphon the gas out of your tank. “That’s the problem! Bad gas!” They pour the gas over the back seat, add the maps, and set fire to the pile.
People start to cheer. Dancing breaks out.
“We’re getting it!” they shout, as the waitress and the preacher join hands and whirl in circles until they collapse giggling in the street.
You’re getting a little nervous – very nervous, actually – but the darn check engine” light is still flashing.
They point to that light.
“Bad problem! Very bad! Must fix!”
The preacher’s dog comes over and pees on your leg.
You look up and recognize a couple of older guys who work down at the gas station at the corner of Parable Lane and Myth Alley.
You run over and ask them to help. At least they know something about cars.
But they shake their heads.
“We’re not going to mess with those crazies,” they say. “Besides, who knows, they might know what they’re doing.”
One of them does wander over toward the car, but a gang member pokes him in the eye with his three-cornered hat and that’s the end of that.
The waitress marches over and grabs you by the collar. “What’re you doing talkin’ to them anyway? Those losers don’t know anything. I can fix your car myself. My grandfather used to run a dry-cleaning shop. My uncle was a veterinarian. I got this under control.”
She throws a rock through your windshield.
The street preacher tears the head off a chicken and starts sprinkling the blood on your dashboard. “Demons begone!”
Another group shows up and starts running in circles. They’re scared of the gang members and they don’t want to get any of the chicken blood on their clean clothes. They keep saying, “Call a mechanic.” Their voices are timid. They are ignored completely.
And, finally, there is one man sitting under a tree, mostly just watching.
Every once in a while, he gets up and says, “You really need to get this car fixed.” The gang members make fun of him every time he speaks up.
Then he points down at the pavement.
You look where he’s pointing and realize you’re parked on the railroads tracks.
“Train’s coming,” he says.
You tell the gang members to hurry and one of them takes a swing at you. Another one says, “Hey, what makes you think you deserve a car anyway?”
Then they start shouting. “You don’t need a car! Fancy pants!”
The man under the tree suggests pushing the car off the tracks and fixing it once the train’s gone by.
A gang member throws a rock at him. The old guys from the gas station giggle.
Finally, the gang members slam the hood shut. One of them gets his hand caught.
You jump into the car – the train’s almost there! – and crank the starter.
The engine’s running really rough. Maybe filling the air filter with kitty litter wasn’t such a great idea – but who could have known that?
The car lurches off the tracks as the train screams by.
And finally, you head home.
The “check engine” light is still blinking.
You never did get your beer.
And that, since you asked, is how that debt ceiling business worked out for you.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is
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Milias: The dilemma in Aspen’s workforce housing is that it houses few of the workforce, and that must be acknowledged before it can be improved.