Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
I spent a few days in Moab last week and, boy, has that town changed over the past few decades.
I know people say the same thing about Aspen – and with good reason – but the changes in Moab since I first stopped there in 1973 have been even more striking.
The empty stretches of Moab’s then-sleepy Main Street are now densely filled in with motels, restaurants, fast-food joints, bars, and art galleries. It’s the full-throttle American tourist-Mecca experience.
It’s an example of what might have happened to Aspen if this town had not fought so fiercely for the growth-control measures that both saved Aspen (from rampant development) and destroyed it (with prices so high that ordinary people and local businesses could barely survive).
But that’s Aspen and this was Moab, and any judgments about the development out there in the Utah desert are a matter for Moabites and Moab tourists to decide. And, rarely as I stop there these days, I don’t get a vote.
I bet things are just fine the way they are with the tourists who jam into Arches in rented RVs and huge tour buses and the young crazies who go tearing through the desert on mountain bikes and in Jeeps with tires so big they look diseased. And as long as the visitors are happy, I’ll bet the Moabites are happy.
There’s no question that what’s going on in Moab now is a lot better for all concerned than the town’s previous commercial bonanza: uranium mining that boomed in the ’50s and ’60s, and then petered out along with the Cold War.
So if it’s OK with them, that’s cool. As I said, I don’t get a vote.
But still, one sign of Moab’s change really got to me.
It was a young woman, tottering through the parking lot outside a local bar, on a pair of rhinestone-encrusted shoes with six-inch stiletto heels (and a ridiculous, tight high-fashion skirt to match).
And as I watched her wobble across the asphalt, my heart sank (rhymes with “skank”).
Oh, God, I thought, they’re here too: the Stiletto Heel Brigade.
And, with the immediacy of a slap across the face with a wet fish, I remembered a little scene I witnessed one afternoon right here in Aspen.
It was summer, and I was crossing Spring Street, somewhere between Hopkins and Hyman, when I spotted two women.
They were walking in opposite directions, and they didn’t seem to notice each other, perhaps because of their trajectories or perhaps because they were on – or from – different planets.
One I immediately thought of as New Aspen.
Her jet-black hair was sleekly styled; her makeup was thorough and perfect. Her lips were plump, as were her two other most prominent upper-body assets – all artificially, though not obscenely, inflated: tasteful plastic. She was dressed head to toe in black. Her top was tight and lacy, and through the lace I could see the thin straps of the well-engineered, high-fashion bra that supported those inflated assets. She was wearing skin-tight black leather pants that disappeared into high boots with, of course, 6-inch stiletto heels. New Aspen indeed.
The other woman, by contrast, was Old Aspen – or, to my way of thinking, Real Aspen.
She was wearing a baseball cap and what I could see of her hair was blond and gathered into a ponytail that stuck out through the hole in the back of the cap. As far as I could tell – without gawking – she was hardly wearing any makeup at all. Her face was tan, the kind of tan that comes from hours playing in the sun. She had on a well-worn sleeveless T-shirt and, under it, I could see the solid straps of her jog bra. She was wearing a loose-fitting pair of running shorts. Her legs were bare, with sleek muscles and a tan that matched her face. And on her feet, of course, a pair of running shoes.
The woman in black marched off down Hopkins – she handled those stilettos a lot better than the little muffin on training heels I saw in Moab, but, hey, this is Aspen: the big leagues. I imagined she was on her way to an expensive lunch in a fancy restaurant – or, perhaps, to get her nails done.
The woman in running shoes saw a friend, called out to him and jogged up Spring Street toward Hyman.
Two very different versions of Aspen in the 21st century.
I have to watch myself here, because it would be easy – and wrong – to make some snap judgments. For all I know, that woman in stilettos might have been a world-class runner or extreme skier. That’s one of the things you never know about people in Aspen, and I love that.
But still, as I said, it’s also a matter of taste.
Women’s taste in shoes. Men’s taste in women. Women’s taste in men.
And everyone’s taste in the towns where we choose to live.
I know what I like.
Moab’s a great town. It was great 30 years ago, and it’s great right now. It’s more crowded, sure, and the solitude I found so easily back then, even in Arches, might be harder to come by now. But, hey, we had a great dinner last week in a restaurant that didn’t exist – and couldn’t have survived – back in the ’70s.
I feel a lot more strongly about Aspen.
I guess I’d prefer the Aspen of the 1970s, but that town’s not an option anymore, is it? (Just like the healthy young knees I had back in the 1970s aren’t an option anymore either.)
We all did our best to “save” this town in the ’70s and ’80s, and, even though the results were very much mixed and certainly bittersweet, I think, all in all, what we’ve got is a lot better than it might have been.
And, just like Moab, the restaurants here are better now.
It’s all just a matter of taste.
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