Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
I know I should be filled with joy and light for the new year, but having just gotten back to the valley after an unexpected few weeks away, I find myself more annoyed than overjoyed.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see that – once again? still? as always? – those whose swollen wallets and swollen egos are always on display, high in the air like a baboon’s testicles, are demanding their proper respect.
We must show appreciation for their generosity as they strew a few coins to the peasants.
And equally annoying are those among us peasants who are eager to express exactly that appreciation – and bare savage fangs at any who fail to join in the chorus. (How dare you refer to Mr. Attila as a “hun”? He’s a respected international entrepreneur.)
No names need be mentioned. The villains of today are but the latest incarnations of their kind. Each of them is just one more Hells Angel having a go at the poor little town of Aspen as she lies spread-eagled like a prom queen at a gang-bang.
And what bothers me on this bright January morning isn’t so much the exact details of what they’re up to. It’s their attitude.
Those who crave our love are, perhaps, a little pathetic. But those who demand it are despicable.
And once they get what they have demanded, like all cads, they smirk and move on.
If I may refer back to that distasteful prom queen image, no one respects a participant in a gang-bang in the morning – no matter how alluring they might have considered her when the ill-fated evening began.
I know that references to “the good old days” are odious, but forgive me for a moment if I refer back to the times – a few decades ago – when Aspen was building its position, building the international reputation we are still so proud of.
Back then – 30 or more years ago – Aspen was not nearly as “tourist-friendly” as it is today.
Aspen was hard to get to (the airport was a mess, the highway was a winding two-lane); the hotels were mostly a bit funky, a little run-down; and, believe it or not, the locals could be really snippy.
Tourists were “turkeys,” and there was a popular bumper sticker that proclaimed “Turkeys are my bread and butter.”
There were tales of restaurant patrons getting chased into the street and berated as cheapskates when they didn’t tip with sufficient generosity. A waiter I shared an apartment with told of one such cheapskate getting punched when he objected to being told he was a tightwad.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not – repeat: not – suggesting we go back to the days of shoddy accommodations and shabby behavior.
But I do have to say that, back in those days, people loved Aspen.
They loved it more – yes, they loved Aspen more than they do today.
The locals loved it more. The second-home owners loved it more. And even – in fact especially – those poor abused visitors loved it more.
I know this is anecdotal, but those were the days when The Aspen Times (then only a weekly) had thousands of out-of-town subscribers. They were second-home owners and regular visitors who loved the town so much that they wanted to keep up on the local news – and who were sufficiently proud of their Aspen connection that they loved having The Aspen Times displayed on their coffee tables.
People used to be happy just to come here.
Now it seems that the only thing that makes some people happy is regarding their own personal magnificence in the mirror of their egos.
And they demand that we all join them in that appreciation of themselves.
Like royalty, they are so used to having servants do everything for them that they need us to be happy that they’re here, since they are not capable of being happy about it themselves.
We have developers who not only want to have their way with the city, they want to be thanked and appreciated afterwards. (I’m working hard to resist returning to that disgraceful prom queen simile.)
We have people who don’t want just to flaunt their wealth, they want the rest of us to express amazement and appreciation for that flaunting.
But is another building of empty storefronts what this town really needs?
Is another glitzy, exclusive party really the answer?
Please don’t say “yes.”
I am reminded of the “Grand” Opening of the repulsive Planet Hollywood restaurant in Aspen.
They set up bleachers on Galena Street so the expected adoring throngs could crowd in to watch the “celebrities” arrive at the opening.
Limos were rented. Egos were preened.
In the end, the bleachers were not entirely empty – although as far as I could learn, no one from Aspen actually sat in them.
But the essential point came when some of the visiting movie stars were interviewed and made it clear that, while Aspen was a fine place to open a cheesy restaurant, they certainly wouldn’t want to live here.
Aspen’s already been ruined, was their general comment. (Although they refrained from mentioning that it was people like them that had ruined it.)
And, of course, not many months later, Planet Hollywood Aspen closed (owing a lot of locals a lot of money).
That’s what happens when you suck up to the heedless rich – whether they’re Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone of Planet Hollywood or the developers and semi-criminal financial wizards of modern Aspen.
I’m not arguing that we should return to being rude to visitors. They really are our bread and butter.
But the people who are heedlessly just looking to make a buck (or a million) and those who are looking to publicly stroke their egos – those guys deserve whatever they get. And public scorn and shaming should be the least of it.
OK. Next week, it’s back to joy and light!
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