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Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Everybody loves costume parties, right?

I remember long ago, during my first year in Aspen, a group of us decided that a costume party sounded like a great idea. So we started calling people and inviting them to our costume party. Then, as we invited more and more people, we somehow forgot about the “costume” part of it.

So, the night of the party, a handful of people showed up in outrageous costumes and were more than a little upset when everyone else was dressed more or less normally.



Their understandable embarrassment (well, actually, “rage” might be a better word for it) perhaps was mitigated at least a little by the fact that back then, everyday life in Aspen was a costume party.

No one dressed “normally.” No one even owned a necktie.




Back in the ’60s and ’70s, the main costume choices were hippie, artist (or, for some, hippie/artist), ski bum and millionaire casual.

Over the years, those choices seem to have narrowed.

You don’t see many hippies anymore – and if you do, they’re the new fashionista “hippies” whose glad rags carry designer labels and price tags that could give those early generation Aspen millionaires sticker shock.

These days, the costume choices one sees on the street incline more toward “serious athlete” (a street fashion choice rarely made by actual serious athletes); “New York artist” (all-black, tight-fitting leather, high heels for men and women, very different from the just-plain artists of 30 years ago); and, of course, the “never-casual billionaire” (easily differentiated from the casual millionaire by the fierce, predatory gleam in the eye and the off-handed willingness to crush anything that’s in the way – small children included).

One other costume I have noted of late – particularly, I must admit, in the catalogs I receive, but which I do believe is spilling into the streets – is the “grizzled faux rancher.”

This look was neatly encapsulated in a catalog picture of a hardworking rancher on his horse, rounding up cattle, looking damned authentic, wearing an appropriate Western “chore coat” – except that the “chore coat” in question was priced at $1,600. And the damned nice sheepskin vest underneath that coat went for $995.

Get a loan, little doggie!

It made me think about the businessmen I saw years ago thronging the streets of Houston. They were marching around dressed in magnificent business suits, attache cases in hand – with 10-gallon hats on their heads and hand-tooled cowboy boots on their feet. Nobody was riding the range. It was all just part of the costume.

Welcome to the party, y’all!

And that, of course, brings us to our little valley’s brand-new bus stops.

You know the ones I’m talking about: those charming little structures that look like super-modern mountain cabins – all glass to enjoy those spectacular alpine vistas, complete with wonderful stone chimneys for the warming fires we love in the winter.

Except, of course, those “chimneys” aren’t really chimneys – and if you build a fire in one of them, the cops are going to come looking for you mighty darn quick.

In fact, those … what shall we call them? Chimney-like structures? Faux chimneys? Chimpanzees? Well, whatever you call them, they’re housings for the electronic equipment the new bus-rapid-transit system requires.

Now let’s be clear: I think the new fast bus system is a grand idea (assuming it works).

I don’t even mind the cutesy name they’ve given it: VelociRFTA. (You get it, right? A pun on “velociraptor,” as seen in “Jurassic Park.”)

I suppose that’s better than just adding an “A” for Aspen to the “BRT” for bus-rapid-transit and winding up with BRAT.

Although, come to think of it, “Spoiled BRAT” might be a perfect name for some sort of Aspen operation. Or how about BRATwurst?

OK. I realize that “spoiled” and “worst” (no matter how you spell it or how appropriate) are not going to get approval from the marketing department.

Though, again just by the way, maybe we should think twice about that VelociRFTA gag.

I mean, sure, it’s clever, but bear in mind: A real velociraptor would just love to bite you in the butt, which is what we hope this system will not do.

Plus, of course, they’re extinct.

So we’ve named our nifty, hyper-modern bus system after a vicious, extinct creature – which scientists now say was covered with feathers.

So … ladies and gentlemen! We proudly present … the Aspen Death Chicken! Step right up to take a ride.

OK. The real point is, if the bus system works – if it’s fast and convenient – it won’t need a cute name or a clever logo – or fake chimneys on the bus stops.

It won’t need a slogan that says (and, honest, this is new slogan) the bus is “Fast. Fun. Frequent.”

“Fast” and “Frequent” will get the job done.

Stop trying to fool us with “Fun.”

Taking the bus is not fun. Should not be fun. Will not be fun. Should not try to be fun. Just get on with the “Fast” and “Frequent.” And “Affordable” would be nice.

Do any of you remember Aspen’s first bus system?

It was back in the 1970s, and they brought in a bunch of tiny little buses that looked like Toonerville Trolleys. Refugees from some failed, cut-rate, fake Disneyland. There was even a double-decker bus.

Those buses were so darn cute. And they were so much darn fun.

And they never worked worth a damn.

They were built with Volkswagen suspension parts. They fell apart right away. The double-decker bus had to be taken out of service after just a few days when a bunch of kids running back and forth on the upper deck almost tipped it over.

The point is, if we need costumed fools to make fun of, we can check out the grizzled billionaire cowhands and high-heeled leather-clad big-city artists hobbling down the mall. Or, heck, just look in the mirror.

We don’t need to drag our transit system to the party.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is andy@aspentimes.com.


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