Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“Boy, if only Aspen could be the way it was back in [fill in year or decade, as appropriate]. That’s when I first moved here!”
I was talking to a friend and he mentioned how everyone seems to share that sentiment ” that Aspen’s “good old days” just happened to occur exactly whenever he or she just happened to move here.
Curious, we agreed, that the only equally powerful local sentiment seems to be that Aspen is always in the midst of a downhill rush to hell in a handbasket ” a gilded, diamond-encrusted Hermes handbasket, of course.
Aspen: Always at its peak. Always doomed.
How cool is that?
Actually, those two aren’t really contradictory.
First, let’s agree that Aspen is pretty much the best place in the world ” or one of the very best, in any case. Once we agree on that, we can also agree that even though Aspen may be in a constant sate of decline, it is still always better than anyplace else.
A dollar may not be worth as much as it used to be ” but it’s still worth more than a quarter. (Does that make any logical sense in this context? No. So what?)
So, whenever anybody moves here, Aspen is obviously better than wherever they came from. Whoever, wherever, whenever. The only thing Aspen can’t measure up to is what it used to be ” or so this line of argument would have it.
And thus, Aspen is always the best place in the world, just never as good as it used to be. And, whenever you got here, it was better than it is now.
The flaw in this argument is that Aspen isn’t necessarily always going downhill. It’s just always changing. (And change is not always bad. Just to be clear.)
Some people like Aspen the way it is; some people like the way it was. Some people like a row of million-dollar condominiums better than a weed-filled empty lot; some don’t.
Given that, it’s not surprising that everyone thinks Aspen was just about perfect when they moved here.
After all, that’s why they moved here.
That’s not a difficult leap of logic, is it?
Aside from people who were born here (the only true “locals,” just by the way), everyone who lives here made a conscious decision (or, in some cases, particularly when we go back a few decades, a semi-conscious decision) to move here.
And they made that decision because the liked the place. (Tell me if I’m going too fast for you.)
So, if everyone moved here because they liked the place (duh) and the place is constantly changing … everybody wishes Aspen would go back to the way it was when they moved here. Because that’s the way they liked it.
Once again: Ta-da!
Well, both of those explanations work, but I tend towards a third choice.
Most of us, I think, moved here when we were young. Sort of young, anyway.
I know, I know. The billionaires didn’t move here when they were young ” there aren’t really very many young billionaires. And that’s probably true for the mere mega-millionaires, too.
But I still think that a majority of this town’s full-time permanent (or most-of-the-time, semi-permanent) residents moved here when they were young ” in their 20s, let’s say.
And I’ll suggest they’re not really yearning for Aspen to be the way it was when they moved here. What they really want is for themselves to be the way they were when they moved here.
In Aspen. The way it was when they moved here. So they could live the Aspen life they lived when they moved here.
What I’m trying to say, is that everyone wants to be young again.
Even when they know better.
I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m a better, happier person now than I was back almost 40 years ago, when I moved here, in my mid-20s. But I did have some wonderful crazed times back then in Aspen in the ’70s. So maybe part of me does wish everything could be the way it was ” and I could get as high as I want, as often as I want, stay up as late as I want … and then feel great going out skiing bright and early the next morning. Under blue skies. In all that fresh powder.
Was it ever like that? Probably not ” but that’s the way I remember it. And the way I remember it is the way I’d want it, not the way it was.
The way it was involved ” just to mention one detail ” vicious hangovers.
So, OK, I want Aspen the way it was when I moved here, except without the hangovers.
And, oh yeah, we could skip the red-neck chief of police who hated “those damn hippies” (as he called us).
Oh, and maybe we could do without the 45-minute lift ride from Little Nell to the top of Ajax.
You get the idea.
So maybe the best thought was one that my old friend George expressed in a brilliant, intemperate screed (Is there such a thing as a “temperate” screed?) he posted on the door of his downtown art gallery. He said (and I’m quoting very roughly):
“I don’t want Aspen to be the way it used to be. I want it to be the best it could be.”
And, no, that’s not the way it was when you moved here.
Whoever you are. Whenever you moved here.
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“Many of these stoic commuters endure brain-numbing traffic jams so they can service vacant mega homes, making sure all the lights are on and that the snowmelt patios, driveways, sidewalks and dog runs are thoroughly heated so as to evaporate that bothersome white stuff that defines Aspen’s picturesque winter landscape and ski economy,“ writes Paul Andersen.