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Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

OK, everybody! No need to panic. Everything is under control here.

Sure, the tourist business is in a slump. Sure, temperatures are rising and snow in Colorado may become as endangered as an oil-coated pelican. Sure, the only thing rising faster than the temperature is the average age of avid (and, more to the point, formerly avid) skiers. Once skiers worried about buying new boots on credit. Now they worry about buying new hips on Medicare.

And, sure, Aspen and the surrounding metroplex (as far away as downtown El Jebel) is dotted with half-finished construction projects, but that will be, in fact, our salvation.

Yes, folks! No need to worry, our biggest liability can become (like Dolly Parton’s breasts) our biggest asset.

That’s right. When all else fails, we can turn our unfinished construction projects into our new tourist magnet.

Think of Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain. (No, not ketchup on the Salisbury Steak. That’s a different and more digestible morsel.)

Stonehenge!

The word vibrates in the mind.

It is one of the great mysteries – and, more important, one of the great tourist attractions – of our world.

Ponder that for a moment and then consider this:

“The massive rocks stood, mute and glowering against the darkling sky, reminders of mysteries deep and ancient, of forces beyond our ken.”

Are we talking Stonehenge?

Nah.

This is … ta-da! … Aspen-heng®!

Or, for that matter … ta-da! … El Jebel-henge®! [Note to Marketing Department: We’re thinking the name “El Jebel-henge” is more “ta-thud!” than “ta-da!” Please come up with a few new options before roll-out. And, no, “Willits-henge” won’t cut it either.]

We are referring, of course, to the towering mute monoliths that stand – now pathetic and perverse, but eventually profound and puzzling – at the Third Circle of Stage 3 Hell on Main Street and the Pit of Dreams on the vast Plains of Willits.

Drive by, take a look. Actually, you can’t help but look, can you? You can no more ignore these massive piles of roadside rubble than you can look away from a tragic traffic accident. (Really, those are just different kinds of highway disasters. One caused by stupidity and carelessness – the other by bad driving.)

So, in eager anticipation, please, put on your earphones and relax in comfort while you listen to the preliminary version our audio tour guide. [Note to Marketing: We said James Earl Jones for the audio tour voice. Not James Earl Ray! And, no, Alvin the Chipmunk is not an acceptable substitute.]

Play it!

“Aspen-henge!!!! Mysteries of the ancients! Monument to mortality. The distinctive mark of the thumbprint of greed!” [Note to Marketing: Does greed really have a thumbprint? How about a “hoof print”? Or maybe a “cloven-hoof print”? “The distinctive cloven-hoof print of greed!” Yeah. That’s more like it.]

“Aspen-henge. Once filled with Aspenites, greedy in the reckless pursuit of cheap thrills. Now a monument to Dallasites, thrilling in the cheap pursuit of reckless greed. Once, in the anonymity of the dark, they watched the real porn, ‘Deep Throat.’ Now the new owners have created their own real estate porn, ‘Deep Debt.'” [Note to Marketing Department: Try “greedy pursuit of reckless profits” vs. “profitless pursuit of reckless greed.” See how the focus group reacts.]

“Aspen-henge! Marvel to the mute power of the pointless tower. Gasp at the horror of the damned souls drowning in a bottomless pit of red ink. Here at the Third Circle of Developer Hell at … Aspen-henge!!!

“Now climb aboard our monorail for the quick trip to see the fabulous Pit of Despair at Edge of Hell on the Vast Plains of Willits.

“As we travel, do keep in mind that our ride is powered ecologically by burning the endless reams of worthless paper that once powered the financial Nexus of Hubris, this remarkable Garden of Greed, this Empire of Endless Empty Euphoria, this Pit of Dystopian Dreams.” [Note to Marketing Department: Are you certain the focus group knew what this meant? I’m sure I heard one guy ask what a “dustpan dream” was.]

“Whew! That was a quick trip, wasn’t it? Almost as quick as the trip this legendary Locus of Locusts took to the Place Where Dreams Go to Die.” [Note to Research: Isn’t this what people at the newspaper used to the call the Publisher’s Office?]

“Now stop, pilgrim, look out at the buried array of square pillars and think, ‘There but for the grace of God go I … and my grocery cart.’ Are the rumors true? Was this hole in the ground once the legendary ‘Whole in the Ground,’ the rumored burial site of Hole Foods? Or was it just, you know, a hole in the ground?

“Sadly, we may never know. Some mysteries are beyond our feeble ken.” [Note to Marketing: Did some clown in the focus group really say he thought “Feeble Ken” was a cheap shot at Enron’s Ken Lay? That’s sick. The poor man died for our sins. Leave him alone!]

“Now please board the monorail for our return to Aspen. Don’t forget to return your protective Haz-Mat suits at the terminal.”

OK, we still have a few bugs to work out in the presentation.

And, of course, these concrete agglomerations will not last the four or five millennia that Stonehenge has been around. But as everyone always says: They don’t make things like they used to.

Back in 2,500 B.C., they made things to last. More recently, they made things to profit. And most recently, they made things … well, they only made things halfway. Then they jumped overboard and swam for their lives when the Ship of Greed ran aground on the Shoals of Bankruptcy.

But still, the idea’s sound. Count on it!

Remember, back in the 1950s only a few reckless visionaries thought Aspen could ever succeed as an international ski resort. What a crazy idea! Now we all need to be visionaries again as we pursue the dream of … Aspen-henge!

(Note: Nothing in the foregoing is meant as a formal solicitation of funds. No owls were harmed in the making of this presentation. Past results are no guarantee of future performance. Thank God!)


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