Basalt, found and lost
Remember back when you where a kid? I don’t care what kind of a Podunk, dust-blown dot on the map cow town or rat-infested city you came from; where was the best place to be from? That’s right, your hometown.It wasn’t any different here. We were so proud of this place we even defended the reputation of the mayor’s dog that had a publicized preference for tomato salads over steak dinners. A vegetarian German shepherd was sort of hip.As a symbol of our solidarity in the firm conviction that we were superior to all neighboring towns and the hicks who lived in them, we refused to so much as breath the air that embosomed their second-rate burgs. Traveling to other towns for various state class AA scholastic competitions, we held our breath as the school bus drove down Main Street in Buzz Sawed, on Highway 82 past Edge of Hell and Carbon Pile, or through Deadwood Sprigs, Stifle and Silt (that real name was funny enough to us). Of course the kids in those towns had their own ways of upstaging us longhairs from Ass Pen, too. Looking back, I guess we weren’t very enlightened. But, talk about a sense of community! We didn’t want to be anything like those other places and they didn’t want to be like us. Every town in the valley had its own distinct identity. In truth, we were all friends, but everybody truly did believe that their town was the best place in the world. I got to thinking about all this as I was driving around Basalt the other day. I noticed that the old white “B” on the hill above Elk Run was just barely visible. Nobody has bothered to paint the rocks that formed that old local symbol of pride in years. Back in the old days, the kids from Basalt High School would hike up that hill every fall carrying buckets of paint to give their “B” a fresh coat of whitewash. I’ll bet it was quite a party. Combing dried paint out of your hair for a week afterward was none too great a price to pay to demonstrate your devotion to the home team.It always irritated me that our annual request to the local school board for constructing a large, scarlet (our team color) “A” on the slopes of Tiehack above our football field was denied. Anyway, I don’t know when this tradition stopped. Maybe it petered out when the high school moved across the highway to its present location. Unfortunately, I think I do know why it stopped. It stopped because the “B” no longer stood for beloved Basalt. Somewhere along the way it became the “Wanna B.” It no longer represented pride in the cracker-box village that Basaltine’s called home. The quaint little shops along the Fryingpan River were not enough any more. That “B” began to represent everything that was wrong with the town. No longer a symbol of everything great that Basalt was, it became an ugly reminder of what Basalt wasn’t.Basalt wasn’t Aspen.Few people move to Basalt anymore. Instead, they move just downvalley from the town that is its glamorous cousin. That’s a shame.Most of these folks left other parts of the country, and Basalt was as close as they could get to their dreams of residing in fantasyland. The lure of Aspen’s bright lights remains strong nonetheless. Even if the new Basaltines can’t quite get to Aspen, they are hellbent on bringing the Aspen status to them, if only by association. A lot of Basaltines are dining and recreating almost exclusively in Aspen now. They socialize in Aspen and rent mail boxes here so that “Aspen” appears in the return address on the postcards they send to former friends in California. They fight so their kids can go to school here. They go so far as to worship here. Some even do that thing in Aspen that no true Aspenite would ever do – they shop here!The spend-all-of-our-time-in-Aspen mania is spreading westward now. It has definitely reached Carbondale. There is some indication that it will soon get to Glenwood Springs. Is it not a telling sign that a golf course between those two towns is pretentiously named “Aspen Glen”? The result is that we are loosing the sense of community everywhere. Aspen doesn’t have it because nobody sleeps here. The other towns have lost it because that’s all their citizens do there.What a turn of events in my lifetime! No place around here has a separate identity anymore. You can’t tell a Longhorn from a Ram, from a Demon, from a Skier. It’s gotten so bad that some of the most obnoxious Aspenites I know live in El Jebel.I have some advice for these people: The next time you wake up in your little bedroom community, have a good hard look in the mirror. Do you see an Aspenite staring you back in the face? No. Do you ever want to live in a cool little town again? Yes? Well then, take a little pride in where you reside, man. It may not be Aspen, but it would be charming in its own way if only its residents would invest a little more time there. I think that more people should spend more time in the communities in which they live. That’s what gives a town vibrancy. I am proud that my town is alive and fun. In some small way I like to think that it’s because I choose to work, shop, dine, entertain, recreate and generally spend most of my time here. I’m proud to call Aspen home.Well, all right, technically my house is in Snowmass Village. But that’s close enough. Roger Marolt has spent 42 years in the valley trying to figure out if home is where your heart is or where your Aspen is. He resides in cyberspace at email@example.com.
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