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Heading out of here

Roger MaroltAspen, CO Colorado

I don’t suppose that anyone can live in Aspen long enough, but I know that a person can live here too long. I am sure of this is because the evidence has become strong that I have.I can’t ignore the signs any longer. The traffic drives me crazy. I can barely stand the construction noise and dust. I miss old downtown buildings and businesses more than the people who used to frequent them and have long since moved away. For a moment I actually believed that I knew what “lost community” was and that the right politicians could restore it. Everything is an issue that I feel compelled to take a stand on.Worst of all, I have begun to feel that this town owes me something for sticking around all these years. I feel that I am entitled to view planes and new bike paths and a host of other amenities, all mine for the demanding. I’ve been acting like my name is on the deeds, but not the mortgages, to most of the buildings in downtown. I have become what I never imagined I would – a sour local.This happens after living in the valley for about 10 years, after becoming so familiar with all of the splendor here as to not see it anymore. It’s a refusal to admit that you might actually be committing the sin of taking it for granted, opting instead to be convinced that it has all disappeared.If this can happen to me, I think it can happen to anyone. I’ve seen it fester and break out in others my entire life and have always been amazed at the bitterness this decade-in-paradise malaise can induce. I was vigilantly on guard against it.It doesn’t discriminate between the rich and working, but it does distinguish between the haves and the have-nots. It makes each resentful of the other. It turns affordable housing into a right for the latter and makes cash in lieu of civility acceptable for the former. The result is that each group fights for its due, ends up with most of what it wants, and begrudges the other side for their gains – forever.It is poison that threatens any true sense of community we ever had. Every topic is fodder for fighting. It creates a get-what-you-can-whenever-you-can attitude that causes selfishness. In the mad rush to take advantage of a system inclined to enact another rule, it is no wonder that so many resent it when someone else figures out a way to get even more. It makes everyone feel as if they’re getting screwed, and that feels worse than not getting rich enough. The natural beauty, the culture, the recreational opportunities, the money – there is such an abundance of everything here that we can’t possibly get enough. Somebody will undoubtedly get more, and none of us can live with that!Most communities don’t have 30-year debates over what kind of road to build into their towns because most people in them have more pressing things to concern themselves with. In most towns, the fact that a property owner has to live in the place he constructs is enough to ensure that he builds something to be proud of in front of his neighbors. Most municipalities aren’t so self-important to come under the impression that every structure ever thrown up within the city limits is worth preserving, or that new architecture can never be as good or expressive of the town’s authentic personality. Now, not by any stretch am I suggesting that most people who have lived here for the requisite decade end up this way, only that I have inadvertently fallen in with the impossible-to-ignore group of perpetual antagonists that have.I, myself, wonder how I have contracted this scratch-until-you-bleed-10-year-itch after having been born and raised here. Logic would have it that the symptoms for me would have surfaced sometime around the fifth grade. But, I look at my own native-born children of that age and see no signs of the sickness. I can only conclude that they do not now have it, nor did I back when I was a child.No, for the first 30 or so years of my life I lived in a town filled with family and friends. We had four incredible ski areas, miles of trails through the wilderness, and all varieties of entertainmentthat we couldn’t even keep track of. The sun shone most of the time and when it didn’t, we had magnificent thunderstorms booming over the peaks or sensational blizzards pasting everything in cold white. We liked real estate brokers heaps more than softball umpires. We didn’t have “developers” or “landlords,” just some people who built buildings and others who owned them. Truly, we had all sorts of folks who were just so damned happy to be here that they didn’t want another thing in the entire world.I swear to you that I was never going to leave that place. But, somehow I followed the wrong crowd out of there and ended up here. Anyway, a few weeks back I woke up and realized I was a long way from the place I love. I was amazed and disappointed because I had only intended to visit the other Aspen long enough to voice my opinion or try to make my difference. I ended up staying far too long.It was almost more than I could bear, thinking about the energy and time I wasted fighting and arguing, and stressing out about all the stupid stuff around here that can’t possibly amount to a mogul on the ridge of Bell Mountain after that final City Council meeting is adjourned when the globe is finally warmed to toast.Time is always short. I am heading back to the Aspen I knew and staying there. I miss it. I realize now that the biggest changes in Aspen over the years have occurred in my perspective. As a boy I saw the soul of this place, as a man I have been focused on the skin. The Aspen I’m leaving has become overcrowded. There’s plenty of room left in the other one.In the current election, Roger Marolt is endorsing honesty, respect, and kindness. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.


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