I’m lost in the gloss
I’ve failed. A local high-gloss magazine asked me to do a column for their upcoming holiday issue. We had a meeting over lunch at a place I can’t afford for dinner. They told me they liked my style. They liked my “edge” and humor. They were excited. I was excited. Right then we should have realized it wasn’t going to work out.Anyway, all pumped up and feeling good, right after dessert I went back to my office and began work. Within an hour I created a masterpiece. As my contract forbids me to reprint the column, I can only give you a little flavor.The highlights went something like this: As a young boy in Aspen, my recollections of the holidays are probably different from those of kids growing up anywhere else in the world … blah, blah, blah … One winter in particular, I worked for a one-eyed hippie who sobered up only long enough to find a bottle of Jack Daniel’s before meeting his parole officer … blah, blah, blah … In order for the plan to work, we had to hide … blah, blah, blah … Everyone agreed that, as mayor, he was more full of more BS than a rodeo clown’s trousers … blah, blah, blah … Even today such shenanigans go on in certain secret circles … blah, blah, blah … You can only imagine the ghastly looks on the tourists’ faces when they noticed it … blah, blah, blah … By that time, both ends of the alley were barricaded. Right then it occurred to me that the Jeep just might fit through the lobby doors … blah, blah, blah … Fortunately, by Christmas morning most of the flames were extinguished and a few of the presents were in decent enough shape to attempt returning … blah, blah, blah … The police never caught on and, to this day, many believe that they were in on it … blah, blah, blah…Despite the threats from City Hall, Christmas was not canceled the following year … blah, blah, blah … The sheriff could only nod his head. “Happy New Year, boys,” he said with a grin.Excitedly, I sent it off to the editor of the magazine for comment. I was sure she would love it.She called me the next day. “So, what do you think?” I asked full of anticipation; a self-satisfied grin stretching across my face.”Well,” she hesitated. “It’s … pretty good, … but maybe a little too … edgy. Would you mind making a few changes?”A bit deflated, I went back to work and spruced it up. It wasn’t exactly the way I liked it, but I was still making my point. I sent it off, sure that it would dazzle the editorial staff.Well, to make a long story short, they weren’t dazzled. In fact, we ended up repeating this revision process eight more times until my original piece read something like this:The streets of Aspen absolutely sparkle on Christmas Eve … blah, blah, blah … Not London in all of its splendor, nor Paris in the springtime is more charming … blah, blah, blah … We walked slowly through the West End fantasizing over the culinary delights we imagined being prepared in the charming Victorian homes we strolled past … blah, blah, blah … We laughed and caught snowflakes on our tongues. It only increased our thirst for the spirit of the season … blah, blah, blah … For a moment, the whirl of snow dashing through the doorway with us created a blizzard apropos in the grand entryway … blah, blah, blah … As had become its own tradition, the catering was exquisite…blah, blah, blah…The hostess’s dress was divine … blah, blah, blah … No finer wines were ever collected … blah, blah, blah … All of us gathered nearly burst with excitement as the children assembled in the master suite to begin preparations for the annual pageant… blah, blah, blah … When she opened the package, her shimmering eyes betrayed her knowledge that the gift had been painstakingly crafted over the past six months … blah, blah, blah … All in all, it was a typical Aspen family Christmas … blah, blah, blah … As we finished the last carol, our gracious host bestowed upon us his one simple wish, “Prosperity to all this New Year.” After I sent this final draft off to the editor, I read my copy over and over again trying to convince myself that this was somehow good for my writing career. But, each time I read it, I felt worse. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t even anyone I had ever known. I hated it. All night, it gnawed at me. How I was going to tell these people that they just didn’t have the right guy for the job. I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t thankful for the opportunity. The next day I found salvation in the form of an e-mail from the editor. She said that my piece was still a “little flat.” (“Yes,” I thought. “Like the Grand Canyon is a ditch.”) There wasn’t time for a 10th rewrite so she had to move with something else. I have to admit that this rejection hurt a little, but the relief I felt inside was more than enough compensation.When these people first came to me, they thought I could bring a feel for the “real Aspen” to their publication. They were certain about what that real Aspen was. It’s ironic that after living here for 42 years and accumulating stories about it from three generations before that, I couldn’t deliver it to them. More ironic, they are not wrong in hoping for something else. The one thing this experience reminded me of is that Aspen is many things to many people. As Gucci loafers cross paths with Justin boots on our sidewalks, sometimes the only thing we have in common is our love of this town. I believe that’s enough.And so, I’m happily back behind my dusty, old Smith-Corona at The Aspen Times and all is right again in this old mining town … except for one small item. I’m still under contract to write a story for the magazine’s midwinter edition. Aaaarrgh.The Aspen Times has refused my request to have a glossy photo posted at the head of this column. Thanks. I’m as dull as ever at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.