It’s supposed to snow Saturday |

It’s supposed to snow Saturday

Tony Vagneur
Aspen, CO Colorado

While catching a break at Bonnie’s restaurant the other day, the unambiguous epitome of laid-back cool, Jim Spann, pointed out an ad listing one of my family’s old ranches for sale at 88 million dollars. That’s not a joke, either. Well, it isn’t meant to be humorous, but it does bring a cynical smile to anyone who’s due to make a mortgage payment or meet the rent.

Let’s knock off the bullshit early on ” for that kind of money, it’s not a ranch, say what you will. No self-respecting rancher of even the most rudimentary ability would pay that much for a ranch.

It’s kind of like horses ” why pay 50 thousand dollars for a horse when you can get a good one for say, $2,500 or less? We could call it a large piece of land instead, even though its expanse is not nearly its original size.

It’s been piecemealed off, here and there by previous owners who needed a quick buck for the here and now. People have a penchant for talking about the high price of land around here and the billionaires it takes to buy it, but it seems like most of them can’t really afford it, as don’t you know, the new outfit will eventually be going through the land use process, trying to advantageously develop the “highest and best use” of the land. That’s real-estate (and government) -speak for “development.”

88 mil ” that’s a big wad to carry around in the front pocket of your jeans. Once the deal is struck, buyer or seller can celebrate by having a party or two ” “at the ranch” ” and mouthing off about it around their circle of peers (the choir), but if you have to brag, you’re already a loser. As a friend of mine, a youth beyond his years, says, “A good cowboy doesn’t have to show off ” his personal worth becomes apparent through his actions.”

Lamentably, our delirious trend toward conspicuous consumerism has turned us into a valley out of control, putting most everything we own up for sale to the highest bidder. Some of that is OK, ’cause we’re all entitled to make a living, but at what point will we look up and notice that our souls are buried somewhere deep in the deed of trust we’ve just signed away?

As my good buddy, Bruce Carlson, asks, “Whatever happened to the days when someone bought a house because they needed somewhere to live?”

Many people have to work two and three jobs just to keep pace around here and we’ve priced all but the most affluent local kids out of this valley. Flip this, flop that, kill the golden goose. It’s going to be tougher and tougher to find anyone willing to take the reins of community responsibility. Money doesn’t come with or create that kind of accountability in people. Folks who’ve lived here briefly and think they know what’s best for the town all lack one important attribute ” a sense of history.

Not that many years ago, we used to describe to anyone who’d listen how great we thought Aspen was. Then, as things became more complicated, we became more quiet. Walking around town the past couple of days, though, with all the wondrous snow, has brought back incredible, magical feelings I used to have as a kid, walking the same streets. And, it has nothing to do with money.

Through the fairest favor that destiny can deliver, Aspen is deep in my soul. One can only hope there are kids growing up here today who, when they’re my age, will be able to say they’ve been here all along, that they have phantasmagorical memories, and that they didn’t get pushed out by the misdirected, but very real, power of money. Eighty-eight million is nothing compared to that.

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