Kara Soufer: Guest opinion
It’s probably not hard to spot me as a new “local” to Aspen. I am the one riding my flower decorated bike wearing a sh*t-eating grin. My head is constantly swiveling as I look up in wonderment at the ever-changing scenery. I hope this thrill doesn’t wear off. In a cynical world, it’s a blessing to feel so good.I realized why I love Aspen so much. I contend that it is the sister city of Burning Man (aka Black Rock City or the Playa).How could this sophisticated place ever be the kin of that dusty crazy place? Easy: Aspen and Burning Man are very misperceived. When announcing that we were moving here from Malibu, I had to explain to my friends back in L.A. that Aspen is not all fake boobs, Gucci and cocaine. The image is wrong, I say. There’s an amazing welcoming community here: great schools and artsy/outdoorsy/adventure-based lifestyle.I have to explain to my friends everywhere that Burning Man is not all nudity, drugs and hedonism. It’s a modern art show, I say, truly an example of tolerant, friendly, community brought together by art and adventure.Both have a welcoming attitude towards “virgins” – Compared to Malibu, my home for 33 years, Aspen seems to lack the snobby “locals-only” feeling. “Oh, I came here for a year, too,” they tell me at the bar in Elinna, “21 years ago!” In Black Rock City “virgins” are treated like royalty.These are not car cultures – The truest experience of Aspen is on bike or walking, and in Burning Man it is the only way to get around. Living in a place that is designed for bikes is intoxicating. Just riding in to town, or home late at night from Belly Up under the stars, makes me feel like I’m back on the playa.Rooted in “leave no trace” philosophy – This town has recycling bins everywhere. And people actually pick up after their dogs when no one’s looking. Black Rock City has no bins anywhere – pack it out, babe.Feels like a bubble – It is hard to return to the “default world” after a stay at either Burning Man or Aspen. Here and there, you can and will run into anyone – for example. On the playa or at Plato’s bar, that person sitting next to you may be a famous musician, lawyer, accountant, or ex president. You never know.Feels like you’re throwing a huge party – It looks like Aspenites actually enjoy the quiet between seasons and the preparations before the world comes to Aspen to party. My friends who work at Black Rock City months early and those of us spending months building an art car/installation for the pleasure of complete strangers know the feeling.Intellectual. Diverse. Inspiring. – The Aspen Institute reminds me of like Snowflake Village at Black Rock City. Snowflake is the “Ivy League” village, and they give lectures and workshops on amazing subjects. At both places, one can be stimulated intellectually, spiritually and artistically daily. Harley riders, tourists, cowboys, billionaires, artists, athletes, housewives all mingling together equally: only in Aspen and Black Rock City.There’s always something amazing going on – In Black Rock City as in Aspen, there is this feeling like it’s impossible to get to all the great stuff going on – so usually you end up sitting around Center Camp (or the open-air bar outside Escobar) people-watching.Life is an all-ages event – Burning Man and Aspen you will see people in their 50s, 60s and 70s active and engaged in expressing themselves. Families biking the Rio Grande, and 20- and 30-year-olds partying like it’s 1999. Every time I see the older cyclists hauling it up Maroon Bells, I am humbled – and reminded of guys like the 70-year-old mad scientist with his pyro- art car at Burning Man.Intentional community – Most Aspenites and Burners extended a lot of effort to be part of their community. They are here on purpose. And their stories are amazing.Every-day life is magical and filled with beauty; living here, even for only a few months, feels like I live in a national park, albeit one with fantastic restaurants and culture. The only other place where just getting up and going out for coffee in the morning can be so magical is Black Rock City. When I look up and see the paragliders floating on the wind over Ajax, I am reminded how much my new home is like my “other” home.The only thing missing here are the costumes.
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