Mind, body, spirit – and pocketbook | AspenTimes.com

Mind, body, spirit – and pocketbook

Roger Marolt

“Hey gramps, this historical tour of Aspen is kind of boring. How many more old, junky buildings do we have to look at?””Ah, now, be patient. This is important stuff. If you have no idea where you’ve been, you may end up there again. Besides, here we are at the last site: the historic Resnick Auditorium! Or, what’s left of it. It’s named after some famous, old, part-time Aspenites.””Were they miners?””No.””Were they ranchers?””Keep guessing.””They were skiers?””Nope. They belonged to an incredible era in Aspen that saw the greatest transformation of all time! It was the most prosperity we have ever known! It was the fabulous period of the second-home owners!””What?””Sure. That’s where the “Ideal Aspen Idea” came from; the notion that you could tear down an old, some said charming, town, and by throwing tons of money into it, turn it into the ideal place to live … part time.”Early second-home owners back in the late 1900s, almost by accident, discovered that by spending copious amounts of money, they could garner all kinds of special affection from the locals.”The idea evolved into a philosophy that it was OK to do whatever you wanted as long as you spent lots of money doing it, thereby keeping the locals happy. (A little secret: the locals have always dictated what this town is.) Under this standard, they tore down West End Victorians and replaced them with monstrous edifices. As soon as they were finished building them, they began remodeling them. Then they furnished them, over and over again. And after that, they went out for dinner and shopping. They spent all kinds of cash! It was obscene!”And, the real estate brokers, builders, shop owners, restaurateurs, lawyers, accountants, bag boys, doctors, and even the lowly ski instructors were incredibly happy accepting all this money. I suppose everyone, deep down inside, knew that the place was being ruined, but the second-home owners didn’t care because it seemed nice for the few weeks they were here, and the townspeople didn’t mind because they were getting rich. The Ideal Aspen Idea was brilliant!””But I don’t get it, gramps. How did the Resnicks get this building named after them?””You’re not paying attention, sonny. Look at this plaque commemorating the event. It’s a quote from Walter Isaacson, the man in charge of the Aspen Institute during the Ideal Aspen Idea era:’… The Resnicks have been most generous, decent, and open-minded about how their money would be used … and very graceful in the way they allowed us to evolve our plans … ‘ “This is important, did you catch it? It subtly expresses the very essence of the Ideal Aspen Idea. You see, even though the Resnicks gave $4 million to the Aspen Institute, Isaacson was smart enough to still refer to it as “their money”. Further, he insinuated that the donors controlled the Institute as they ‘allowed’ the plans for redevelopment to occur. Beautiful, just beautiful!””I still don’t get it, gramps, what did the Resnicks do to earn this honor?””Oh my gosh, your smarts come from your mother’s side. It’s this simple, kiddo: all they had to do was make a sizable donation of cash! As soon as the check cleared, they had a historical landmark named after them!”This was a huge shift in paradigm for Aspen. You no longer had to do anything but spend money to be recognized as ‘contributing greatly’ to our high-altitude, self-important society. It fit perfectly with what was going on in town back then.””What finally happened to end that era, gramps?””Well, we all should have seen it coming at that time when money was of little consequence, but nobody did. Shortly after Resnick Auditorium was renamed, people came out of the woodwork donating money to get this, that, and everything else in town named after them. Then, richer people upped the ante and it was all re-named again. Names of everything changed so quickly that folks couldn’t identify anything from memory. Nobody knew what street they were standing on! Alzheimer’s disease was a problem with Aspen’s aging population and it all kind of freaked people out so they just stopped coming.””Hey, that’s pretty interesting after all, gramps. Whatever happened to the Aspen Institute?””Well, they lost a lot of credibility. People began to see them as irrelevant, commercialized. It became a coffee shop where people sat around dissecting current events with the dull cutting edge of popular philosophy. They renamed it Hill of Beans.””Huh?””Oh, never mind!”Roger Marolt believes that institutions standing on merit don’t have to stoop for funding by re-naming existing buildings. For $4 million you can rename him at roger@maroltllp.com