December 6, 2006
I think I’m suffering from outrage fatigue.As a rule, I’m easily outraged. I can go from zero to outrage at the drop of a hat. (Go on, try it. I dare you. Drop a hat. See what happens.)Looking back over the year now drawing to a close, I see that I’ve been outraged over a renovated Victorian, a swimming pool, the Entrance to Aspen, development in El Jebel, the Isis, a bunch of cottonwood trees … geez, I am one cranky old guy.A friend of mine said recently, “Hey, I didn’t see your column this week. What are you upset about this time? Did someone mow his lawn without getting your permission? Are you outraged he changed the length of his grass without a hearing at the Historic Preservation Commission?” (Hmm. I have to wonder: Is this person really a friend?)So anyway, I get outraged a lot.And yet, for some reason – maybe just because it is, as mentioned, near the end of a mighty long year – I’m having a tough time getting outraged about the pending demise of the Red Onion.Yeah, I know. There go my “local” credentials.Look, I know the Onion is a genuine landmark. It’s one of the last of the truly funky, often rowdy, deeply local drinking establishments left in this town.I do have to confess that, personally, years ago, when I was spending most of my waking hours in the bars, my establishment of choice was the Jerome (and that was long before that place got cleaned up, fluffed up, lobotomized and renamed the “J-Bar” – as if that was the “cool” name that everyone always used. It wasn’t.)But never mind that. I had plenty of friends who were far too familiar with the view of the underside of the tables at the Onion – as seen by someone lying semi-conscious on the bar room floor.The Onion was (and, I’m sure, still is) a great bar.But let’s be clear. It isn’t the bar it was many decades ago when one of the rowdy Klusmire Brothers rode his horse into the bar – and avoided a sanitation disaster by catching the horse droppings in his cowboy hat.Nor is it the place it was back in the ’70s when Werner Kuster owned the Onion and, as a cub reporter, I interviewed him about the fatal knife fight in his kitchen between two of his dishwashers (that was when they had winos washing the dishes, instead of Latinos).And maybe that’s the point – no, not the stabbings or the horse crap, just the simple fact that everything’s changing … has changed, is changing and will continue to change.With or without our permission.And, face it, we can’t fight it all.Aspen used to have a glut of funky, more or less rowdy, local bars: the Jerome, the Onion, Annie’s, Galena St., the Abbey, the Pub, Cooper St. … the list is long. Most are gone. A few are still around.I suspect they’re all endangered. But what can we do?We certainly can’t expect the government to save the Onion. There are (I’m sure) some things that government, in general, does well. There even are (I suspect) a couple of things that our local government, in specific, might do well.But sure as hell, running a rowdy, funky bar is not – and never will be – on that list. That’s just the way it is.So if you personally want to save the Onion, you personally need to march into the offices of the people who own the building and sign a lease at the going price for that historic funky space.And then count on all the rest of your “Save the Onion” friends coming in and paying the kind of prices that will be required for that sort of joint to pay the new rent.I’m guessing a $30 cheeseburger and a $15 draft beer. Or maybe a $50 burger and a $25 draft.And I’m also guessing that, when they see the prices, those friends of yours will be … outraged!Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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