Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Bananas come in bunches, bad luck comes in threes, and BS is usually condensed into lists titled “Top 10.” From bucket lists to plays of the day, three or four items of the subject matter are worthy of attention, and the rest is filler added to fluff the number up to 10.
I’m sure it has something to do with stone-tablet envy, the remnants of the failed Nixon-era attempt to indoctrinate our culture into the metric system, or it is related to our inability to break away from using our fingers as calculators. Whatever. Last week’s City Council retreat provided a great example of a missed opportunity to stop it.
You know how group retreats go – you don’t get lunch until everybody shares an emotional life experience, there’s lots of crying and hugging with pledges of eternal friendship, and then the moderator pulls out a flip chart to write down, with multicolored Sharpies, things that participants blurt out that justify the group’s existence.
The first few things our council members put on the butcher paper make some sense. They want to aid small businesses, determine the town’s need for additional tourist accommodations and address parking and pedestrian issues downtown. They should have stopped there. Instead, by emphasizing quantity over quality, they came up with everything from the incomprehensible mission of “giving the under-40 demographic the resources to be trustees of the community” to the no-duh-goes-without-saying, “encouraging business and business organizations to work on good customer relations.”
They came up with one bit of nonsense that I like more than the others, though. In the middle of the list of 10 items council members want to pursue in the coming year is, “Come up with a specific definition of what ‘small-town character’ is.”
Right. Let me take a stab at it. Call it a gut feeling, but I think it must have something to do with a town actually being small.
Working off this gross generalization, then, will somebody on council let us know what constructing a gigantic new hospital, a humongous airport terminal, an oversized extension onto the library, a string of obtrusive bus stops complete with Wi-Fi and automated vending centers all the way through the valley, an ever-expanding inventory of low-income housing and a state-of-the-art hydroelectric plant in the middle of a tiny mountain stream have to do with this “specific” definition?
I suppose also that some small towns have traffic jams on Main Street, but I’ll bet that not many can match our daily mess through the “S.” Need I mention the million-dollar, 800-square-foot solar-powered outhouse on the park?
Let’s just suppose that City Council happens to see things the way I do here and recognizes that a lot of what our governments have built or are proposing to build don’t really fit with what they eventually come up with for their specific definition of “small-town character.” What do they do then? I don’t see any practicality in tearing most of our big-town amenities down.
I mean, I see this exercise a little bit like my sitting down to come up with a specific definition of what a 19-year-old baseball-playing phenom starting in right field for the Washington Nationals is. I’ve seen it. I’d like to be it. But the truth is that I’m a myopic 50-year-old man with slow reflexes who could never hit a curveball worth a damn to begin with. While it might be fun to go through with the exercise, I don’t see it as being transformative.
Let me give it to you straight, Aspen: I know small towns, and you are no small town. Now for the good news: Who gives a crap? Despite being a little bloated around the waist … waste? … from a few decades of living in excess, you are a place we love. Sure, there are people who got fed up along the way and left. We miss them and wish them well, but I don’t think trying to make you what you were with the municipal planning equivalents of Botox, liposuction and Grecian Formula is going to bring anyone back.
We are what we are, and I don’t think it’s any more possible for us, as a community, to go back to what we were in 1975 than it is for any of us, individually, to relive our own prom nights. And when you think about it, who wants to do that anyway?
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