Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
It seems the town is working itself into another emotional cycle of ruminating over what was, battling over what is, and fretting over what might be.
We’ve got gray-bearded one-timers coming back to town just long enough to do a U-turn around a cold one in the Red Onion before heading back out in search of the endless summer of 1982 somewhere else. We’ve got heydayers who packed heat in their Aspen High School senior-class pictures reminding us that these are the good old days, or else. And, of course, we’ve got the old-timers in a state of contemplative figuring out just where the hell they fit in, then and always.
I’m telling you, don’t get worked up. This, too, will pass. It happens just about every time the stock market reaches a milestone, a new building goes up downtown or at the onset of springtime. Eventually we’ll all tearfully agree that Aspen sure ain’t what she used to be, but, by golly, it’s still the best place in the world. The people who disagree will leave unnoticed under the cover of some offseason night never to be heard from again, until their beards are gray and they get a hankering for another cold one at the Red Onion.
What the hell is wrong with us? We pass ordinances trying to bring back the good ol’ days! We agonize over a written community plan to ensure that the good ol’ days stay fresh in our minds. We cry when longtime businesses close their doors even though we haven’t set foot in them in years. It’s the reason the new Isis looks like the old Isis, until you go on in to see a movie and realize that you are in an art gallery and that the movie you saw advertised is playing in the basement that never existed in the good ol’ days, but, hey, you can’t tell the difference when the lights are off anyway.
There’s an important thing that lots of people in Aspen forget. It’s that there are roughly 6 billion people in the world who do not live here, and most of them are happy.
How could that possibly be? I have heard that there are some towns out there that aren’t charming. I believe there are some places in the world that have never considered historical preservation. I know there are places that are leaving it up to fate what they will look like tomorrow and for the next 25 years. I bet there are places where city council meetings last 15 minutes.
Picture a barrel-chested guy on a sunny Saturday morning – slung gut, gold chain, sunburned shoulders, handlebar mustaches and skinny legs – wearing nothing but white ‘n’ tight tennis shorts out there on the fringe of the Kmart parking lot, well out of the way of door dings and shopping-cart dents, admiring and waxing his one-of-a-kind ’68 Stingray with the doors open and Boston blaring from the aftermarket Pioneer speakers.
His contented grin tightens to a ripsaw grimace as he gets down on his knees and leans way into the rear passenger-side fender to have a closer look. Some careless bastard got him! The carefree smile returns. He blows a puff of air over the pristine paint. Phew – just a dog hair or piece of lint; another close call. It’s pathetic. It’s all he’s got. He’s us, for crying out loud!
Sometimes we protect this town like it’s the only car on the road. If anything ever happened to it, we wouldn’t know what to do. How would we ever replace those irreplaceable moments in the Kmart parking lot? You know that a scratch in the original paint could knock a thousand bucks off the market value, don’t you? Let the rest of the world pass admiringly by on their ways to the fishing holes in their Dodges, the birthday parties in their Caravans and the golf courses in their Buick LeSabres. Poor suckers: We got the ‘Vette. They don’t know what they’re missing, I guess. It’s depressing.
Aspen is not about the “what.” It’s about the “what you can do” here. We can all make our own lists of the things we could do here in the ’70s that we can’t do anymore, but my guess is that most items would be as inconsequential as ordering a No. 2 at La Cocina. Then as now, it was about the people with whom we spend our lives. I think they are still as good here as anywhere.
Roger Marolt thinks Aspen is as far from perfect as it always has been. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.