Roger Marolt: Roger This

The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

I’m feeling a little down. That’s OK. I don’t think we give ourselves enough of a break in Aspen if we’re not absolutely ecstatic waking up in this magnificence with a case of the blues.

Really – the scenery, the fun things to do, nice people everywhere, great weather, just about the best of everything – if you can’t be happy here, there’s no hope. It’s like Aspen is the last chance for happiness. If you don’t find it, that’s it. Being sad is the cardinal sin of mountain-resort living. Aspen guilt; that’s a trip.

The sad I’m feeling is what set in after two old classmates and buddies took their own lives during the past month. Maybe we should just go skiing. For sure, that’s what they would want us to do in their memory. It’ll make us feel better. We can forget our troubles and theirs. The sooner, the better. Anybody feel like a drink?

The thing about Aspen that’s never, ever talked about, and something I’ve only considered on the periphery of my “incredible” and “awesome” experience here, is that it is a rough place on kids. This town has a dark history of chewing them up and spitting them out.

I’ll start from the beginning as I know it. My father, who spent his formative years here in the 1930s, ’40s and early ’50s, bristled when people who didn’t have to survive them glorified the “Quiet Years.” I mean, it sounds nice: quiet streets and cheap housing set in an even more pristine, naturally beautiful setting than we have today. None of that meant anything to him or most others who lived here then. They were too busy being poor, looking for something to do or drinking themselves to death.

Yes, they unearthed gems of happiness here and there. It’s what we’re programmed to do, maybe even more so under the most trying conditions of life. But my father never forgot the misery and suffering. Talk about lingering effects; it was one of his classmates who tried to blow up downtown a few New Year’s Eves ago before killing himself. Yeah, my father ended up making his entire life here and was happy, but really, he had nowhere else to go, when you think about it.

I grew up in Aspen during a time many consider the absolute pinnacle of the town’s glory. It was the ’70s and ’80s, man. You should have been here!

Let me tell you what those glorious times were like for kids. Now, I’m not big on keeping up. I don’t socially network. I’m not exactly the guy anyone would ask to put together the next class reunion because I’ve lost track of nearly everyone. The point is I don’t know the half of it, so you can take what I’m about to tell you and be assured that it is worse than it’s going to sound.

I run faces from the past through my mind and keep tallies. Out of the people I went to Aspen High School with, 17 have spent time in jail. I’m not talking about cooling your heels in the local clink to sleep off a good drunk. I’m talking federal prison. There were seven teachers I know of who slept with students. At least two pregnancies resulted. Without blinking, I picture eight schoolmates who committed suicide. I can’t begin to count the number of kids who have gone through treatment for substance abuse and addiction. Mind you, Aspen High School had fewer than 400 students when I was there.

I want to convince myself that things are different. That’s probably a given. Instead, I should hope for better. I remember that only about 10 years ago, a group of a half-dozen or so local high school kids went on an armed robbery spree in town. A few of them ended up in prison. So we look at our kids today and can’t know. The threads come loose in high school, but it usually unravels later.

I don’t know why this town is so tough on kids. I just know that it is despite all the talk about opportunities and good fortune. Much less do I pretend to know how to protect our children from the influences of the perpetually hard party and an adult population that gets sidetracked easily from substantive priorities. That’s why I’m a little down today.

Roger Marolt thinks we put impossible expectations on this town to come through for us. Contact him at


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