Roger Marolt: Roger This
October 8, 2009
If our offseasons are so great, why do so many of us spend them in Moab? If we all miss the quaint, little Mom & Pop stores of yore, why don’t we shop at them when they are here? If we all love to ski as much as we say we do, why don’t we have lift lines? If this town is such an amazing place to live, why doesn’t anybody stay very long?I think “locals” are a group of pathological liars. If anybody asks, and oftentimes when they don’t, we are quick with the superlatives in describing our hometown. My favorite is “amazing.” The scenery is “amazing.” The weather is “amazing.” The sunsets and full moons are “amazing.” The shopping and dining are “amazing.” The people are “amazing.” Any day that I get out to ski or ride and you don’t is absolutely “amazing.” I have even heard things as mundane as bikes paths, the bus system, the temperature of our tap water, and the fact that the our police officers drive Volvos described as “amazing” … by people who live here. What gives then?You know what I mean. If everything is really so incredibly, awesomely, amazingly, sick, as we constantly attempt to convince each other it is, who would ever leave? But, we do leave … in droves! And this is the most constantly amazing thing about this town.For me, the attrition rate for people getting fed up and dropping out of Aspen is one of the saddest things about living here. I don’t mean sad in the sense of “Oh look, you just dribbled chocolate syrup down the front of your shirt and now you’ll have to sit through the entire play like that,” either. I mean depressingly sad. I gave up counting the number of friends who up and leave in the middle of almost every offseason. There are so many that we can’t possibly send them all Christmas cards, much less keep in touch, even in the age of texting, Twittering, and Facebooking when nobody can get a moment’s peace and quiet.I am afraid that the local friend drain is changing our attitudes on the street, too. Not so long ago everybody said “hi” to everybody else because it was certain that you would see them again and everyone wanted to make sure that they were spreading rumors about the right people. I experience less and less of this. There seems to be a lot more “Whatshisfaces” and “Whoshamadigits” around here lately. It just isn’t worth the effort to get to know someone who you might never see again. Go ahead and tell me that I’m spoiled and that this place really is “amazing” and that the sad fact of the matter is that few can afford to stay here because of the cost of living, and that people don’t leave this town because they want to, but are driven out by the billionaires who just don’t care.Well, that is an argument that sadly neglects to take into account that the billionaires generally don’t stick around long enough to drive anyone out. It also fails to recognize the fact that the turnover rate in employee housing appears to be nearly on par with that of Red Mountain mansions. No, I think the truth lies somewhere else than in this weak piece of folklore that is tattered and torn from being pulled out and used so often, but that somehow keeps its form well enough to cover up the truth. That truth, I am afraid, is that, while this town is an “amazing” place to have a lot of fun in, there isn’t a lot of opportunity here.So what? “Money isn’t everything,” you say. Well, shame on you for thinking so narrowly along the lines of a buck folded into your money clip. You are right, money isn’t everything. But, it is something and economic opportunity is limited here. It is obvious that there are too many brokers chasing too few commissions and most of the rest of us are primarily working to get a “free” ski pass. Sure, if you started your brokerage firm in the 1950s or are willing to wine, dine, and kiss your clients’ cheeks 25/8 you can make a decent living selling houses, but in these cases you are either past due for retirement or longingly looking forward to it. The happiest brokers I know are ones who don’t have to take part in the daily suck-up anymore. Besides, everybody knows that the only people who really make money in Aspen now are those from out of town and those who sell out to them. But, the lack of opportunity in Aspen extends far beyond getting ahead financially. In case you didn’t notice, hardly anybody around town, rich or working, lives in a neighborhood. There are few white picket fences, hardly any kids zipping through the streets in bicycle gangs, and the proliferation of sleepovers proves that children don’t live close enough to their friends. It’s enough to make anyone yearn for the Midwest.And, finally there’s romance. There is none except for when you first come here on vacation, and even that is mostly imaginary. After that, lots of people who come here married end up divorced, all of the people who come here divorced remain divorced, and single people end up taking the MSATs and going back to grad school. Nobody can argue that “stable” and “committed” are used anywhere near as often as “amazing” in Aspen. Besides, it is well known that Aspenites have long preferred a bike ride or a jog to exertion of a more romantic nature, at least on an ongoing basis. It must be something in the exceptionally cool tap water. So what we Aspenites are left with is our pride in climbing up Smuggler Road to The Deck and looking out over the valley to think up synonyms for “amazing.” But, eventually it gets a little chilly and we feel the calling for the coziness of home.
Roger Marolt was not inebriated when he wrote this column, but he was texting a friend at the time. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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