Roger Marolt: Sure you wanna be queen?
Hold the presses!
Finally, somehow, someone has managed to wade through the pages and pages of glossy advertising in an issue of Aspen Magazine and actually found an article to read.
Searching for a more difficult puzzle to crack, the discovery was apparently made by longtime local Dick Butera who undertook the page-turning project shortly after he solved his Rubik’s Cube in 1984. His years of diligent bathroom work finally paid off last week.
The thrill of the discovery was short-lived though. What should be a time of local celebration of this nearly incomprehensible feat has led to a minor point of contention in our small hamlet.
Mr. Butera, naturally wanting to let everyone know about his discovery without displaying any overt braggadocio, obscurely referenced his breakthrough by discussing the subject of the article he found in a Letter to the Editor to the local newspaper.
It seems that this mystery article, which I haven’t had the patience or luck to find, was about local women whom the magazine thought worthy of honor as the queens of modern-day Aspen as they emerge from behind the shadows of the late Elizabeth Paepcke.
In his letter, Mr. Butera incidentally made the case for women he wanted to be crowned as the new queens. Stunned to learn that someone actually read the article, Aspen Magazine’s editor Janet O’Grady decided to capitalize on this rare free publicity and responded to Mr. Butera in yet another Letter to The Editor that was basically an abridged version of their article, without the pictures of course (although there must have been a subliminal advertisement in it somewhere).
The discourse in the local papers with Mr. Butera and Ms. O’Grady stumping for their favorite candidates quickly digressed to the level of two Texas mothers lobbying for their daughters to get the last spot on the Witherall High cheerleading squad. It seemed that everyone was chiming in about what the late Mrs. Paepcke thought, what she believed in, and what virtues she placed value on. Poor Mrs. Paepcke!
But I’ll admit, I was getting sucked into the debate, too, until one obviously overlooked question popped into my mind: “Just exactly who the hell wants to be the queen of Aspen anyway?”
I mean being queen of Aspen would be a huge responsibility. You would have to step into Elizabeth Paepcke’s shoes and be accountable for what Aspen has become.
“That wouldn’t be so bad,” you say. “Aspen is such a great place. Who wouldn’t want to take recognition for what Aspen is today?”
Well, for starters we’re not going to give you credit for all of the beautiful mountains, the clear blue skies, or the abundance of fresh powder we’ve had lately. All that really good stuff was here long before you or any of the rest of us showed up. You can scratch that “accomplishment” off your royal resume right now.
You might get credit for promulgating the “Aspen Idea,” but I’ll warn you right now, some people are going to call you a snob for that.
It will work to your advantage that most people don’t even really know what the “Aspen Idea” is. I sure don’t. I do know, however, that if you attach the word “idea” to the name “Aspen” you have an instantly appealing phrase with an ambiguous meaning that sounds nice when you say it. It’s like the opposite of “Loss of Community.”
Anyway, some old-timer who goes by four initials once wrote that the “Aspen Idea” was originally to create an exclusive enclave for very wealthy people to come and enjoy the arts, partake in intellectually stimulating activities, and enjoy a healthy lifestyle away from the distractions caused by the rest of us.
I only mention this because, as queen, you will undoubtedly encounter lots of subjects around here who make it their life’s mission to fight against the actual Aspen idea while emphatically protecting and employing the phrase “Aspen Idea” at every turn. That’s got to be a headache.
Also, I’m afraid that if you are anointed queen of Aspen, you are going to have to deal with all kinds of things that never occurred to Elizabeth Paepcke like traffic, employee housing, and how to deal with people who buy timeshares.
I mean, if you’ve only paid a fraction of the price of admission, are you a sir or a serf? Who knows? Do you want the responsibility for making that call?
I guess that it really comes down to this: If you have the time the worry about whether or not you are the queen of Aspen, you have too much of it. Most of the worthy women I know really don’t have time to be the queen of Aspen.
They’re too busy making their own castles and working to pay the mortgages on them. They’re changing diapers, walking dogs, and volunteering in the schools. They’re riding the pass, hiking The Bowl, and hitting the gym.
They’ve got their hands full raising the little princes and princesses of the valley. They put all their spare energies into being good friends, mothers and wives.
When it comes to making a great kingdom, queens get too much credit. When the moat gets murky, they don’t take enough blame.
[Roger Marolt has been an Aspen jester since 1962. He hides at email@example.com]