Roger This: Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
I have been a little off my game lately. I sleep like a baby, feel absentmindedly groggy all day, and get irritated with life’s simple pleasures. The explanation, of course, is that I unknowingly bought a pound of decaffeinated coffee and have been loading it into our brewer unawares.
It begs the obvious question: Why does Starbucks even sell decaf? Coffee tastes like crap, and the only reason we convince ourselves otherwise is because of the jolt. Nobody gets addicted to decaf, so where is the sales growth potential? Most ridiculously, why do stores put bags of decaf beans in the same area as regular coffee beans? Note to supermarket managers: These are completely different products with completely different customers! As far as I’m concerned decaf coffee should be in the same section as the colorful helium-filled balloons and animal crackers and regular coffee with the epoxy, fire starters, and motor oil.
How did I finally discover this mix-up with the beans? Well, I came up with the idea to write a column about tourists and what they are attracted to in Aspen. My premise was that it is hard to imagine Aspen as a bustling international hub for excitement and discovery when you consider that the two most popular daily attractions in the city are the water fountain on the pedestrian mall and the Saturday farmers market downtown.
Now, before anyone gets worked up and thinks that I’m anti-farmer or anti-water fountain, I will remind you again that I was unable to get under the influence of caffeine before I had these thoughts. It was never my intention to criticize or make fun, although the nature of the subject matter makes it hard not to sound like I was.
You have to admit, the farmers market is neither cheap nor convenient, and the food quality, especially after you cart it around the streets of Aspen for a few hours in the blazing sun, is not superior. The fountain … well, it’s just water shooting up in the air, and not super high at that. It tops out at about 8 feet, and it doesn’t come back to earth in a thundering crash or flood. Yes, I know a super-genius created it and its patterns never repeat themselves, but is that worth spending your vacation trying to disprove?
Lacking any store-bought stimulants to clarify my thinking, I thought that the farmers market is an example of what the pooh-poohers of Aspen’s good ol’ days prophesied about when they told us not to be afraid of progress. And it seems they were right, because things like this are adrenal gland clamps. All the craziness of the pre-event-all-the-time Aspen, I thought, has been cut, raked off the yards of chipped-paint West End homes, bagged, and dumped out onto the streets over a few cordoned off blocks of downtown Aspen on Saturdays from eight until three. Simple. Neat. Something that can be summarized with three sentences in a chamber of commerce brochure. Anything more involved, of course, requiring active seeing, touching, and feeling is a difficult sell in the competitive resort business.
Then my mind skipped uncontrolled to the notion that baseball really is the most difficult sport to play. Catching a fly ball in the outfield is like going for an unimaginably long Hail Mary pass or trying to get underneath a 90-yard punt not aimed at you. Stopping a line-drive or a sharp one-hopper at third base is like being a hockey goalie. Throwing a runner out is akin to pinpoint passing. Hitting a slider is like returning a tennis serve holding the racquet by the wrong end. Pitching is like throwing free throws with somebody continually tending goal with a large stick, or putting through the windmill hole a hundred times in a row. Stealing a base is a sprint, except you’re picked off if you jump the gun or you’re thrown out run too slowly. Batting is the perfect mix of golf and dodgeball: Even though it’s a team sport, whenever you are at the plate or have to make a play in the field, you are completely on your own. Releasing a hungry tiger onto the field each inning is about the only way they could make it harder.
Then a raindrop hit me right between the eyes, and I decided to get out of the hammock and jot some of my thoughts down. There were many more, but this is what survived from the front lawn to the kitchen, where I found a pen and paper and an ice-cold, full-strength Coke.
Twenty minutes later it was like somebody turned up the throttle and opened the choke in my brain. I was thinking clearly for the first time in three days! So what if people like to browse the farmers market in the Saturday heat? So what if the downtown fountain makes their day? Who, besides me, really gives a hoot about baseball until the World Series anyway? People are basically good, and these things don’t matter!
I feel there has to be a message in an experience this profound. I believe it is to both trust God and drink regular coffee, and often. Going to church and then out for breakfast is tried and true. You can’t argue with that.