Roger This: Roger Marolt |

Roger This: Roger Marolt

The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Sometimes I wonder if it’s an Aspen thing or if it’s just a me thing. Either way, I’m pretty sure it’s a positive-thinking kind of thing – but in a really bad way.

Let me give you an example. One day a couple of years ago, I was sitting in my office, and I just started sneezing like nobody had changed the air filters at the pepper factory for years. It was uncontrollable – laughable even. It came on suddenly. I was certain there was a logical explanation for the fit of nasal expulsion of airborne itchers and irritants, and I was just as certain I knew what it was. I was allergic to my shirt!

I am smart enough to realize that it probably wasn’t the actual shirt I was allergic to. Maybe we had recently switched laundry detergent and the new and improved formula disagreed with me, or perhaps it was a heavy layer of residual pollen left over from the last time I wore the shirt when the lilacs blossomed while the cottonwood seeds flew. Whatever. I needed relief quickly, and the only place to get it was at the Gap. That’s right. I marched over, and I bought a new shirt.

Instant relief? Not exactly. When I came home that evening wearing a shirt my wife had never seen, I explained to her my theory about the allergic reaction, which by that time had progressed into aches, chills and scratchy throat. After an incredulous eye roll, she helped me into bed, gave me a couple of Tylenol and brought me a cup of steaming chicken broth. Huh, who would have guessed – a common cold?

It’s a classic case of Aspenitis; in layman’s terms, this is concocting an explanation for circumstances that most likely are the harbinger of shutting you down for a few days, especially during a winter storm cycle that promises plenty of new snowfall or a stretch of cloudless spring days around the solstice when you can ride your favorite mountain-bike trail almost up until bedtime, which pushes the boundaries of dream and reality.

I can’t think of a situation where this condition has turned out well. Most of the time the results are bemusing. Recently I turned it into debilitating stupidity, which is a reasonable sign that you’ve taken it too far.

There are two kinds of people in Aspen: those with bad knees and those with bad backs. I am blessed with church knees. I can attend Mass and sit, stand, kneel and genuflect with the most devout. Don’t expect much when it comes to bowing, though.

It runs in the family, at least in the male side of the segregated gene pool. Older Marolt men walk around with shoulder blades pulled back tight, neck tilted one way or the other and butt hanging back trying to stay out of the way. It looks sort of old-school cowboy, but it’s really just finding a spinal contortion that hurts least.

Recently my brother discovered a book popular in the ’80s that was all about mind over matter when it comes to chronic back pain. He cracked it on a plane to China, and his years of back pain were cured after reading only the introduction. I, being smarter than he is, needed only to hear about the introduction to the book to realize my back pain, too, was all in my head. A major problem solved very simply!

Imagine my relief, then, to realize while skiing with my teenage son through the moguls of Red’s Run that the “pop” I felt in my lower back was nothing but the manifestation of some psychological strife I had yet to deal with. It wasn’t real pain! Nonetheless, being new to the mind-over-matter trick, I couldn’t work through it, so I went down.

The next day we woke to powder! This was enough to convince me that I could transcend the pain that had now turned into a knot in my hip that radiated through my pelvis like a wet finger in a light socket. Oh, the tricks my crafty mind was playing. The next thing I knew, I was hiking up Highland Bowl, trying to loosen things up.

The incredible stupidity of this story didn’t strike me until I was telling it to the spine surgeon who was trying to figure out why my lower left leg was numb and I had lost a good deal of control over the muscles in my thigh. Now convalescing, I have plenty of time to reflect. Maybe I’d just been wearing my belt a little too tight. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

Roger Marolt can learn his lessons, but it usually takes a few tries. Contact him at

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