Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
It breaks my heart that Ellen and Les Holst have sold their fabulous, funky home on Waters Avenue and are moving away from Aspen. It is even more poignant that they are leaving because they can’t bear the direction Aspen is going in and that it is no longer the place they came to love. Time to move on.
I got to know Les through our two-year fruitless stint on the Historic Task Force. We were part of the half of the group that wanted more preservation than less, and Les would get so upset in the face of the stony opposition that he sometimes had to get up and leave the room.
Long-timers will remember Les from the time he camped out at Pioneer Park for weeks in a successful attempt to save a corner of that property from development.
More recent residents will recall his organization of the “White Shirts.” Les had hundreds of white T-shirts with “We Love Aspen” on the front and “Aspen is not aVAILable” on the back, passed them out to anyone who would wear them and marshaled those forces to storm City Hall when nasty development plans were on the agenda.
The Holsts were also well-known for their lavish Christmas parties, where everyone you’d want to meet gathered around the table groaning with turkeys and hams, the drinks flowed and guests performed.
Most summers, they held Aspen’s best garage sales. Both Ellen and Les are world travelers and collectors (Les has DVDs of every musical ever filmed), and you could always expect the unusual at their sales. Twenty years or so ago, I bought a huge, stuffed iguana ($25) as a birthday present for a startled friend, and a few years ago Les tried to give me a 7-foot model of the Cutty Sark, which, alas, couldn’t fit into my little miner’s shack.
This weekend they held their last bittersweet garage sale. The yard was filled with tools, steer and ram skulls, electronic equipment, linens, furniture, paintings, dozens of 3-foot-long Christmas stockings and hundreds of objets d’art with a preponderance of frogs.
“I love frogs,” Les said, pulling down his shirt to reveal a frog on his shoulder. “My first tattoo.”
I bought a papier-mache frog, a ceramic white rabbit, a wooden cat with hinged knees to sit on a shelf, a Blu-Ray player, a blender and a couch. My friend Hilary bought some books, a beautiful red glass platter and a shaving mirror in a fancy leather frame with pouches to hold shaving tackle.
When Hilary went back with a friend to get the couch – a hide-a-bed type – Ellen gave her a full set of sheets, pillow shams, ruffle and quilted cover to go with it and threw in a basket I had been eyeing.
Earlier, Les had given me a wooden “HOLST” sign carved by his students. I coveted it to remember them by, but I was wrong. When they find a home in Key West, I’ll send it back. It will look good in Key West, and maybe it will remind them of better days in Aspen.
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