Su Lum: Slumming
August 29, 2012
Every time I think about moving to sea level so that I can breathe, I remember my late, great friend Remo Lavagnino saying, “Yeah, but who would you to talk to?” So then I thought that maybe 10 or 12 of those of us who are still alive could pool our resources and buy some magnificent spread (by Aspen standards) in some wonderful low place – but I know how communes work out, and besides, where would that place be?
I was in Key West, a place I liked a lot, where I almost perished from the heat when it was only May. The first morning there, I was eating breakfast on the porch when I spotted a spider the size of a dinner plate hovering in an umbrella web in the corner of the roof. Later, I saw a cockroach the size of a mouse (a palm beetle, I think it was called) scuttling across the floor. And then there are hurricanes.
I was in St. Petersburg in October, where the heat was so suffocating I couldn’t open the door of my seaside motel room.
Scratch New Jersey, where I grew up. Scratch upstate New York, where I went to college. Scratch Alaska – twice.
My daughter Skye lived in Hawaii, in a cute little house in the middle of the Big Island. As soon as it got dark, the rats came out, racing across her attic ceiling, screaming their rat screams as if they were killing one another up there. I feared that they would drop out of the light fixture over my bed. If you went into the kitchen, the cockroaches would scatter for cover.
My daughter Hillery and her husband, Bruce, lived outside Atlanta, where it was all superhighways and shopping malls, and they never met anybody except the clients they did faux paintings for. They couldn’t wait to get back to Colorado and the cold, away from ticks and fleas and crackers – and found their nest in Leadville, where they found more friends in a week than they did in three years in Georgia, but Leadville is too high for me.
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Skye and Steve lived in Seattle, a lovely city but all that rain. I visited my friend Bruce in Baja, but I couldn’t speak the language. San Francisco is a terrific city, but who would I talk to?
My Grand Junction doctor once told me that having to be on oxygen in Aspen was the price I had to pay for living in paradise. He was right – what’s the big deal about breathing on your own if you’re not living where you want to be?
Think of it! There are no rattlesnakes in Aspen. In my 48 years here, I have seen three tiny garter snakes – one made my dachshund Rufus jump three feet in the air, making it worth my own startle. And Aspen has no tarantulas or wolf spiders. We don’t have rats, we don’t have cockroaches, we don’t have silverfish in our flour – that’s paradise to me.
This summer, while the rest of the country was burning up and dry as a bone, it rained in Aspen, and I was comfortable without air conditioning or even a fan, sleeping under two blankets in the cool nights. Even in the winter, we have a couple of cold snaps, but by and large the weather is glorious, and if the air is thin, it is crisp and dry.
In Aspen, I can run four errands in half an hour.
In Aspen, I have my own little miner’s shack with a fenced yard for my two dachshunds – it’s just right for us. And though I bemoan some of the changes that have occurred over the past few decades, I can go anywhere in Aspen and find, within spitting distance, a dozen interesting people to talk to.
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