The first time | AspenTimes.com

The first time

Paul E. Anna

The two kids got off the plane.

She was blond with designer Uggs on her feet, tight designer jeans, a rumpled white coat and stocking cap barely containing the golden curls that framed her face.

He strode in a pair of striped Pumas, $200 jeans worn prison-style, sliding down his hips and bunching low around his skinny butt, a T-shirt with this week’s hippest logo, the skull and crossbones under a purple velvet blazer. He wrapped a white scarf, just so, around his neck below his unshaven face.

Perhaps 19 or 20 years old, they had the air of kids too tough to care. But as they hit the tarmac and looked toward Buttermilk and Aspen with its totally white mountains and cobalt-blue skies, their hands intertwined and they dissolved into grins and kisses. These two were coming to Aspen for the first time, and it had instantly worked its magic, melting the hardened demeanors of these two “it” kids and turning them into love puppies.

As I watched this transformation, I was just a little envious. No, not of their youth or his Pumas or their good fortune (an uncle had offered up his timeshare for Christmas week), but rather for the virginal feel they had of coming to this town for the first time.

We, who have been here for a while, tend to forget what a thrill that was. For me, the first time was in summer 1975 ” Fourth of July weekend. I was in a summer program at the University of Colorado my freshman year and hitchhiked to Aspen for the fireworks. Wow. It was beautiful beyond description. A beauty that to this day still stops me in my tracks and makes me say, “Wow.”

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But it was more than just the scenery that struck me. There was a feeling in the air, a spirit that clearly spoke to me that summer. It was another decade and a half before I came for good, but it all started that Independence Day in ’75.

We all have these stories. The “I came for a weekend and stayed 30 years” or “I was a student at the music festival” or “I remember driving in a VW Bus over Independence Pass and that was it.” You’ve heard enough of them that they have become cliches.

But what makes a cliche a cliche is that there is some truth there. Most of us were hit hard by some kind of magic moment when we came here, and it took hold of our lives. That doesn’t happen in places like Pittsburgh or Wichita or even Tampa. There is a reason why we are here, and that reason, whatever it might be, likely revealed itself the first day you arrived.

This week there will be a number of new visitors like the kids on the plane. People who will get off, look around and say, “Wow.”

In the spirit of the season let’s welcome our first-timers with open arms. When they begin to drool as they talk about how beautiful the mountains are and how great the shopping is and how nice the people are, try and bite your tongue when you want to tell them how much better it was when you first came. After all, we all deserve to enjoy our first time.

Happy holidays everyone!