The opposite of settling down |

The opposite of settling down

Alison Berkley

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool. I know you think these guys are your friends, but if you want to be a true friend to them, be honest … and unmerciful.”- Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in “Almost Famous”My best friend, Tim, left Aspen.OK, so he was my boyfriend. Whatever. It was one of those small-town relationships that went everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. Together we went up mountains and down them. We hiked under sunny, warm summer skies through endless fields of wildflowers and scrambled up rocky peaks. We floated over bottomless powder and cheered each other through blinding face shots. We celebrated those stormy winter days when our tracks would fill up faster than we could make them, our jackets stuffed like pillows with all the layers underneath. Since he left, I’ve been doing what any grown 35-year-old woman would do: I’ve been crying like a baby for days.I’m talking a lot. I cried the other day running down the Rio Grande Trail, the hot afternoon sun drying my tears before they had a chance to roll down my cheeks. I cried on the bus up to the Maroon Bells, my sunglasses fogging over from the moisture in my eyes. I cried hiking up Ajax, sobbing to the hauntingly sweet lyrics of The Shins on my iPod. I cried when I checked my bank account balance and when my Netflix account got canceled because of a bounced check. I’m like Diane Keaton in that scene from “Something’s Gotta Give” when she opens her eyes first thing in the morning and starts bawling, before she even gets out of bed.The problem is most men do not move to the mountains to settle down. It’s the opposite. They come to play, and the sacrifices they make in order to do that ensure nothing beyond the upcoming ski season. Let’s just say “the future” is a short-term concept. Tim and I “hung out” for three years without any formal commitment. I think we broke up three times, about once a year.While there are some who can sustain the ski-bum lifestyle for decades (look no further than Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol), most burn out on their jobs and/or end up in serious debt. The promise of another epic ski season isn’t enough to tie them over for another year.That’s what happened to my Tim. He worked at The Aspen Times for seven years (first as a cops and courts reporter and then as sports editor), a position that afforded him many on-the-hill benefits and a midnight deadline that meant he had to be at work by 2 p.m. (or 4 p.m. at the latest, depending on how good the snow was over at Highlands).So it’s not like Tim didn’t have a “real job,” it’s just that the job he had didn’t pay much. During his tenure, he accomplished a lot.He broke the story on Aron Ralston, “the guy who cut his arm off in the Utah desert” before his accident, with a cover story in the Aspen Times Weekly on Ralston’s quest to conquer all of Colorado’s fourteeners solo in winter. It was the only press Ralston has received to date that doesn’t revolve around his do-or-die quest for survival in the Canyonlands. Tim’s coverage of Ralston’s ordeal won several awards from the Colorado Press Association. He limited that coverage to The Aspen Times, turning down several offers from the national media. As a fellow journalist, that drove me crazy – it seemed to be the opportunity of a lifetime. But Tim was far too loyal to capitalize on his relationship with Ralston. To him, the friendship was more important. He wasn’t about to ride on the coattails of the publicity storm. If he were going to make his mark in journalism, he’d do it on his own.Their friendship, which has already spanned a few peaks, backcountry ski tours, and a weeklong winter tour of Yellowstone, is far removed from Ralston’s all-too-bizarre media spotlight. I know Tim wanted it that way. But I was bothered by the fact that in his book, “Between A Rock and A Hard Place,” Ralston didn’t mention Tim at all. The Aspen Times paid Tim rock-bottom wages because they provided him with affordable housing, a sweet one-bedroom pad in downtown Aspen. But every time they gave him a raise, they also raised his rent. He was done with indentured servitude. After seven years, Tim finally decided the only way to accelerate his career was to leave Aspen.So where does that leave little old me? When people would ask him the inevitable question “What about Ali?” he responded with signature dignity. Instead of saying something like, “Oh, that old hag?” he’d put his arm around me proudly, pause for emphasis and then go, “Ali has a lot of things she’s focusing on right now.” And it’s true. I think we always knew it would end up that way from the beginning: He’d have to leave Aspen at some point and I would choose to stay. Bye-bye, baby.He packed up his old 1991 Nissan pickup with all he’d accumulated during seven years in the Rockies, including eight pairs of skis. “I’m doing this so I can give more,” he said, wiping the tears from my cheeks. He was headed east, back to Boston to spend time with family and try to figure out a way to sew it all together: his love for the mountains and his ability to make a decent living. As he drove away, our friend Dan hugged me and said, “Don’t worry. He’ll be back as soon as the snow flies,” but I’m not so sure. The only thing I do know is I’m not going anywhere.The Princess got some retail therapy and bought her first pair of Monolos today. 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