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Xeroxing our towns

When I was a kid, there was a roller rink in the Armory Hall one summer. What this has to do with anything, you will shortly see, but in the meantime, if you don’t know where the Armory Hall was (is), rest assured it was the precursor of today’s Aspen City Hall. Some people maintain, still, that it reminds them of a roller rink, but that doesn’t seem quite fair.Without any help from the government of Aspen, we have created a voluted world, or a rinky-dink one, or whatever else you may want to call it. Reaching the lowest common denominator seems to be our goal, and we’ll pursue it with a fervor that clearly challenges common sense. For years, we battled over the four-laning of Killer 82, and for some unknown reason, the lanes finally materialized. I fought hard against this inane plan, saying that if people wanted to commute to Aspen, they would keep driving up scenic 82 just as they had in prior years. In the face of such opposition, not only from me, but from many others, safety inevitably became the clarion call. Ah, “safety,” the thesaurial synonym for (in this case), “automobile accommodation,” which won the day. In our typically ineffectual and incapable way of enunciating clear reasons for or against something, the four-lane became an accepted reality, based on such jagged lapses of clear thinking. What used to be a pleasant drive to Basalt, or vice versa, is now just a replay of any interstate in the country, views obstructed by guard rails, asphalt smeared with magnesium chloride, and nerves jangled by idiots unclear on the concepts of manners and speed limits. Apparently, there’s a certain comfort to be found in such a coarse environment.Did you ever drive to a mall in another town? Someplace you could find Gucci, or maybe Prada or a Wal-Mart? For sure, you can find a 7-11 almost anywhere, or a movie house, and they’re just the same as the ones you can find anyplace else. A buddy of mine, who used to travel a lot, dropped some dry cleaning off in a mall somewhere in the U.S.A. on one of his journeys and could never find the same place again. Once you leave the distinctive downtown area of a city, it all looks the same, including dry-cleaning establishments. Of course, if you want a good(?) burger, stop at Wendy’s or McDonald’s. They have the same ugly formulas, no matter where you are.We plunge straight ahead, a good head of steam propelling us, unaware of where we’re going or where we’ve been. Stop and smell the roses! – but where are they? – you’ve gotta be kidding me. The corporate world influences our every move. Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, ad infinitum, offers us the same second-rate manner of goods wherever we go, dulling our senses as to quality and stifling our imaginations. The unending purchase of unneeded consumer goods, as dictated by smarmy advertisers, has become an American way of life.Our deification of DNA, genetics and other technology, such as the Internet, leaves us as cows at the trough, fighting each other for the last morsel of self-gratification and the ultimate blessing of our peers, the only ones who can possibly understand what we’re all about. A stroll through any of a number of valley subdivisions can attest to our ability to mock ourselves. As Oscar Wilde once said, “conformity is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.”We’re turning the world into a roller rink without personality. We tend to find comfort in homogeneity, and in our efforts to homogenize everything, to make the world look the same, to eradicate the erratic and make our circles perfect, we take the mystery out of living, and by so doing, we suffocate the magic.Tony Vagneur reminds you that it’s not American unless it’s made in China. Read him here every Saturday and send comments to ajv@sopris.net


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