Kaya Williams: Aspen is angry. Cut it out
If it’s pessimism that makes us so cruelly crotchety, what good might it do us to hope?
I am choosing to blame the wind.
It must be the gusts that have made everyone so angsty, so frustrated, so ants-in-their-pants annoyed; must be the blowing dusts that have made our eyes and our character so itchy and inflamed. The gales have pushed us so far past the point of don’t-get-mad-get-even that we’ve managed to circle back around to just getting mad.
If Angelinos can chalk up their wrathful mood to the Santa Ana, I can blame whatever keeps blowing my hair around for Aspenites’ incorrigible crankiness.
It’s the only way I can explain why I am so angry with anger, irritated with irritation, agitated with agitation. I saw someone in an “Aspen sucks” hat this weekend, and if I hear someone parrot that slogan one more time I am going to start throwing sand. We have plenty of it now, since it all blew in from the desert and onto the slopes, melting the snow sooner and exacerbating our angst.
Maybe it was inevitable, this sizzling irritability in the air. Resentment simmers before it boils; frustration is a pressure that cooks hot before it releases steam. We have all tasted its bitterness in this town that is as fickle as it is flavorful.
Lately, though, I think that some of us have forgotten the sweet and savory sensations that make life here so rich. We’ve soured, and we’re spiraling into spite.
I was one of the ill-tempered this spring, deep in the throes of a quarter-life crisis and wondering how much longer I could stand to dig my heels in when so many signs pointed toward the exit, or at least toward a sunny room for rent in Carbondale. Columnists and letter-writers groused about the certain ruin of Aspen, and I was starting to believe them.
But rather than put my fist down, I wanted to throw my hands up. Nihilism is no effective vehicle for change, but I was about to pass my driver’s license from the Department of What’s the Point and get behind its wheel. I drove right past signs for hope, indicators of goodwill and acts of earnest kindness in a town undergoing momentous change, because my eyes were so fixated on how the route might curve a mile down the road.
Then, in April, Paula Creevy wrote a letter to the editor and pulled me out of the vacuum that had seemed to absorb all of my enthusiasm. She recognized the frustrations, acknowledged the angst. But instead of railing against change, she reminded me that we’re a part of it as much as the things we’re mad at.
“Please keep telling the real Aspen stories and keep them, and let’s also tell ourselves the truth — that a culture and a community to be proud of is not something angrily clung to, but lived,” she wrote.
I read it and loosened my death grip on the idea of a lost cause. Then, reading further, I started to think about what we might yet stand to gain.
“There are always hard questions that need to be asked. There’s always asking yourself what you value, why you are here, and what you by your example are growing in your community,” she added. “Let’s not dig into old habits out of nostalgic longing for those we admired, but invigorate ourselves in the creativity of the present, because that’s what they would have wanted.”
I’m optimistic enough still to believe that she’s right, and to believe it in spite of the messaging to the contrary. If it’s pessimism that makes us so cruelly crotchety, what good might it do us to hope?
Kaya Williams is a reporter for The Aspen Times and The Snowmass Sun who thinks Aspen only sucks if we let it. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.