Marolt: Leaving the dream
This time of year I would rather be a tourist than a local. It takes no imagination to picture a nice hotel room right downtown within walking distance of everything except Snowmass, which subjecting yourself to traffic in order to get to is completely elective. You can be flexible with dinner plans when every restaurant is within a five minute walk. You can pick and choose events without considering the parking. Apres ski on a whim is underrated.
Your legacy in Aspen is one week? Sounds like heaven!
How great to get back to your hotel room after a long day of skiing with nothing to do but plop down on the sofa next to the suggestion of warmth provided by a faux fireplace, wearing nothing but long underwear, cold beer in hand and doze while the background noise of another bowl game promises something to wake up to. It’s a lot better than trying to pick up a few things at City Market after work and then idling on Main Street traffic with dim prospects of arriving home with anything resembling Christmas spirit.
Tourists don’t bother each other. In fact, I think they make each other feel better about themselves. That’s because nobody sees themselves as a tourist, but they can easily mark someone else as one. Think about how this sets up: Most tourists believe they are passing for locals so they look down on other tourists and feel superior. That noted, they are able to act graciously toward the other tourists in non-offensive condescension because they basically feel like locals without the locals’ stresses. It is the boldest fantasy played out in this town, but it works for many visitors. The Ghost of Christmas Past has shown me this a million times.
We say we are living the dream, but over the holidays, the tourists actually are. This makes us jealous. There’s something irritating about strangers with nice haircuts and pressed snow pants who carry their skis tail-first over their shoulders smiling and joking around and pretty much loving life and our hometown more than we do. It’s not the way we drew it out when we decided to live here.
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I’m convinced this is why we lash out at visitors. It’s why there are fights in the City Market parking lot everyday between now and New Year’s Day. It’s why steady pillars of the community are honking their horns on Main Street and boxing cars out trying to merge from the left lane at the S-curves, especially when the beautiful snow is blanketing town. It’s why our middle fingers are cramping and our lips are chapped from continuously contorting and scraping against our bottom front teeth holding back breath long enough to initiate the hard “F” sound.
This is not the point where I chide locals to be patient. It’s impossible to relax precisely because it’s Aspen. This is on the tourists. You visitors are having all the fun and it’s up to you to have a little mercy on us. I’m begging you to give us a break! Smile. Make us feel welcome in our own town. Let us know you care and didn’t come just for the mistletoe-infused pot.
You don’t need to pay us back by canning us into parking spots with your rental cars because we’ve been nasty. If we behave badly it is because we’ve reached the limits of patience. We’re lost in the crowds in all of our favorite local retreats.
You are going to point out that not all locals are grouchy and mean, but I have to set you straight: If a local, this time of year, is friendly and they are not wearing a black shirt with a white collar, they are trying to get something from you, either a large tip or a larger sales commission, maybe a mere finder’s fee, or they’re drunk on eggnog heavy on the nutmeg. Nobody loves not recognizing their town.
I want to be a gracious host. You know how hard that is and, I suspect, it is why you are here this week instead of back home straightening the house and cooking turkey for the in-laws and second cousins. It takes great guests for you to be a great host, and great guests are rarer than fruit cake without bright green syrup-pickled cherries. So, let’s mix a new recipe. Instead of trying to be the coolest, let’s try to be the kindest. We’ve got a full house. It’s the only way we’re going to keep it together.
Roger Marolt hopes that your ski socks are hung on the condo balcony with care, hoping St. Nicholas breathes them fresh air. Email at email@example.com.
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