Lum: Digging up ticky tacky |

Lum: Digging up ticky tacky

Su Lum

It’s getting to be tax time, so instead of getting my financial records together, I have been cleaning out and sorting through the contents of two old desks and several old boxes full of papers, photographs and sundry detritus from the ancient past in search of a Christmas card from the 1940s.

In the course of this exhumation, I came across the following, which, as well as I can guess from the reference to The Shaft (replaced by Boogie’s), I wrote around 1985:

“A few months ago, a woman stomped into The Aspen Times complaining vehemently that a word in her ad wasn’t in bold type. When we pointed out to her that she had proofread the ad the day before, she accused us of having changed it, implying some sort of sabotage.

“After venting her spleen for what seemed an inordinate amount of time, she looked around our office and said, ‘I have to say this is the tackiest business in town. All these dogs, all this mess!’

“She gestured inclusively at Hershey, the chocolate Lab drooling onto my lap, and Dilly, the new golden Lab puppy gnawing on my chair, at the cartoons tacked to the posts supporting our sagging roof, at the electrical outlet with seven plugs sprouting from it, at walls covered with memorabilia (awards from the paste-up department for ‘Most Incomprehensible Directions,’ etc.) and at me and my co-workers.

“This encounter struck a deep chord. My first reaction was rage that this nasty woman — despite her natty attire — would have the temerity to cast aspersions on The Aspen Times, the greatest place in the world to work.

“My final realization was the sad understanding that by working in the cozy confines of the Times for so long, I had been protected from confronting the fact that Aspen had changed so much over the years that tackiness is now perceived negatively — that tackiness is now more rare than it is commonplace.

“Every business in town used to be ‘tacky.’ Aspen was a town that didn’t give a damn about false values, a town where you couldn’t buy a necktie if you wanted to (and no one did), a town where you brought your dog to work and felt completely comfortable going to church or to Aspen’s fanciest restaurant (then the Copper Kettle) in jeans and a T-shirt.

“We bemoaned the demise of Tom’s Market to make way for Esprit last year, and this summer emotions surge as the Christmas-tree vacant lot goes under the plow, the Shaft is demolished, Palazzi’s is bulldozed and Bullock’s crumbles. But the erosion has been going on for years, with first one, then another business submitting in the face of ‘progress.’

“It’s bad enough that Aspen has been bought out and built up, but more than the physical changes, I mourn the loss of whimsy of the Aspen that used to make this the unique place that it once was.

“Even the ads in The Aspen Times show it. Many of the ads used to be downright funny and definitely trended toward the whimsical. No more.

“Each election year, I fear that the outcome will force me to leave.”

Su Lum is a longtime local who keeps hanging on. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at

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