Marolt: Relax, it’s cash!
I saw a bumper sticker on a Range Rover the other day. It said, “Relax, I’m rich.”
All right, I didn’t actually see that on the street. It was only in my mind, and thank goodness for that, because it would be totally obnoxious if a person with a lot of money put a sign like that on their car, but I did see the one that said “Relax, it’s Aspen” on a Subaru that was subtly obnoxious enough to get me to equate “Aspen” with “Cash.”
I’ve never thought of Aspen as a tranquilizer. This town gets people so jacked up over things that most people in the world could not care less about that to think of it as having a calming effect on anyone is, to me, one of those big, fat lies I tell myself for long enough and in so many different ways that I almost start believing it until I realize that, if what I am trying to convince myself of really is true, it would be creepy.
I think “Relax, it’s Aspen” is bragging dressed up in a robe of self-righteousness. It says, “I’m laid-back to a degree beyond the reach of most mortals, which I attribute to the town I live in, which is so patently false that whomever I proclaim it to will instantly see through it and then only be able to attribute my higher state of being to my own actions and then think me modest for not straight-out saying it.”
I know some will accuse me of defending rich people in what is to follow here, but I’m not. It’s just that wealthy people get such a bad rap around here for being obnoxious and arrogant that the stereotype provides a good benchmark to measure our own actions against.
Take the 100-days-of-skiing pin that has lately garnered so much attention around the last few weeks of the ski season, when lots of locals were scurrying to secure it. It’s a badge of honor, right? It’s a reward for diligence and devotion to skiing. OK, so what if Morgan Stanley handed out pins to all of its clients who earned a million dollars in capital gains for the year?
That wouldn’t be a big deal if none of the wealthy people who earned them threw the pins in a junk drawer rather than lining them up on the collars of their Ralph Lauren tennis sweaters to demonstrate the number of years in a row they’d accomplished the feat.
“But that’s different,” you say. “Skiing is a spiritual thing. Making money is evil.” Uh-huh.
I would say that either pursuit could be noble depending on how the fruits of the pursuit are used to make the world a better place, but that neither is if the main purpose is to acquire a symbol of superiority. Good skiers are not so different from good stock pickers; they just burn spare time accumulating different currencies. There is an exchange rate of dollars for vertical feet, and we reference it all the time.
It’s not just what we say with bumper stickers and lapel pins, either. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a fellow local say something along the lines of, “Can you believe how lucky we are to live in this incredible place?” If I did, I might be the person getting off my jet at Sardy Field saying something like, “Can you believe how incredibly lucky we are to have so much money?” Is it a statement of gratitude, affirmation, braggadocio or wishful thinking? If there were just one way to interpret something like this, then there would be no reason to bristle when we heard it.
For every Range Rover in Aspen, I have a North Face button-down shirt in my closet. Of course, each product is of the highest-quality craftsmanship. Both are stylish. Both are produced by companies unequaled in customer service. And both products speak to Aspen in their own distinctly different ways and say, “Hey, I belong here!”
Aspen is to Vail what Goldman Sachs is to Ameritrade. A hundred days of skiing is to being a solid human being as is a billion dollars in the bank to being a solid human being or even as is being an Aspenite to being a solid human being. They are either chips we put on the table to up the ante or the foundation of something we can build upon to make the world a better place. Relax, it’s just a game. Or it isn’t.
Roger Marolt just lost a button off his North Face button-down. Email at email@example.com.
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