Meredith C. Carroll: Aspen’s biggest headache is Aspen
Aspen’s summer Sister City, the Hamptons, had its woes summed up in a recent Vanity Fair article, “Rich People of the Hamptons Have a New Headache: Even Richer People.”
“I’m a 1-percenter. But I bear no resemblance to these people,” one longtime Hamptonite told the magazine. “It’s so expensive, there’s no more livability.”
The piece pointed to an $88 lobster Cobb salad at Dureya’s restaurant in Montauk among a pile of evidence that New York’s East End has “so much money now it’s nauseating.” (To which Aspen’s Cache Cache restaurant, home to a $42 plate of cauliflower rice, replied, “Meh.”)
The prevailing sense around Aspen these days is not unlike the one in the Hamptons, where the current “‘level of judgment’ and the astronomical costs have killed the relaxed vibe.” Which is to say: Everyone in Aspen has pretty much given up, right? It’s as if there is an unspoken local agreement to altogether stop trying, caring or pretending. While maybe other places in addition to New York’s and Colorado’s rich-people playgrounds are experiencing similar plagues of excess and apathy, we can say definitively that it is happening here at home, yes?
That was rhetorical, of course. Ask the sheriff’s deputy who responded to a bike crash near Maroon Bells last week who said in The Aspen Times that as many as 100 cyclists failed to yield to his patrol vehicle’s emergency lights, making his efforts to reach the accident scene “more burdensome.” One cyclist even “admonished” Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Todaro “because she believed she had the right of way.”
“The public needs to know they need to get out of the way for emergency vehicles,” Todaro told The Times. “Not a single bike pulled over.”
It’s Aspen, though, where dizzying restaurant checks and appalling cycling etiquette are neither breaking news nor what is solely to blame for wearing almost everyone down to their last nerve. (This time, that is. Because if it’s not the pandemic influx of billionaires then it’s the seasonal Texans who are merely multi millionaires, am I right? Once again, that was rhetorical.)
The weather isn’t helping dispel the feeling that something fundamental is not only amiss but also on steroids. Mother Nature is on trend in throwing her hands up in resignation. Because why rain in amounts that fall within the range of normal seasonal patterns when you can just dump it all at once, like in Glenwood Canyon. The Western Slope’s vital interstate artery, which receives an average 2.4 inches of rainfall each July, saw 4 inches in one five-day period last week. Lightning-triggered wildfires? Earthquakes? Mudslides and flash flooding of biblical proportions? We’ll take it daily — sometimes twice — please. All bets are off with traffic, too. But that’s OK, because who doesn’t want to spend their entire lunch hour making the 6-mile round trip from Main Street to the Aspen airport.
Even the people who can afford to eat in Aspen can’t get reservations, and if they manage to snag one, there’s no place to park. It’s probably for the best if there are fewer cars in town anyway, because it seems as if many pedestrians are eschewing the basic laws of walking (and, ostensibly, the desire to want to keep being alive). The sales tax receipts will no doubt paint a rosy picture of Aspen’s summer, even if the faces of Aspen are showing a whole other story. To be sure, it’s always something here, even if now it’s starting to feel like something else altogether.
“I love the community,” one battle-scarred Aspenite remarked after a car with Utah plates roared homicidally past a line of cars into oncoming traffic through the narrows of Independence Pass in the middle of one of Friday’s monsoons. “Right now, I’m just not crazy about the town.”
More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.