Meredith Carroll: Been there but not better

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off

While it may be unwise for those living in glass houses to throw stones, that doesn’t necessarily preclude them from throwing some shade.

It was Marilyn Marks who owned the house on Homestake Drive that looks like a relic from the silver-mining era — and not in a purposeful, hipster kind of way. That place? Seriously? That house seems like the Big Bad Wolf would just need to huff and not even bother to puff in order to blow it down, as it’s still standing thanks only to what appears to be the grace of some chewing gum and a prayer.

The Aspen Times reported that Marks unloaded the house last week for $3.85 million — down $1.22 million from what she paid for it nine years ago. To be fair, it sits directly across from the golf course and boasts dazzling views of Pyramid Peak, Buttermilk and Highlands. But that anyone ever would have paid north of $5 million for an abode only slightly more contemporary than a Howard Johnson is equally as jaw-dropping as her views. Somehow, though, it feels fitting that it was Marks who took a bath on it.

Marks moved to Aspen in 2002 and subsequently made a name for herself as many before and since have also done: by showing everyone how it’s done. Or at least trying to. There’s little question that people in Aspen do things differently, although recent transplants often mistake “different” for “worse.”

A good number of people living locally are from somewhere else, moving here with the express purpose of escaping the kind of lifestyle that those who visit Aspen during such high-profile times as Christmas, Food & Wine and Ideas hold above all else: one in which there’s no question how much power, status and toys their spectacularly large bank accounts can buy. By contrast, you’ll have to dig deep to find more than a handful of full-time Aspenites of any pay grade who are primarily in it for the scene and not the scenery.

Then there are people such as Marks, who think success elsewhere will necessarily translate in Aspen and that the same kind of achievement is also widely desired locally. While some of the usual suspects have praised Marks for her accomplishments, and while she claims to be heading to the Front Range for work, it’s hard to imagine she’s not actually leaving mostly because few ever really bought what she was selling, which usually seemed to be disdain and arrogance.

Even if Marks claims that her name in lights was all for the sake of democracy and transparency, the method to her madness generally came off as more antagonistic than altruistic. Instead of acting like she’d been there — which she was, having run a multimillion dollar trucking company in Atlanta — she also acted like she was better. Unfortunately for her, though, a lot of people find one of the benefits of moving to Aspen is often leaving behind the day-to-day entitlement that is generally more closely associated with those residing on the coasts (and, you know, Texas). That’s a detail, however, that must have been confined to the lone memo Marks failed to compel out of City Hall.

She wrote her first letter to the editor in 2007, wherein she blasted then-councilman J.E. DeVilbiss when the City Council mulled an ordinance to prevent homes more than 30 years old from being demolished to make way for McMansions. Given that her Homestake Drive house was built in 1974, you can’t blame her. Except she claimed her interest in the matter was about the “public process” and transparency, not her personal interest. Uh huh.

Marks spent an astonishing amount of time, energy and deep pockets acting as if she graduated from the Oliver Stone School of Conspiracy Theories instead of Aspen University, where, in fact, the biggest local collusions just involve questionable maneuvering in the City Market parking lot. While Marks did prove some legitimate points and catch an egregious error or two in her tenure as concerned citizen, she did so in such a way as to render even the most highly thoughtful and clever people who would normally eagerly engage in the civic process utterly indifferent to the causes for which she fought so viscously. Instead of animating others, she aggravated them to something approaching apathy.

Other than the article in The Aspen Times, it doesn’t appear as if Marks’ exit from town is attracting much attention. Then again, before and after Marks, Aspen will never be at a loss for those who wear their mindsets on their well-worn or expertly tailored sleeves. The difference is that most people migrate to Aspen to adjust their attitude, not amplify it. Maybe make that two memos that Marks failed to read during her residency.

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