Paul Andersen: ‘Celebrated’ and effete in Aspen |

Paul Andersen: ‘Celebrated’ and effete in Aspen

Paul Andersen
Fair Game

Those poor women I saw at Food & Wine! Wearing torn and ragged clothes in public must be humiliating. Many were attractive, but their poverty showed just like their exposed flesh — through gaping holes in their skinny jeans.

Some had gashes on the knees, as if they had been kneeling to clean floors or weed the garden. Some had rips from shin to thigh, as if they had been attacked by a slasher. Some were so ragged they appeared to have fallen out of a truck at high speed.

Others wore what appeared to be patterned tablecloths canopied over themselves, as if that was all they could afford to discreetly cover their bodies. Even on a cool, rainy day in mid-June, these women had no rain jackets to keep them warm and dry.

And then the shoes — pointy-heeled, foot-binding and torturous. How they could navigate the cobblestones of Aspen’s mall without a nasty ankle sprain is a wonder. They apparently possess superb athletic balance and agility just to stay upright on those wobbly spikes.

Some wore elevated shoes that had them literally standing head-and-shoulders above the crowd. These ergonomically challenging stilts seem well designed as a means for gaining a superior vantage to observe a costumed chef flipping a crepe or a vintner demonstrating the highly celebrated art of cork cleaving with a saber.

Lest I’m considered sexist, I have equal sympathy for the men who trooped alongside these women, stoically steadying them on their precarious footings while fecklessly modeling costumes of mismatched plaids and pastels. Low-profile leather loafers don’t make sense in the mountains, but at least gave them the necessary stability to guide their womenfolk to the sampling tables.

It appeared that some of these men had dressed in the dark that morning — before coffee — grabbing anything within reach, from short-waist sports coats to paisley cravats to slacks too tight for comfort on a summer day. Their attire wasn’t so much Vogue and it was vague.

I offered to guide some of the worst attired to the Thrift Shop for makeovers, assuring them that the ladies in charge know tons about fashion in Aspen and would set them up for a pittance so they could at least appear presentable. My offers were rebuffed.

And so it begins — summer in Aspen — with our own running of the bulls as Food & Wine celebrants crush together for the next wine tasting, the next flaming dessert, the next culinary triumph to tantalize sophisticated taste buds.

Now that Wagner Park has been trampled into a muddy swamp and thoroughly aerated with stiletto heels, the sod will be torn out like a ruined carpet and replaced with a new batch, rolled out in time for the next display of entitled excess in the gilt-appointed privacy of a once public park.

A hike in the wilderness is the best antidote for an overdose of celebriation in Aspen, so my wife and a friend and I trod up a mountain trail far from the madding crowd. We encountered only one other hiker, an athletic young woman armed with two fly-fishing rods and wearing practical waders that had not one rip or fray.

From a high lake set into the emerald tundra like a pool of mercury, we ascended a glaciated ridge and encountered a ptarmigan couple cooing like young lovers while strutting chicken-like among the arctic willows. Mottled white and brown, they were invisible when they stood still in perfect camo.

Dropping into a vast mountain basin riven by trickling streamlets of icy snowmelt, we surprised half a dozen elk that bounded effortlessly up the grassy slopes where globeflowers and marsh marigolds formed a bright mosaic.

Enjoying a gourmet PB&J made by the finest chef in our home — me — we lunched on a hummock of sedges serenaded by the burblage of twin streams in confluent flows that met at our feet.

The fashion trend displayed by my ratty haberdashery of torn rain pants, muddy hiking shoes and a threadbare stocking cap were lost on my companions, but I felt effete and elite as the first rain of summer eased down from charcoal gray clouds.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at