Princess: Eight-figure Aspen prices out of my league
Aspen, I think you might be seriously out of my league.
I remember a time when I was so young and innocent; I used to cruise around the West End with my roommate on some old bike someone had left in the ramshackle house we were renting on Aspen Street and dream about one day owning a home here. I’d choose certain features on different houses that I loved, such as a siding material or marvel over an addition on an old Victorian that seamlessly tied the future and the past.
“That’s, like, the most expensive material you can get,” my roommate would say.
“What can I say? I have great taste,” I’d reply.
I actually believed this was possible. I felt such a kinship with this town, a place where I felt like I belonged more than I’d ever felt before. I felt I’d found home.
I think part of feeling like I belonged was the grit that surrounded me on a daily basis. I was living in the now-infamous Yellow House, which was originally the priest’s house for the church on Bleeker Street. Then, like the start of a bad joke (“A priest and a drug dealer walk into a bar”), it became a meth lab. I’m assuming that’s when someone got the idea to paint a giant Shakedown Street graphic (that Grateful Dead dude in the green suit with the big, yellow, floppy hat) on the living-room wall.
My room in that ramshackle house, one block off Main Street, cost me $750 a month. They allowed my dog, who was probably a terrorist in his past life, to live there with me even though he was a major liability with a criminal record.
“He’s done quite a bit of damage to places I’ve lived in the past,” I’d warned them.
“That’s OK; they’re going to tear the house down eventually anyway,” my roommate said.
“The outside of the Yellow House looks innocent enough, but the inside is shocking,” Steve Benson wrote in “Not so rich and not so famous,” an article that appeared in The Aspen Times about ski-bum housing on May 5, 2004. “The floors are a mix of collapsing, scarred wood and beer-soaked, dog-hair-choked carpet. Six people and four dogs (one of them resembles a bear) were the most recent occupants.”
It was the perfect place for us. It was 2002, my first year in Aspen, when everything was a first. My first Food & Wine, my first HBO Comedy Arts Festival (God, I miss that event), my first 24 Hours of Aspen (ditto), my first Fourth of July, my first New Year’s Eve, my first Halloween. It seemed like every day a new adventure awaited, and all I had to do was stumble out my front door to find it. Where I slept at night didn’t seem to matter, especially because I was so drunk by the time I got home I hardly knew where I was anyway.
I had a lot of friends who lived in similarly decrepit places. I remember hanging out with Jordan and Jack at the Mine Dumps by Lift 1A. It was by far the sickest location of any dive in town, right at the foot of the slopes. And the apartments, which were sort of fleabag-motel-meets-college-dorm, had a certain unmistakable charm.
Benson wrote about this place in his article, also: “Old couches, lawn chairs and a hot tub (whether it works is not known) adorn the roof. Ski posters cover broken windows, faded Tibetan prayer flags hang from ledges, and its location ‘slopeside’ suggest it’s the perfect ski-bum building.”
Then there’s the Hunter Creek Longhouse, where all the cool European ripper chicks lived (I’m talking about you, Dina, Olga, Ivana and Arna). The entryway was a shared hallway with a greenhouse-like enclosure that trapped the air so it was sort of hard to breathe. Like a quasi-garage, the hallway was littered with mountain bikes and skis and boots. It was an undeniable fire hazard and left a locker-room-like stench that forced you to breathe through your mouth. You never hung out at one place but sort of ended up wherever the party was, and with those girls, there was always a party.
The Hunter Creek Longhouse is the only one of these places that hasn’t been torn down, and I hope it’s still the same now as it was then.
But Aspen is not.
Back then, I would dream about one day starting my own business after I became a rich and famous author. I thought maybe I could do something with Aspen Princess merchandising. I sketched a line of luxury sportswear, fur-lined hoodies and cashmere hats, quilted down mittens with polka dots and bows, hand-dyed T-shirts with a tiara logo on the chest and sleeve, yoga pants with a Princess “tramp stamp” just above the butt and maybe on the outer lower leg. I thought maybe if my business grew enough I could have a retail store in downtown Aspen, and all the tourists would come because they’d heard about how authentic my brand was.
A decade later, when Boogie’s sold for $27.5 million and Lift One sold for $22 million, the Aspen of my dreams has turned into a nightmare. What kind of downtown retail landscape is that? These are eight-figure sales, people. Eight figures! Who thought that real estate prices, particularly of these antiquated buildings, could reach these heights?
I was just walking around town with a very worldly friend of mine who has lived in New York, L.A. and London. We had passed some new construction that seemed to go up overnight.
“It’s (expletive deleted) TriBeca!” she screamed, gesturing wildly. “We live in (expletive deleted) TriBeca!”
I don’t know whom this town belongs to now, but at those prices, it sure as hell isn’t me.
The Princess is so grateful for her piece of Seven Castles paradise. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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