Princess: Taking the Lo road never felt so good
September 25, 2014
I'm having fall colorgasms.
I'm sorry. I can't help it. People say spring is the time of renewal, but for me it's fall. This beauty is somehow both opaque and razor-sharp, everywhere all at once. It reflects in the sun, catching the light, the trees whispering a come-hither as the quaking leaves purr every time the wind blows. I want to drink it in with my eyes, absorb it in through my skin and let it soak into my bones because I know that the very essence of something that is truly beautiful is that it can't possibly last.
There is a desperate, longing energy that brings, which is the reason why fall is the time I feel the most energized and inspired.
So Tuesday night when Ryan and I went to see Lo and Maria Semple give a tribute to their dad, screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., at the Wheeler Opera House, I was practically levitating off my balcony chair.
Every time I go to one of these things, to see a writer or a creative person speak, I always receive a message I'm convinced I was intended to hear.
Like the time I saw the author Ann Patchett at the Wheeler a few years ago. Someone asked her how she gets inspired. She said, "Inspiration is for high school kids writing poetry. Writing is work. If I waited to get inspired, I would never get anything gone."
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So you gotta hear the story of how I first met Lo. It was a random weekday hiking Highland Bowl in the middle of a dry spell a handful of years ago. It hadn't snowed for a while, and the bowl was empty but for hard-core locals like Lo who hike it every single day no matter what.
So I'm hiking, and all of a sudden I've got this guy behind me, and he starts chatting me up. And at first I'm like, "Oh, great. I just wanted to come out here for some peace and quiet, and now I've got this old loke whose missing a chunk of brain cells on account of living in Aspen back when it was still cool."
He starts rambling on about his days as a roadie with some heavy-metal band I vaguely recall liking in eighth grade. He sounds sort of half-cocked, but I kind of like the idea that there are still people like that in Aspen, guys who, for lack of a better description, look sort of bumlike and definitely don't fit the mold. I've always liked those types.
He seems pretty harmless, so I let him chirp in my ear, finding it a nice distraction up the ridge — you know, that one steep section that I have to count to 10 over and over just to get through without puking/crying/keeling over. Except this time I've got this random weirdo rambling on without even breathing hard. He's telling me about living in a tour bus and how he has a 20-year-old son, so I temporarily forget where I am. He's just kind of hanging with me, entertaining me. And now I kind of even like it. I like him, too, even though he's so out-there that I'm afraid he might be a figment of my imagination.
Then Lo takes me somewhere into the G-Zones I've never been before. It's a line that, no matter how hard I try, I'll never find again. Hidden in plain sight, there it was: a blanket of perfect, untracked powder.
So now my mind is totally blown, and I'm starting to think of this guy as some kind of magical snow nymph or like one of those Irish mythical creatures — what are they called again? Or maybe he's like the Pied Piper or Kokopelli, playing his flute and toting a bag of tricks over his shoulder as I blindly follow him for reasons I can't explain, his salt-and-pepper ponytail flapping in the wind.
It's not until several years later that I come to discover Lo is not just some ski bum but the son of a Hollywood screenwriting legend and the brother of a best-selling author.
So it kind of freaked me out to see him looking very comfy up there on stage in front of a sizable audience with his clean-cut hair and his suit and tie, reminiscing about being on the set of "King Kong" with the likes of a young Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges, what, when he was only 6 years old.
I wish I could say, "That explains a lot," but it really doesn't.
What it does explain is what I love about Aspen, that on the evening of a perfect fall day I can wander into the Wheeler Opera House, and for a mere 15 bucks, I can learn about a legacy of Aspen writers who left their mark on this world in a very big way. I can hear the message that the universe wanted me to hear, which in this case was the following:
If you care what people think of you or are afraid of rejection or take yourself too seriously, you'll never make it in this business. When you get stuck on a plot point, and you're uncomfortable and your instinct is to go with something big, you should think small, think about a detail that makes your story unique. And you should take the criticism that's the hardest for you to handle because that thing you're so attached to is probably what's standing between you and your success.
(Though to be honest, I didn't think of Bernadette as beautiful but odd. That was the marked characteristic that came across — her physicality seemed irrelevant. Maybe you can use the bush analogy in your next book, Maria.)
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm really glad to know you, Lo. Aspen can really use a guy like you.
The Princess can feel change is coming. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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