Princess: The Aspen that I love
I guess my love affair with Aspen isn’t quite over yet.
Just when I was ready to hang up my tiara, I had a series of those only-in-Aspen moments (#onlyinaspen) that remind me of exactly what the hell it is I’m doing here.
It started Saturday night when my friend gave us some passes to Laff Fest. Let me just digress for one sec to say it does appear that this career I’ve carved out for myself as a freelance writer is starting to pick up again after a lull that lasted about, oh, six years and had me spending a lot more time in the yoga studio than at the keyboard, if for no other reason than I had no other work to do. In what was already a low-paying field, freelance rates got lower, assignments got fewer, and the free perks all but disappeared. I definitely consider those freebies — say a press trip to Alaska or a free night’s stay in a five-star hotel — as part of my income, especially considering that wealthy people might have the money to do that kind of stuff but don’t have the time.
In the past six months, the assignments have come rolling in, and so have some of those hookups that I’ve been missing for so long. It’s not like I’ve been invited to stay at the Four Seasons in Montecito or, say, the Timbers Resorts property in Italy for a press trip (ahem, May Selby: Hook a sister up!), but I have been able to have some amazing experiences lately on the hiz-ouse, and Laff Fest is one of them.
Ryan and I went to see Tom Papa on Saturday night, and I honestly had no idea who he was until just now, when I found his official website (TomPapa.com) and watched a three-minute video of appearances with the likes of Jay Leno, Oprah, Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. He’s done voice-overs for animated movies, had a few small roles in movies and hosts his own radio show, “Come to Papa,” on XM radio, where he’s interviewed the likes of Mel Brooks and Matt Damon.
Duh — no wonder he was hilarious! We walked out of there totally baffled as to how someone could make you laugh for 90 minutes straight. I mean, laugh so hard your belly hurts and your cheeks get sore and you start to worry if the guy sitting next to you is starting to get annoyed with your husband. I guess it’s because he happens to be one of the top comedians out there and somehow, someone got him to come to Aspen and perform a sold-out show at the Wheeler Opera House. Special thanks to Marlon for hooking us up with the best seats in the house, especially considering we were too lazy to wait in line with everyone else who was freaked out about getting a good seat, and we also weren’t done with our beers.
After the show, we went to New York Pizza, which is always a great place to go when you want to return to a version of Aspen we all know and love, a place where you can feel grounded and you can afford it and be among your own peeps (even if half of them are teenagers). I wasn’t in the mood to blow 100 bucks on dinner, and I have to say, there are times when a slice and a fountain soda are as satisfying and delicious as a gourmet meal.
I found myself at the Wheeler again on Sunday afternoon for Stewart Oksenhorn’s memorial, where my friend Mike Miracle gave one of the most soul-exposing speeches I’ve ever witnessed with such profound vulnerability and tenderness that it made me proud to be his friend. It was an emotionally exhausting evening, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house as friends and family celebrated a true local whose life had touched so many people. I continue to be blown away by the way the community is able to come together in a time of crisis, not only to help those who are most deeply affected but to help one another.
For the past couple of years, I have started to question whether Aspen’s soul can stomach the astronomical wealth that has inadvertently changed the face of the town, not only in its property values and elaborate development projects (particularly those that have virtually wiped out any character or grit left in downtown) but also in the quality and attitude of the people who live here.
That question was answered when the Aspen community I know and love came out in force for Stewart. I saw so many people I’ve known and admired over the years: the characters, the ski bums, the writers, the artists and the playwrights and the performers, the image-makers and the athletes. People who live their passion and have managed to find a way to make it work, creating a meaningful life for themselves here in Aspen.
And for the first time in a long time, I felt so much a part of that. I felt like someone who can say I was here when, like, The Aspen Times was a place that celebrated free-spiritedness and individuality and had a liberal, anything-goes approach to small-town journalism that was unparalleled in its willingness to go there. I was also here when there was a purple building that was home to a cross-eyed cat and a long-haired hippie who wore socks with his sandals and one hell of a newspaper. It does mark the end of an era, but at least I got to be a part of it. And after what I saw Sunday night, the future looks pretty bright, too.
The Princess wants to wish her daddy a very happy birthday. I love you! Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gov. Jared Polis may have signed the so-called “Colorado Option” bill, but no one should be under the illusion that it is actually a public option.