Princess: What’s mine is yours | AspenTimes.com
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Princess: What’s mine is yours

Alison Berkley Margo
Princess’s Palate

After 11 years of writing about drugs and sex and other various R-rated topics that — let’s be honest — probably aren’t appropriate for a small, daily newspaper, I finally stumbled on the one topic that really gets people riled up.

It’s perfectly fine if I want to write about stuff like cocaine and partying and boys and subsisting on what I call the Mary Kate Olsen diet of nicotine, caffeine and vodka and getting Botox and being a shallow, superficial, materialistic danger slut.

But writing about buying a cute little puppy — now that’s stepping over the line.

When I first started writing this column, I wasn’t met with much resistance — at least none that I was aware of. I was like, well, a puppy back then, panting and drooling and curious and excitable. That first year in Aspen, everything was new. It was my first Food & Wine and my first Comedy Arts Festival and my first Halloween, and I covered it all.

I wrote about each and every experience with reckless abandon, and it turned out that people in Aspen just love reckless abandon. Reckless abandon was the town credo, and better yet, I seemed to fit right in.

Then one day, back in that first year, I walked into Carl’s Pharmacy to buy a six-pack of beer and paid with a personal check. As I was walking out, the guy behind the counter said, “We’ll see how long you last in this town.” He sneered at me, his green eyes taunting and mysterious against his olive skin and jet-black hair. He reminded me of the Gypsies in Spain I encountered when I was an exchange student there in the late ’80s. They would steal from you even when you were looking and seemed to posses some kind of special power.

I’m pretty sure Carl does possess special powers, but on the surface he’s just a cool surfer dude from Cali turned ski bum. Eventually we became friends and still laugh about that now.

Every once in a while, someone will say, “You’d better not write about me, but if you do, my name is spelled with an ‘e’ at the end.”

Or I’ll be at a perfectly boring party with a dull person, and they’ll go, “You’d better not write about this,” their eyes pleading and wide with hope.

I did have one guy threaten me with his lawyers if I ever were to write about him and our little tryst. I mean, who does he think I am, Taylor Swift? (“Trouble, trouble, trouble.”) Even I’m humble enough to know I can’t compete with that.

I have made mistakes. There have been occasions when I upset people I care about without meaning to, and that is always the worst-case scenario. Trust me: When I tell you I don’t get paid enough for all the backpedaling and flower-buying and apology-making that goes on when that happens. It sucks, and I hate it because once it’s out there in print, you can never take it back.

That’s the stuff that keeps me up at night and makes my heart race and makes me nauseated because it’s never, ever something I expected. If it were, I never would have done it in the first place.

I do try to protect everyone who is in my life by default the best I can, and whenever I think there is something potentially damaging, I let them read it first. But I don’t always know when that is. Over the years, I have learned a lot about what my friend Sarah likes to refer to as “the power of the pen,” even though most of the time I feel like the most powerless person in the world.

When I’ve had those crises with friends, it’s always between us. There are no letters to the editor or comments on AspenTimes.com or Facebook. There might be a flurry of emails and a lot of lost sleep and some difficult conversations and ultimately a peace offering over beers or martinis and gifts and a nice meal, but for the most part, it’s between us.

There was one instance in my career when I wrote a controversial piece that got me into enough trouble to put me in the public eye. That was back in 2004 when I was fired by Aspen Skiing Co. for a column I wrote about being a snowboarding instructor. Because it’s Aspen and because it was a First Amendment issue, the story went national. It was written about by The Associated Press and picked up by newspapers and radio stations all over the country.

I always say every journalist should have the experience of being written about in the press at least once. There is no better way to understand the mass media than to experience firsthand how powerful words can be, especially when they are being used against you.

Whenever I get an email from a reader bashing my column, I always thank them not only for taking the time out of their busy day to read my column but for responding. Writing is a very solitary and isolating activity. It’s just you, by yourself, with a computer screen. There is no sense of your audience. So when readers make themselves known, it can be a very powerful and gratifying thing, even if it’s because they disagree with you.

And isn’t that the point? These are the opinion pages, where dialogue and debate are, at least to me, an indication that I’ve written a successful column. That’s why I welcome and encourage people to respond and use this forum to promote the causes that matter to them — it is yours as much as it is mine.

At the end of the day, I love that Aspen is a liberal, free-spirited town that doesn’t discriminate against anyone — except, of course, my little puppy.

The Princess promises to come up with some new material. Email your love to alisonmargo@ gmail.com.


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