Roger Marolt: A sucker punch needs to be answered with a knockout | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: A sucker punch needs to be answered with a knockout

Roger Marolt
Roger This

I remember the first time I got sucker-punched. I was in basic training for the Navy, engaged in a boxing match that provided the only entertainment in our lives during that period when we were confined to the base for military indoctrination. The bouts were called "smokers." It was a Saturday night ritual; good, clean, almost fun.

I was locked in battle with the scariest fighter in our battalion. I was bigger then, about 190 pounds, but he had me there by at least 10 more, and he was a couple inches taller to boot. The equalizers, our instructor told me, were that I had arms as long as an orangutan, fists the size of bricks and, besides, he said, "he's even more clueless in the ring than you." They paired the two of us every weekend and the result was always worth the price of admission, which was nothing; more comic relief than athletic display.

We were nearing the end to the second of three rounds: sweating, panting, dizzy and temporarily insane. Sensing the approaching bell, we let it fly, punching furiously at each other and the void. I heard the bell and stopped. Then, I felt the uncontested blow to my gut. My abdomen was relaxed and it felt like the punch reached into my lungs and tied them off tight. I couldn't breathe, couldn't speak, couldn't straighten up.

"Sorry," my opponent said, with a faint smile. "Heat of the battle."

I have tried not to put myself in a position to be sucker-punched again, but then nobody ever thinks they are going to be sucker-punched. There is an element of naivete involved, thus the "sucker" and "punch" come together.

I, and others I suspect, got sucker-punched recently. I don't know if it came from the Gorsuch Haus gang or the Brown brothers, or both. Whatever, it knocked the wind out of me and I am only now catching my breath. I don't intend to waste it.

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I went to the Lift 1A parties, aka information sessions with drink coupons. I listened. I learned. I gave input. I felt good about the process.

We went from moving the ski lift on the dark side of Aspen Mountain up the hill another hundred yards, with the proposed Gorsuch Haus Hotel wrapping around the bottom of it so that it would effectively cordon off access to locals and practically become a private ski lift for hotel guests, to finally agreeing that the Gorsuch Haus should be built to the side so that the new ski lift could be brought down through a corridor created by moving the Brown brothers' lodge a little here and there to where its grandfather lift originally began near Dean Street. The plan morphed from crappy to happy!

I bought fully into the plan. Lots of locals did. And then the hammer blow came out of the black, as in the developers' bottom lines. As soon as they knew they had us hooked, and not a second after we collectively relaxed our guts, they hit us with a demand that they get a payoff from the city in the amount of $4.3 million to build their ski museum and make improvements to Dean Street, both things they had promised to do themselves.

Incredibly, if not inexplicably, our elected officials gave in to this extortion. City Council's cave-in is the biggest in Aspen history since the one that formed a pond in Glory Hole Park, the difference being this one doesn't hold water.

The developers' argument is that this project will be so great for all Aspen, that its citizens should help pay for it.

Isn't all approved development supposed to be good for Aspen? And, if the project is as great as the developers claim, don't they stand to reap a hell of a lot more from it than anyone else?

Getting back to my boxing match in the Navy, I would like to tell you that I came out in the final round and knocked out the cheap-shotting bastard. Sadly, the truth is that I couldn't recover from the dirty blow below the belt and he ended up beating the crud out of me. Obviously, I have not gotten over it.

I still rewrite the memory in my mind. I stand resolute and land the shot that lays the cheater out. As the referee counts down, I stare down at my opponent on the canvas. "Don't let it happen again," I yell so everyone can hear.

Roger Marolt likes the plans for the Lift 1A corridor, but not the ransom note attached to it. Email at roger@maroltllp.com

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