Roger Marolt: Aspen Sucks!
It is a shot in the dark, a cry in the night, a scream for help, an act of desperation. Eloquence is of no avail. It’s time for the truth. There is nothing left but to yell from the top of Bell Mountain:
For the price of a box of bumper stickers we can tell ’em how we really feel. A cap with this slogan could bolster solidarity. If somebody is going to make a buck, it might as well be a duct-taped working stiff selling T-shirts spreading this message.
Action begs for an antidote to Skico’s “AspenX” campaign, the gross identification of Aspen as a mecca of hedonistic waste and excess, the sale of our simple pleasures for the highest price some rich fool will pay to have a guide show him how to gaze at the stars or ski in the moonlight. This does not augur well a theme I want permeating the culture of our roots and local sense of self, much less myself.
The building code is an invitation for outside tampering. Skico seems stuck in a midlife crisis. Huge outside money is making itself comfortable. The last thing left for locals might be the hard truth that clearly expresses authentic feelings about how our town’s name has been hijacked and diverted to the land bank.
This coarse expression is emboldened by Hunter S. Thompson’s prescient warnings about greed killing Aspen. It points an accusatory finger back from Shellman, Edwards and Kinsley urging concerted and continual effort toward municipal self-preservation. It nods toward the irreverent wit of Aspen State Teachers College. It is the shunt to avarice, arrogance and elitism clogging the artery carrying mind, body and spirit to the community’s heart. It is for everyone who came to Aspen identifying with a place not defined by conventions cupidity. This is not the way it’s always been. We are a mess today.
There is literal honesty to the expression: Aspen sucks massive amounts of fossil fuels. It sucks affordable housing from the workforce. It sucks exorbitant rents from independently owned restaurants, bars and small businesses. It sucks time from commuters. It sucks vibrancy from its neighborhoods. It sucks views by continually building bigger. It sucks peace and quiet through perpetual construction. It sucks extra cash for essentials like gas, groceries and a glass of beer. It sucks vitality from our sidewalks. It sucks up sense of security. Its vortex of greed sucks more friends, family and neighbors away every day.
This is what happens when a town’s organic identity is at odds with its commercially branded image. The increasing stresses of making a home in a town struggling to reconcile a brochure depiction of it replacing its real history is not sustainable. There is no peace in constant confusion about what we are. We are trying to create lives in outsiders’ experiments to see how much money can be squeezed from a community before it dies.
Some will say that “Aspen Sucks” is irresponsible, reckless and offensive. But is it more reckless, irresponsible or offensive than what Aspen has become?
Is AspenX less reckless only because it doesn’t contain a vulgar word? Would an “Aspen Sucks” bumper sticker honestly be more offensive than $14,000 per month rent for a two-bedroom condo that formerly housed working Aspenites, amplified bass thrumming from Snow Beach on Aspen Mountain across the valley to crush the solitude of Deep Temerity, broken promises triggered by $76.5 million worth of bait for an acre of land to flip a local development into one controlled by who knows what, Mark Hunt’s string of actionless promises to make town better by buying and sitting on every commercial property available?
We are surrounded by spectacular scenery and the skiing is great. But perhaps we finally know these are not enough to make Aspen a sustainable home worthy of raising a family or for spending a lifetime in. We need substance.
“Aspen Sucks!” will no more bring back the good old days than “Keep Austin Weird” slowed the popularity of that cool Texas city. But, what these organic municipal messages do is promote awareness of shifting attitudes and turn them back. “Aspen Sucks!” prompts immediate discussion that tells the would-be exploiters what Aspenites value in no uncertain terms. If not this, then we are at the mercy of living with the self-indulgent materialism that “AspenX” is aiming for. We are becoming something we aren’t. It’s time to acknowledge the truth before Aspen sucks the community out of the town.
Roger Marolt knows appropriate homemade bumper stickers and ball cap messages can be made from a roll of duct tape and a Sharpie. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.