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Sean Beckwith: Aspenites Anonymous

There’s a scene in “Avengers: End Game” that’s completely unnecessary and probably didn’t need to make the final cut where Captain America is running some kind of AA/survivor’s guilt meeting for people who didn’t get Blipped. It’s a group who are shells of their former selves due to the traumatic experience of, you know, half the life on Earth turning to dust.

At the time, it felt like a little much primarily because my first instinct was to say, “Get over it. I’ll f—ing blip you right now.” Then I/we went through something world-altering as well and I kind of got it.

On Saturday, I went out to eat and sat down inside for the first time since March. It felt semi-relapse-ish, like when you’re on colors and have to drink while looking over your shoulder because your PO might call “Orange” tomorrow (No? Just me? OK.) As nice as it was to sip a cold Cantarito out of a proper clay mug, it was equally frustrating flinching and squirming over people who are dining out with about as much precaution as a 20-year-old on probation.

As someone who almost went into hospitality/the food industry as a full-time career, there’s nothing sadder than the prospect of losing more one-of-a-kind eateries and establishments. The reason I was able to live and work in Aspen until finally weaseling my way into a job in journalism is due to two of the top five driving forces behind Aspen’s economy.

(I could write an ode to real estate but after dealing with realtors as a front desk agent for the past five years, it would come off as less of an ode and more of hate mail. Long story short, guests are to front desk agents what commission is to realtors. So, no, I can’t interrupt someone’s vacation for a showing.)

Shit, the reason I’m able to work in this not-so-lucrative industry and live in a not-so-cheap city is largely because of that seasonal job money. What a lot of people don’t realize about hospitality is the incredible bond that’s formed between staff over dealing with people who suck and working undesirable hours.

I’m not sure if it’s human nature or what but there’s exponentially less time spent lauding good behavior than bitching about that family from New York who can’t control the volume of their voice. We all know Mr. Peebles is dope; he never asks too many questions and tries to bother maintenance as little as possible.

If you’ve never went ridiculously hard in the paint with kitchen staff after a late shift in a hot kitchen, you’ll never understand the level of patience and compromise needed to make a restaurant hum cohesively. You’re not only sweating your ass off on nights and weekends, but you’re only able to socialize with coworkers — or other hospitality people also providing late-night business to area bars.

Once I transitioned to The Aspen Times full time, it felt like I was still part of the club. Because I work nights, I used to enjoy a nightcap at one of our esteemed watering holes and would take a shot of Rumple Minze with J.D., smoke a bowl in an alley with Joe, get an edible from Al, etc. I still see friends who cook and whatnot, but it’s not in that lovable “Oh, look who just ambled into the Onion” kind of run-in anymore.

What I so deeply wish for is not a marg at Mi Chola or the beer and burger special at Zane’s but for the people whose livelihood — and lives — give this town character and currency to have a little bit of stability this winter and, more importantly, a lot of certainty beyond that.

It’s no secret that restaurants and tourism are getting killed by the pandemic, and Aspen is no different. And it feels a little post Blip-esque. Short of actually seeing a shot of Jae-mo and Coco disappear mid-cheers, half of my Aspen existence might as well have vanished.

It hasn’t felt the same living in Aspen — or probably anywhere outside of a few Midwest states for that matter — but presumably you’d like to see as many small businesses as possible reappear when that snap/vaccine happens.

Until then, support taco shops and mom and pops, hotels and condos, and all of the other businesses having a difficult time.

If I thought that the majority of people were practicing social distancing and abiding by protocols, I wouldn’t be so squeamish over eating out. Unfortunately, that approach is still being, and will probably continue to be, questioned, so do your best by timing your meals around rushes, ordering takeout, buying gift cards or anything else you feel comfortable doing.

Now if I can only find out when that Aspenites Anonymous meeting is …

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at sbeckwith@aspentimes.com.


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