Sean Beckwith: Living, er getting by, in Aspen doesn’t equate superiority
When someone asks me where I’m from, I say Omaha. When someone asks me where I live, I say Colorado. It’s a weird thing being more proud of a place that everyone makes fun of than a place that often elicits jealousy.
When whoever is interrogating me finally backs me into a corner and I have to admit I live in Aspen, their response is pretty much always, “Must be nice.” Yeah, it is nice, but I don’t actually live in Aspen; I get by in Aspen. This city carries a certain amount of pretension with it. It’s like saying you summer in the Hamptons or “I just love Ibiza” or “My family has a place in the Vineyard.”
I’m not sure how Aspen can get the public to reshape the perception of its residents, which is funny because it seems like the draw for a lot of the people who can actually buy property in Aspen is the Gonzo effect. They think that because they’re in Aspen, they are counterculture by association.
It’s like a rich white kid from the ‘burbs thinking he’s a gangsta because he sells eight balls of coke. I mean … what? You trying to emulate Hunter S. Thompson because you were moved by “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” isn’t as much an homage to HST as it is an insult to individuality.
Buying property in Aspen — or Colorado for that matter — is similar to asking someone if they’ve seen “Squid Game.” Man, you’re ruining it for the rest of us. I always get on my Writing Switch co-author, Ben Welch, that the more popular a thing is, the more he hates it.
I don’t know if it has rubbed off on me, but I’m starting to resent Aspen for that very reason. Quit telling me how great the place I live is because, honestly, you don’t know. I didn’t move here so I could tell people I live here. I moved here because it was the only internship I could get and my sister had a spare bedroom.
Oh, you’re inspired by Aspen’s beauty, too? How many oil paintings of Maroon Bells sunsets is enough? Next time you see a picture of the Bells, I want you to conjure an image in your head of a shit-sprayed toilet bowl filled with puke if not for any reason other than it makes me laugh.
I think that’s one of my favorite aspects of Kurt Cobain; the guy loved the ugly parts of life from his doodles to singing “Rape Me” on MTV. Perhaps that’s how Aspen solves its growth problem. Instead of Aspen Skiing Co. and ACRA posting stunning photos of technicolored mountain ranges, they post a shot of the stream of trash water that’s always flowing from the dumpster in the alley behind RootsRx onto Mill Street. Or in lieu of beautifully constructed sashimi platters featuring bright orange salmon and aura-dized tuna, they opt for a candid of the slowly oxidizing mystery steaks in the discount meat bin at City Market.
This notion that if we simply stop advertising Aspen or Telluride or Crested Butte, scores of tourists and second homeowners will stop invading is asinine. At this point, social media unknowingly does the liar’s share of advertising.
Holy hell, I think I may have found my new calling. Attention, mountain towns of Colorado, let me coordinate your new anti-marketing campaigns. If all the locals gave up exercise and took up fast food five times a week, we can turn people off using an ad campaign centered around excess body fat and back-ne.
Give me pictures of your gross, your disgusting, your muddled masses of downed, browned leaves, the refuse of your holiday weekends teeming with maggots.
Do that and I’ll have people turning up their noses at Aspen like it was Cleveland in February. If you want to end the reputation of Aspen that’s fueling so many to move here and get “good at skiing,” you have to make people realize — or, at minimum, think — that living here doesn’t equate superiority.
There may not be as much ugly here but that doesn’t make you better than a resident of a flyover state. What’s that kids book? “Everyone poops.” Maybe that takes the mantra mantel of “Uncrowded by design.”
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Email him at email@example.com.
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