Stone: Day of the jackal — I mean, jacket
I was looking in the paper the other day and I saw a photo of Eric Cantor, majority weasel in the U.S. House of Rodents, with a great big smile plastered across his nasty little face.
He and the rest of his pack had just taken their best shot at destroying the national economy and denying affordable health insurance to tens of millions of U.S. citizens — and the smile was because in the weird world of weasels, destroying economies and denying health care count as major victories.
(Hang on! This is not a national political column. Stick with me here. We’ll get to Aspen in a minute.)
Right after taking a moment to wonder whether anyone in the U.S. Capitol would be left standing after a thorough spray of Weasel-B-Gone, my attention shifted to the fact that Cantor and his entire cohort of beaming varmints were all very properly dressed: ties and jackets. Suits, in fact — as is required for VIVs (that’s Very Important Vermin).
And that, in turn, made me remember the squeals of delight that emanated from Aspen’s right wing when the burg’s new mayor, Steve Skadron, showed up for his first council meeting wearing a jacket, a sport coat.
It was an outburst so raw and spontaneous that I’m surprised our local Ukrainian beauty/drama queen didn’t call the police to complain.
“At last!” they enthused. “A mayor who shows some respect for his office.”
Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway; I have space to fill), they were contrasting the new, natty Mayor Steve with what they regarded as the horror of Mayor Mick, who often showed up in bicycle clothes, even when he hadn’t ridden 100 miles to the meeting.
The idea that the mayor of Aspen ought to wear a jacket to “show respect” is a strange one indeed.
For many years, the exact opposite was true: Wearing a jacket was a sign that you really didn’t belong here.
I remember a county public hearing years ago when a particularly nasty development application was up for approval.
Scores of local residents turned out. Most were there to voice their heartfelt objections to the project, some to offer equally strong support.
The developer and his out-of-town planners and lawyers sat there and did their best to look like good people: concerned, interested in the community — you know the look: like a slick guy in a bar chatting up what he hopes will turn out to be a gullible young beauty. And what he wants to do to her is pretty much exactly what those developers had in mind for Aspen.
At any rate, one local man stood up to declare that the developer and his entire crew just didn’t understand Aspen.
He paused for a moment, let his gaze sweep around the room, jammed with locals of all sorts: workers, lawyers, politicians and planners.
“Who are the only people here in ties and jackets?” he boomed.
The entire room burst into laughter, while the developer and his hired guns — in their oh-so-respectable ties and jackets — squirmed and blushed and tried to keep those frozen fake smiles on their faces.
The hearing went on into a second day, and when it reconvened the following morning, you had better believe there were no ties and jackets to be seen.
The point is simple but not, I think, trivial.
Once upon a time, if you wore a sport coat in Aspen, it meant you didn’t live here — or you were on your way to a costume party.
(And, by the way, the same went double — no, triple — for spike heels on women. But let’s not even begin to get into that today.)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not in favor of official uniforms for Aspen (or anywhere else — except perhaps the military or behind the counter at a fast-food joint).
It’s OK with me if Mayor Steve wants to wear a sport coat to run City Council meetings.
Hell, it would be fine with me if he wore a pink tutu, a gorilla mask and a Carmen Miranda-style fruit basket on his head. (In fact, I’d love that.)
Look, I don’t really have much of a clear idea yet about Mayor Steve. We need to see what he does in office.
But the idea that wearing any particular garment somehow shows “respect for Aspen” is ludicrous.
But, if showing “respect” for Aspen is important — and depends on what you’re wearing — I’d think that the “jacket” you’d wear would be something in fleece or Gore-Tex from Patagonia or Mountain Hardwear.
What’s that? You say I’m living in the past? You think today’s mayor should reflect today’s Aspen?
Well, if that’s your position, I’d still argue that wearing a silly sport jacket isn’t the answer.
Today’s Aspen — hmmm.
Maybe I’d suggest that Mayor Steve should be wearing a bit of “arm candy” — something with breast implants and spike heels.
Or wait! Better yet!
How about a shot of Botox to go with his silicone sweetie? Then he definitely would be wearing the new Aspen look.
Plastic and proud.
Nope. I’m not buying it.
In fact, if you really think about it, I’d say that Mick Ireland’s biking gear showed a lot more respect for the real Aspen than any other item of clothing you could name.
You do remember the real Aspen, don’t you? A town filled with athletes, artists, philosophers, intellectuals — people who care who you are and what you do. Not what you wear.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is email@example.com.
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“When the Aspen School District Board of Education meeting ended four hours after it began on Sept. 21, it seems there was only one thing on which the more than 200 virtual attendees agreed: The meeting was emphatically difficult to watch,” writes Meredith Carroll.