Stone: Some Quiet contemplation

As we swing into the doldrums of mid-January (the original reason for Wintersköl, one may recall), it does appear that the valley has once again survived the annual heavy-metal invasion of the Aspen Air Force: private jets wafting their billionaire owners to their second-, third-, fourth-, or even fifth houses. (Not “homes,” please.)

Now, as that tide has ebbed, I wonder if the assorted mansions of the West End are waking up to the empty feeling of someone who passed out at midnight and looks around on the morning-after and asks, plaintively, “Where did everybody go?”

For those days of the Christmas-New Year’s bacchanal, the West End does, indeed, blink back to life — a sort of annual Brigadoon — only to succumb swiftly to its semi-ghost town status. The Quiet Years redux.

And so, in honor of this annual cycle of rebirth and re-death, I offer a poem by John Updike, one of America’s great writers:

Slum Lords
The superrich make lousy neighbors—
they buy a house and tear it down
and build another, twice as big, and leave.
They’re never there; they own so many
other houses, each demands a visit.
Entire neighborhoods called fashionable,
bustling with servants and masters, such as
Louisburg Square in Boston or Bel Air in L.A.,
are districts now like Wall Street after dark
or Tombstone once the silver boom went bust.
The essence of superrich is absence.
They like to demonstrate they can afford
to be elsewhere. Don’t let them in.
Their riches form a kind of poverty.

Andy Stone
Missouri Heights