Stone: Trying to make it to the Big Time
A Stone’s Throw
I was checking my email, and a new message popped up with the subject line “dangerous, narcissistic, ignorant.”
My first thought was, “Wonder which of my columns they’re talking about?” Followed by, “It must have been a good one. I really struck a nerve.”
I felt like a triple winner. Not one, not two, but three prizes in one.
Do you remember, from the first season of “Saturday Night Live,” “It’s a floor wax! No, it’s a dessert topping! … No need to fight, it’s both in one!”
Well, I was going one better than that. Three in one: a floor wax, a dessert topping and a carcinogenic environmental hazard.
I was so proud.
Imagine my disappointment when I finally opened that email.
It was from the Democratic Party, and it was talking about Donald Trump.
My dreams of glory, shattered.
OK! I’m no quitter. Eyes on the prize! I went to my “Column Ideas: Rejects” file to see what I could find that might get me back in the running.
First up was a story from the Aspen Daily News, headlined “Origin of smell near Viceroy hotel in Snowmass Village confounds experts.” The lead sentence was about a “foul stench” in Snowmass Village.
The experts are confounded? The answer is obvious: The “foul stench” comes from the inevitable decomposition of the corpse that is known as Base Village.
How many years can a failed project lie there before it begins to rot? Put a tag on its toe, and take it to the morgue.
Base Village is a “zombie” project. Not because it’s the walking dead — it’s not actually walking, after all — but because zombies are always calling out for “Brains! Brains!” and Base Village is desperately in need of exactly that: brains.
(What’s that you say? I’m being wildly unfair? Well, yes. That’s the whole point. Go back to the beginning of this column, and read it again, a little more carefully this time.)
OK. That’s one. But I need two more for that triple prize.
Back to my “Rejects” file. (Why do I focus on rejected ideas? Because if you’re looking for trash, you go to the dump.)
Next up: an entry that harked back to my childhood. Bear with me here.
A few miles from my childhood home, there was a legendary roadside hot-dog stand called Walter’s.
Walter’s was famous — and still is — for its superb hot dogs, sizzling on the grill, served with a secret-recipe spicy mustard.
This is not your average hot-dog stand. It’s been in business for almost 100 years. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The New York Times once declared, “These are hot dogs to be reckoned with.” And, according to Walter’s website, its hot dogs were “Voted No. 1 in the country by Gourmet magazine in 2001.”
Why am I going on about this hot-dog stand?
Because these days whenever I come across a reference to Walter Isaacson and his new, improved version of the Aspen Institute, with its never-ending stream of international celebrities from all walks of life, flying in on enormous jets or embedded in vast motorcades, accompanied by small armies of security guards, I can’t help thinking:
Walter’s Hot Dog Stand.
Ha! Eat your heart out, Walter Paepcke (with a little spicy mustard). There’s a new Walter in town, and his stuff is sizzling hot.
So … dangerous? Narcissistic? Ignorant?
Maybe. But we still need one more for the triple prize.
OK. Check the rejects … got it!
I paid a quick visit to the new Pitkin County Library the other day.
I know, it’s not really new, but it’s pretty much a brand-new building inside the original shell. Which actually makes it an almost perfect Aspen historical preservation and renovation project — exterior sort of preserved, interior totally new — except, of course, that there’s nothing “historic” about the library.
Still, a library’s a library, and how can anyone even consider saying anything less than ecstatic about a nifty new library?
Well … there’s this: When I walked into the new library, the first thing I was struck by was the amazing and truly wonderful sweep of sunlight that filled the room. It was bright and cheerful, and I thought, This is exactly the way it ought to have been in the first place.
The next thing I thought was this: Wait a minute! What happened to all the books?
A library is a place where you are supposed to be overwhelmed by books, but our glorious new library almost hides the books away as if they’re a slightly dirty secret.
The library is proud that it’s gotten rid of those rows and rows of towering bookshelves in order to let the light shine in — and that looks great … for an Apple computer store. In fact, what you mostly see at the new library are computers.
Libraries are supposed to be about books. Ink smeared on shredded dead trees. By definition. I looked it up (on my Apple computer): “Library” from the Latin “liber,” meaning “the inner bark of trees — and, thus, paper, parchment, book.”
I’m all in favor of computer access, but in a world where it’s hard to walk down the sidewalk or drive down the highway without getting run down by some fool staring at his hand-held computer phone, do we really need to turn our libraries into showcases for computer terminals? Answer: No!
OK! That’s three.
Am I dangerous, narcissistic and ignorant enough to qualify for the Republican presidential nomination? Have I reached Trump status?
I’ll answer that: No.
I say that because, reading back over this column, I’m a little embarrassed at how mean-spirited and nasty it is.
And although that email didn’t mention it, there’s one more quality necessary to reach the exalted Trump level: shameless.
I’m working on it.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is email@example.com.
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