Stone: When fantasy becomes reality, someone gets the horn |

Stone: When fantasy becomes reality, someone gets the horn

Andy Stone
A Stone’s Throw

Last week, I said I was thinking of running my cat for Aspen City Council because of his sad inability to control vermin, plus his total disregard for what anyone has told him.

Those two qualities make him a natural to join the current council.

But once the column was published, I realized I hadn’t discussed the matter with the cat himself. So — better late than never — I sat the cute quadruped down and asked him if he wanted to run for council.

He gave me a look of utter disdain — anyone who owns a cat knows that look well — yawned and yakked up an enormous, nasty hairball.

So there you go, clear as day, translated from cat-speak: “Screw the council. I’m going to be a developer.”

Our kitten also declared what kind of project he will be developing: affordable lodging.

Let me note that translation from cat-speak can be tricky.

The cat language mostly consists of expressions for eating small animals, defecating indoors and vomiting in the shoes of those who displease them — which also makes it the perfect language for developers, a species slightly more bloodthirsty than cats and slightly less loyal.

For example, when my cat says, “I will build affordable lodging,” the literal translation is, “They can sleep in my Kitty Litter.”

And when a developer says “affordable,” the translation in human language is “whatever the market will bear.”

So, a developer may refuse to make any guarantees on “affordable” rates, saying that his hotel will naturally be “affordable” because the rooms are so small.

But consider what that will mean come Christmas week, when there isn’t enough parking at the airport for all the private jets, much less room at the inn for desperate travelers.

Suddenly, those “tiny rooms” will become “intimate lodging at Aspen’s newest exquisite boutique hotel!” With prices to match.

Sure, I’m all in favor of “affordable Aspen,” but I’m also all in favor of unicorns — and the problem with both of those dreams is the same: When fantasy becomes reality, look out for the horn!

Even if the current “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” effort to create affordable lodging were to succeed (at sickening cost to the city’s character and history), what other parts of the Aspen experience would be affordable for the people crammed into those tiny rooms?

Is Aspen Skiing Co. going to chip in half-price lift tickets? Perhaps for a new “affordable” lift, where it will stick a meat hook through your belt loops and haul you uphill, dangling in the air like a side of beef in a slaughterhouse. (I’m sure FIS will love that one.)

Will the swell folks at United Airlines offer cheap flights to Aspen? Perhaps saving on landing fees by tossing passengers off the plane a thousand feet up in those friendly skies. (How friendly? They’ll throw your luggage out first to cushion your landing. That friendly.)

And please note: Even as the city pushes for affordable lodging, our roster of affordable restaurants is dwindling fast.

Boogie’s has closed. Little Annie’s is on life support under the tender care of Dr. Doom. The promised “affordable restaurant” to replace Cooper Street Pier somehow never got built. And Johnny McGuire’s was evicted by one of the new “affordable hotels.”

How cute is that?

As a firm believer in the free market, I have to say that the only real way to get affordable lodging is to build like crazy until we have so many hotel rooms that the price will naturally fall.

Supply and demand, y’all! It works!

But, for those who haven’t been paying attention, jam-packed is not the market we want to compete in. There are plenty of other resorts that specialize in “jam-packed.” They do it very well — or as well as it can be done, anyway.

Aspen has long focused on a somewhat more civilized approach.

Remember when Skico advertised that its slopes were “Uncrowded by design”? People used to snicker at that slogan — but will anybody be laughing when Aspen’s new motto is “Overstuffed by accident”?

Anyone who declares that Aspen needs more hotel rooms of any size, shape or price must fervently believe that town was not crowded enough over Christmas week, that the traffic jams were not annoying enough, that the airport was not dysfunctional enough.

Anyone who thinks that Aspen needs to be even more crowded than that probably thinks the extra 50 pounds they’re carrying looks good when it’s crammed into Lycra bike shorts.

You know what, guys? That extra flab doesn’t look good on you, and it looks even worse on Aspen.

I know, I know. Yammering old fogies like me are always complaining bitterly about how this or that new building will destroy the character of Aspen.

We’re right (of course), but the character that is being destroyed is more than just the look of the place. The changes in Aspen’s character go much deeper than any given ugly building — or stretch of ugly buildings.

As I have noted before, there are a lot of ugly buildings in downtown Aspen, and the town has survived their ungainly presence quite nicely, thank you.

But the newest unpleasant buildings are not, in themselves, the change in character. They are sad reflections of the deep change in character that led to those buildings.

Those older ugly buildings were modest little pimples. The new ones are bigger and prouder, standing tall and demanding attention. Not just ugly, but “Look at me!” ugly.

As the fella says, beauty is only skin deep, but ugliness goes clear to the bone.

We dream of unicorns, but what we get is a wild animal with a nasty temper and a sharp horn.

A rhinoceros is just a unicorn designed by an Aspen developer.

They’re working hard to turn Aspen into a hairball that would gag even my cat.

Litter box for rent. Inquire within.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is