Switch Up: Goodnight, sweet prints | AspenTimes.com

Switch Up: Goodnight, sweet prints

Benjamin Welch and Sam Wagner
Switch Up

When we first came up with this topic, cackling over the first beers we’ve ever been comped at Zane’s after years of patronage, it felt like a sign, an omen. And it was — an omen of demise, that is. Things that seem slaphappy and silly at midnight rarely preserve their tenor when your deadline was yesterday and you’re still sitting here thinking about being buried. Why so morbid? Partly inspired by a hilariously insensitive 1902 Aspen Daily Times obituary headlined “TIRED OF LIFE” and probably likely (de)motivated by words like “restructuring,” this week we put the “fun” in “funeral,” celebrate Band of Horses’ best song, and contemplate the going-away parties for different institutions, wailing widows notwithstanding.


BW: When Norm Macdonald died, somber interviews with his friends generally included them exclaiming that “I didn’t even know he was sick!” which is humorous because that’s the punchline to one of his more well-known jokes making the rounds on YouTube. That’s sort of how I feel about when people say “Oh, Ben wouldn’t want you to be sad. He’d want a party!” Well, let’s nip that in the butt right now. I’m going on the record saying I don’t want a “party,” unless it’s a pity party.

I want everyone to be devastated. I want everyone to sobbingly throw themselves prostrate at my casket. I want loved ones to jab their fingers into other loved ones’ chests while yelling “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!” I want the Staples Center, which is where I want my funeral to be hosted, to run out of Kleenex boxes — and seats.

I also think it’s weird when people reassure themselves with “at least he died doing what he loved.” I don’t want a thing I love to kill me. What a betrayal! This is bullshit! Nothing is more frustrating than unrequited love — trust me, it’s all I’ve ever known.

Obviously, the Good Lord can tap you on the shoulder at any time. But when and if I perish, I prefer a ceremony with little fanfare. Honestly, you can just stick a bag on my head and chuck me in the dumpster, assuming there’s anything left of me at all. I’m betting that when I kick the bucket, “disintegration” will be involved somehow, like that time Dr. Manhattan got locked inside the walk-in cooler. I want one of those newfangled gravestones that’s motion activated so I can leave behind some inspirational words of wisdom, but eventually the battery runs out and nobody can figure out how to replace it so my voice morphs into this disembodied, hellacious groaning.

I have a pretty good feeling that medical technology will advance so far in my lifetime that I’m going to be around for freakin’ ever. My luck, I’ll be some decrepit 86-year-old geriatric when they invent whatever drug will sustain you indefinitely, and now I’m forced to live the next 500 years with the body and attitude of a crusty, sour octogenarian. Hopefully age reversal will be included in all that and I can return to my prime (which, honestly, was like 19). It would be nice to be complimented on my physique, just one… last… time…


SW: Samuel Kenneth Wagner was found dead in his home last Sunday, surrounded by numerous computers and game consoles. They were all seemingly switched on and wasting large amounts of energy at a time where fossil fuel usage was still way too high, even in the green bastion of Aspen.

Sam grew up in a small town near Hilbert in the state of Wisconsin, a town that few within the state would be able to find on a map. Granted, the state of Wisconsin itself would be hard to point out by pretty much anyone who hasn’t lived there. Following a completely uneventful time in high school and college because, let’s face it, Wisconsin, Sam moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in search of big-city prospects. Here he learned the wonders of corporate employment, navigating days off that rotated on a monthly basis and surviving on tofu and a bag of apples when they temporarily cut his hours to try and improve their bottom line in an attempt to look better to prospective buyers. (Which might be illegal? No one ever came to a conclusion.)

From there, he moved to Aspen, the tight-knit community filled with second-home owners and hardworking transient lifties, where he stayed until his death.

A last will was found near his body detailing his final wishes. The note led by saying, “Writing. That’s all I wanted to do. Any kind of f—ing writing. I don’t care what it is.” The will continued, dedicating his electronics collection to a local child as long as they use it to flame their opponents in the deceased’s memory, and a life savings of $400 to be donated to a local animal shelter in the hopes that it sorta feels like he owned a pet, sorta.

In a last twist, Sam decreed that his head be put in cryogenic stasis, to be paid for by any curious billionaire in the area, until such a time that it can be placed in a jar “Futurama” style. Hopefully, the ideal living condition in the future is being perpetually able to make snarky comments about events without being affected by them.

As for the rest of his body, he requests it be cremated and the ashes scattered at a time where they will be blown back into the faces of his friends and loved ones, in order for him to have one final, obnoxious joke.


SW: Someone once said that a man dies two deaths, first when his body fails him, second when his name is spoken for the last time. (Who said this? I’ve heard answers from Ernest Hemingway to Gandhi to Banksy. That’s not the point.) I think the true death of Aspen may be similar. Aspen will be truly dead when the last person says, “I remember the old Aspen.”

I imagine it’ll go something like this:


A man exits the latest City Council meeting after vehemently arguing against a two-story affordable housing project that would be able to hold 50 workers needed to keep the city functioning. “Of course,” he says, “I support affordable housing in the city, haven’t you seen the traffic issues at the Entrance to Aspen? But, I bought this home for $18 million and lived here for three years, and I just don’t see this project fitting in to my community.”

Satisfied, he heads toward his favorite restaurant, high-fiving the stranger on the street, forced to live outside after being unable to afford living conditions. Unfortunately, the restaurant has been closed, construction crews already turning it into a temporary high-end jewelry boutique. Disheartened, he travels next door to the brand-new Asian-Mexican pub fusion, owned by an upstart Texas business conglomerate and complete with dimmed lights and a coat check ($15 tip appreciated).

He sits down and peruses the digital menu, wondering if the $27 orange sauce carnitas side salad would be a good start. After inserting his credit card into the attached reader, he places an order and waits. A short time later, the young waiter wearing a flannel and bow tie arrives with the food.

“Wow,” the man says. “You definitely look like a local. Wild time, this high season, right?”

The waiter half-nods, cleaning up the seven plates left by the last couple on a nearby table.

“Would you like anything to drink?” The waiter asks.

“Of course, gimme a shot of whiskey and a Coors Light.”

“Got it, the whiskey is a Japanese blended, and the Coors Light is flown in from Wisconsin, so that’ll be $31, just so you’re aware.”

With that, the lone waiter carefully steps into the back, dodging the automated machines carrying the receipts to other content patrons. He returns a short time later with the alcohol.

The man’s eyes light up and he says, to the wait “Hey, wanna do a shot with me? It is Aspen, after all.”

The waiter shakes his head. “Sorry sir, I’m required to pay for all drinks I take, and if I have more than 10 in a month, my rent for the studio upstairs increases. I’m already close to the limit after the owners came in last weekend and enforced a mandatory ‘apres event’ to draw in new customers.”

The two stare at each other for a moment.

“I’ll be back with your food. Have a good evening.”

The man looks down at his drinks, painfully aware of the lack of adhesion as his shoes lift off the impeccable floor.

“I remember the old Aspen.”


What happened to that man, you ask? He continued living a high-end and comfortable lifestyle, surrounded by some of the world’s most elite individuals.

As expected, in good old Aspen.


BW: Aspen deserves a proper funeral, but I think it’s one of those situations where most of her friends died before her. Can I call Aspen a “her” in this case? The term perhaps grows antiquated but I think a little romance here is acceptable. I envision a funeral for Aspen would be similar to the solar eclipse a few years ago: A bunch of people you sort of know standing in Wagner Park, awkwardly squinting at the sky and being like “that’s cool I guess” when you just want to go back to your table and drink more Patron XO Cafe. That’s what my eclipse was like anyway, maybe astrologers had more fun, IDK.

Aspen needs a big “do not resuscitate” tattoo on her chest, but then again, the proverbial paramedics were already here, said “yeesh” and walked away. The city of Aspen has more f—ing money than they know what to do with — I’m talking hundreds of millions of dollars — and what do we, the huddled masses, get for it? A “mental health” seminar starring the f—ing guy who famously told police “of course that’s coke up my nose, it’s Aspen!” five years ago. (Sidenote to that dude, if he’s reading: You made a hilarious joke that went viral — you’re a hero, don’t be embarrassed. Ride that wave forever.)

Um, yeah, we’re hurting because we can’t afford to exist here anymore, let alone get lunch for under $30; all our smart friends are trying to get the hell out of here and the ambitious ones already did; the unceremonious displacement of the entire remaining workforce in Centennial is fairly imminent; the looming threat of indefinite lockdown; dating options are nil (right?); and some may find portions of the current clientele distasteful.

I’m weirded out by people who aren’t depressed or, at least, cynical. I don’t trust them. And I don’t need empty platitudes from the gub’mint about “starting a conversation”; talk is exhausting. And what’s a therapist going to tell me that I don’t already know? “You need to get your life together.” Yeah, no shit, it’s just hard to get amped up when you’re awake for only three hours of daylight. Am I supposed to start setting an alarm? Is that step one? No thanks. Can I get a prescription?

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but instead of these huge voting initiatives over which arts organization gets more crayons, how about divvying up that infinite amount of money to the workers so we can continue to (*YAK*) serve?

If my dad knew I was turning into a communist he’d probably rescind his invitation for me to live in the basement after Aspen hocks me up like a loogie in 3… 2… 1…


BW: Like basically everyone else in the world, I do not understand fine art (see above: Band of Horses). But what separates me from the others is that I also do not pretend to — I wear my emotions on my sleeve. However, I did recently learn that the men depicted in ancient Greek statues are not well endowed because it was a sign of their virtuosity, or something. Now I feel no connection to my “David” tattoo at all; what a terrible mistake. Though I am really curious to see what a hirsute, engorged brute Goliath was. We are quick to forget attacks on masculinity have been continuous since at least biblical times.

I once had a whirlwind relationship with an actual living, breathing artist (at least, that’s how she was when I found her). She would say “enchilada” into a microphone and then draw the wave lengths, I shit you not. She’s like “I’m gonna sketch this tree” and I look awhile later and she doodled a 2-by-4 with hundreds of lines across it. It looked awesome and realistic yet I don’t know how she made money per se but it really put my 10 hours at the car wash into perspective. She liked it when I would come home wearing nothing but suds ‘n’ duds. I refer to that period as the Georgia O’Keeffe days, and what I wouldn’t give to go back. She wanted me to come with her to Europe for three months, all expenses paid, and in the biggest regret of my life I was like BuT i HaVe A jOb HaHa! Ugh, now I wanna keep writing about Funeral for Ben. DM me if you actually slogged through reading all of this.

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