Vagneur: Aspen’s noise woes nothing new |

Vagneur: Aspen’s noise woes nothing new

Ukrainian beauty queens and other whiners have taken the city by storm, or so we’re being led to believe. Even the City Council is attempting to put up a “no complaining” ordinance attached to new penthouse construction, as if it’s only the “rich” who complain. If we’re not bitching about something ourselves, we’re bitching about somebody else’s bitching. And if you think the latest round of complaining is news, you must be new in town. Aspen probably has more “bitchers” per square block than any other city in America; I guess you could say it’s a bitch.

Before the really big money hit town, people had enough sense to not live in the midst of one of the heaviest party zones in America. It’s quieter now than it used to be back when my buddy Dan and I would hit the bars for last call, playing the “2 o’clock shuffle” for real and watching the Hyman Avenue mall streetfights while drunks and other mentally short-changed revelers ironed out the evening’s slings and arrows.

In less sensitive times, most of the upperfloor residential living space was leased or rented to those who worked for a living in Aspen. There weren’t any exclusive penthouses built and sold to pay off construction costs. Nobody particularly wanted to live downtown; the accommodations weren’t plush by a long shot, but the rent was affordable, and it was close to work for those who tended bar or waited tables.

Back when my family was the only garbage game in town, we’d enter the downtown alleys at 6 a.m. (If that sounds harsh, think about this — we were completely out of the downtown area by 8 a.m. at the latest.) Clearly, that was a little rough on those who got off work at 2:30 or 3 in the morning. No sooner had they hit the sack and really got to sleep then some SOB would wake them up with not only a whining, loud truck engine, but one accompanied by the sound of steel slamming against steel as the trash containers were moved around and dumped.

As far as I know, no one ever wrote about it in the paper, but those folks certainly complained directly to those of us who worked the alleys. When particularly disgruntled, they’d yell down, using their best string of cuss words, one-fingered salutes, regardless of whether their aim was any good, they weren’t afraid to throw whatever was handy at us, with intent to injure or kill. We might have a beer with them later in the day, but the tension between us never really went away.

Those were working men and women, without a vault at the bank, and no matter their plight, no one had much sympathy for them. Take what you get, for this is Aspen and the wheels of commerce must roll, and the town will be cleaned up every morning, seven days a week.

It got serious when a peeved late-riser behind Arthur’s Chinese Restaurant took aim at one of my drivers through the sights of his high-powered rifle, calmly explaining that any further noise before 10 a.m. would be cause for immediate execution. We had to get the cops in on that one.

Along about the early ’80s, some condo owner above the Cooper Street Pier began complaining to the city about the noise periodically, complaints we totally ignored, as we had been given special dispensation from the city to make a racket that time of day. However, one early morning about 6:15, the mayor, having just been called himself by the unhappy citizen, dialed me at home and asked, “Did I wake you up?” When I replied in the affirmative, his only comment was, “Good!”

Having served my time in the arena of public debate over noise, I’ve developed a gut feeling that says the volume of noise complaints is directly proportional to the amount of money one has and the sense of entitlement one feels. There are no easy solutions, and just like Grendel in “Beowulf,” the subject will raise its ugly head time and time again.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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