Vagneur: Burgers and belligerence |

Vagneur: Burgers and belligerence

Musings on life take one down strange but familiar paths, hopefully of interest to others. The big news of the week, other than a snowboarder getting pushed out of a ski-lift chair, was the closing of McDonald’s fast-food emporium. From the comments I’ve heard and read, it’ll be missed for a variety of reasons, none of them life-altering.

Many will be surprised to know that I was present at every Food & Wine Classic held in Wagner Park for about 20 years, and never did I miss a Grand Tasting held in the big tent. During that time, I held four passes, which I generously shared with other connoisseurs of fine wine and dining, people much like myself, and at the end of the day, after a magnificent whetting of my appetite, I would walk over to McDonald’s for a Big Mac and a bag of fries.

I’ve since given up on the Food & Wine Classic, over-satiated with its predictable menu of events and distraught at the interminable abuse of the park, but I hadn’t completely given up on McDonald’s. My girlfriend Margaret and I would sometimes head that way for a taste of ice cream after dining at some high-end restaurant. For those who shudder at such assumed palate abuse, may I say, “Je ne sais quoi.”

Back to the boarder who got tossed out of the chair at Highlands: If, in fact, the story fits the telling, then we have a serious problem. But it’s not the first act of ferocity to hit the slopes and likely not the last. Why is it that some people wear their inferiority complexes so close to the surface that a chairlift ride with a stranger can elicit such behavior?

If you ask my friend Sally from Aspen Mountain, you’ll be informed that we’ve dealt with a few crazies over the years, people who shouldn’t be out in public. My last serious encounter, a couple of years ago, was with a “local” who tried to push me off Tower 7 Road because he didn’t like my ambassador uniform. When that didn’t work, he tried to stab me in the face with his ski pole but wasn’t quick enough to get the job done. When he finally caught me at the bottom of the gondola and threatened to turn me in to Michael, whoever that was, I told him I hoped no one would pull his pass for his actions. At that, he crumpled into subservience and headed down the stairs, skis over his shoulder.

But the attitude of belligerence seems to have been amped up, and many people just seem angry in general. As mentioned a few weeks ago, my temporary return to my house in the Willits neighborhood was an eye-opener. To fully understand, you should know that when I bought that place over 25 years ago, my view out the window was of hay meadows, grazing cattle and, in the winter, a small herd of elk. My neighbors were Pete Glassier and Lee Willits, two solid, pioneer ranchers. Now it’s the Willits commercial subdivision — called West Basalt by the unimaginative Basalt Board of Trustees.

It’s different now. It’s a little city down there, and I’ve grown up with the changes and have some very good friends in the neighborhood, but the amount of traffic that uses Willits Lane and the warlike nature of some of the people are bothersome. Both my dog Topper and I got tired of the hand gestures and the “F— yous” yelled our way (coming mostly from big, bad diesel pickup trucks) as we tried to cross Willits Lane. We lasted a month.

There’s something disturbing about the insecurity one has that would compel him to push someone out of a chair on a high-speed quad, but we unknowingly do it to ourselves. Aspen’s a cool town, and it is unsettling to many trying to figure out how to fit in, feeling all eyes are on newcomers. What is acceptable attire in Bonnie’s or the Sundeck? Where’s “the” place for a downtown lunch or afternoon apres ski? Newcomers are afraid to say “hello” to strangers or to walk down the street, worried sick that their behavior isn’t “Aspen” enough.

Many young people today claim to be “locals” by virtue of the fact that they grew up “coming here.” They think they’re the only influential group in town and judge others based on their own relativity scale. Or how about the more adult crowd that claims to be local because they “summer here”?

It’s just too much stress for many folks, trying to belong in a town that really doesn’t care about all their self-absorbed bulls—. But let’s not take our inability to function and our need for relief out on fellow lift-riding strangers, even if they don’t ride the same boards we do.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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