Writing Switch: Wirst Take | AspenTimes.com
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Writing Switch: Wirst Take

Benjamin Welch and Sean Beckwith
Writing Switch

The art of the take isn’t so much about being right as it is about going viral. I could have a color-coded binder with irrefutable points and counterpoints and meticulously dissect the argument of the person across from me, but if my voice doesn’t have that high-pitched, surprised tone, it matters not.

Well, you can’t actually hear our voices — unless you know us — so you’re going to have to assume that we’re both screaming our sides of the debates below. PREPARE TO BE UNNECESSARILY SHOUTED AT FOR EFFECT!

Is it appropriate to host the Food & Wine Classic during 9/11?



BW: Similar to hearing someone recap the early days of COVID and “little did we know” every March for the rest of our lives, I personally wouldn’t mind being absolved of other people’s “you’ll never forget where you were” stories on Sept. 11. Yes, you were in class, the teachers were upset, everyone was aghast, I know. I know I know I know.

Clearly, these two events have parallel impacts in that they broke the universe and forever altered humankind’s destiny, and it’s important to recognize that and memorialize the 3,000 people who unexpectedly died Sept. 11, 2001. Yet, I am disenchanted with the fetishization of 9/11 remembrance. I realize we’re supposed to never forget, but is the mantra that was used to recruit young American men and women to enlist in a fruitless global conflict that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide really a cause for such pomp and circumstance?




It just turns me off that 3,000 Americans are going to die in the next couple days from CORONAVIRUS while the same flag-wavers are actively perpetuating the continuance of a pandemic. Hell, I’m the only registered Republican I know who is vaccinated (and I’m actually a Libertarian, so that puts the weight of the country’s problems on your shoulders, not mine; I didn’t vote for a single one of these bastards).

Are we supposed to just cancel the Food & Wine Classic — or anything else that’s allowed in this very brief pre-lockdown 2.0 window of acceptable entertainment — because we’re required to be sad and wallowing all day? Nah, let’s just raise a glass, since that was on the agenda anyway, and instead try to eke some joy out of this respite from home imprisonment that I’ve admittedly come to enjoy.

I believe that in the future, Sept. 11 shouldn’t be pimped out as this grotesque display of American strength, but perhaps as a recognition of the final time when we could actually look at our neighbors and truly say “we’re all in this together.“

SB: The question should not have been, “Was it appropriate to hold the Food & Wine Classic on the same weekend as the 20th anniversary of 9/11?” But instead just, “Is it appropriate to hold the Food & Wine Classic at all?” This isn’t even a CORONAVIRUS take, it’s an optics take.

This city is so damn (and justifiably) worried about mental health and substance use issues, yet we hold booze fest after cider fest after beer fest after wine fest after apres cocktail fest, and not one has nary a booth or seminar about the risks of substance use or even a talk about being self-aware of your intake. Isn’t that essentially what Sober September is an acknowledgment of? I know I’m guilty of losing sight, and track, of when to start reaching for La Croixs instead of Coors.

However, I’ll be the first to admit that F&W is one of, if not my favorite, weekend on the Aspen calendar. The gauntlet of industry parties, excess, top-shelf everything and grand tastings is designed to be as stereotypically glamorous as possible. Aside from Ben’s, I guess, remedial grilled cheese expo, what about seminars like Wines for Quintillionaires doesn’t scream, “You can be like ‘Succession,’ too!”

So, should we have be highlighting the wealth disparity and yelling at Mark to “Open the wine!” even though Chef Mark could barely assist the actual chef let alone pop a bottle of cab sav on the same day that we’re supposed to be honoring 9/11? I think you know the answer.

How do we preserve the grass at Wagner Park?

SB: I would say don’t do anything to the grass and let it turn into a dusty expanse that’s covered in dog shit despite its constant use, but we already have that in Smuggler.

The only solution to the eternal problem that is the often-trampled surface at Wagner Park is to replace it with turf. Instead of re-sodding it five times a year, put down whatever they installed on the high school field and relax while the crowds, dogs, rugby players, horses, etc. run roughshod.

Don’t recoil at the thought of a synthetic park; pretty but fake might as well be Aspen’s unofficial motto. Plus, the park will always be open and look great, which is more than I can say for about half the businesses in town.

I don’t know the specifics on sanitation/pet waste as they relate to fake grass, but there has to be a way to clean it that’s also cheaper — and creates less letter to the editor outrage — than shutting down the busiest park in town to replace the grass, again. But thank you for your concern, Mr. Stevenson, we got this.

BW: Obviously we should cancel Food & Wine, snow polo, Ruggerfest and every other activity taking advantage of that lush green foliage between our toesies (I’ve always advocated this). How dare we let these greedy corporations profit? How can we, as Aspen — ASPEN! — be a leader in climate change if we’re hypocritically mowing the lawn or, god forbid, allowing people to trample each individual blade? What’s next, are we gonna build a lift in Wagner Park? Don’t you remember that fire a few years ago? We really can’t afford to let people continuously abuse Mother Nature, especially when ants and beetles have habitat there.

Let’s paint a huge Old Glory over all open spaces instead, and I’m sure the huddled masses will be tentative to tread upon it.

Should locals feel entitled?

SB: Being somewhere before someone else doesn’t make you more of a local. The very idea that you can be more of a local than another local doesn’t make sense. I’m the localest? Most local? If you live in a place permanently you are by definition a local.

That’s why the people who flocked here like they were A-list passengers on the Titanic and Aspen was a lifeboat are, unfortunately, locals.

The people threatening to sue over new affordable housing on Cooper Avenue? Locals. The people trying to stop traffic from taking the other way out of town? Locals. The group advocating for a new lift on Aspen Mountain before work on the other new lift has even started? Locals. The people driving the omnipresent Texas-, Florida- and New York-plated Range Rovers and SUVs? Locals.

Yes, I know stashes on every mountain and a few cool swimming holes up Independence Pass, but hell if I could give you a restaurant recommendation because I haven’t been to most of them. The segment of the population that’s been here 10, 20, 30, 40 years is shrinking and gradually becoming the minority if they aren’t already. Aspen hasn’t reflected those people’s perception of a local for some time now, and it’s not like we’re going to tear down The Little Nell and resurrect the brothel any time soon.

Grow up, Peter Pan, Count Chocula. The city of Aspen — swanky, expensive, exclusive, snobby, stuffy, largely hollow — and its locals are closer to being in lockstep now than maybe at any point over the past 20 years.

BW: I refuse to acknowledge anyone as a local solely because they live here (sometimes). Hell, you and me, Sean, are the only locals left.

Just having an 81611 address doesn’t make you a local, it makes you a resident. Nah, the real locals have PO Boxes at 81612. Localization requires a certain spirit, a soul, that is absent from most who have recently started sleeping here 50% or more nights of the year. That spirit varies from person to person, of course, but at its core, it should feel a little … grungy.

Locals, in the traditional sense, should absolutely be entitled. Easy for me to say, of course, as I approach my seventh Aspeversary next week amid the constant stream of VRBOers wandering into and out of my building and the house next door that used to belong to a city councilmember and throughout the neighborhood in general. Shit, let’s just all go by one name; it’s pretentious enough and makes everyone easily identifiable.

We aren’t “locals” because we can reminisce on how we used to go to the Red Onion (though that was nice), or whatever, but because our day-to-day lives theoretically contributed directly to the benefit of the community as a whole, and not just existing in it to fulfill some checklist of prosperity. I’m sick of muttering “the death of Aspen,” but it’s pretty clear that the shared camaraderie once omnipresent between lifties and bartenders and, um, newspaper copy editors and other grind-it-out folk who were lucky enough to be here during that time is turning into a relic as our numbers diminish.

Still gonna carry my L-card and sneer as much as possible.


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