Gustafson: There are whiners, and there are wine-rs |

Gustafson: There are whiners, and there are wine-rs

I propose a toast to those who drink heartily from a cup half full, washing down a gulp of life with a splash of gratitude. Add a small twist of cynicism and you may find the golden ratio.

While stopping quickly at the Village Market — uhh I mean Clark’s — the other morning, I had collected my mail from Jim, who’s on a first-name basis with most villagers, personifying community spirit. And I was feeling keenly aware of what a special privilege it has been living in such a Rockwellian-montage my whole life and of just how lucky my own children are to be here as well.

Moments later, while sitting in my car in the parking lot sifting through my mail, I accidentally eavesdropped on two diametrically different conversations coming from either side of my jeep. With both my passenger and driver’s side windows open, I listened as two men, both middle-aged white Americans and both seemingly on vacation, and likely of similar economic strata, were clearly having dramatically different experiences.

To my left, let’s call him Joe Grateful, exclaimed to his companion, “I am upright and walking and in the most beautiful place in the world, nothing to complain about here,” he smiled with sunlight in his face and walked across the street nearly into an oncoming car.

To my right, fully clad in this season’s trendy cycling threads, push-rolling his rental bike through the parking lot, a presumed father figure, let’s call him Johnny Killjoy, was spouting off in confrontational rhetoric asking, “Just how much do you think this vacation is costing me?” unaware of how some of us envious-onlookers may take that statement. He carried on about the price gouging; he was going to be no one’s fool. And I could almost see the cloud of his misery hanging right over him while the sound of cash registers rang through his head.

I suppose I could relate to both in one way or another, but there must be some balance between blissfully vulnerable and miserably cynical. Still, I had to ask myself, why is it that some of us roll with life’s punches while others can find fault in a flower; and I wondered, is there a happy and safe medium?

Perhaps at times we build things up and the expectations far exceed the experience, and at other times we can still find simple creature comforts to be humbling.

I remember occasionally finding myself sitting on the waiting couch in the Snowmass Village Salon, back in the ’80s when it was managed by Renee and located next to the upper level of the Stewpot and downstairs from the Mountain Dragon. I used to thumb through glossy catalogs and listen to the gossiping, preaching and theorizing while my mom had her hair done. I held on to a few precious nuggets of wisdom that seemed like the gospel coming from that confident crowed; those woman seemed to have it all figured out to my impressionable young self.

“If you got it, flaunt it,” they’d whoop in chorus, “… but if you don’t got it … flaunt it anyway,” and they would all laugh in sync. “Searching for gold makes it hard to see the silver lining,” was another of their saying that still echoes in my mind.

Of all of the offbeat comments I heard back then, perhaps my favorite was, “There are whiners and than there are wine-rs,” a favorite adage I’ve used myself and will not soon forget.

Earning the right to complain or knowing when to do so seems like an art. Still some — more than others — seem to have attained a level of respectability that earns them the right to openly and tactfully disapprove.

We can easily recognize that there is more to living here than just our impressive natural surroundings. Here in Snowmass, we enjoy a setting and a system that enriches our hearts along with our fiscal potential, and there seems to be so much to feel grateful for, much of which is owed to the dedication of those who were and are civil-minded enough to place the goals of the greater whole before their own vested self-interests. And when they protest, it’s good to listen. Therefore a little skepticism about those who would carve out too much for their own self-gains is also reasonable.

I’m personally of the humble belief that if I cannot offer a solution I feel leery about pointing out flaws. I’m more inclined to simply ask questions first — as I’m not sure that I’ve earned full complaint status yet.

For example, I’d like to ask why we were not presented any conceptual renderings of buildings 7 and 8 at the Upload for the Download? Not because I’m itching to critique or whine about the potentially unpalatable possibilities, but because I’m curious if we were being distracted; losing our way in the “hidden forest” or dreaming of “running away with” our lovers, oh yeah … and the free drinks, keeping us wine-ing instead of whining on our way down.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak my mind, ask my questions and collaborate. And it’s easy to find a silver lining with these inspiring mountain vistas as the backdrop.

In fact, anyone in town can fill out our Community Survey and speak up. I did it with a glass of finely fermented, but not sour grapes. With Joe Grateful sitting on my left shoulder reminding me to be thankful just to be here in Snowmass. Although I couldn’t quite shake Johnny Killjoy off my right, as he whispered “watch out for the distractions, there’s always a catch.”

So I’ll finish my toast to all those who feel enthusiastic about our improvements and “upgrades” and enjoy my moiety of merlot with a gilded chaser of unanswered questions, hoping that the right people are going to keep on asking so that all of our cups can remain at least half full. Cheers!

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind, after all, if we always agree, what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at

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