Kaya Williams: Business or pleasure? Usually, it’s both | AspenTimes.com

Kaya Williams: Business or pleasure? Usually, it’s both

Sure, life is fun here. But it’s the people make it memorable.

Kaya Williams, reporter for the Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun

I have to make a confession: Sometimes, when I’m riding the bus, I like to watch people read the newspaper. Especially if I know they’ll read something I wrote.

Maybe it does something for my ego. We’d all like to think our work is reaching the right audience and making an impact; if readership on the bus isn’t confirmation of that, at least it’s a hint we’re on the right track. Maybe it satisfies my penchant for nosiness; I didn’t get into a career in asking questions for no reason.

But I think I really enjoy staring readers down on the Hunter Creek loop because it reminds me why I love this job and this valley: the people.

Sure, there are an excessive number of “holy smokes this is cool” moments that come with being a reporter in Aspen. I’ve spent the past month covering rodeos, theater showcases, concerts, mountain summits, hot air balloon festivals and live cooking demonstrations; there are few jobs out there that combine business and pleasure as much as this one.

What made those experiences memorable wasn’t necessarily the events themselves, though, nor the smug bragging rights that can accompany ludicrously fun assignments.

Rather, it was the people I experienced them with and adjacent to that made each instance worthwhile: the state legislator who hopes to preserve Colorado’s western heritage through events like the Snowmass Rodeo; the playwright who dug deep on identity to craft intersecting narratives produced at Theatre Aspen’s Solo Flights; the man who so loved Sheryl Crow that he spent 100 hours making her a guitar and tried to hand it off at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience.

I am spectacularly lucky to have friends willing to entertain a near-alpine start for banana bread at 12,965 feet, to meet hot air balloon crews who welcomed me as a first-timer with a longstanding tradition of post-flight bubbly sipped on all fours, to hear Andrew Zimmern tell stories of personal and culinary history at a Food & Wine Classic seminar that seemed catered to my own love of food and narrative.

Often, I find that my favorite stories come from the characters who one can only find by being present at just about every happening that happens to happen around here. That includes festivals, yes, but it also includes town council meetings and school board discussions and grassroots community events; I consider myself just as lucky to attend those, and to have the privilege to connect with the people involved in them.

It is deceptively easy to get swept up in the waves of Aspen energy, almost to the brink of exhaustion; we live in a beautiful, spectacular place that can be at times overwhelming in its quantity of once-in-a-lifetime events that for us are more like once-every-week occurrences.

(This column was very nearly a retraction of my August lament that summer was passing too quickly; I am deep in dangerous bonk territory, and frankly, we could all use a nap or a halftime intermission.)

But the housing lotteries, the mayoral proclamations of appreciation, the draft resolutions — those are the things that lay the groundwork for the community we enjoy when we’re all gussied up among the quintillionaires with our media and volunteer event passes.

JAS Labor Day will go down in my books as a great festival experience in part because I ran into a columnist, a town council member and a longtime municipal staffer, all of whom I know and love from my day-to-day Snowmass Sun reporting; part of the pleasure at Food & Wine came from bumping into several people I talk to every month while on the schools and Snowmass beats.

The real reason I — and, I imagine, a lot of my colleagues — are in this small-town journalism gig is the sense of community that comes from telling the stories of our neighbors and knowing those stories reached the one right person at just the right time.

It’s some special thing knowing that one right person might also be on the 6 p.m. from Rubey Park, isn’t it?

If you’re reading this on the bus right now, Kaya Williams cannot guarantee that she isn’t sitting five rows back, smiling under her mask because she saw you open to the Commentary section. She covers education and Snowmass Village for the Aspen Times and the Snowmass Sun. Email her at kwilliams@aspentimes.com.


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