Roger Marolt: Trying to help the Sun rise again tomorrow
It’s a unique time in the world of news from things of global importance down to neighborhood gossip.
The masses are overloaded, overwhelmed and plain tired of coronavirus news, but at the same time not much else seems important enough to put much thought or ink into. Even the weather seems less important as skiing is gone and golf slow to start. On top of everything, there are no sports on TV.
So, here is my weekly Snowmass Sun column in the center of The Aspen Times in the center of our town on complete lockdown in a world spinning completely normally, but which feels like a ride on a Tilt-a-whirl. And I am caught trying to make a good first impression.
Newspapers in small resort towns get hit hard in recessions. A recession caused by a virus and the necessity of controlling the spread of contamination by shoeing tourists away and confining locals to house arrest is the worst kind. At least in the financial system collapse of 2008 it was still a possibility to entice someone to visit your restaurant with a discounted daily special or consider buying a new house with a commission cut. Now there is little reason to locally advertise anything because there is nobody here to buy it even if they wanted to.
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The Great Recession seemed to metastasize more slowly than this one and it took forever to resolve itself. Maybe this one will give itself up as fast as it hit. We had to rely on bankers and politicians to solve the last one. This time it is most likely in the hands of the scientists. I like our chances more now.
In the meantime, this is why our Snowmass Sun, an independent small town newspaper, now must appear like a pullout section of The Aspen Times, like a bundle of discount coupons or a glossy celebrity feel-good magazine. We are an independent newspaper that has lost its independence for survival’s sake. I suppose it is what all of us feel like in this time of quarantine.
But getting back to the business at hand, some of you read my column Friday in the Aspen Times, which has appeared there for the past 17 years, so you are wondering what I mean by “make a good first impression.” What I mean is that there is a difference between “Roger This” and “Cluster Phobic”.
And you ask, “What the hell is ‘Cluster Phobic?’” Well, it’s the Snowmass Village version of me in print. And, yes, it is still me writing both columns every week, but I am not the same in both places. It is not purposeful. I didn’t even believe it at first. Nonetheless, people who read both tell me that my tone is distinctly different out here, as if I loosen my tie and pour myself a stiff one before sitting down to type at home.
I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising when you think about it. Snowmass has an entirely different flavor as a town than does Aspen. If the two were ice creams, I would say Aspen is passion fruit with sea salt and caramel swirls while Snowmass Village is vanilla with chocolate sauce and a few nuts sprinkled about.
Aspenites who don’t know better might chuckle smugly and say, “Sounds about right.” Go ahead. The truth doesn’t hurt. The fact is vanilla is the most popular flavor of ice cream, by far. It’s good. It’s pure. It never fails to please. It has way more vitamins and far fewer calories than the other flavors. OK, maybe that’s not true, but nobody who’s eating ice cream cares about physical health in the moment anyway. Vanilla is not for show.
As it applies to writing an opinion column, vanilla ice cream feels easier to scoop. You don’t have to dress it up. You plop it on a cone and few complain. What you see is what you get. You save a fortune on little wooden taster spoons. The line moves faster, tips are steady, and everyone leaves satisfied.
So, to me the Snowmass Sun is like a neighborhood ice cream shop. It’s cozy. You stop by and instantly feel like a local; no need to pretend and make a big deal about how long you’ve been a customer. Everyone knows and, better yet, nobody cares. We get a lot of repeat customers. My hope is that you become a regular after getting a double-dip of me during the ensuing weeks as the prevailing business strategy is take one and get the other for free. It’s kind of a fantasy world out here. Aside from Base Village, we are what Aspen used to be.
Roger Marolt wonders why more Aspen businesses don’t advertise in the Sun since The Village is where lots of Aspen tourists stay. Email him at email@example.com.
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