On the town: Living on the edge in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

On the town: Living on the edge in Aspen

Jeff Bear
The Aspen Times

The water bubble grew from the ceiling above our sofa to the size of a basketball, straining the elastic limits of multiple coats of latex. So we rearranged the furniture and I balanced on a chair with a pocket knife, reached out, slit the monster open and watched its gray liquid drain into a 5-gallon bucket. Then we called the property manager.

Many full-time, employee-housing residents of Aspen occupy a space somewhere between gratitude and poverty. We’re grateful, of course, for the opportunity to live in an outdoor recreation lovers’ paradise, but are forced to live in tiny apartments with leaky roofs, questionable plumbing and 1970s-era, avocado-colored appliances.

My girlfriend and I were happy to have a place to land when we moved to Aspen, but nothing in our combined previous experiences prepared us for living in Aspen’s downtown core.

We didn’t mind the third-floor walk up; that is, after we’d lugged all our stuff up two flights of narrow stairwells. The high perch gave us a clear view of Aspen Mountain from our tiny patio. But we soon discovered the difference between a third-floor apartment and a penthouse in Aspen. They remodeled the building behind us shortly after we moved in, adding a penthouse apartment on top that completely blocked our view.

So without even a glimpse of mountains majesty, our attention turned instead to the alleyway below where deer and antelope didn’t play, but bears, foxes and the occasional raccoon foraged for scraps instead.

One night a bear family showed up, and we watched papa bear drag a heavy metal dumpster into the middle of the alley and pull it over so mama and baby bear could get into it. The police arrived shortly after and shot them with tiny bean bags until they ran off.

But other nocturnal creatures, of the two-legged variety, roamed our alleyway every night. Patrons of the bar in the basement of the Elks building used it for a variety of their miscreant activities, including, but not limited to, smoking weed, fighting, practicing cat-calls, shooting off fireworks, laughing hysterically, urinating, vomiting and engaging in various acts of fornication.

But the most startling sound we heard coming from the alley was the crash of 500 empty beer bottles hitting the dumpster at 2:30 a.m. every night. It was like the alarm clocks on “Dark Side of the Moon” — just when you think the mayhem has finally ended, they hit you with the auditory equivalent of a supernova.

Oh, and that water bubble? The property manager repaired our ceiling with a nice new piece of sheetrock, but failed to address the leak in the roof. So the next time it rained, several new bubbles popped out, forcing us to turn our apartment into an obstacle course of pots, pans and buckets.

So like Molly Brown on the Titanic, we hopped on the first lifeboat we saw and moved to Car-bon-da-lay where we’re still just a short, fun-filled bus ride away from our jobs in Aspen. Now, riding the bus … that’s a different story.

Jeff Bear is a copy editor for the Aspen Times. You may reach him at jbear@aspentimes.com.