Halloween was my first holiday in Aspen, a memory that surfaced recently on my relocation anniversary date of Oct. 21, Old Millennium.
The Hotel Jerome, painted white with blue “eyebrows” as window accents, awaited its first renovation. The Little Nell was the bar where you danced in your ski boots long after the double chairlift of the same name shuttered for the day. Fuel pumps occupied today’s Paradise Bakery corner, and one block away where Mezzaluna dishes up pies and pasta was another gas station operating smack dab in present-day prime shopping territory.
Remaining constant through the passage of time and myriad high-country real estate cycles is Carl’s Pharmacy, aka “Halloween Headquarters.” Then and now, past the cards and the candles and the cubby where pharmacists fill prescriptions, beckons a staircase to another world.
It wouldn’t be incorrect to recall that “Monster Mash” was playing on the radio as my 20-something self ascended the steep stairs to a world of cobwebs and costumes. The vibe was a mix of fun and frenetic on this Halloween afternoon as the rush was on to pull together garb suitable for what I would soon learn was Aspen’s favorite holiday.
No self-respecting local would dare venture out for All Hallows Eve sans costume in those days. Those who preferred to gawk rather than dress up were advised to stay home and answer the doorbell for the neighborhood kiddies.
Severely short of cash as jobs, especially for new arrivals, were scarce during offseason, I looked longingly at the packages of pre-made costumes priced well beyond my meager budget. Almost ready to throw in the towel and resign myself to skipping my first Aspen locals’ holiday, a guy a little older and clearly wiser somehow sensed my dilemma.
This new acquaintance grabbed a pair of pink bunny ears off of a cluttered shelf, placed them gently on my head of curls and declared, “Your Halloween costume this year is a ski bunny.”
Perfect! I had at least two ski sweaters that were still to be unpacked in my small room on Sierra Vista Drive that could fill out this costume quite nicely. I opted for the more modest of the two tops — slutty has never been my fashion style — and affixed a makeshift cotton tail to my Roffe ski pants for emphasis.
Carl’s delivered for my first Halloween and has continued to do so for me and others in our household as the years unfolded. But there was something so special about that first Halloween in Ute City, as I approached the holiday and my adopted hometown with the starry eyed innocence of youth and a guilelessness that seems like a relic in this more cynical age.
My ski bunny costume, as simple as it was, was a hit and a town of perfect strangers was becoming a home of new friends. Oh, that first Halloween, which seems alternately so long ago and then again, just like yesterday.