There have been things said in letters and editorials in the local papers lately that are following a theme I don’t care for. I’ll give you two quotes, but omit the names of those from whom they came because it’s not about them. It’s about a dangerous attitude. The words are these:

“Change is constant. I recommend that the real old timers get used to it. The mountains are still here. Be happy.”

And: “Walk into a bar, any bar. You won’t find many crying in their beer. People seem not to be having such a horrible time. Winterskol, royalty, bonfire, fireworks! Lots of happy howls at the finale, couples holding hands, friends catching up and cracking up. Not much misery to be found here, either. …The problem here — and there are plenty, for sure — has nothing to do with any soul but your own.”

The suggestion is that my feelings aren’t real. I am not entitled to my sadness or sense of loss. There is no sadness in Aspen, didn’t you know? Wait, you’re feeling a little blue? Down and out? What’s the matter with you? You ought to be ashamed. The very least you can do is keep it to yourself.  

It’s a toxic spell, convincing us that, if we are sad here, there is no hope because it doesn’t get any better than this. Don’t complain, have another beer — and another, and another. Keep it all inside until you get home and take it out on your family. Perhaps, if you can’t maintain perpetual euphoria in Aspen, life isn’t worth living. It is a pernicious lie.

To the sayers of these poisonous quotes, I ask: Over which grievances are we simply wallowing in self pity?

Global warming, the war in Ukraine, a collapsing world economy, hunger, disease, the passing of loved ones? Which of these should we not be heartbroken over, concerned about or motivated to try to deal with? All of them? I mean, we still have the mountains, right? People are still laughing in bars. The skiing is great. We just had an incredible fireworks display for Winterskol, for Pete’s sake. Get over ourselves already. These things will work themselves out. Keep a stiff upper lip.

But of course I know the above quotes were actually directed at Aspenites expressing sadness over something more trivial than the legitimate issues listed above that we probably do have permission to grieve (although we should double check). What they are referring to is only the sense of things tangible and intangible that Aspen, our home, is losing, that we feel slipping from its character, just stuff we are exaggerating.

So, as long as we are being highlighted as self absorbed and narrow minded by the authors of these quotes, I will go so far as to internalize them as if they are — each and every complaint — directed squarely at me. 

By that logic, it was me that brought down The Aspen Times and turned it into a puffy regional tourism brochure. I fired Andrew Travers because he stood up to my billions. I incubated COVID-19. I exaggerate the hardships of the daily commute for thousands of local workers. I am impatient with the employee shortage. I know there are plenty of places for locals to live if they would only get off their lazy asses and look. I instigate ill will in workers towards visitors who don’t actually treat them like scum, it only feels that way. Mark Hunt has the best interests of Aspen in mind. Doronin is a peach of a guy. It’s me that’s the problem; it’s my soul that is ulcerated with the acidic bile of a warped imagination. I’m the cantankerous old timer who can’t get out of the way of his own shadow that he cast in 1985 under the brighter sun of a dream.  

I’m sorry. I need more than the Epic flag flying. The sorrows in my soul cannot be healed with a fireworks display — I need people. I need friends. I need to be a part of a bonafide community that I know will pick me up when I’m feeling down and knows that I am here to reciprocate. I yearn to preserve what’s left of a place with an independent identity, along with hopes and dreams (if not expectations) that it will always be a town with real people working and raising families in it, full of kids looking optimistically at their own futures here. I need to live in a place where citizens and visitors alike invest their hearts, because we are all equals when wealth is measured this way. Aspen had this. The accelerating loss of it now is what I mourn.

But, yes, we do still have the mountains. 

Roger Marolt knows that sorrow and sadness on the way to finding true joy and love are like storm winds blowing across the ridge on a climb to the summit of a majestic peak. Embrace the journey.