It’s been fascinating watching how different people are reacting to everything right now. And I mean everything. When all this started back in March, people were genuinely being nice to each other. Now the ship of fools that was COVID-kind has sailed. Not only did it leave port, but it soon crashed on the reef, dumping its entire cargo into the bay and killing everyone aboard.
Aspen’s a funny place. The longer you stick around, the more you get to see unfold.
It seems like our town’s psyche is dangling precariously, and even the slightest trigger sets the locals off on a rant or starts an argument — usually prefaced by how long they’ve lived here. If you just moved here, as a transplant, allow me to formally welcome you and let you know that being “schooled” or having “how to Aspen” forcefully explained to you by someone who’s lived here longer than you is inevitable; consider it a right of passage.
And guess what? You can make fun of the locals right back.
What’s one of the biggest sources of joy during the workday? It’s making fun of your boss. Every single job I’ve ever had, we’ve always made fun of the boss. Working in the tourism industry — which we all do here in one respect or another — is no exception. The fields here are ripe with opportunity for the mockingjays to mock away.
As kids, we used to make fun of Texans. “Turkeys,” we called them. They came to town in private jets with suitcases full of oil money. The men were loud and gregarious and paid for everything with hundred-dollar bills. If you were lucky enough to sell one of them an Aspen Times on Thursday after school, they usually grossly overpaid, with glee. “Mercy-buys,” we call them today. They strutted around town with swagger, unapologetically wearing man fur and big hats, towing big buxom blondes smelling of French perfume and Aquanet, with hairdos that would make any 1980s hair-band lead singer extremely jealous. Then for whatever reason — unlike today — the attention shifted away from Texans.
Celebrities, rather, were the focus of some ire during the Hard Rock Cafe (remember Johnny V?) and the Planet Hollywood days. It was thought that they were bringing undue attention to our town. Then the big anonymous corporate money made the movie stars look poor. The town fixated its angst at real estate agents (still fun), “monster homes” and blurry-faced, cellphone-talking, Range Rover-driving second homeowners.
The townsfolk commiserated with one another about how all of the giant homes were sitting empty most of the time. We reconciled their existence with the fact that they paid for everything and were rarely ever here. The perfect marriage.
What’s fascinating to me now is the recent surge of people buying homes here — and the terrifying concept of actually living in them — that’s got the restless natives and local riffraff stuck inside a Johnny McGuire’s-esque giant pickle.
You know whose fault it is that everyone’s coming to Aspen to get away from it all? Yours. Mine. All of the evenly tanned Aspen “locals” with fancy toys, tony haircuts, washboard abs and chiseled calves that made and continue to make living here look so fun, so easy, so freewheeling — like a well-produced real estate commercial.
What about your social media feed, stacked with nature porn and outdoor-lifestyle magazine money shots? Every time you complain about people moving here, take some ownership. Pat yourself on the back. If you didn’t look and act so cool, and you weren’t always so damn nice to every stranger you met on the street holding a map, none of this would be happening.
Another interesting component to this summer — which I’m jokingly calling the “worst summer ever” because it really isn’t, and generally I’m a lemonade-out-of-lemons kind of guy — is the fact that the loudest voices in the room doing the majority of the complaining aren’t the ones who were born and raised here.
The old-timers — you know, the ones who don’t brag about tenure — are generally resigned to what’s happening here because they’ve seen this movie before. To them, this is like the third remake of “A Star is Born.” Aspen’s not “ruined.” It never has been nor ever will be. It’s like paradise, with warts.
Speaking of “ruining” Aspen, what brought me here? A green Volvo station wagon with California plates. Our family moved here to get away from Los Angeles in what was considered one of the first waves of the “Californication” of Colorado. We were “those” people. The monster house we built was in the middle of a sagebrush field.
I saw a really funny bumper sticker on a Suburban with Texas plates. It said something like, “Don’t Californicate Austin.” Singling out a certain demographic is dangerous business, especially when the vast majority of locals moved here from somewhere else. Remember that tsunami of odorous fecal matter that rained down on the local councilman about the “right people” coming here. Don’t look now, but it’s happening again on a much bigger, way more disgusting scale.