Every year for 10 years I knew that the end of July and first week of August would be difficult. I sort of anticipated it. But this year it snuck up on me. I guess thats a good and a bad thing. The fact that I didn’t DWELL on such an anniversary is good. I didn’t plan for it or see it coming. And honestly I didn’t plan a trip to Aspen so close to that shitty day. Just kinda happened. Or did it?
Aspen is this place for me. This PLACE. Its funny because I run my mouth about the elite, billionaire, fancy pants, big house owning, “keep the riff raff out” group of people. I don’t NOT LIKE them. They just don’t get it in my opinion. Money doesn’t make you blind. It just makes you not have to look. If you know what I mean. So in October of 2014 when I took my first trip to Aspen it was literally just to see the trees changing colors (which is seriously breathtaking- do it as soon as you can) and to see where my hero, Hunter S. Thompson lived and wrote…I didn’t expect to like Aspen itself so much. It was going to be the opposite of what I stood for. Damn hard headed hippie liberal…of course I can’t like “bougie” shit. Its against my code. ;)-
Only I did. I loved it. Loved the $600 a night Hotel Jerome that I stayed in. Its history, the J-Bar that is attached where Thompson wrote and hung out. I loved the vibe, the quaintness, the feel. I loved it. I admit it. I love walking the ridiculously over priced shops in the square on Main Street. I love celebrity spotting. Theres always some. I love the fact that EVERYONE of the locals are healthy and in shape and eat organic and DO NOT allow plastic bags in the town. Love that EVERYONE rides a bike, walks, hikes, and is outside WAY more than inside. I love the tourists from all over the world and listening to their accents in the restaurants when they sit near you. I love the Bob Marley quote spray painted on a billion dollar Gucci Store front. I love it.
And then I found Woody Creek. Hunter S Thompson settled here in 1969. For $15,000 he put a down payment down on what he would call Owl Ranch. A sprawling ranch pretty close to town center and about 10 miles from Aspen. $15,000 wont buy you a hamburger in Aspen now….so there’s that. And at the center of town is a little quirky restaurant called “Woody Creek Tavern”. Hunter hung out here, ate here, probably wrote here as well. His picture is everywhere. On the walls, in the bathroom, on the tables. And so we ate there Saturday. At the table to our left was two couples who looked to be in their 60s. Lots of plastic surgery going on (hey if I could afford it Id be all over that shit), some 20 karat diamonds and some handbags I think were flown in from Italy. On the ground. Outside. This is NOT a fancy place. We’re talking plastic chairs, bird poop and a certain “aroma” in the air. Dude- its Colorado! At the table to our right was a guy wearing a skirt and dreadlocks and carrying a purse with tons of tattoos on him and everything he owned in a duffle bag. I dug it. The Tavern has a philosophy they post that talks about including EVERYONE. EVERYONE. The richest of the rich, the bougie, the eccentric, the poor, the homeless, the artists, the writers, the people who OWN Aspen, the G- Wagon drivers and the ones who walk down from the mountain. Its so fucking cool I can’t even.
Some may call it a tourist trap. A place to “sell out” the whole Hunter S Thompson thing and make money for “the man” with overpriced hamburgers and t-shirts. Eh. Ok. I see it. But what I take away is a place for everyone. And I couldn’t dig it more. I remember my first time there thinking “I am home”. Its quirky and weird and eccentric and happy and friendly and beautiful. As is Aspen.
My Dad LOVED Colorado. We vacationed here often as kids, he vacationed often as an adult with his motorcycle buddies. It is where he died…not far from Aspen. So Im drawn there I suppose. Im very much like my Dad. I don’t know if he ever got to see Maroon Bells. I doubt he’d have paid the entry fee…LOL. But as I hiked the Bells for the first time yesterday instead of just staring at it from the touristy shore….I thought of some things. I sure hope he got to see it. And not just SEE it from the shore where the busload of tourists were taking pictures. I hope he got to WALK though it. Stumble on rocks at 11,000 feet, see moose and field mice and flowers that grow WAY up there sporadically and beautifully. I hope he got to see the view of the Bells from the back that very few will ever get to see because they don’t stray off the “tourist path”. I hope he saw a lone buck in the grass eating…and made eye contact and had an unspoken conversation with nature. I hope he stood in a field of aspen trees buried way back behind the lake and thought “god damnit Im one lucky son of a bitch”. Even if he never did…..he has now.
I love you Aspen. I love you Colorado. I love you Dad. I miss you. 12 years is a long time. Of all the things Ive learned in life- knowing that I can sleep when Im dead is the best of them. Go, go, go, go ,go. While you still can. Stray off the path. Fuck the path.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – HST