Stuck in thick traffic behind a four-wheel-drive Mercedes,
staring at another new set of luxury townhomes and catching
the distinct whiff of new leather, I had a taste of dreaded
Aspenization in my mouth.
Fresh from a few days on
the backside of Utah, Rachael and I were happily rolling
back into town. Our short-term memories were of flea-bitten
on Mormonism and sandwiched between brilliant, technicolor
canyons. In sharp contrast, our reality was of that shiny,
three-pronged Mercedes emblem and a Durango that seemed
almost glitzy by comparison, nearly Aspenized in a way.
The resulting emotion was a disappointed shade of confusion.
We broke out of that
traffic, got home and almost immediately I dug through my files for
my standard antidote to feelings of Aspenization. This same
paranoia has been known to strike from time to time since I have
the dubious distinction of having entered this world in the Aspen
Valley Hospital. More than occasionally I get the sense that the
glamorous resort is reaching out, spreading into my home towns and
trying to find me.
There at the top of the
pile sat the 1999 clipping from the Aspen Times , and after a quick read, I breathed a
comfortable sigh. Durango is still hundreds of miles and hundreds
of years away from Aspen.
The yellowed piece of
newsprint told of a drove of well-known celebrities gathering with
well-heeled Aspen locals at a "Tibet Fund Party." Plastic surgery
masterpiece and former Donald plaything Ivana Trump was one of the
evening's headliners. Kevin Costner and his daughters were on hand
for the noble cause, and Sally Field tossed on the evening gown
with the Dalai Lama in mind. Some guy named Count Roffudo Gaetani
rounded out the ensemble with a little royalty and made the picture
of wealthy Caucasians pulling for suffering Asians nearly
The evening climaxed
when the second annual "Spirit of Freedom" award was bestowed on
actress Goldie Hawn. Diamonds, fresh dye-job and six-figure evening
gown aside, Goldie described herself as an "avid Buddhist." Decked
out in leopard print, past recipient Ivana bestowed the award,
which honored Hawn's compassion for the Tibetan people.
The Times then related how Goldie "had the
audience in tears as she told how she visited Tibet and found a
beautiful child in an orphanage. She explained that she had adopted
the boy, but is leaving him in Tibet because she wants him raised
in his own culture."
After the gathering
finished weeping, slender models paraded the latest in Christian
Dior as well as fur coats designed by a guy named Dennis Basso.
Apparently checkbooks flashed high numbers, Basso sold some ermine,
caviar and cocaine were consumed, and the celebrities went home
feeling a little more Buddhist than when they walked in.
I returned the clipping
to the top of my file and a couple hours later, Rachael and I
dropped back into downtown Durango. This time, my eyes took in a
different view. At a stoplight, I glanced at the classic Ford logo
proudly adorning the wrinkled hood of a 15-year-old work truck. We
parked, and a few bars from the Grateful Dead met my ears as they
leaked out of an eatery where $15.95 was the highest number of the
menu. We strolled by storefronts selling items like shoes, clothes,
books and jewelry with locals in mind. Passers-by smiled and
nodded. Once again, my magic newspaper clipping had done the
As often as we bemoan
rising real estate prices and the impacts of growth, Durango still
has something that places like Aspen have been missing for more
than 30 years. They're trying to find it in high dollar
fund-raisers and parading fur for a cause. They're up there
striving for a little piece of paradise and a little taste of soul.
They're just having trouble finding it.
In Durango, we don't
have to reach quite as far. That soul is still slinging hash browns
in our restaurants, taking in the view on the River Trail, working
our cash registers and walking the streets freely. Sometimes you
just have to wait in traffic for a little while before you can get