It’s disorienting — parents, local Aspen parents, allegedly supplying cocaine to kids, their own and others, and not only providing them with alcohol, but lacing it with codeine for more punch. While nothing has been proven, the fact that there are allegations, suggestive Instagram posts, quotes from kids who were there and arrests are enough to convince me that we should be very afraid. It only looks like paradise for children.
It has been a bad year for Aspen’s most vulnerable. We have accusations of sexual assault between kids, children breaking into hotel bars to steal booze, too many minors in possession of alcohol. Is it really “only the normal trouble teenagers get into”?
And then there is the fresh scandal of parents alledged to have paid huge sums of money to scam the college admissions process in order to get their kids into highly selective colleges and universities. The list of names of those indicted in this heist of academic integrity and theft of dreams from those who are deserving of the honor of being accepted into these schools based on merit alone includes names of people with Aspen ties.
This is happening in the place we have dreamed of raising our kids. We’ve kept them here to be safe and healthy. We boast of the advantages and opportunities that exist here. Is it true? Was it ever true? Or have we been justifying our own satisfactions by self-indulgence in superficially believing that what we did was, in fact, for the kids?
What else might we expect from a town that touts its newest hotel in advertising coaxing visitors to: “Detox. Retox. Repeat.” Oh yes, it is so very clever until you think about it. In three words this repulsive advertising describes the heartbreaking cycle of the addict’s life. But, hey, if we take pride in being associated with a place that thinks this is cool enough to lure visitors to immerse themselves in this culture, I hope we can make good money off of it.
Of course we are proud of our schools. Our graduation rates, college acceptance numbers and test scores are off the charts. We have awesome experiential education programs. Our athletic programs are among the best in the state. Local teachers are superb. And, yet, I will wager that we have two kids on suicide watch for every one who gets into an Ivy League school. I will double down on that bet to claim counselors working with students’ mental-health crises are busier and less funded than the college counseling office. I have a persistent haunting feeling our kids are in trouble.
Is there hope in a community that champions marijuana as the key ingredient to ensuring a good time? I thought this was paradise, where there is no need for artificial enhancement. Pot culture makes booze seem like nothing by comparison. If the message is that adults need these anesthesias to get through a vacation, then how is a kid going to get through advanced calculus without them?
I believe the stories of adults supplying children with dangerous drugs and the allegations of wealthy people going to extreme and illegal methods to get their kids into elite colleges and universities is the base of the iceberg in Aspen. We pretend the toxic combo of forces driving these stories are not prevalent here. We leave our kids without the navigational tools needed to avoid them. We don’t pay much attention to the risk of their ships sinking before they can sail. They only cause little holes in the hulls. It will be a long time before they are in serious trouble.
We put a lot of pressure on our Aspen kids.
They must excel in everything academic and athletic. We push them hard starting at young ages — they read at 4 years old and hike the Bowl at 5; each a beginning of the same long and arduous grind toward the elusive top. We build amazing facilities for them. We spend liberally on the best opportunities. We make sure that when, not if, they don’t meet all of our unrealistic expectations, the only possible fault is theirs to own forever after. And today we boast.
Then, we show them how to deal with failure. You indulge until the pain is gone. Cocaine is the best, but expensive. Pot is excellent for relieving anxiety. If all else fails, booze in copious quantities rarely fails to obliterate reality. Life in Aspen is one large, never-ending party. The key to success is to never acknowledge defeat.
And, still, this is our culture. It’s been this way since I was a kid and look how we all turned out. Why would we change, much less talk about it? It’s Aspen. Push yourself beyond your pain threshold.
Then, take a little bit of something. Relax. In a moment it will all go away. Happiness? Of course you’re happy. This is Aspen.
Roger Marolt believes more lives are ruined by Aspen than made. It is why few stay very long. Email at [email protected]