I stared down into the shot glass I emptied in my mouth. I was in a neon blue bomb shelter club surrounded by assholes with terrible haircuts and way too much moisturizer on their faces. I could feel the vomit creeping up my esophagus. Sambuca, although delicious, had just put me over my “shots allowed” quota for the night. The calm acceptance of gastrointestinal evacuation is pretty much the only positive side affect of living with a stomach condition. As I calmly worked my way through the dense, fashionable crowd, I thought about how Aspen’s charm had pulled me in again like a fucking tractor beam.
Yes, I returned to Aspen only nine short months after my last experience and inevitably went down a path I avoid like the plague. The club, Escobar, embodied everything I hate about clubs. It was crowded, I couldn’t hear a goddamned thing and the DJ was a graduate of the Skrillex School for Kids Who Can’t Play Music and Only Play Tones All Day Trying to Find the Brown Note to the Most Obnoxious Beat Possible. I thought about dancing. I even thought about trying to talk to some of the women in the bar, but I fell back onto my old habits and simply people watched. Let me tell you, there were some fucking people to watch.
We left after my adverse event. Luckily, some poor bastard didn’t make it to the bathroom and had an event of his own right in the main hallway so no one noticed my dinosaur calls in the stall. Once we got out of the bar and collected our entire group, I managed to miss the two am bus back to our friend’s apartment while waiting in line for pizza. He was enough of a gentleman to wait for me and we had a nice stroll in the pitch black dark back to his place. All in all, it was a good night and it was just that, only one night. If you can’t take a single evening to try something different, you need to take a couple chill pills and re-evaluate your life.
Normally, I’d end the story there. It had everything one could want, didn’t it? Beer, shots, hot women, vomiting and misfortune are all winners in my book, but my experience the next day reminded me why ANYWHERE you visit can have an exquisite gem that makes your trip something special. For me, this was going to the Woody Creek Tavern. While not in Aspen proper, it was only a short drive from the city to the small town of Woody Creek. This just happens to be the town Hunter S. Thompson called home in his later years, and this fact absofuckinglutely had an impact on our decision to visit.
The tavern is actually a popular destination for bicyclists taking the Rio Grande Trail and was clearly a hotspot. The total population of Woody Creek was somewhere around 268 in 2010, and I surmise about half that amount of people were in/around the place when we arrived at lunchtime. The wait to get a table was surprisingly short and I ran into my comrades as I brought back a beer and bloody Mary for us to take the edge off. The décor of the tavern absolutely conveyed the personality of the bar. The walls were covered with photos, new and old, of visitors, regulars and some celebrities. Littered among the photos were posters, vintage license plates, signs and other goofy decorations. The mantra of this bar was simply “Everyone’s welcome.” What a simple and bold sentiment, I thought.
The service wasn’t the greatest, the food was descent and I think my drinks were overpriced because I might have unknowingly bought some blonde valley girl her ginger ale. However, I’m a huge fan of charm and this place had a shitload of that. The crowd varied between grizzly bearded mountain men, hung-over tourists like us and yoga pants donned fitness geeks like the blonde who’s ginger ale I so graciously gave my money for. I could only imagine the adventures I would have if this were my local haunt.
Was it this charm, this panache that made it a desirable location to both wealthy debutants of Aspen and the rest of the world that decided to show up? A place that is open to anyone, and anyone actually does show up fascinates me. The lines are blurred, yet there’s no mistake that everyone feels the same acceptance. Had this tavern somehow figured out how to generate peace between the classes or is that just booze talking? I could be convinced of just about any argument.
The rest of the trip is inconsequential. We drank, we ate, we shouted, we acted barbaric and we made messes in places we shouldn’t have. I should clarify that I’m using “we” strictly in the royal sense. Something about this trip made me decide I’m comfortable experiencing the world in my own way. While my host-friend and I walked in the dark that night after missing the final bus back to his apartment from Escobar, he said something that has stuck, and may stick forever with me; “You don’t really like those kinds of places, but you still go and have a good time.” This brought me to the conclusion that no one can know their limits if they aren’t continually pushing them. I’m pretty sure that’s a Hunter S. Thompson quote somewhere, but I hate researching shit so I’m just letting that one hang.
An open mind and a few beers can make anywhere an adventure.