in an effort to streamline my personal finances in the changing global economy, contribute less to an environmental meltdown, and further challenge myself on the rough and rutty streets of los angeles, i have come to a decision.
henceforth, i will be vespa-less. in lieu of riding a 200cc engine on matching pirelli rubbers, I will be cruising down santa monica boulevard on a vintage schwinn frame, courtesy of dad. this summer, while dad was still on summer break from colombia, he found his '74 racing cycle in my uncle's basement and shipped it west, to my apartment in the city.
all that's standing between me and full-time cycling is my post on craigslist. i'm waiting for the right new owner to come claim his beloved — if gently worn—vespa. it was three year and many memories ago that i hopped on the seat of my first motor-powered ride, and losing him will be counted as a loss. living on art shows, oceans, and martinis in los angeles, however, my health may be the final winner in this change.
things are gettin' a little fresh around here. it may have something to do with the longer days and the higher thermometer readings. a few weeks ago, the mercury reading surged into the nineties, which provided the perfect excuse to don the summer short shorts and head to the malibu coast.
beaching it is the quintessential summer activity here in socal, but i recently joined up with a group of east-siders for another great pastime, the ever-popular potluck.
monday was a big holiday for the greater la area, cinco de mayo, so it made sense to celebrate sunday potluck in south-of-the-border style, complete with large donkey piñatas, taco truck tacos, plentiful churros and of course flowing tequila and cerveza. i contributed a dish of oaxacan molé, with the help of the kind chef's around the corner at the reputable mexican cafe gueleguetza. love the potluck.
the bulk of the last few weeks was spent in aspen, meeting friends at high altitudes near chairlifts and double blacks, clinking cocktails at the appropriate après ski hour of 3:30, and chatting fireside late into the evening before starting the routine again in the morning. those customary happenings in place, i opted to add a new tradition to my colorado holiday: time out in basalt.
effectively the younger sibling to the older and wiser aspen, basalt ranks as one of the most flourishing and urbane tiny towns in the country. officially populated at slightly over 3,000, basalt combines the unassuming air of a colorado mountain town, hinting at its outdoor orientation (flyfishing, mountian biking, skiing), with a slightly more knowing feel of a cultivated oasis (fine dining, boutiques, and expensive art). seemingly relegated to second place behind aspen's superior reputation, basalt still hits the mark where it counts.
many of the residents of the town are previously full-time aspen residents, and the move "down valley" was predicated by a desire to purchase property at a lower-priced ticket than the impossible sky-high real estate market in aspen allows. and since i have a number of friends who have made the valley their home, it follows that i have a number of friends who now reside in basalt. which is how i found myself, days on end, enjoying visits to the local coffee shop and sights of the roaring fork river from the comfort of my friend amanda's home.
among basalt's noteworthy exports are the delicately sweet, flaky 'morning buns' at the tiny cafe bernard. located smack dab in the middle of downtown, that description of the cafe doesn't go very far in pointing out the whereabouts of the restaurant, as everything in the two-block town is essentially in its middle. the cafe is more notable for its cheery blue exterior and large window framing the tiny seating area. early each day, morning buns—a sort of hybrid sticky roll and croissant—are placed at the counter and quickly disappear with locals and visitors headed up valley to the slopes.
probably the best and least obvious choice for a relaxing day in town is a visit to the town center booksellers, directly across the street from cafe bernard. specifically, it's one of the two large armchairs sitting before the hot crackling fire that is the destination. sitting for an hour or two in the calm bookstore setting is enhanced by the bookstore's offering of complimentary coffee and tea. for its role as a small-town bookstore, the shop exceeds expectations, offering the best in new fiction and non-fiction, well-curated art books, and a pleasant children's nook. and did i mention free coffee? yes, and free (delicious too!) coffee.
for a bite of lunch, choosing between discreet val's gourmet and popular saxy's cafe is a toss up. saxy's, while not quite making my list of top coffee joints in the country, hits the spot with a cozy atmosphere, a good assortment of panini, and the much-beloved wifi. i may be partial to saxy's, however, because of the friendly staff. one girl in particular, rebecca, became such a good friend during my short stay that she nearly joined me in my road trip back to los angeles. at the last minute, she pulled out of the deal, due to work conflicts, but she made up for my supposed openness by sending me off with a gigantic free latte on the morning of my departure.
and for a delicious evening on the town, there is no better option that than the italian-infused spanish cuisine of tempranillo. between the long communal table in the bar, the cozy entranceway flanked by a bench and coat rack (note the absence of the often pesky coat check girl usually found in aspen establishments), and the truly gregarious waitstaff, tempranillo easily secured my vote for best dining experience during my three week visit in the roaring fork valley. specifically, the inclination of our server to continue filling our wine glasses long after the bottle was finished, the two extra desserts complimentarily set on our table, and the most delicious gambas barcelona—freshly roasted shrimp complemented by a rich, tangy sauce of tomato and ginger—catapulted the evening's outing into a surefire entry into this account.
back to the city i go, where the traffic never stops, pretentious dining abounds, and starbucks and borders flank every great intersection in the expansive populated mass. i fondly think of my days by the river, next to the fire, and buried under the colorado snow.
since coming to aspen several weeks ago, i have made the most of my penchant for penny pinching, while still indulging in some the area's luxuries. dinner at pinõns, takah sushi, jimmy's, and social. snowboarding daily on aspen highlands. après ski cocktails at 39°, hottubbing outdoors at the base of aspen mountian, and steaming at the aspen club and spa. (let's just say it really does pay to have connections. and...friends that love you). one evening of dining, however, had less to do with my connections and more to do with my own spirit of competition.
inevitably ending the week of festivities for aspen's annual gay ski week gathering is the anticipated downhill costume contest, this year hosted by the venerable miss richfield 1981, of richfield, minnesota heritage. the annual event never ceases to draw a hefty crowd of ski-week goers, out-of-towners, and locals alike. friday morning, in a flash of inspiration, i ran through town an hour before the competition was slated to begin, gathering materials for a costume i knew was sure to place.
actually, the idea was born some hours before, as the previous night's party was wrapping up on the dance floor of aspen's belly up club. mineshaft, the assumed moniker of the night out, was a continuation of the week's theme—a sort of "welcome to the dirty mining town of the west" idea, which was imbued from aspen's mining origins in the 1800's. complete with faux stone walls and red caution tape overprinted with the more alarming "danger", mineshaft hosted dancers late into the night, rocking the night away. as the last to leave, i—along with friend christopher (who's blog contains a more fully-painted picture of the week's happenings)—gathered every bit of red danger tape in a fit of inebrieted passion. christopher's suggestion to mummy me in the stuff was enough provocation to lead me out into the night, arms full of flapping tape, headed to bed with the first thoughts of tomorrow's costume in mind.
at roughly 1pm the next afternoon, danger boy was gliding swiftly down the steep face of aspen mountain, barely clad in tightly wrapped and precariously placed danger tape, skin exposed to the 10 degree weather, and guided by the bright flames of several road flares in hand. the descent was quick. audiences gawked. at the base of the mountain, a small stage stood between the hill and the onlookers. when danger boy approached, he took one gentle leap onto the platform, sliding towards the wide-eyed patrons in the front row, barely maintaining balance as he skidded to a stop at the front edge of the platform. unstrapping his snowboard, he continued the performance with deft movents around the stage, the light of the flares leading him into rapturously fluid movements around the host, across the stage, and in front of the judges. it was surely these dynamic, inspired movements set to "eye of the tiger" that won the hearts of the people and the scores from the judges. bringing this act to first place, the scores set a new precedent a single 9 and four 10's.
it was funny, then, that minutes later when the final places were called, danger boy failed to capture either the third place spot or one of the two first place spots that came in at a tie. in fact, there was no further mention of the dubious superhero, except for front-page coverage in the town's newspaper the next morning. wrangling in the top score, danger boy was nonetheless relegated to a local myth: much hearsay, but no concrete evidence.
days later, as i was beginning to pack my bags, mentally preparing for my fated return to the city, my cell phone started buzzing. denise, the woman who was in charge of the downhill competition—the one who gathered the contestents, seated the judges, and added the scores—was calling to let me know there had been a mistake.
"you should have placed in the top three. i'm so sorry, i feel so awful! i want to make it up to you." the next night, courtesy of denise, my friend natasha and i were dining at aspen's finest sushi spot, matsuhisa. the dinner was lovely, of course, and anyone who knows me understands the dynamics between me and a free meal. but really, i wasn't discouraged at all by the lack of correct computation in scoring the competition. by now, it is easy to see, that my reasons for such behavior transgress the mere desire of obtaining a prize. if it weren't for you, my dear blogging friends, i wouldn't have the desire at all.