Sunday, May 3: Sunday, May 3: I wake to an overcast sky and look around, half-startled by my own relaxation. With Dave Jenkins handling facilities and Kim Scheibel handling registration, there’s so much less to worry about than in years past! I did have to bring the nametags, so I’ll be taking them over to registration this afternoon. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a day of hanging out, finishing a writeup for the rvalue references coding session I’ll be running on Monday afternoon. This article has become much longer and more involved than I had ever expected it to.
At breakfast in the morning I meet Edouard Alligand, Christophe Henry, and Christophe’s wife Inna. Edouard came in from Paris, and though Christophe and Inna are French and Russian, respectively, they live in Germany. A very cosmopolitan group.
Naturally, Inna is wondering what she’s going to do with herself in this tiny resort town all week, in the off-season when so many businesses are closed, and I don’t have words to reassure her. I like Aspen anytime, but I spent so many summers here because of my dad’s connection with the Physics Center that it’s like a second home. Trying to help, I offer to give them a little tour of the city. It’s a nice walk into town and if your shoes are reasonably comfortable it’s pretty easy to make the loop on foot. So off we go.
When we get up to Main street I’m relieved that I can no longer find the little cluster of victorian houses that I noticed last year advertising cosmetic surgery and dentistry. Since I first came here as a child, Aspen has gone from being an old mining outpost with a ski area to a playground for the rich and famous, with rodeo drive boutiques pushing out many of the local businesses downtown. One of my favorite establishments was a little fiberglass A-frame called “Donny’s Dog House,” where you could get the best onion rings and kosher dogs served only on a whole-wheat bun. That place simply could not exist today. I’ve learned to accept much of the recent development, but “cosmetic surgery row” made Aspen a parody of itself.
Downtown, I do my best to point out the decent restaurants, knowing many of them are closed for the off-season, and of those that aren’t, many won’t open ’till dinnertime. At some point the walk becomes a mission to find a restroom, a problem I solve brilliantly by suggesting we could simply ask some open business for permission to use theirs. Apparently that isn’t done in Europe.
Next mission: lunch. But now we’re in the wrong part of town to find anything. Someone is craving steak, so we head past Rubey park’s empty rugby field to where I remember there being a steakhouse years ago. Gone. Across the street is an “Authentic Western Bistro” (closed), the idea of which made me a little embarrassed in front of my French companions. In the end, after passing through Carl’s Pharmacy to buy provisions (contact lens solution for me, beer and wine for everyone else—you can get anything there), we end up stopping at Hickory House.
Hickory House is the last possible restaurant before you arrive back at the Meadows. It’s a decent barbequeue joint, but… I kid you not… they brag that they import their ribs from Denmark! I have nothing against Denmark, mind you, but ribs? First, importing is just too highbrow for ribs, I’m sorry. Taking trash meat and smoking and/or marinating it until it becomes tender and delicious is a foundation of barbequeue. Second, isn’t this a classic American food and aren’t we in livestock country? The carbon footprint implications of shipping ribs from Denmark to the middle of the U.S. boggle the mind. But maybe it’s just the thin air and empty stomach. I can’t remember much about lunch, but I didn’t order the ribs.
Heading back to the Hotel afterwards, we decided to pass by the Physics Center and walk through the meadow instead of taking the road we came out on. After snapping a few pictures of magpies, Inna takes a picture of Edouard, Christophe (with bag o’ beers), and me. My look of satisfaction in this picture pretty much sums up my day.