Michael Cleverly, The Vile Plutocrat
Submitted by: Michael Cleverly
UNLOVED IN ASPEN
It was a tradition in the old west for the local sheriff to tower over an undesirable and suggest that he get out of Dodge. It was then, and probably is now, a fairly civilized law enforcement devise, as it gave the unloved a chance to stay out of jail and saved time and work for a lot of different cogs in the legal machinery. Nowadays, if the said “unloved” doesn’t have the financial means to get out of Dodge, the price of a bus ticket is a whole lot less than the cost of incarcerating someone, or giving him room and board at a homeless shelter for the long winter months. The trick is not to alert the media. The bum is going somewhere, and somewhere may not like the idea of being the recipient of another town’s human detritus.
Sadly for Aspen, someone thought it was such a brilliant idea, and felt a pat on the back was so well deserved that the gesture made the local papers. This wasn’t lost on the good folk of Williston, N.D. who felt that transient James Baldwin was a less than perfect Christmas gift. It kind of reminded them of the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980, when Fidel opened the doors of his prisons and asylums and sent the inmates, along with legitimate refugees, dog paddling to Miami, all 125,000 of them. Castro came out of that one looking a little smarter than Jimmy Carter, Williston got Baldwin.
While Aspen authorities thought they had done a good deed in sending Baldwin somewhere that was purported to have plenty of employment opportunities, up north in Williston they were throwing Baldwin in jail for urinating, shirtless in freezing weather, in front of a strip club. He had been booted out of the peel bar for bad behavior, something that’s difficult to imagine in a gritty oilfield town like Williston.
As Baldwin sat cooling his heels in the cooler, the Mayor of Williston, the Sheriff, and plenty of regular citizens sent a barrage of love notes to Aspen papers. Realizing that there seemed to be some interest in the topic, The Aspen Times then did a large profile on another homeless, jobless, transient. Asked to explain what was emerging as Aspen’s bi-polar attitude toward the disenfranchised, the managing editor of the Times pointed out that the Aspen Daily News had already done a piece on the subject and that the Times had been doing a series of profiles of local ski bums and that it was a logical-ish extension of that to do profiles of just plain bums. Since the object of the profile had simply walked into the front office of the paper and requested some free ink on a slow news day, things fell into place. The editor went on to point out that most homeless bums were more interesting that most of the rich Aspenites that sleaze around behind the gates of their gated enclaves, and then offered to do a profile of the author of this article.
Meanwhile Mr. Baldwin is about to be released from jail with “time served.” He says he doesn’t want to stay in Williston where he’s not wanted and will be hitchhiking back to Aspen. Perhaps not factoring in the original one-way ticket out of town thing in his equation.
It remains to be seen whether this prodigal son will be embraced upon his return, but one local artist who feels that Aspen should have a cohesive policy regarding the huddled masses has made it known that he could be commissioned to create a “Statue of Exclusivity” for the entrance to town.