Given its reputation, I expected Aspen to be considerably more hippie friendly than it is. I don't know why I thought this, because I have been to Aspen before. Aspen is a monumental shrine to wealth, clothed in the false modesty of a self-conscious homage to America's small town past. It is the Potemkin Village of the post-consumer culture. The place always puts me in mind of the "American" restaurants abroad--it looks like a diner, and the menu sounds like a diner, but when the food comes the chili cheesedog is made with bratwurst and limburger, and they've slathered your french fries with mayonnaise.

Outside of the downtown, as far as I have been able to tell, Aspen has no sidewalks. All of the restaurants cost a fortune for mediocre, but lovingly described, food (none of it, alas, vegan). The Radio Shack is tucked unobtrusively into a basement, lest anyone discover that people here need batteries and cordless phones. And everyone in the town looks eerily alike, as if you had stumbled into a lost sequence from the Village of the Damned. They have the same tans, the same deliberately not-too-attractive preppy clothes, and all appear to have their hair cut by the same barber. It's Nantucket-Over-Mountain.

I find something disturbing about places this affluent, this sheltered. It's a place where wealthy people talk unironically about the problems of the world, while lobbying frantically to ensure that they stay several thousand miles away.