The Aspen Chapel of the Prince of Peace looks like a church in a Christmas village set. It is built of gray mountain rock and topped with a steeple covered with rows of lapping brown shingles. Rev. Gregg R. Anderson is the chaplain, a young man who looks like everyone’s favorite brother. Besides gentle, unadorned sermons, he is able to make his constantly changing congregation of tourists glad they decided to attend.
It was in that chapel from Gregg Anderson that I first heard of Robert Fulghum’s “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” two years ago. It was not yet a book.
I tracked Fulghum down through a newspaper in Texas where Gregg had found the Fulghum rules for life and telephoned him. He lived on his houseboat in Seattle, with his wife, a doctor. I asked Fulghum if I might use his charming piece in my column, and he told me that I was the first one to call him and ask permission.
We met after he sold the book and he was on a promotion tour. He came to my house in Pasadena, and turned out to be as gently charming as his best-selling work.
The chapel has wonderful music because they have that world pool of lyrical talent at the Aspen Music Institute. The day we were there, Corinne Stillwell and Motoko Kizaki played “Cantabile” by Paganini, Corinne on violin and Motoko on piano. Harriett Thompson, who summers in Aspen and lives in Charlotte, N.C., played Chopin’s Etude in A-Flat.
After church, we all took the bus ride up the canyon to the Maroon Bells, the three steep mountains that hatch the black clouds that roll down the valley and bless it with rain almost every day.
The road is closed to cars by the U.S. Forestry Service from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. because the poisonous fumes from automobiles are killing the aspen trees that climb the mountain side by side with the pines.
On the bus, the driver noticed the Southern flavor of Harriett’s speech. He said, “I notice you’re from the South. Did you hear about the lady from Georgia who was waiting in line for the ski lift last winter?”
It sounds like one of those stories that you hear that always happened to someone else.
“The lady,” said the bus driver, “was just trying to be friendly and said to the woman in front of her in line, ‘Where y’all from?’
“Not from any place where they end a sentence in a preposition,” said the lady in front.
The Southern lady answered, “Oh, Ah see. Now where y’all from, witch?”
The bus driver swore it was true.
At a viewing spot above Maroon Lake, I met a woman carrying a tiny Yorkshire terrier.
She told me of walking the dog, Clancy, down a New York street when she was stopped by a woman who admired the tiny dog and asked her age. The Yorkie owner told her that the dog was 15.
“Oh, that’s too bad. But I had a Yorkie who lived to be 25.” Pause. “Of course, she was a vegetarian.”
Later we went to Krabloonik for dinner, a restaurant in Snow Mass, 10 miles from Aspen. It’s at the bottom of a long flight of stone steps and the road down there requires a four-wheel drive. Several teams of huskies and malamutes live here, each dog in a square kennel about eight inches off the ground to help when the snowfall is heavy.
Krabloonik serves game--wild boar, elk, deer and Colorado trout--as well as beefsteaks.
The night before, Jean and I went to dinner at Woody Creek Tavern, a mountain-high tavern full of brewery signs and cowboys. It’s the favorite spot of Hunter S. Thompson, the columnist whose colorful language and behavior have made him a cult figure since the ‘60s.
Thompson is hosting Pat Buchanan, the conservative newspaper columnist and television panel member, and George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, during the Aspen Institute, which began Thursday and goes through Tuesday.
The institute will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Changes in Eastern Europe and power shifts are attracting philosophers, economists and statesmen as well as good guessers from all over the world. President Bush will open the colloquium and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will give the closing address.
If Thompson will just tape-record the conversation of his houseguests and sell the cassettes, he’ll never have to write another line of gonzo journalism.