Exactly 20 years ago I graduated from The University of Texas, sold my car and bought a one-way ticket to Vail, Colorado. Burned out after college, the last thing I wanted to be was a practicing graphic designer, so I packed up a few things and headed off for life as a ski bum. “Weenie’s Vail Years” is a saga in and of itself, and maybe I’ll tell it someday. For now though, it’s just a bit of back story.
Let me start by saying, I love this town. Vail took me in during a difficult time in my life, and while there were some rough patches along the way, the fact that I could wake up to such beauty each day and ski to work made everything seem alright. Also, I was in my 20s and there were lots of boys there. But I digress.
Coming back to Vail after so long was like going to someone else’s high school reunion; I didn’t know anyone and spent a lot of time trying to find a restroom. As we first drove into town, I had Mr. Weenie take me by the condo where I used to live. Hardly anything had changed. The place hadn’t been painted in some time, and the same old ski racks hung on the front porch.
Next we headed toward Vail Village, but I didn’t recognize anything. How can anyone get lost in a town the size of a large cruise ship? We drove in circles as I tried to locate some sort of landmark to anchor my memory, but all I saw were great swaths of condominiums and construction crews.
The month of May is the off-season in most western ski resorts, so the place was like a ghost town. Locals refer to it as “mud season” since all the snow has begun melting but the grass hasn’t grown back yet. That’s when all construction is done for pretty much the entire year, and anyone not in the construction business either goes home for a visit or heads down to New Zealand for six more months of skiing. The emptiness of the streets made it even more obvious that my beloved little mountain town had turned into a behemoth stranger.
Vail has always been high-end—even a little snooty—but the locals were well known for keeping it real. We did so by doing foolish things on skis or in bars (often both at the same time) and by scaring the tourists. But now here I was—a tourist in my own neighborhood. While I recognized certain shops and restaurants here and there, and the famous Covered Bridge was thankfully still intact, most of my time that day was spent pointing out what wasn’t there 20 years ago.
In the end I was glad to revisit my past. Enough of the old Vail was still left to remind me of a free-spirited Weenie who took advantage of that window between adolescence and real life to play in the snow for a few fun years. Most importantly, the chocolate shop by the main lift was still around, so I dropped fifty bucks there for a big sack of tasty memories.
Later on, when Mr. Weenie reminded me that you can’t go home again, I had to disagree. Indeed, you can go home again—just be prepared for some rich assholes to have redecorated while you were out.
Tune in next time for Part 12 in the Travelin’ Weenie series.
Part 1: Travelin’ Weenies – The Colorado Experiment
Part 2: The Comfort of Crap
Part 3: Weenie in Her Full, Upright and Locked Position
Part 4: And they’re off…
Part 5: Down in the Valley
Part 6: Lost in Condo City
Part 7: Man Does Not Live by Cookies Alone
Part 8: Mountain Mama
Part 9: Why Poodles and Spas Don’t Mix
Part 10: On the Road Again