On our first night in town, Laura, the kid and I had only one overwhelming concern: where to get a little dinner. And rather than drive down into Avon, we decided to take our chances in the minor utopia that is Beaver Creek Village.
It was beautiful (as was only to be expected) and it was luxurious (as was only to be expected). There was ice skating in the middle of August and fountains for the kids to play in, fancy trinket shops and a video-game arcade (when was the last time you saw one of those?) that actually still had a working Ms. Pac Man machine, and after about ten minutes, I got thoroughly sick of all the gleaming cheerfulness and went off looking for something a little bit more my speed.
In situations like this -- meaning whenever I find myself in hotels, at resorts, in Boulder -- I immediately feel the need to find three things: a pizza, a cold beer and the back doors of all the restaurants where the crews hang out smoking cigarettes and talking shit. In Beaver Creek Village, finding all three was a cinch. The Blue Moose was right in the middle of everything, scenting the entire night with the smell of hot pizza and with a line stretching out the door.
Inside, the Blue Moose was one of the saddest bars I've ever seen (a miserably short, sticky and cluttered thing, all shiny primary colors and overworked tenders pulling Cokes with no ice for surly German teenagers) which, nonetheless, did have pints of Fat Tire for sale. And after making my way to the bar, shouting in a to-go order for a 15-inch pizza, chicken parm sandwich and bucket of spaghetti with butter, and being told that it would be at least a half-hour before the slammed kitchen got around to my order, I stepped outside, turned one corner, and found the upright ashtray, rank of empty CO2 tanks and back door of one of the Village's most popular bars.
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SHOW ME HOW
That's where I snapped the shot of the sign pictured above. It was tacked to the wall just inside the door, surrounded by cigarette butts ground out into the expensive stonework of the wall. It made me smile because it reminded me of the days when I used to be one of the cooks that the management was complaining about -- one of the guys there to serve the illusion of utopia rather than one of the guys (ostensibly) there to enjoy it. I immediately lit one up and stood directly under the vent. And when I was done, I pushed the butt of my Marlboro into the wall alongside all the others. No one was going to be taking my cigarette break away, after all. And no manager in their right mind was ever going to do that to a bunch of surly and knife-wielding cooks and exhausted bartenders, either. At least, not if he ever wanted to enjoy another shift drink without having to wonder whose balls had been dunked in his pilsner.
After that, I made my way back to the Blue Moose. At the bar, I fired down a fast pint of Fat Tire while waiting for the kitchen to bag up my order and asked the blown-looking bartender how he was doing. He looked up from pulling a half-dozen sodas for the children crowding his bar, smiled wanly and said, "Another day in paradise, man," before turning away to answer the bellowing of a teenaged server who needed four Bud Lights with no check to go with them.
For the record, the pizza at the Blue Moose was decent, but I probably liked it more than I would've had I not been starving and already swimming in the smell of hot pizzas all around me. The spaghetti tasted like it'd been sauced with the fake butter they use in movie theaters and the chicken parm sandwich was completely inedible -- burnt chicken, sour red sauce, dry flakes of parsley dandruff and french fries that tasted like they'd been soaked in cold fryer oil and then baked to lukewarm in the pizza oven. But all around me, the throngs were just eating it up, shoving slice after slice into their maws and shouting for their kids to get away from the bar and leave the poor bartender alone.
Another day in paradise, indeed.