A lesson in global economics

I spent last weekend at Arise Music Festival, a 3-day event held in the foothills near Loveland, Colorado. (That’s where the purple teepees you might see in the sidebar were).

Arise was a great time, full of great music, good vibes, and plenty of regenerative yoga. The vibe at Arise is pretty crunchy: old hippies and young fair-trade folks, slinging their ideologies amidst a crowd of dreadlocked dealers slinging their own cures for the ills of the world.

So I was walking around the festival, looking at what the vendors had on offer, when I saw something familiar.

IMG_3338

I’d seen these scarves before. I’d bought the one in the middle in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu, as a souvenir for my sister.

These, as you can see, are $12.

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Vail Lift Tickets hit record highs for New Years

Ski Chairlift

EDIT: 1/15/2015: Current price for a day lift ticket is $145. See up-to-date Vail lift ticket prices here.

Lift ticket prices are sky-high across Colorado for peak season.

A walk-up single-day ticket at Vail will run you $160 until a few days into the new year (1/3/2015). While very few people buy walk-up single day tickets (and Vail, Colorado is, of course, a ski resort which caters to rich people), the price still reflects the growing economic barrier which keeps many people out of snowsports such as skiing and snowboarding.

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Wherein I spend $80 seeing a movie at CinéBistro

Wine in movie theater

I took my girlfriend to see “Interstellar” this past weekend (Review here). We decided to do “dinner and a movie” on Sunday night, to celebrate her starting work (I work from home, and let me tell you, that’s difficult to do when your unemployed girlfriend is walking around in her underwear all day). This was a cause to celebrate, at least in a modest “dinner and a movie” way.

Dinner and a movie, Vail style, is a $100+ date. We spent $80 at the movie theatre.

Vail, 1, thisisyouth, 0.

Vail’s only movie theatre is, unsurprisingly, an upscale affair. Cinébistro at Solaris is a full-service concept, with menus and waiters and wine. It is without a doubt the nicest movie theatre I have ever been in.

The seats are leather, the leg room is spacious; Like most places in Vail, something about it really reminds me of money.

And that’s the thing.

Cinebistro makes it so incredibly easy for you to spend money. This, of course, is the goal of any movie theatre, with their $7 popcorns and $5 drinks and pulling you out of your home to do an activity which you could do from your couch. They trade convenience and the feeling of larger-than life luxury for extortionate sums of money. Cinebistro is maybe the apex of this idea.

When we arrived at Cinebistro on Sunday night, we had already eaten dinner and had two drinks apiece at the cheaper places in town. “Oh you guys are going to see Interstellar? I’m so jealous! I really want to see that movie. Isn’t it like three hours long though?” A bar worker asked us while we sipped on cocktails. “Yeah, that’s why we’re getting a little buzz on now,” I told him. “Very smart,” he said.

We had specifically chosen to eat and drink elsewhere because we did not want to spend too much money at the Cinebistro. Smart thinking that did not get us far.

Roughly 10 minutes before our screening, we arrived at the CInebistro. We paid $24 for two tickets (with the local discount), and reserved a pair of seats recommended by the clerk, which allowed us to extend the already spacious legroom by putting our feet up on the railing.

Thirty seconds after we sat down in the theatre, a waiter arrived and asked us if we would like some drinks. Two drinks deep already, of course we would like more. We order the cheapest bottle of wine on their menu and popcorn, and are out 56 more dollars. We are charged an automatic 18 percent gratuity for in-theatre service. From the time we entered the theatre to when we ordered food, maybe three minutes elapsed. There was little to do but laugh, exasperated, and say to one another, “We just spent $80 at the movie theatre.”

The movie was good. The experience was great. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that two of us spent $80 at a movie theatre.

Much like Las Vegas, Vail is a town designed to make you spend money.

I told this story over beers, to a group of pink-faced Vail Resorts employees who had been in town for all of two days; homeless and full of idealism. They all immediately pointed to our purchase of concessions as our issue. Which is obviously true. If we had skipped on snacks it would have been a much cheaper excursion.

A few weeks earlier, we saw “Gone Girl” at the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards, a town slightly down-valley from Vail. We drove ten minutes to the theatre and did not purchase concessions. It was a much cheaper outing (and for my money, the movie was better). But Edwards and Vail are very different places.

Vail is a resort town, an experience. To live in Vail without having the experience feels like a huge waste. Sure, you could skate by skiing, working, and drinking when you have the money, but why? Why live in a resort town if you’re not willing to make a little bit of every day a vacation?

If you’re not willing to do that, your heart seems like it would fill up with toxic hostility and resentment, full of the things you feel you can’t do.

This economic tension is one of the deep-rooted forces acting on the community of Vail. I’m very privileged to be able to thread the line of haves and have nots, but honestly, I can’t see doing it any other way.

Sometimes you need to eat rice for a month so you can afford an EPIC Pass (still waiting on mine to come in the mail, eek!), and sometimes the heart just needs an $80 movie.

“Money’s money.”

I infuriate my girlfriend whenever I tell her that. Usually this is in service of a “money’s not everything/ a poor craftsman blames his tools,” type of message. Her attitude is a little different. She has less saved up.

Money gives me a lot of joy, personally. My mother and my sister often took loans from me while I was growing up. I take good care of my finances; I acknowledge that a large amount of societal privilege has contributed to my possessing both money and the skills to manage it.

However, money’s never been the thing for me. You can’t put a price on experience; living life well is always more important than making money. This is why I’m here, blogging, working towards an audience and experience and a goal, instead of sizing boots or flipping burgers for $16 an hour in the town of Vail.

This is why I’m in Vail, to a large degree.

I work a day job, of course. Two, in fact. Hopefully more, if the tendrils I have laid play out. But you need to work for more than money, even at this age. If you are measuring your life in terms of how many $80 movies you can attend, something isn’t right.

But one every now and then sure doesn’t hurt.