10 Pithy Observations About Boulder (Part Two)

| Sep 30, 2009


AHHH, BOULDER. But is it “The God Realm”? See #12 below. (Reporter photo)

Here is Part Two of my list of some things I find ravishingly interesting and not blindingly obvious about Boulder, Colorado.

6. Extremely white. Now, this is not literally true because there is a fairly large Latino population whose presence is highly visible in some neighborhoods, bilingual schools and stores. What there are not are African Americans. I think it’s safe to say that there’s not enough of a critical mass of African Americans in Boulder, nor at the university, for those who are here, or those considering coming here, to feel that Boulder’s very welcoming. This loss of diversity is regrettable.

7. A real-estate survivor. The acknowledged sources, from Zillow to Case-Shiller, tip their hats to Colorado, and specifically to Boulder, as among those areas that have best weathered the Great Real Estate Crash. With little land available to build on, there have been no huge housing developments and no hideous predatory lenders. Add a relatively stable job market (university and government labs), plus Boulder’s eternal appeal to well-heeled liberals, and you’ve got price stability, bubba.

8. Post-utopian. They’re out there, all right, the former hippies and radical activists of the 60s and 70s who (probably high on something) tasted of Utopian Dreams. Then they crashed, and now they’re laying low. A friend calls it “outrage fatigue” — the post-utopians’ lack of interest in political activism. But then when someone like Paul Krugman or Bill McKibben rolls into town for a speech, 800 people show up. Oh, they’re out there: laying low, tracking what’s happening, waiting for the next swing of the pendulum.

9. Yoga-crazed. Yoga studios proliferate madly. My standby stereotype of Boulder has had to change. Formerly it was of a blonde mom driving a Land Rover and talking on her cell phone. My new stereotype: a young 20-something, walking serenely, carrying a rolled-up yoga mat. Yoga is also attracting the creaky aging baby-boomers too. All of this can’t be a bad thing.

10. Defended by a moat. The city’s aggressive purchasing of greenbelt land has created a cushion of farmland and prairie on all sides. This is amazingly great in that the network of hiking trails is so extensive that, even after years, we’re still discovering new trails. Find me another city like that. It’s less great in that our “moat” has choked off homebuilding and driven up house prices, leading to a switched-around rush hour in which thousands of workers who can’t afford to live here clog the roads coming into Boulder mornings and outward at day’s end. It has also spawned jokes about how, should civil unrest and hunger ever stalk the land, Boulder, with its moat, will be, quite literally, defensible.

Oh, hell, here are two bonus observations. I couldn’t just waste them, right?

11. Buddhist. Surprised? Don’t be. It all started when the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa came to Boulder in 1970, proclaiming Boulder to be, both physically and esoterically, reminiscent of his homeland. The locating in Boulder of his Vajradhatu spiritual group, and the subsequent formation of the respected Naropa University, followed, meaning Boulder at one time had roughly a thousand young Tibetan Buddhist followers living here, and leaving their mark (many followed him to Halifax, Nova Scotia, but many of those later drifted back). My joke, albeit an exaggeration and perhaps a wish, is that “Buddhism is in Boulder’s water supply.” Many of Trungpa’s early and ardent students are prominent residents today. They’re a nice group of people.

12. “The God Realm”. That’s a term my Buddhist friends use to describe an archetypal Shangri La, and they sometimes use the term to describe Boulder (not gloatingly but descriptively). Our year-round, mostly-temperate climate is one key to it, as are the artfully sculpted mountains ever-looming to our west. It’s easy to drift into a kind of drowsy state of nirvana because, for many, the living is that good. The downside is that bucolic venues attract the moneyed people, and some of Boulder’s better neighborhoods can take on the ritziness of an Aspen or Cherry Hills Village. You know, places where white people live in big houses and armies of guys in pickup trucks come during the day to fix their stuff. I, however, prefer to dwell on the good side of living in “the God Realm.” Ommm.

(This article also appeared on Huffington Post)