Boulder: too pricey for Hippies.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jul 29, 2009
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hippies boulder backdoor

Boulder: a greener, liberal Orange County? Or: Reputation trails Reality.

Last night, on my way to a cool Manhattan-worthy sushi joint (Hapa) with my hip buddy LC, past a bunch of college bars and trendy joints worthy of Aspen, past multi-kajillion dollar developments that have gone up in the past year or two, I ran across a scene worthy of my iPhone’s camera.

boulder hippiespuppy bites lion hippie tail boulderboulder hippies

So the photos are shaky, but here’s the deal: 12 or 20 hippies, hard to tell as they were all sitting and jumping and lying all over one another, all around 18 or 20 years old, barely clothed, playing loud (and not half-bad) folks music, right in the middle of Friday night downtown, dancing around or sitting aimlessly, busking. I said to my friend, hey, this is what the rest of the world thinks Boulder is like all the time, all Birkenstocks and armpit hair and pot and dreads…but what’s funny is none of these people are from Boulder!

She wondered if they were passing through on way to some Rainbow Festival somewheres. A little puppy repeatedly bit a dancing lion lady’s tail. Very cute. I was wearing a military trucker hat, and an older gentleman, who’d joined 20 others in stopping to watch the downtown hippie music scene, asked me where I’d served. I demurred, “Ah, nan, some hipster lady gave this to me…I’ve never had the honor.” We talked for awhile, joking about how the hippies couldn’t afford to live in Boulder, these days…how we’d become a greener, liberal version of Aspen or Orange County.

And I thought about how reputation always lasts 10 years or so longer than reality—which is why folks still think I’m cool, or have a life, say, even after 10 years (exactly) of working my butt off, sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen, being thoroughly un-cool and boring five or six nights a week.

Funny thing is, I sometimes am called, or call myself, a neo-hippie. I prefer The Last Hippie. Boulder did indeed used to be populated, and in many instances is what it is now today—a lovely, green-minded community that rich CA Republicans want to buy up—because of the hippies I knew growing up here. Some of the hippies were scientists, some were Buddhists, some were feminists, some were Beat poets or artists or activists who helped close Rocky Flats. All were their own person—the original modern Willy-living fixie-riding hipster. Their style was all their own.

hippies boulder

*Angel-headed Hipster: In fact, if you consider the term’s roots, “hippie” has always been a moniker applied from the outside, just as much of the US still applies the label to Boulder. Jack Kerouac hated the term. He disowned the “hippies,” railing against their slovenly appearance, their lack of patriotism. The original “hippie” term came from “hipster,” a term applied to street-wise jazz-playing and/or appreciating young men or women, black or white, who were “hip” to something, “awake,” “alive.”

jazz kerouac beat hipster


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


28 Responses to “Boulder: too pricey for Hippies.”

  1. Andy says:

    Too bad a person with a normal middle-class income can't even dream of owning a house in one of Boulder's idyllic, quaint neighborhoods.

  2. Great point. I'm writing about the OC I see on TV, hypocritically–since I'm dissing the US' ignorant view of Boulder.

    On your other point, we have a strong Latino population—but even if you live here for awhile, the non-white population isn't always that visible in everyday life—there isn't half as much cultural give-and-take as their could be.

  3. Andy says:

    Haha still out of my price range. I'd totally live there though.

  4. swati jr* says:

    totally busted a chuckle, realizing i've been a part of that street scene myself many times. only i was the one with the lion tail….even with eight years of locks, i absolutely detested being called a hippy. soo rude to just assume someone is a hippy, when clearly that is a term that applies to a small population (most of whom are old dead heads living in indiana somewhere.) i too wonder if becoming "boring" is an inevitable occurrence as you "mature." i might need to do something drastically dramatic. maybe i just need a lion tail.

  5. Amen to that—you're dead on. But it is generally the shiftless, homeless outta centyral Hollywood casting sorta hippie—not the scientist poet activist who reads Tolkein and biodiesels his/her old car but mostly rides her/his bike with a made-in-USA bike trailer in back sorta hippie—that America has for many years visualized as belonging to Boulder.

  6. you have an inner lion tail, Sara!

  7. it's cool. Kinda like the hut in A PLACE OF MY OWN by Michael Pollan

  8. […] drug-addled fixie-luvin’ dirty boy band hipster who don’t know where the term hipster originated (Beat generation; jazz). So what’s pretentious about being “eco”? Oh, […]

  9. Rick Gilbert says:

    a pathetic admission: growing up, the only thing I associated with Boulder was "Mork and Mindy," good ol' Conrad Janis!

  10. Juliet Shapiro says:

    It's disturbing to have a hometown I'll probably never be able to live in as an adult…

  11. Amen. Thanks. Always good to explode a stereotype. That said, the three ex-Californians living a few houses down from me now are all from Orange County.

  12. A good friend/idol of mine, back in Jr. High, lived in the Mork n'Mindy house.

  13. Greg says:

    Brings back memories. I was in Boulder before Hippies. The Hippies arrived mainly from Haight Ashbury and New York.

    Memories of Kesey's Merry Pranksters coming through. Leary, Ginsburg, Ram Dass all late to the scene. They did not make the ambiance – they came to us. Mostly as stains upon a very pure gown of peacefulness.

    I recall riding my bike home through Pearl Street, which was fronted by shuttered warehouses. Definitely down scale. One of my friends was first to buy, renovate, and flip in that area. Not SoCal but rather Burlingame CA money – Standard Oil inheritance. Then money flooded in from back East.

    When I visit now my heart aches for what might have been – but I take the Buddhist perspective and realize all is temporary. There once was a place…

  14. […] came up with Hipster Potter and the rare jazz album on vinyl, but was stretching for some true hipsterdom—you know, poetry, Beats, more jazz, some Buddhism, meditation, hitchhiking, rebell…n, individualism, independence, […]

  15. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks for sharing. Beautiful memories…sounds like you ought to write a short story.

  16. Funny, I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area where we think of hippies as being from the Haight or Berkeley. Boulder was though of as a wannbe Berkeley.

  17. When I lived in Boulder, in the early 90's, it was clear that none of the people I hung out would be able to afford to live there in ten years.

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