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.
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.
*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.”