Posts Tagged ‘series’

why boulder sucks. (part 1)

June 7, 2009

“People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.” – Chief Niwot

quick disclaimer before I get started: this list doesn’t purport to be exhaustive.

I mentally stumbled upon the best way to sum up my issue with Boulder quite recently. A few weeks back, I flew to NYC and spent a week there. On the way back toward my parents’ apartment from the grocery store I caught sight of a newsstand as I was passing by it (from a Boulder perspective, the very idea of a newsstand seems so anachronistic). There were probably newspapers in languages I couldn’t even recognize; we’re talking at least 25-30 different foreign-language newspapers. I mean, I can think of the names of at least two daily NYC newspapers in Spanish just off the top of my head, and I haven’t lived there much in the last six years (and those are just the ones I’ve noticed people reading on the subway). It finally dawned on me while I was in the city a couple weeks ago that 95%+ of the population of Boulder comes from one of two countries, both of which are in North America (and I’m not making that up. That’s actually fairly accurate)!

Some people, no doubt (though probably not those in my blog’s primary audience – thank you, good friends, for reading), would probably respond to this with incredulity: is the lack of diversity really the biggest thing wrong with Boulder?

Well, actually, yes. At least, it’s the most fundamental thing wrong with it, underlying most of the other issues. Boulder is actually sort of a gigantic self-contradiction in many ways. I think it probably has one of the strongest recycling programs in the country, and indeed, the culture here is at times almost neurotically oriented toward issues of environmental sustainability (not that that’s necessarily so bad in and of itself); and yet the same people fiercely advocating for every disposable cup, fork and knife to be made out of compostable corn product seems to love driving those oh-so-sustainable Jeeps and Range Rovers all over town.

It isn’t just that there’s so much wealth on display in Boulder (though the degree to which that is true is fairly shocking). It’s also striking that the Boulder “culture,” such as it is – and I will admit, Boulder does have some culture – seems to be geared toward encouraging maximally self-indulgent wallowing in all that money. Worse, the unrepentantly hedonistic consumer culture is inextricably intertwined with concerns that seem much more benevolent, as in the recycling example mentioned earlier. So for example, the city of Boulder (or maybe it’s the county), protects natural areas outlying the city and other suburban growth areas by allocating them as Open Space and Mountain Parks and restricting development on those areas. Yet it is precisely the abundance of natural vistas that attracts the hordes of wealthy white Californians looking for a nice place to build their McMansions and raise their kids (to turn a phrase I might, at the risk of offending some, term this phenomenon “white blight”). Sadly, most of these folks are probably so busy trying to make the capitalism work that they have little if any time to actually enjoy the natural beauty that probably attracted them to Boulder in the first place (because almost none of them came from here).

These are the people who spend their time fretting over their overpriced lattes while talking into a Bluetooth headset, checking stock quotes or sending e-mail on their mobile devices, and likely nearly inflicting death or serious injury while doing it because all the while they are driving, disregarding that whole “stay in the lane” idea or worse, cluelessly trying to navigate their Audi through a rotary (either the simplicity of how to drive through a rotary is lost on many members of the Boulder upper class, or else they simply think the traffic laws don’t apply if the car cost more than $40K).

Some of you might think I’m being harsh: “Come on, Akiva – you can’t blame people for having enough money for being able to afford nice cars or nice houses. It’s not exactly their fault. If you had a trust-fund, would you want to be judged for it?”

I probably am being a bit harsh, and I’m certainly being judgmental. But look, things don’t happen in a vacuum. I’m not necessarily faulting Boulder’s trust-fund class for being in the top tax-bracket, but I am alleging that the effects of its demographic make-up have a terrible impact on the quality of life in this city / town / whatever-it-is (for the rest of us, that is). Firstly, the racial divide that accompanies the economic disparity is too painfully obvious to be ignored. I would like to compare the homeownership rate of the white vs. Mexican populations of the city of Boulder. I’ll do some research, and get back to you i part 2.

When it comes to culture, Boulder is really hurting. This town has no gay bar (as telling a marker of the quality of urban life as I can think of). It has no night life to speak of (no offense to those that are actually trying). It has one movie theater (I mean theaters that play movies every day), and it’s a pre-fab Cinemark joint. There are good bookstores, but not one independently owned record shop. It’s got an excellent state university (although, according to a recent column I read by Stanley Fish of the Times, only a tiny portion of CU’s funding is actually from public sources – I think around 5%, and at any rate, certainly less than 10%. Look it up if you don’t believe me) and a (in my experience, at least) very good small, private Buddhist-inspired university in Naropa. It’s also got a lot of bicycles.

All of this brings me in the direction of perhaps one of Boulder’s most prominent characteristics which I’ve hardly even touched on. But I have to cut this short, because I’m getting tired, so until part 2, feel free to weigh in with your own point of view. Probably one of the first topics that comes to mind for many people as soon as Boulder is mentioned will be the starting topic of part 2: NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY. boy oh boy…