Life in Boulder, CO

She was blond and had the air of a movie star, plus she always walked with two giant hairy dogs, they looked like wooly mammoths. For all I know they were wooly mammoth babies, and she was Madonna, hard to say in Boulder.

One of the streets that comes out of the mountains splits into two of Boulder’s main roads. The new streets each have a personality of their own, Canyon Blvd. is a four-lane thoroughfare while Pearl St. has a more complex character. Pearl starts as a cozy tree-lined street loaded with apartments, expensive homes, and lots of restaurants, then about a mile further east closes for five blocks and becomes a brick-lined mall. The Mall is a big deal with sculptures, parks, and retail shops. After the mall, Pearl becomes a commercial street and home to one of the busiest Whole Foods in America and a Google headquarters. I know the area like the back of my hand. I like to walk early in the morning and park across the street from Oksana and my old apartment at the very west end of Pearl and head east right about 6 am.

The weather is perfect, bright and sunny and warm enough that I do not even need a jacket. Right away, I see the same lady I have seen hundreds of times during my walks, a regular walker. She is blond and has the air of a movie star, plus she always walks with two giant hairy dogs that look like wooly mammoths. For all I know, they are wooly mammoth babies and she is Madonna, hard to say in Boulder.

Next, I come across some homeless guys heading toward the mountains, probably from downtown where they slept under one of the bridges. The homeless people in Boulder get treated with the same respect you would give a local leader. You don’t have to look in their eyes or give them money, but you do have to treat them with respect and dignity. In return, they give that same respect and dignity back to you. It is a rule in Boulder.

There are a lot of rules in Boulder. Another rule is that you are never flashy, go to LA if you want to do that. You can pass a movie star, a billionaire, royalty, or your average joe and you will never be able to tell for sure who’s who. That is how we Boulderites live. Everyone gets treated the same way.

The other group that gets well treated in Boulder is your canine. But there is more of a hierarchy given to these beasts. If you’re a high-bred dog, you are voice trained and earn a green license tag. That means you can turn your nose up at signs that say dogs must be on a leash and are free to roam untethered anywhere you want, including into stores and shops. These dogs walk with their heads held high and do not screw around with other dogs. The lessor trained beast still gets confined to a leash, and even if that dog goes after a high-bred dog, the high-bred will ignore it and remain dignified and un-doglike.

The people of Boulder treat all dogs equally and put out water for the dogs. You can barely travel fifty feet without seeing a freshly filled bowl of water somewhere along the sidewalk. You will not go thirsty in Boulder if you are a dog, or willing to drink out of a dog’s bowl.

There is a lot of wildlife in Boulder too, and not just deer and animals that you would not fear. Sometimes bears come down from the mountains. But they skip the water bowls and head straight to the trashcans. I guess they are not thirsty when they visit and probably drink out of the ample Boulder Creek a few blocks away.

There is one critical piece of canine etiquette you must know if you have a dog in Boulder. This rule is a religious thing for most people and is why I will probably never have a dog. There are posts with dog poop trash cans and dozens of extra green bags all over town. If your dog does its business anywhere, you must pick that stuff up in one of those little green bags. I think it is ridiculous, but people do not accept that notion and go to great lengths to get that poop into a green bag. I have been a good fifteen miles up into the mountains in the middle of nowhere and regularly see people cross large fields or move through dense brush to scoop that stuff up into a little green bag. They probably don’t know that thousands of other animals use the same area for their business every day. The odd thing is that most of these people only tie the bag off and then set it back down on the ground. You will thank me for telling you this because you will see hundreds of green bags, and you don’t want to pick them up. I imagine Boulder has a bunch of poop picker uppers running through town from time to time to collect the bags, but anyway, that is what all those green bags are about.

Continuing down Pearl St., I come to the first of many coffee shops I like. I know that it opens at 6 am because I have been eating there for years. It is called Spruce Confections, and this is where you get a Sammy if you are hungry. A Sammy is a croissant sandwich filled with eggs and bacon or sausage, whatever they put in that day. They also have a vegetarian version that usually has eggplant or mushrooms, but I wouldn’t eat eggplant to save myself from starvation, so I have never tried a vegetarian one. The important thing is to get them to warm it up because they use their baking ovens to get it flaky and crispy. I don’t think they have a microwave in the place. The Sammy and a coffee will fill you up, but I usually get a chocolate raspberry scone too because they are delicious. You want to get them to warm that baby up also. But I am going somewhere else today.

A few blocks down Pearl Street, you come to the Trident Café. This coffee shop is where you go if you are a CU professor or an intellectual or an Einstein wannabe. I get the poppy seed roll and a coffee to go, all from the same thin, attractive, girl and handsome young man I have been getting them from for years. Then I head back down Pearl Street.

Across the street and a half block further east is Ozo Coffee, and this is the volume store. They roast their beans and have a religious following. Ozo’s has some of the best coffee in town, especially if you like the full force in your face taste. There was a time when I would get out of bed like it was my first Christmas to run down to Ozo’s because they used to sell pineapple fritters made by Dizzy’s Donuts.

Dizzy is a legendary donut man. I know people are reading this that are saying, oh, I have had fantastic potato donuts in Portland or some other special donut in Washington DC, or San Francisco, Seattle, and even Paris, France. I have had dozens of people like that come to Boulder. I just put them in my car and head to the east side of Boulder where Dizzy kept his shop. I take them inside, and I say, “Dizzy, throw the craziest donut you are making today right up here on the counter cut into four pieces please.” You do not know what you will get. He may have made ham and cheese or pork belly and jam or some other crazy donut that day. Once he puts the donut up on the counter, I give them one of those pieces and won’t let them have any more until they admit that it is the best donut they have ever eaten. They always do. It never takes long for a person to succumb to Dizzy. I always thought Dizzy might be a space alien, but Dizzy is not around anymore. I don’t know why. Anyway, we don’t have his Pineapple Fritters anymore, so I rarely stop in at Ozo’s because it is always busy.

When I use to visit Ozo’s, I would sit outside with my pineapple fritter and coffee and watch them build the new building across the street where the old Daily Camera building used to be. They tore the old newspaper building down, dug three or four stories deep, put a giant crane in that hole, and built a four-story building. It took almost a year to be in the right place at the right time to see proof with my own two eyes that the little glass house at the very top of the crane had a person up there. The glass enclosure was tinted so I could never really tell for sure. I might see what looked like movement, and I might even wait around a few hours to see if someone came down to take a pee or get lunch or whatnot, but I never really knew until that one day. That day I was there at the right time and watched the guy climb the crane tower. He started at the bottom, walked up a few stories, took a rest, then started back up again. After he got to the top, he pulled up a rope that had a lunch box and thermos attached to it, which is when I knew that he got into that booth and stayed there for the day. I guess there must be a toilet in that thing.

After I finish my coffee and poppy seed roll I walk to Walnut Street and hit up Amante’s for a mocha latte, then I head back to Pearl Street and walk along the Pearl Street Mall. The homeless folks were waking up on the benches, and the local workforce is beginning to arrive. No street performers and crowds at this hour but it is still interesting to walk through the mall. At the end of the mall, I turn south toward Boulder Creek. I love to listen to the creek and the birds in the morning. I walk another forty-five minutes along the rushing creek before getting back to my car — what a town.