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Where tall tales, real and imagined, absurd and compelling, are served with a smile
The People’s Republic of Boulder
This morning my wife and I broke our fast in one of Boulder’s staple (if few) greasy spoons: The Village Coffee Shop. We were familiar with the place by way of Stephen White’s Boulder-set novels in which the protagonist and his Boulder PD friend/ally frequent the no-pretense artery clogging establishment. While waiting for two chocolate chip pancakes the size of manhole covers and a side of bacon (but of course) I noticed the t-shirts that the short order cooks uniformly wore. In the middle: Village Coffee Shop. Surrounding that was their slogan: 890 Sq. Ft. of Reality Surrounded by Boulder. This is a play on an informal slogan for the whole of Boulder: 25 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality. I think both are true.
The Village Coffee Shop is refreshingly non-p.c. (and the food is terrific). If you’re a first timer, be prepared for everything to be brought to a halt as the “Village Virgin!” call goes out and everybody goes bananas. You’re then given your ‘Village V-Card’ which gets stamped (with cherries no less) each time you bring in a new Village Virgin. In the mix is free stuff of some sort that we never really got to the bottom of. I think it starts with french fries and goes from there. I’d like to work my way up to a dozen or so of the giant pancakes to stitch together as an edible quilt for next winter. Shiver, shiver, chomp. Shiver, shiver, chomp.
Back to the slogans. The tie in is right on. Boulder is surreal in almost every way. Much of its unique-ti-tude (made up word) is derived from the absurd for sure. But bottom line: it’s a pretty remarkable place and if you had to choose, wouldn’t you like to live somewhere remarkable? That being said you can’t go a single day, or even half a day, without encountering a taste of the ridiculous. Case in point – The Boulder 420 Fest, an annual celebration of all things marijuana taking place on, you guessed it, April 20th. “420” holds great significance in pot smoking sub-culture. Being Rubiksian in my squaredom and a non-pot smoker, I never understood exactly why. Even last week on April 20th itself, my wife asked me about the significance. I took a stab in the dark that it had something to do with getting baked, extrapolating from that a culinary tie in. To wit: Bake at 420. With typical acuity for my b.s., Amber pointed out that never do you see cooking instructions calling for the oven to be set at an arbitrary 420 degrees. Bake at 350, sure. But we can’t very well have a big ol’ puff fest on March 50th, can we? That would really confuse the puffers whom may find themselves reading from some arcane Mayan calendar in an alternate dimension. I’ve since learned that the rite has roots in 1971, in San Rafael, California (if any place is goofier than Boulder, it’s California, generally). Something about a statue of Louis Pasteur and a group of teenage cats known as “The Waldos.” Whatever. The end result is that 420 carries very specific (to a pot-smoker which means very vague) meaning. And every year there is a celebration en masse on the campus of CU Boulder. This past Thursday: 10,000 partakers creating a cloud of tangy haze vast enough to give orbiting cosmonauts on the Russian Space Station a contact high accompanied by insatiable cosmo-munchies. Even my father, back in lush and bountiful New Jersey, caught wind of it (not literally which is fortunate). The story he had heard was via a reporter on scene amongst the throngs of weed fairies (see video), addlers (people who have used so many drugs they are not quite right in the head), vipers (old time hippies who hang out in after hours clubs and get smoked up – both definitions courtesy of 420dictionary.com), but mostly, really, really, really, REALLY high college students (ah, tuition dollars at work). According to the report my father caught, it was the “largest gathering of marijuana smokers on the CU campus since…yesterday.” Indeed. For a glimpse of what it was like, see the video below (note: author thinks pot smokers are dirty hippies and does not condone the following behavior; on the other hand, author likes people to make their own choices and therefore does condone reader ignoring what author thinks):