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By Staff | Apr 15, 2016

The city of Boulder is perched hard against the eastern slopes of the Rockies; The Flatirons, an iron-hued sandstone formation that have nothing to do with clothing care, stand guard over the town. The air in Boulder is dry and the atmosphere is laidback.

The University of Colorado is the town’s epicenter. Google is constructing a new campus nearby so that it can more efficiently assimilate new graduates into its collective.

My wife and I recently journeyed to Boulder on business. Our schedule included a bit of time for pleasure, by which I mean “shopping and dining out.”

We flew into Denver International, which contains more people at any given moment than the entire state of South Dakota. Steve, our airport shuttle driver, is a native Boulderite (Bouldarian?) and was eager to share info about his hometown.

His enthusiasm was such that he should be on the Boulder Booster Club payroll.

We asked Steve what we absolutely shouldn’t miss during our brief sojourn in Boulder and he recommended that we visit the Pearl Street Mall.

“It has everything,” he said. “Shopping, coffee shops, microbreweries.”

He didn’t need to say another word. He had my wife at “shopping” and he had me at “beer.”

The Pearl Street Mall is an area that’s several blocks long and contains approximately 1 billion small shops, each of which my wife proclaimed to be “cute.” There was a store that sold fossils and a shop that had only puzzles.

There was even a shop that featured nothing but kites and other wind-powered entertainment gadgetry.

I was hoping to find something farm-related when we espied a boutique called Alpaca Connection. At last, I might get to see something other than merchandise.

I was eager to visit a herd of ungulates, but disappointed when I learned that the shop merely featured alpaca wool products. Someone should speak to its owners about truth in advertising.

It was soon time for a bite and a beer. We bought burritos at a joint called Illegal Pete’s and sat at an outdoor table. As we ate, we participated in one of our favorite pastimes, namely, people watching.

There was a definite college town vibe about Boulder, with its abundance of bicycles, backpacks and skateboards. A young woman wearing paisley bell-bottoms strolled past, a trippy outfit that appeared to have come straight from the ’60s even though its owner was obviously born in the ’90s.

White fedoras seem to be a chic fashion accessory amongst the hip young chicks.

Street performers appeared and began to ply their trades. There were jugglers and acrobats, actors and musicians. It was like going to the circus without the big top tent.

I chatted with Michael, a banjo-playing busker who hails from Philadelphia. I asked him what brought him to Boulder.

“I came here with my ex-wife five years ago,” he replied, “and I stayed after we split up. Boulder is one of my favorite places. It’s a great town that really supports the arts community.”

My wife tossed some bills into Michael’s banjo case and I asked if he took requests. As we resumed our stroll down Pearl Street, a banjo version of The Star-Spangled Banner reverberated through the rarified mountain air.

There’s a strange phenomenon I wanted to investigate ere we left the Centennial State. Colorado recently legalized the recreational use of a certain herb, and I was told that this herb was available in nearby dispensaries.

One such establishment is MMJ America. Upon entering the dispensary, a beefy security guy asked to see my ID. After glancing at my driver’s license, he gruffly asked, “Medical or rec?” I had no intention of purchasing anything. Inwardly panicking, I blurted, “Rec.”

I was ushered into a narrow room lined with glass cases such as those seen in a jewelry store. Instead of jewelry, the cases contained numerous forms of herb-based products.

I chatted with the shop’s proprietor, Marc. I asked Marc how business has been and he replied, “We’re struggling to keep up with demand. Last year, we did $20 million in sales. We’re adding more greenhouses and more retail outlets.”

So saying that your business has gone to pot is actually a good thing?

“That’s true,” said Marc. “But that’s still a bad pun no matter how many times I hear it.”

I thanked Marc for his time and took my leave. It’s puzzling how something can be legal here, yet illegal there.

We departed Boulder with full tummies and depleted wallets.

And for some reason, I felt the urge to buy my wife a white fedora.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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