As I walked past carefree diners looking out onto Pearl Street from the windows of a rather expensive restaurant, a sense of irony washed over me. This feeling was induced by the homeless and vagrants I had seen just a few minutes before. On the same street.
Spending the afternoon and evening wandering through downtown Boulder made me realize how the town contains such an appealing combination of sophistication and adversity.
This may be true of many towns, but Pearl Street exposes this juxtaposition of the well-off and not so well-off in such a discernible way.
I have always been drawn to Boulder because of the distracting visual stimuli that embraces Pearl Street. One minute, you will be looking at art pieces that cost thousands of dollars and the next a vagrant producing his own art in hopes a few bucks will be tossed into his hat.
People that visit or live here include all walks of life. From the penniless to the prosperous, the tourists and the college students, somehow this mix seems to get along.
However, Boulder, Colorado is a polarizing town. The paradoxical mix of tree-huggers and yuppies is bound to cause friction.
As an outsider, I don’t know all the politics and clashes that exist among the locals. The rich and the poor battling it out. The liberals on an island, surrounded by conservative Colorado. But as an outsider, I don’t sense this conflict. Most people have a smile on their face. If there is some sort of contention, the Boulderites hide it well.
They all seem to be happy…
A commonality among the people who live in Boulder is the love of the outdoors and being fit and health conscious. In March 2011, CBS reported Boulder as the happiest city in the United States, based on having the highest Well-Being Index score in a Gallup poll.
Personally, I love the idiosyncrasies, friendliness, creative aura, tasty delights, and diverse shopping that separates this town from the rest of Colorado. The wide choices of restaurants and boutiques, mixed culture, and creative genius that fill this college town create an inspirational setting.
I love that there are three non-chain bookstores within a few blocks of each other. The charm and lack of cookie-cutter businesses and architecture is what keeps Pearl Street Mall packed on most nights of the week.
Boulder is pretty determined to maintain this one-of-a-kind feeling. Ironically, it seems to be a town that promotes openness and cutting-edge ideas, alongside an unwillingness to change. A loose xenophobic impression prevents the town from straying from its insistent image of diversity.
Diverse, yet stubborn. Open to everyone, yet snobby. Irony again.
Maybe keeping it the same, yet different, is what draws people in.