A subprime extended analogy

Imagine that for some reason the Bolder Boulder 10K — which I will be running for the first time on Memorial Day — fronted me 200 race bibs for this year’s event, and told me that they wanted $10,000 ($50 per bib) in return. Recognizing that the homeless and low-income population of Boulder is an untapped and eager market for this race — there’s a lot of free food and a free T-shirt involved, after all — I canvass the downtown area and offer to give race bibs away for $5 each, along with any EBT cards with a balance of between $25 and $50 (I might throw in a pint of vodka to sweeten the deal). I am able to very rapidly hawk all 2,000 numbers, giving me about $1,000 in cash and a pile of EBT cards. I have no idea if these have any value and I don’t check because I don’t care.

The reason I don’t care is simple: I’m on the hook for ten grand to the Bolder Boulder, but that is about to become someone else’s problem. Through a process of possibly illegal but complicated forgery, I manage to make the 200 EBT cards look like Whole Foods gift cards with a value of $250 each, and I offer these to people around Whole Foods stores and on Craigslist for $50 in cash, explaining that I have a gripe against the company and want no part of any of their nasty-tasting, overpriced garbage and homeopathic woo-woo. In the fine print of the agreement, which is written in Sanskrit, I have each “gift card” buyer sign for my personal tax records, it says that they also owe the Bolder Boulder 10K $50 in the form of a mandatory charitable donation to the Bolder Boulder 10K itself. It also says that the gift cards are only good in Whole Foods stores that open on or after January 1, 2020. No problem. Continue reading “A subprime extended analogy”

BoCo vs. DoDo: The Trails of Two Cities

I’m writing this from a Starbucks in West Roxbury, a neighborhood in the western fringes of Boston close to the more upscale suburb of Brookline but also not far from the worst of the city’s ‘hoods. (That’s the charm of this compact place: Back when the Combat Zone still existed in its full fury 25 years ago, if someone had put a blindfold on you and asked you to walk for 15 minutes from downtown in any direction, you wouldn’t have known if you would wind up in the midst of crackwhores or on the lawns of Beacon Hill mansions.) And I mention Starbucks only because she’s a bitch I can’t get away from even though I don’t respect her, a place I go to for a couple of assets I could get most anyplace else and in higher quality–in this place, wi-if and coffee–only because of habit and a craven unwillingness to explore neighborhoods.

I move around a bunch. I’m not talking just about my day-to-day hyperkinetic ways — running, overcaffeinated tours of neighborhoods with equally rambunctious working-class dogs, tapping out blissfully agitated e-mails at a Mach 19 despite using only three fingers — since 2002, I’ve been comparatively sessile in the past few trips around the sun, managing 18-month-long stints in Dover, N.H. and Boulder, Colorado between December 2008 and today. The Great Front Range Experiment is now history, and since a lot of what a place like Boulder has to offer fits seamlessly into my wants and needs, it stands to reason that moving away — even if back to the state where I’ve spent most of my life — would be a jolt.

The title of this post includes a couple of neologisms of the pithy type I despise, with syllables based on place names, e.g., SoHo. But I couldn’t resist “DoDo” (for “downtown Dover”) because it’s just do frigging witty and mimics the name of a friendly but impossibly stupid Madagascarian birds from centuries ago that asshole colonists recreationally blasted into extinction. But really, with “Dover” I’m referring to all of suburban and exurban Boston, as right now I’m actually in the city and will be settling soon enough back in N.H.

Anyway, regarding the Boulder-Greater Boston comparison, it’s impossible to state a firm conclusion without some thought, as it’s a multifaceted trade-off. SO I thought about it for five minutes and decided that these areas represent the most glaring vis-a-vis aspects: Continue reading “BoCo vs. DoDo: The Trails of Two Cities”

The CU football team’s awesome el foldo

I love the CU track and cross-country programs and the diversity of the school’s academic programs, and I despise the football team just as much. Actually, it’s their fans I can’t stand. Or the whole phenomenon of home games. I know these folks flowing into the city are just trying to have a good time, but every time there’s a home game, Boulder becomes littered with alumni with an average age of about 68 who swarm across the bike paths with a seemingly willful degree of cluelessness and in general fuck up the city. (The woes were compounded this round by the fact that it’s Parents’ Weekend.) They dress so similarly that I almost suspect there is a de facto uniform — CU T-shirt, CU hat, and in some cases CU shorts. And for all I know, CU tampons and butt plugs. I saw one guy in his 50’s who was actually wearing football pants (no pads, though). Then again, this place having the character it does, that guy may well dress like this every day of the year. Continue reading “The CU football team’s awesome el foldo”

Head games

In early June I was wandering along a sidewalk on my way to a dog show in a neighboring down and happened across a Boston Red Sox hat hanging on a parking meter. It was one of the rogue ones that’s emerged in recent years — olive-green instead of navy blue, but with the same red “B” with a white border on the front. I took and kept it for a while, but wasn’t really keen on it and ultimately left it for someone else to find. (This wasn’t the first time I’ve kept a had I have found during a walk or a run.)

About six weeks ago, I was walking down Valmont Road in North Boulder and found another Red Sox hat, this one in the traditional style. Given that this was the second Red Sox hat I had found in a five- or six-week period — in Colorado, no less — and that I did grow up a Red Sox fan, I figured that this was either an entertaining coincidence or a sign from God, so I held on to this one and now wear it daily. Continue reading “Head games”

Violent crime and a cratering economy: not what people think

Yesterday afternoon, three women were robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight on the busiest recreation path in Boulder. This sort of thing almost never happens around here, but the incident comes on the relatively close heels of the shooting death of University of New Hampshire football player Todd Walker, who attempted to intervene in a robbery on University Hill.

Last night I overheard someone discussing yesterday’s robbery, and at the end of his soliloquy he declared that this was the kind of thing that would continue happening thanks to people defaulting on their mortgages, losing their jobs and otherwise suffering the ravages of a shitty economy. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard some version of this claim, not the second, nor even the tenth. It’s a bona fide meme, and I’ve never believed it.

Think about it: How often do you see canned CFO’s and out-of-work software consultants jailed for pulling a gun on a random person in the hope of grabbing maybe fifty or sixty bucks? People of means happily commit crimes, but do not typically indulge in such offenses as robbery, burglary, larceny and other brute-force malfeasance. Instead, they defraud banks, skim from their employers, commit identity fraud and do end runs around the IRS.

Continue reading “Violent crime and a cratering economy: not what people think”

Clipboard gauntlet

When not working or wasting time writing blog entries, I like to spend time reading and pounding coffee on Boulder’s venerated Pearl Street Mall when the weather is pleasant (and this time of year, that’s the case virtually every day). This is in spite of the fact that this four-block hippified zone is choked with people of all shapes, sizes, and — most notably — smells.

I decided today that I may have to avoid the place altogether. And it’s not because of the panhandlers, the teenage girls obliviously wandering along in rows of six, or the “musicians” who inexplicably believe that people want to listen to them strum and croon with all of the polish and panache of a gibbon injected with ketamine and given an electric ukelele.

It’s the Clipboard Brigade. They’re fucking relentless.

By way of explanation, there are countless young volunteers for various organizations patrolling the place on days like today (i.e., every day). These groups are what you’d expect — Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace, Feed the Hungry-Ass Children, Save the Goddamned Environment. (I made up the last two, but the real names are close.) They stand smack in the way of passerby wielding clipboards and try to snag you by catching you unawares: “How are you doing today! What’s your name, man?” Then up comes the clipboard and thus begins the spiel. They’re telemarketers in the flesh. And if you listen to the spiel and tell them you’re declining to contribute, they just move to the next step in the rhetorical algorithm unless you flat-out walk off, in which case they cheerfully order you to have a great day.

The problem isn’t that I don’t like these organizations or the minions they have dispatched to represent them. I like their causes and their passion. The problem is that there are so goddamned many of them that avoiding them is like an elaborate video game. If you see one ahead and figure you can dodge her by switching to the other lane of the mall, you’ll just discover another one stationed over there, because they anticipate this.

I’ve also tried the talk-on-cell-phone trick, the talk-animatedly-to-myself gambit, and the cold stare. Only the latter helps at all. I’ll sometimes engage them briefly with the lie that I already give to their organization, something they really can’t argue with even if they know you’re lying. I do in fact donate to Planned Parenthood, but I guess I need to give even more so that eventually every potential solicitor is demolished in utero.

This is a real problem for benign misanthropes who prefer to negotiate large crowds in a de facto bubble. Even the panhandlers don’t try to get your attention this aggressively; they simply hold up cardboard signs. Actually, there’s an idea; if I dress in rags and avoid showering — hardly a stretch for me — then the Clipboard Brigade will identify me as a member of Team Will Beg For Booze Money and I can live out my days on the mall in relative peace.

Powerlessness is

sitting on a rock on a North Boulder street corner drinking coffee and watching an obviously sick and starving red fox emerge from the east, patter by at close range with what looks suspiciously like a pleading if milky expression, and disappear into an adjacent yard, all the while rooting around stupidly in my pockets for an edible donation that is not there.

I’m getting Boulder: Day 2–Bobby McGee


That’s been the theme today, and there’s not a damned thing wrong with it. Notice I didn’t say “humiliated”–people tend to use these words interchangeably, if only in their heads. The past 24 hours have introduced a two-pronged eye-opener that already has me far more immersed in this book, this town, and the history of this sport than I ever expected. Continue reading “I’m getting Boulder: Day 2–Bobby McGee”

I’m getting Boulder: Day 1–Intro

My arrival in South Boulder on Monday was preceded by as smooth a 14 1/2 hours of traveling by car, bus, plane, plane, and bus as anyone is entitled to expect: both of my planes landed and took off on time, which in itself constitutes a thrashing of the odds.

I forget important items whenever I travel, no matter how assiduously I prepare and execute checklists. This time I forgot the card reader and USB cable that accompany my camera. This means that any pictures I take will have to sit in the camera’s memory for two weeks. This might be acceptable in Hoboken or Hialeah, but not here, so I’ll be making a trip to Circuit City.

I spend much of the afternoon and early evening being given a tour of the salient points of Boulder proper. The weather was blah (in fact, it poured at times), so I left the camera in my baggage. I contacted Lorraine Moller and will be interviewing her on Thursday morning at a coffee shop. Stops included Whole savings Foods, the Boulder Bookstore (a wonderful place), a music store with a name I forget, and a couple of other places. Tomorrow I interview famed coach Bobby McGee at his office and will have to run to get there. I’m almost certainly going to rent a car.

I should be sleeping, so that’s all for now.