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There are no Doughnuts in Boulder

Seth - September 5, 2007

Last week my family and I went for a drive. The excuse was a doctor’s appointment. The doctor was in Boulder so we loaded up our three kids and set off on the 30 minute drive to “The People’s Republic.” We live in neighboring Longmont, which is kind of like Orem, Utah, but with more Democrats, and better city planning. It still tends to skew pretty conservative and Longmont is probably the reason that Boulder County doesn’t elect Democrats every year.

I visited the doctor while my wife took the kids for a walk to a neighboring park. While chatting with the doctor, the conversation turned to schooling and he noted that when his family moved to Boulder from California, they automatically started looking at private schools on the assumption that the educational experience would be better. However, after enrolling his son, he quickly discovered that there is a bit of a different dynamic in Boulder than in other US communities. The public schools here are already top notch, which means that the private schools tend to attract a disproportionately large helping of ideological oddballs. Boulder is already a left-wing stronghold and the people there are highly individualistic. The private schools end up looking like some strange political reality TV show.

In his son’s private school, for instance, everyone, and I mean everyone, has both lactose intolerance and an allergy to wheat. I don’t consider a few cases particularly noteworthy, but when every child supposedly has it, it tells me less about the dietary needs of the kids and more that the parents are simply high-strung nutcases.

After a few more pleasantries, I set off to collect my own children. Misty had left directions to the park on the driver’s seat, which I of course ignored and set off to the park that I had spotted on the way in. It was a nice walk, wending its way through artificially preserved bird habitat and bordering several small (and horrendously expensive) houses. Xeriscaping seemed to be quite popular. Idly, I wondered how much debt some of the people had taken out to live in these houses and how they were coping. I knew that Boulder has some of the highest property values in the US….

Sometimes it’s a bit morbid being a bankruptcy attorney.

Upon reaching the playground, I found it deserted. Puzzled, I continued on around the lake. My family was nowhere to be found, and I concluded I must have missed them. I went back to the car where I found my wife and children. Misty exasperatedly told me that she had, in fact, taken the kids in the opposite direction to another nearby playground as clearly noted on the map she had left. A few sheepish apologies and we were off.

We decided, since we were already here, to take a bit of a drive around town. My kids are good travelers and my wife and I also enjoy the opportunity to chat freely as the scenery slips by. We took a southward loop around the University of Colorado campus. The college kids were descending upon the town again, and the roads were absolutely packed. We decided it was best to start heading back.

The girls were hungry, so we decided to drop by a supermarket and grab some doughnuts from the pastry aisle. As we drove up the central business thoroughfare, we kept our eyes peeled for a likely stop. I knew that Boulderites had long and vigorously opposed a Wal Mart opening up in their sanctuary, but surely an Albertsons, or a Safeway….


A quick turn into a strip mall revealed a chain bookstore, a Starbucks, and a Whole Foods organic supermarket with highly trim and stressed looking women marching purposefully in and out while hip looking couples sipped cappuccino on an open air terrace outside the store.

It didn’t look promising for doughnuts, so we drove on. Another likely spot, and again, no supermarket. Surely this place has at least one supermarket! Man doth not live by caffeine and alfalfa alone! A final turn-in revealed where a supermarket used to be, but now only an empty building.

Rather irritated, Misty and I decided to call it quits and return to the suburban wasteland from wence we came. My five year old daughter was looking puzzled at all the detours and asked “where are we going?”

“We’re going home sweety.”

“But why?” She had been expecting doughnuts since we had mentioned them.

“I’m sorry sweety. There are no doughnuts in Boulder.”

She took this rather philosophically. And I guess I did too.

It was a nice drive though. And there was an Albertsons, with doughnuts, in Longmont.


  1. I loved this post, Seth. Nothing in particular, just the whole thing.

    Boulder sounds a little like Highland. The private schools here are full of nut-jobs too. We do have a grocery store, but other than that…

    I wish we could just go for a nice drive. We can’t just drive around, or the kids will fall asleep, and if they fall asleep they’re up till midnight. So we are limited to extremely short drive, punctuated with the occasional, “HEY, don’t fall asleep!”

    Comment by Sue — September 5, 2007 @ 9:46 pm

  2. kind of like Orem, Utah, but with … better city planning.

    Surely you’re not suggesting that, for example, State Street in Orem is one of the Longest Eyesores of the West?

    Comment by Peter LLC — September 6, 2007 @ 4:17 am

  3. No, that would be the Ogden-to-Salt Lake corridor.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 6, 2007 @ 4:48 am

  4. Seth – will you at least give the Democrats credit for the city planning successes since you otherwise consider them nutcases? Don’t you think the lack of doughnuts in Boulder presents a great business opportunity. After all, they’re not all Democrats! ;-)

    Comment by Lamonte — September 6, 2007 @ 5:41 am

  5. I thought all of California would be like that, for some reason—lots of health food stores. Instead, there are literally donut stores and liquor stores on every corner. If you don’t believe me, I have proof.

    Comment by Susan M — September 6, 2007 @ 8:56 am

  6. Susan-
    See, you’re in southern California. ;)

    Comment by Cheryl — September 6, 2007 @ 9:09 am

  7. I hate it when the “liberal snob” stereotype rings true! Oh how I long for FDR!

    Comment by cj douglass — September 6, 2007 @ 9:24 am

  8. Zoning in affluent areas often restricts commercial signage to such an extent that I drive past shopping areas barely aware they are there. That is the intent, and I can see the appeal, but it makes it hard find things.

    Comment by John Mansfield — September 6, 2007 @ 10:00 am

  9. Ah, come on CJ. You’re not even old enough to remember good ol’ LBJ, to say nothing of FDR!

    Comment by Mark B. — September 6, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  10. Mark B,
    I like to call it “imagined nostalgia”.

    Comment by cj douglass — September 6, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  11. This reminds me of my two nights in Sun Valley, Idaho. My classmate and I had to walk fifteen minutes to the edge of town just to get to a gas station for some cheap snacks!! Guess those carbon producing refillers are horrible eyesores, too!


    “Imagined nostalgia.” Brilliant! Now I have a name for it.

    Comment by Bret — September 6, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

  12. Bret,
    I can’t take all the credit. I first heard the term in Arjun Appadurai’s book Modernity at Large One example he uses is Japanese youth having nostalgia for the American 50′s.

    Comment by cj douglass — September 6, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  13. Boulder sounds awesome.

    Comment by California Condor — September 7, 2007 @ 8:51 am

  14. Try King Soopers at Broadway and Table Mesa, just up the hill from the local meeting house.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — September 8, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

  15. Thanks Jim, I know where you are talking about. But I’ve never been to the meetinghouse in Boulder. While Longmont has about 5 or 6 wards, Boulder has only one, unless you count student wards from the university. The local missionaries say Boulder is kind of a Alice in Wonderland experience for proselyting, and they don’t get much success over there.

    Out of curiosity, do you live in Boulder?

    Comment by Seth R. — September 8, 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  16. How did you miss the Safeway at the Diagonal and 28th on your way out of town?

    Comment by Archie — September 16, 2007 @ 11:49 pm

  17. Shhh. Not so loud! I’m storytelling here.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 17, 2007 @ 9:36 am

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