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Independence Day Hipsterism? 8 July 2010

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Ian S. downs his glass of Jack Daniels and steps up to the piano, an 1880s Steinway baby grand. It was the first of its kind to arrive in Colorado, its owner says, and the instrument has since made its way to this house in Denver’s Lower Highlands. Ian clasps his hands, addressing the crowd. “I’m going to start with a Chopin waltz in C minor,” he says. “I know, usually waltzes are boring, but I think you’ll like this one.” His fingers fly. Conversation halts in the audience. Ian is a gifted pianist.

He is wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and cut-off shorts. This is the Fourth of July in Colorado.

The night progresses, and celebrating America opens a window into the life of a certain brand of twenty-something in this county—over-talented, underemployed and not necessarily disappointed in that. It is, to give a nod to another country about to celebrate a birthday (of sorts), a seeming Frenchification of American young adults. For now at least, work has taken a backseat to other pursuits. It isn’t hedonism per se, but maybe another way of channeling energies? I hesitate to bring the term “hipster” to the conversation, but at the same time it seems to fit.

The internet overflows with investigations into hipster culture, but reading through it, the only insight available is that no one is actually a hipster. But then, no one really likes labels. Who wants to be the “kind of person who…”? It’s too simple to paint with that broad brush. Dave Matthews fans beware. Same to fixie-riders. In any event, let’s stick with the label for these Independence Day partiers if only for continuity’s sake. Hipsters. Of a peculiarly Coloradan bent.

To enjoy Colorado, you don’t necessarily need to wear cut-off jeans. You don’t necessarily have to ride a fixie or a cruiser. You don’t have to listen to music so new it hasn’t even been stolen off the internet yet. But it helps. Behind all that affectation, though, lies thousands of dollars in performance outerwear, mountain bikes, skis, climbing gear and helmets for every conceivable pursuit. The Colorado hipster is a geode best cracked on sunny weekends.

The personalities take on a similar structure. Hipster outside, enormous and diverse talent inside. It peaks out every once in a while, as it did in Ian’s performance, but more often it remains hidden under a bushel basket. A soft egalitarianism reigns. Perhaps it’s too cool to show off. Maybe egalitarianism masks feigned effortlessness.

I don’t really know, but as it appears I’m going to further insinuate myself in this culture, I’ll continue to study it. If I become a hipster, I’ll let you know, but in the meantime, I”ll keep on exploring the twenty-something life here.

Try on the photos for now. No fireworks, but it’s America just the same.

Postponement 22 February 2010

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By Keystone standards, it has been dumping for the last several days, dropping almost two feet of snow in the last week or so. Maybe I exaggerate but after the parching winter so far, snow these few days straight comes as a welcome relief. We’d begun to think — Summit County locals, that is — that Ullr had given up on us. He’d packed his Scandinavian bags for points south, and Tahoe, although in reality everyone understood that an El Nino winter would swing storm systems down to the San Juans instead of across the I-70 resorts. We’d all been charge 90 + dollars for the same experience any Midwestern resort goer purchases, with the addition of the mountain scenery of course; the next closest soybean field looks nothing like the Gore Range.S

That said, it’s too easy to knock skiing elsewhere when talking about the Mountain West, but the sport ultimately rests on making the way to the bottom of the hill enjoyably, an act possible at even the lamest ski bump out East. Hidden valley thrills Carhart-wearers in the same way that I’d imagine Jackson Hole sets stomachs a-roil in even the more advanced, Orage-sporting crowd.

And no matter what you’re wearing, fresh snow makes it better. Here’s hoping that storm dumps more and more, so that both I-70 and Vail Pass close. Time for the real stuff.

Lead-Up to Christmas 22 December 2009

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You’d think that ignoring the Christmas season in a resort community would be all but impossible. But strangely, we’re just days away and it still has yet to sink in. Home Alone and beer don’t lend much to the Christmas spirit when the apartment looks almost as it did when we moved in several weeks ago. What gives?

In part, I’d imagine that the Christmas season depends not only on its commercial side — the storefronts and advertisements and Christmas-themed Office episodes — but on the interplay among family and friends as well. We bake cookies, we send cards, we see friends again for the first time in months, and while skewering the consumerism that bloats the holiday always comes off as trite , I really do doubt that without the human factor we could sustain any of it. Christmas’s commercial side shapes our expectations, the movies and ads giving us the ideal forms — what Christmas should be here in the west. But we come home for holidays to connect with the important folks in our lives, not to chase baubles and bunting.

To those of you I won’t see this Christmas, then, I hope you’ll understand when I say I feel I’ve missed out. Despite the lights, despite the carols and the wreaths, it doesn’t feel like Christmas around here because for the first time in my life I know I won’t be seeing all of you over a Christmas/Holiday/Winter Break. So, Michael and Jack, if you read this blog, include some wine and chess in your holiday plans.