再访圆石城 / Boulder Revisited

再访圆石城

最近,由于工作需要,我再次前往美国科罗拉多州的圆石城。上一次去那儿还是在1973年。如果按照美国的标准衡量,圆石城应该算是个小城市(人口不足20万),但照中国的标准看,那儿顶多也就是一座小城镇。

无论用哪国标准来看,圆石城都是个值得游览、适宜工作和居住的好地方。它与毗邻的科罗拉多州首府丹佛市一样,也是一座“一里高城”,海拔有1,617多千米,离弗拉蒂伦山山顶只有咫尺之遥。到了冬天,圆石城的气温会低一些,但由于平均每年都会有300多个晴天,所以即使下雪,融化的速度也相当快。

从一路延伸至丹佛国际机场的太阳能电池板,到我下榻的圣•朱利安饭店客房的可回收垃圾桶,处处都显示出当地的高环保水平,以及居民对绿色健康生活方式的崇尚。

圆石城市中心有一条步行街,街上的小店和餐馆鳞次栉比,其中有很多自行车店、户外用品店和户外服装店。滑雪、远足、自行车、登山、皮划艇、飞钓都是当地流行的运动。

我发现圆石城独立的小商店、餐馆——而不是全国大型连锁店——比很多同等规模的美国城镇要多。虽然当地也有一些大型的连锁店,但更多的却是圆石城人钟爱的零售店,比如当地人开的圆石城书店(1973年开业,就是我上次到访那年)和麦克伽金斯五金店(生意红火,300多名员工训练有素,乐于助人)。

在城里,我甚至还在一家名叫“周妈妈”的中国小餐馆找到了一碗地道的“炸酱面”。这面做得绝对正宗,味道棒极了。我夸了半天老板娘的厨艺,结果发现原来她就是周妈妈本人。

圆石城是狗的天堂。公园里遛狗的、被狗溜的……人满为患,有的公园还划定了专门的“无链区”,让狗摆脱拴链的束缚,和其他同类一起自由奔跑。我走进一家小店,里面的狗比售货员还多,一个个四仰八叉地躺在地上,幸福地打着盹儿。

在那儿的四天里,我尽量到处多走一走。其间,我在街上或者室外看到的烟民加起来也不满十个,室内就更不用提,因为当地是禁止室内吸烟的。圣•朱利安饭店就在客房里设有提示牌,强调饭店是无烟饭店,同时警告客人如被发现在房间内甚至是阳台上吸烟,将会受到250美元的罚款处理。

而另一方面,在当地报纸上又有很多医用大麻的销售广告。这种现象从产生至今还不到一年的时间,其根源是由于科罗拉多州修改了法律,允许某些慢性病患者凭医生证明购买医用大麻用于治疗。现在圆石城已有将近100家医用大麻店,但由于其增长速度过快而遭到了社会上一部分人的强烈反对,政府已暂缓批准新店开张。虽然我觉得有关零售医用大麻的争论还将继续热闹一阵,但科罗拉多州的零售渠道发展之快还是令我大为惊讶。

圆石城是一座大学城,吸引了很多高新科技、IT及其他方面的公司在此落户投资。考虑到当地的气候条件、自然美景、教育程度及生活方式,这其中的原因不言自明。

圆石城也是座友好的城市。陌生人在便道上互相微笑、打招呼,司机看到有人过马路会习惯性地停车让路,并挥手示意,这些现象都再寻常不过了。

Boulder Revisited

Recently, my work took me to Boulder, Colorado, a place I had last visited in 1973. By American standards it’s considered a small city (population less than 200,000); but by Chinese standards it’s more of a small town.

By any standards, it’s a lovely place to visit, to live and to work. Like its neighboring Colorado city, Denver, it is a mile-high city, situated at an altitude of some 5,300 feet, with the higher elevations of the Flatiron Mountains within easy reach. Winters bring cold temperatures, but the average year involves 300-plus sunny days, so even the snow melts quickly.

From the large expanse of solar panels next to the Denver International Airport, to the recycling trash basket in my room at the St. Julien Hotel, it is a very green place whose residents clearly place a high value on healthy lifestyles.

A walk through the downtown area, which includes a pedestrians’ only avenue with cute shops and restaurants, reveals a lot of bicycle shops as well as outdoor equipment and apparel shops. Skiing, hiking, biking, mountain climbing, kayaking, rafting and tubing, and fly fishing are all popular there.

Boulder seems to me to have more small independent retail and restaurant outlets — versus big national chains — than most comparably sized American cities or towns. Some of the big chains are present, but more of Boulder’s best-loved retailers, like Boulder Book Store (founded in 1973, the year of my last visit), and McGuckins Hardware (a sprawling store with 300 very well-trained and helpful employees), are local start-ups.

I even found an excellent bowl of “Zha Jiang Noodles” (zhajiangmian) at a tiny Chinese restaurant downtown, called Zhou Ma Ma’s. It was the real McCoy, and very delicious. I complimented the boss lady on the cooking, who turned out to be Zhou Ma Ma herself.

Boulder is an extremely dog-friendly place. Parks are full of people walking their dogs, dogs walking their owners, etc., and some parks have designated “no leash” zones where you can let your dog run free with other dogs. I went into one small retail shop where there were more dogs than sales people, all stretched out and happily snoozing on the floor.

In four days there I managed to do a fair amount of walking. In that time I would guess I saw less than 10 people smoking cigarettes on the street or outdoors, and of course none indoors, where it is banned. The St. Julien hotel has a sign in the rooms emphasizing how seriously they take being a strictly non-smoking hotel, and warning of a US$250 fine added to the hotel bill if guests are caught smoking even on the balconies of their rooms.

On the other hand, local newspapers have quite a few ads for Medical Marijuana Supply stores. This phenomenon is less than one year old, and was enabled by changes in Colorado State law which permit patients certified by doctors as suffering from certain chronic diseases to obtain medical grade marijuana as part of their treatment. There are nearly 100 such stores in Boulder now, although an outcry from parts of the community about their rapid spread has recently resulted in an official moratorium on additional new ones opening. My guess is the controversy over retail sales of medical marijuana will continue to be a lively one for some time, but I was struck by the speed with which retail sales channels have grown thus far in Colorado.

Boulder is a university town, and it is attracting quite a few new high-tech, IT and other types of companies to move to and invest in the area. Given its weather, natural beauty, highly educated work force, and lifestyle, it’s not hard to see why.

It’s also an extremely friendly place. It’s not unusual for strangers to smile or say hello on the sidewalk, and drivers routinely wave to pedestrians and stop to let them cross the street.


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