Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Boulder: As memories of JonBenét Ramsey fade, the town is happy at last

The panhandler outside looked happy. The hostess inside looked happy. The server looked happy. And we were happy, to take a break from our marathon drive across Colorado to look at colleges and sit down in a booth in a Boulder restaurant with a nice view of the Pearl Street Mall and all the happy people enjoying one of Colorado's 300 days of sunshine. Still, this seemed like an awful lot of happiness.

"What's with this town?" asked my sixteen-year-old niece, in from the cloudy, snowbound, not-very-happy East to look at schools.

"This is the happiest place in the country," the University of Colorado admissions counselor had informed everyone gathered for yesterday's tour. And, in fact, it had just become official on Monday, when the results of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index were released, putting Boulder right at the very top of every city in the country for overall well-being.

The CU students -- more of them carrying skateboards and snowboards than books -- had definitely looked happy. The parents taking their kids around had looked a little less so, especially when the slide showing the cost of school flashed during orientation. But then, they hadn't been in Boulder long enough to catch anything.

"Do you think you could be happy in a place where everyone's so happy?" I asked my niece. "I thought part of the college experience was being miserable."

We were mulling that over when I, the helpful tour guide, pointed out one of Boulder's municipal buildings, glinting in the sun. "You probably saw that a lot during all the coverage of JonBenét Ramsey," I said.

"JonBenét who?" she responded.

Happy at last.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun