Can’t go back to college | AspenTimes.com

Can’t go back to college

Alison Berkley

I walked into a bar in Boulder last weekend and didn’t get carded.”Oh, you’re fine,” the bouncer said, looking past me to the next coed in line, his eyeballs fixed on the firm, young breasts that seemed to pop out from under her tight-ribbed tank top like they had somewhere to go.”Can I see your ID, please?” he asked her, bearing an uncanny likeness to the wolf that tried to eat Little Red Riding Hood. I just stood there glaring at him with one hand on my hip, waiting for him to take it back, or at least pretend he had made some sort of horrible mistake.Instead he shoots me this annoyed look and goes, “I said you’re fine,” and gestures for me to scoot out of the way. Then he proceeds to ignore me, even after my jaw drops open and I start drooling because it remained frozen that way for so long. One after another, young women, college girls – children, really – filed in behind me with their flushed plump cheeks, wide, bright eyes and Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo hair. There were so many of them, and they all looked alike in their faded, torn jeans, painted-on tops and flip-flops, like they had split and multiplied like hair when you pull it out with tweezers.It was my first time back in Boulder since God-knows-when, and I was amazed to find not much has changed since I graduated from journalism school there in the winter of ’94. Good lord, that was more than 10 years ago. Good lord, did I really just say good lord? Good God? Goddamnit? Wicked cool? Hella cool? Whatever!Anyhoo, all my old haunts were still there: Mamacitas on the Hill, the Trident Café on Pearl Street, the rooftop bar at the West End Tavern, the Fox Theatre, cheap Chinese at Tra-Ling, yummy breakfast at Dot’s Diner, and the I-died-and-went-to-heaven wood-floor aisles, happy produce, and gourmet deli at Wild Oats. (Could some rich person please buy a Wild Oats franchise and bring it to Aspen? Please?) I got to do all of my favorite things: hike up Gregory Canyon above Chautauqua, run along the Boulder Creek trail, drink high-octane espresso, and buy healthy snacks at Lolita’s in the middle of the night. It wasn’t like Aspen, where everything is where “something used to be.” For the most part, everything seemed to be right where I left it.That was especially true on campus: every tree, every leaf lying on the sidewalk eerily remained in the same exact spot. The manicured green velvet lawns, diagonal walkways, red brick archways and red-tiled roofs were exactly as I had left them. The giant-pillared east entrance of Norlin Library still stands, the words, “Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always A Child” inscribed in big, capital letters in stone above the enormous doors. I still have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, so I’m hoping it means I have indeed remained always a child, or something to that effect.It was Saturday during Labor Day weekend, and the first football game of the season meant there were plenty of students around, all plastered with CU logos (or just plain plastered), dressed in black and gold from head to toe. I don’t care much for football, but going to games at Folsom Field were probably the only times in my life I felt remotely normal, or one of the crowd so to speak. I found great comfort in that. Maybe somewhere deep down I knew my future would have little to do with sitting on the sidelines, and perhaps I understood that would be hard. So maybe I did enjoy it while it lasted, at least subconsciously. It never occurred to me that my college days were numbered, that my time in Boulder was finite, that it would come to an end. I didn’t realize that one day we would all pack up our things and move, never to return. (Though I did try to move back for a short period in 1998, only to find there was nothing to go back to.)Everywhere I looked I saw a ghost of my previous self: cruising around town with my then-boyfriend Mark on our BMX bikes (our main mode of transportation), pulling the long, blond hair from my face while I skateboarded down the hill on Sixth Street, dangling from a rope on a sport-climbing route called the Amphitheatre, riding on the back of my best friend Shad’s bicycle in the middle of the night, my feet sticking straight out to the sides so they didn’t get caught up in the spokes. Everything looked the same except smaller. I remember my first day on campus how I marveled at the number of students gathered in the square in the center of campus, larger in population than the small New England town I grew up in. I remember thinking I had no idea there were so many people my own age in the world, never mind in one spot. Let’s just say that living in places like Southern California and San Francisco certainly changed my perspective on that.So I guess the only thing that’s really changed is me. Maybe that’s what the Evil Bouncer Man saw when I came through that door: a look of calm sophistication, a sense of self, an aura of experience and world travel.Either that, or I had better start thinking about Botox.The Princess thinks it might be time to put the roof back on her Jeep. Send your loving e-mail to alison@berkleymedia.com