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Lived it and Lived IN it

the dangerous myth of the Boulder Mall Crawl

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, October 28, 2009.

I know most of you are preparing for the High Holy Days of Hedonism and Hellfire that is Halloween here in these United States, at least in Boulder. Once a fearful day of justifiable religious fear and horror, then an overly cute Project:Diabetes for insulin producing pharmaceutical companies, here in Boulder it has now been primarily reduced to an adult genital exposure permission slip for the exhibitionists among the sexually frustrated and Cranium Sized Pumpkin Cartel. I know you think you look good, and maybe you once did. But let’s believe the mirror, folks.

Official Boulder, primarily the Police, has been shivering in its office cubicles for some weeks now at the mere mention of a return of the mythic Mall Crawl, which started out in the late 1970’s as, believe it or not, something to do on Halloween that utilized the then very new Pearl St. pedestrian mall. Back then, with only the Blue Note at the West End, it was initially quite pedestrian. Lots of folks paraded up and down some quite creative costuming, and it was odd and drunk and a lot of fun.

But Boulder, being collectively an addictive personality, of course, couldn’t help itself, much like the chowderheads who, in the years following, gave cocaine fueled interviews to Newsweek Magazine about how Boulder waited every Friday at the FAC at the Harvest House for the Bolivian Express of white powder and we’re just so like all the hot spots in Los Angeles and New York and just as cool and beautiful as well. When even the drunken lawyers with their underage dates realized that admissions or, rather, affected tales of criminal activity, uncontested in newspaper or by the public for days, was, you know, a downer, the newspaper started having second thoughts and established 'cocaine task forces' and furrowed brow concern was publicly expressed in column inches around the increasingly hysterical attempts of those quoted in Newsweek saying they’d been misquoted. Not until the Ramsey murder did Boulder look, among other things, so ridiculous.

During those years, living no more than a half block off Pearl St., I got to enjoy Boulder’s Mall Crawl, up close and personal as the participants climbed into the tens of thousands each year with drunks attending the Boulder Theater where I worked, lived, and worked some more and many more outside on 14th St. I watched people I know lived here in Boulder as part of huge, surging mobs stopping and attempting to turn over automobiles on 14th St. I’m not certain, but I think they succeeded at least once. I’ve also heard them deny criminality in the years since.

I don’t want to exaggerate that the Mall Crawl detritus the next day looked like an actual war zone, but towards the end firearms were found on the courthouse lawn across from the Theater and mall merchants, especially those with liquor licenses and once entirely enthused, now realized that insurance rate hikes weren’t worth it, the damage was too expensive, and the whole thing was not kinda like a riot but was an actual riot. I saw trees ripped down, windows broken, fights beyond count, a not small number of rather naked women - which, indeed, has its charms - but I also endured – it’s all about me, you see – the claims of sobbing females they’d been assaulted and/or raped and could they use the pay phone inside? Some I believed, some I didn’t. Some were clearly underage. Way, way underage.

By the early 90’s, I think it was, the Boulder police decided that their previous, well-announced intentions of staying in quivering groups outside the throng was not having the desired effect among public safety types, so they simply limited access to the city for all cars not licensed here, had road blocks and liquor tests and did what cops are supposed to do: keep the peace. Boulder’s Halloween became more local, the population bulge outgrew their fad cocaine addictions, for the most part, and things quieted quite a bit.

The Mall Crawl has passed from fact to legend to myth in the more than fifteen years since it was deliberately killed. Some who’ve heard about it but were too young to pay the various pipers who came calling back in the day, this year wanted to gin it up again, which went over like a pregnant pole-vaulter. When the bad stories were trotted out, they were called exaggerations if not outright lies, and this amusingly by some of the worst offenders in my memory. And, it’s hard to deny those pictures of huge swarms of colorful folks doing the Mall Crawl look so innocent and fun you can nearly forget those trampled beneath who, literally, could not rise and whom the police could not access.

As was said by a late politico who’d know, "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth: persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."