Denver — Colorado, home of the most recent Democratic National Convention, is a blossoming renewable energy mecca, often cited as most educated, smartest, trimmest state — superlative after superlative. This state could also easily win a prize for most eccentric state in the union.
“Balloon Boy” and his family swung the international spotlight on Thursday on the area’s less publicized form of “unique character.” But add Hunter S. Thompson, father of Gonzo journalism, the frozen dead guy who inspires an annual party in the mountains and a wide variety of other families and individuals and, together, their eccentricity makes Colorado more unique than any other prized characteristic does.
The “balloon boy” has been found safe on earth and Google has identified over 1,600 articles about him that sprung up worldwide in just a few hours on Thursday afternoon. If you haven’t heard, 6-year-old Falcon Heene supposedly launched into the Colorado sky in a mishap involving his family’s weather balloon project. Heroic efforts were made to track him, rescue him, and when the balloon was found without its alleged passenger, search for him in the area where he might have been seen falling from the UFO-like silver balloon. Even before this misadventure, his family was well-known for an appearance on TV’s “Wife Swap,” risky storm-chasing and other dramatic behavior.
Colorado eccentricity is not a new phenomenon. “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, the Titanic survivor, was a famously eccentric Denver resident. When Woody Allen filmed his bizarre comedy “Sleeper” decades ago, he found a wealth of odd architecture that fit well with his futuristic theme. But these were just regular public buildings around here, including a flying saucer-shaped building.
Aliens, as in extraterrestrials, seem to be in the public consciousness, especially in Denver. Huge statues of dancing aliens grace the lawn outside the convention center along with the famous giant blue bear, giving an Alice in Wonderland feel to the venue. The city council has been discussing what role aliens might play at some point, egged on by locals who feel it’s a pressing topic.
During the Democratic National Convention, the park between City Hall and the State Capitol was flooded with interesting characters, leaf-letting about all sorts of unusual topics — from space aliens to the right to consume mind-altering drugs to the abolition of government structure and the economic hierarchy.
In the 1950s, Denver was a favored location for many of the Beat poets such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. Spending even a little time in coffee houses and cafes in areas of town near the state capitol building will connect you with philosophers, academic lost souls and young folks exploring their beliefs and consciousness as fervently as the Beats did.
With Denver in the lead, the state of Colorado balances between a traditional mind set on both the left and the right, and liberated minds which are exploring, sometimes privately and sometimes accidentally or intentionally publicly, their own paths and inventive ideas. “Balloon Boy” is just the latest example of the state’s fascinating population.
Falcon Heene: Balloon Boy, Wife Swap Son
Hunter S. Thompson
Frozen Dead Guy Days
The Retrofuturism of Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”
Denver’s Beat Poetry Driving Tour
Man pushes creation of panel to prepare city for space aliens