Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Road To El Dorado: Tombstone and Bisbee

Late afternoon we rolled into Tombstone, the Sun was hanging low in the sky. A sawhorse blocked off traffic. Men and women in cowboy hats walked in front of the shops, some modern and other in classic western styles.
We parked and walked down the street. It felt like a showdown was coming as five o clock heralded the closing of tourist shops. Bars, restaurants stayed lively. We made our way to the Bird Cage, watching two stage coaches pass in the street.
The stores were all closing in a quiet but quick manner that lent credence to the fantasy of an impending show down. 

We paid the fee and took our time enjoying the collection and history contained in the walls of the famous theater. We took time after the tour to meet "Bill" whose family has owned the theater since the thirties. He told us great stories, my favorite was how he and his sister would stage their own robberies of the stage coaches with their cap guns. He was about seven. The tourists loved it. It was fun to hear the perspective of someone growing up in a place steeped in history.
The discovery of silver and the silver mining that happened there created the town. Different characters made stories that have echoed through the generations, people who've become almost mythical. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Big Nose Kate, Johnny Ringo, Bat Masterson.
Their truths differ from the tales. The famous fight at the OK Corral? Actually on Freemont Street, and it didn't go down quite how it's played out in movies. There were no clear cut good or bad guys. Big Nose Kate did have a big nose and was nosy. The nickname hit on both, she wasn't drop dead gorgeous or devoted to Holiday like a chaste wife; she was a prostitute.
There were many prostitutes licensed and working in the mining town. For years the Bird Cage was open 24-7 with gambling, shows, and prostitution for the mine workers.

We left after dark, walked down the street savoring the empty feeling of anticipation. It seemed that ghosts of the past would appear and walk past us on business at any moment. We went into what once was the Grand Hotel. John served us dinner at what is now Big Nose Kate's Saloon. The beef brisket was incredible and I was grateful John made the recommendation.

Big Nose Kate's Saloon, Tombstone, AZ

John came from northern California, he's traveled and lived in 49 states. He's enjoyed his travels and he shared some of the truths versus romantic myths of Tombstone.
We headed south in the dark night, to visit friends and see Bisbee. In the dark we drove past a rusty fence, blackness beyond it. I realized it was where a mountain had once been, now a gaping pit. It was the Lavender Pit Mine, once a large copper mine.
Today, we saw the immense raw wound, the place where much of our country's copper once came from. We read how it was processed and how they address the pollution from the processing techniques even now.
We walked downtown, passing various art shops and tourist tantalizing stores. Olive oil, soaps, jewelry, metal sculpture, gourmet cupcakes, handmade hats, rocks, vintage goods, coffee shops and various restaurants. We admired various art forms from giant flies on buildings to metal sculptures watching over the gates to a house. Murals from the striking Peace wall to the many stops on the 1000 step Bisbee Challenge route.

Bisbee has a stair climbing race event every October where people race around the town up a thousand stairs. We saw signs for Chili and Chocolate tonight by donation at the Methodist church in Warren AZ by Bisbee.
We went, enjoying friendly local company and delicious homemade chili and chocolate desserts. The Boy Scout volunteers were attentive and enthusiastic, the ladies in the kitchen gave us beautiful smiles with our meals. We gave them cash donation as well as a magic show.
After Danny finished eating he got his props together and with the blessing of our gracious hosts, he introduced himself and what we're doing as Barrels of Laughter and Love. He told about us donating magic and stories as we travel.
Danny Lord, part of Barrels of Laughter and Love entertaining at Chili & Chocolate in Bisbee, AZ

He delighted and brought laughs around the room with his magic and comedy. The second disappearance of a small red scarf brought astonishment and applause. When he stole a watch from his volunteer and returned it, the room was electric. No one had anticipated the magic. The Boy Scouts filmed and debated, trying to figure the magic out afterwards.
Everyone thanked us for coming and for the unexpected gift of magic. We thanked everyone for the gift of community, caring and kindness. It was a beautiful evening.
Learning about Bisbee and its history, our favorite part is the interesting stories in the lives of our friends here. Getting to know the family of dear friends, to experience the amazing people in person and in stories and photos who have had a hand in shaping the heart of a friend. It is an honor to hear such caring and real stories, to see in the mind and feel in the heart valued memories. A gift worth more than gold, given in a town known for mining copper.

Lavander Pit Mine, Bisbee AZ- once a mountain now a caustic pit. 

Bisbee and Tombstone, both once mining towns where fortunes were made. Bisbee still has active mines, it is renowned for turquoise, azurite, malachite and of course copper. Many other minerals enrich the rock and earth here as well. Many hippies, once hippies, artists and free spirits live in Bisbee.
A young hippy named Lief earnestly discussed metaphysics with us in the park next to a green statue of two individuals from legend. An old paperback with faded yellow pages clutched in his hand as he spoke. It was a book of philosophy, held the way a Reverend might hold a Bible. His words were positive, he argued that people are becoming less violent. He said in ratio to the number of people in the world, overall violence, especially murder, is down despite media's portrayal and insinuation that it's up. I am not sure whether he's right or not, but I hope so.

I also hope that people aren't choosing to live lives in self imposed unhappiness and prisons of perception of necessity of wants. I like seeing people strive for their full potential, I love seeing people love their lives.