We arrived in Bisbee late in the day. There was about an hour of daylight left and so the first stop was, naturally, a great hole in the Earth. A former copper mine and current museum mark the outskirts of the town — Although only one is responsible for the cavernous hole.
The Copper Queen Mine is the reason that Bisbee exists today. Without it spewing out its bountiful greens and blues, there would’ve been no need for a town like this on the edge of the Arizona desert.
After a quick look at the hole, and a comparison to the size of the Grand Canyon (GC is four times deeper at its deepest point), we made for the town itself.
Rows of arcades, cobblestone streets and shopfronts that are all rich in history and deservingly proud of it. The cobblestones were justifiably arrogant.
We were perhaps the youngest people in town that day, which became clear after reading that Bisbee is a popular retirement destination.
When you think of retirement locations, you think of housing communities and golf courses in Florida, and not tiny towns on the border. Then you realise that one day too, if the universe allows, you will become old. And it hits you that you wouldn’t want to live in a community devoid of culture, and that a place like Bisbee would be an idilic backdrop in which to play out your twilight.
A vintage clothing store had at least fifteen coats I would’ve bought, were I not a struggling writer. I’ll sell a novel, I said, and then come back to buy all the coats in Bisbee.
“That’s what they all say,” said the warm-faced shopkeeper, whose coat I also wanted.
Every artist community in rural Arizona is represented in the form of a storefront. Similar styles were grouped together at the very least, or perhaps simply curated by the semi-retirees who have a good eye.
We weren’t about to blow a stack of green (a term Americans have never used but one I’m trying to perpetuate) on some fine art, not in our socioeconomic position. But we did buy a handmade Christmas tree ornament — The Millennial budget equivalent of displayable creativity.
Yes, we’ll be hanging it year-round on a house plant in order to acquire its full value.
The streets in Bisbee remind me of old English towns in the middle of the countryside. Only with the added proud individuality of the, admittedly mythical, American dream. Each building is trying to declare who it is as a non-sentient being, instead of attempting to blend-in as discreetly as possible.
There are locals who’re jolly, and those who just want to get about town without seeing another bloody tourist. Either way, it shows a love for the place they call home.
Most of the homes in Bisbee are on the sides of streets that wind their way up hillsides. With some being built against some of the steeper ridges on the outskirts of the town.
The shops close and a wood-panelled bar draws us in. It looks more like an English pub than an American watering hole, and so I am home.
We sit at the bar, where pints and gin happen, depending on who you are in the group. I people-listen to the table beside us. One that begins with two friends, but slowly more join them over the course of the evening.
They all look retired, and sound merry — A tight-nit group of six, plus a dog. They bitch about the President, politics and the current state of things, in the same way that myself and my friends do now. There’s forty years between us and we are still each other. We are human.
Of course, you can’t just say these sorts of words to strangers, and so I listen to them laughing together. One of them touts that they photoshopped an image of George HW Bush’s dog taking a dump on Trump’s head.
Rebels to the end. It’s a blatant and tasteless satire, but who’s critiquing at their age. All that matters is that they’re still at the game of punching up at those who deserve it.
At night, the town is something from an indie postcard. Hotels light up, and Christmas illuminations become apparent. This is a town that’s looking after itself, or at least trying to.
We bump into a local man, who strikes up a conversation with us. After bonding over time spent in Colorado, he tells us we should really visit the mining museum. Maybe next time, or every day after I move here.
He left us by saying, “Someone said something to me when I first arrived in town, and that’s that everyone in Bisbee holds an opinion, but nobody holds a prejudice.”
I could’ve change that quote — To be first-hand from the stranger himself — But I liked that it was handed down, and that perhaps the person who spoke to him of the town in that way, wasn’t even the original source.
I saw no sign of prejudice, I saw retirees from all kinds of backgrounds living in harmony. If it all changes when the tourists leave for the day, then fair enough. But they do a very good job of keeping up the act if that is the case.
I can imagine visiting someone I once knew, in this town — An old, forgotten friend who has taken up residence in a discrete two-bedroom on a hill. I have been here before, and yet I have not.
The roads are familiar, and the people are this pleasant combination of all who I’ve ever met, and all who I’ve ever dreamt-up in stories. This is a town that has always been in the back of my mind, that has now revealed itself to me at the edge of Arizona.
I begin to wonder if I am the forgotten friend who is supposed to take up residence here, and that in my later years I can greet someone who has travelled thousands of miles to see what’s happening in the town beside a massive hole.
We are each a line of mirrors — One for every year of our existence. At first glance we can only see our own, present self, reflected back at us. But if you tilt the glass, and find the angle, you can see where you were, or where you will be.
I can see the town of Bisbee in one of my mirrors.
Today is Tuesday, December 11th and a talented friend did a thing.
Tip My Jar?
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