Every now and then you get a seed planted in your head and it sticks there. My old friend Mark lived in Sierra Vista AZ for quite a while. When we met in piano tuning school years ago, he told stories of where he lived, not far from Tombstone and the odd town that is Bisbee. Back in 82, my whole concept of geography was Chicago and the Mid-west. I would question Mark about the desert and AZ. You know things like "wait a minute, you mean you really have seen a tumble weed rolling down the street?" and "come on, does it really get that hot?" I had no clue. In my service to the evil health insurance empire, I was able to spend quite a bit of time in AZ, mainly Scottsdale and Tucson.
For 6 years I spent about 8 weeks a year out there. At one point during the peak of the hot monsoon season it would cool down to 100 by 10pm. So I guess that answers that question... IT GET'S FREAK'N HOT! The desert also smells like a wet dog when it rains. I was driving up in the mountains East of Phoenix and sure enough I saw a real live (well dead) tumbleweed. I was amazed, I wanted to get out and pick it up but the local I was with out of embarrassment wouldn't let me. A real cowboy tumbleweed and I couldn't pick it up, didn't seem fair to me but by the look of shock on my friend's face, I could tell I tipped my hat showing me to be a real tourist. I finally got out and walked around in the desert. Every plant out there...well can hurt you. I learned quickly not to touch or smell anything.
On one trip to Tucson, I decided to stay a couple of extra days and go see the areas that Mark talked about. My friend Brian flew out and joined me on my little adventure. We started off in Tombstone and did the touristy things, heck we even did the old fashioned picture thing.
Now Mark did warn me about the tourist stuff so I was more anxious to get down to Bisbee. Bisbee was a mining town tucked into valley about 15 miles North of the Mexican border. Abandoned in the early 70's, the hippies and artists moved in and made it their own. I was exploring the town and saw an article in the local paper about how the performance art of hammering nails though your privates into a board at the community center was stretching the boundries of good taste even for Bisbee. The follow ups from the locals was "LET HIM DO IT!" Wacky town. We had a great meal at the Copper Queen hotel and went on our way. I was so drawn to the town I went back on my next trip and hung out for the day. I heard live music coming from a pub and went in...whoa, a band from Tucson was playing and there was an element of calm there that I couldn't put my finger on. The crowd was gracious and nice. I saw old, young, fat, short tall, good looking, not so good looking, and a few that were missing some teeth...
As a rock waltz was being played, I saw a HUGE biker guy dancing with an older woman in her 80's. It was so surreal to see this guy who could crush me with his pinkie finger, cradling the frail woman in a sweet and graceful dance. I felt like I was in "the Brick" the bar from Northern Exposure.
If you are near there stop by, worth the detour... It was late when I made my way back to Tucson and driving though the desert, I could see the lights of Sierra Vista off in the distance (I assumed according to my map) but the thing that blew me away was that I could see at least a gazzilion stars. I stopped to pee in the desert and looked up. I almost fell over. My whole knowledge of the night sky was based around the orange glow of Chicago's sodium vapor lights. You could actually see the milky way (kim told me later what I was looking at) A black sky with a band of starts which some would mistake as clouds...amazing.
I think I figured out how AZ got settled. Back in the early days the settlers were on their way through in January and ol' Zeke claimed it to be Paradise. They ate their horses and settled in. July hits an ol' Zeke was made to change his name to Idiot.
Thanks Mark for planting the seed!