Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bisbee, Part Deux

As I said in my last post, the Shady Dell where we stayed during our mini-vacation in Bisbee is right next to the cemetery, and I'm one of those people who's always been fascinated by graveyards. Maybe that started with my grandparents, who always went to the Memorial Day observances at the cemetery outside Emmett, Idaho, a beautiful, green, well cared for place above the river, where several family members are buried, including, now, those grandparents.  The cemetery at Bisbee bears little resemblance to the Emmett one.  First, the harshness of the southern Arizona climate makes velvet green lawns impossible.  And as a sign on the informational kiosk makes clear, it is not a perpetual care cemetery.  Families are responsible for the upkeep of their relatives' graves, and many of the deceased have no families left in the area. Still, some parts of it, and some views, have their own austere beauty.
And many markers, like this one, offer fragmentary glimpses into their occupants' stories.  I wonder who, exactly, left the flowers on this otherwise untended grave? Probably not the sister or brother who had it erected.
     Back in town, the art scene is much more lively and spills out of the galleries and into the residential neighborhoods.  Bisbee has its own special funk and flash, and I like it a lot.  Joe and I walked the hillls of this largely vertical town, climbing up and down steep inclines and narrow streets.  In many places, instead of a sidewalk, one finds flights of stairs a block or more long.  In fact, October is the month for the Bisbee 1000, a fund-raiser in which participants commit to climbing 1000 of Bisbee's stairs.  I've decided I'd like to participate this year and now, having made this public declaration of my intent, I guess I'm committed!
      Most of the galleries and antique and other shops are on Main Street, which has a fairly gentle slope. One block over is Subway Street (I saw no signs of a subway, or even a Subway sandwich shop), which is quite short, but a walker who continues past the "Dead End" sign finds a network of interesting streets.  These angels, who look to me more like Lucifer's fallen companions than the ones who stayed in heaven, guard someone's gate at the end of Subway.
Even though, for pedestrians, this is not a dead end, the sign seems to go with those slightly menacing angels.  The path continued uphill to the left, and we followed it.  The steps in this next picture just lead to the house above them, but others like them are blocks long, linking streets that are (barely) accessible to cars.
     Higher up we found this collection of interesting things alongside a parking place outside a small yard.  A neighbor told us that the place belongs to a couple of antique dealers. The picture doesn't  show half of what's there.

Most of the yards in Bisbee are small, but many residents have made creative use of the space they have.  I especially liked this garden, with its terraces and fountains that make such creative use of vertical space.
     Eventually, of course, it was time to leave this town that seems caught in a time warp that somehow combines the rough and tumble wild west mining town of the late 19th century with an artistic sensibility firmly grounded in the 1960s.  Pick your decade, and you're likely to find vestiges of it surviving in Bisbee, as shown in these last two photographs, taken on the only street that survives of the once busy neighborhood called Lowell, that was eaten up by further expansion of the huge pit mine.

 University of Arizona creative writing professor Richard Shelton, who taught at the high school there (I think) earlier in his career, wrote a book called Going Back to Bisbee, which I haven't read yet, but plan to.  And I highly recommend J. A. Jance's mystery novels set in Bisbee, with Cochise County sheriff Joanna Brady as her detective.  I know I'll be going back, and not just for the Bisbee 1000!

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