In Bisbee we’ve learned that simply going into a store rarely stops at that. On Main Street there are two vintage & antique shops next door to each other that are only open for half the week: Classic Rock Couture and Objects Limited.
We went into Classic Rock Couture one day, and Courtney bought a black jumpsuit from the 70s. We got to talking to the young woman who owned the shop, and learned that, like us, she had also once traveled the country in a camper. She asked us what we were doing that night, and invited us to a concert by an LA band called LA Witch at a bar called The Quarry. It was apparently a big deal to have an out of town band play a weeknight here.
We went to the show and Courtney wore her new jumpsuit. It was all locals, and largely high-school-aged kids. There was no sign of the shop owner, so we slid into a booth across from two energetic young dudes. A local father/daughter punk duo called The Exbats were playing up on an elevated stage when we arrived; father in the back on electric guitar, high-school-aged daughter up front on drums and lead vocals. After they finished a lot of the crowd dispersed. One of the boys at our booth turned out to be the singer’s boyfriend; we bought both of the band’s two CDs from him, then got tired (we’re morning people now), slipped out, and went home before the headliner came on.
The next day we visited the other vintage store, Objects Limited (very well curated, kind of expensive), and bought a small oval mirror for the Airstream. Emily the shopkeep was a slim, crane-like woman with a stylish short haircut and bright, youthful eyes. We hit it off with her, and after closing up for the day she invited us on a tour of the upstairs section of the building, which was an Airbnb hotel furnished beautifully with items from the shop (all of decor was available for purchase), complete with an entire ballroom whose entrance was guarded by a ceramic tiger. There was a framed photo in the hallway of Georgia O’Keefe wearing the same hat that inspired Courtney’s hat, and Emily told us that that Courtney’s hat brand (Tio y Tia) had actually recently done a photo shoot in this very hotel.
Emily suggested that we go up to see a local mountaintop shrine at the end of OK Street called “The Crosses,” and to not be alarmed if we ran across a couple of goats up there. They belonged to her neighbor, she said. She also told us about a placed called “The Divide” up above Mule Pass Tunnel where you can go to watch the sunset. She told us the best pizza in town was Screaming Banshee, and that we could get a good rate on one of her rooms if we ever wanted to stay there. We were happy we made a friend. Courtney left a glowing online review of her shop, and we went home and hung the oval mirror.
Later that night we found ourselves at the Stock Exchange bar (which used to house Bisbee’s own stock exchange during the copper boom), watching a young woman with a great voice playing solo acoustic country covers on stage. A man approached us and told us he recognized us from the L.A. Witch show earlier that week. He was excited about that show and wanted to talk about it. I confessed that we had gone home before the headliner played, and his expression fell. He was a local promotor of sorts, and it sounded like he had booked that show. He told us to look him up on Facebook to see other shows he was booking soon. He told us his name, but I quickly forgot it.
For all the fun we’ve been having observing the humans of Bisbee, they too have been observing us.
A few days later we hiked up to see The Crosses. It was steep, very windy, and the views were spectacular. Then two goats appeared, followed behind by their keeper, a friendly gentleman not much older than us named Fred, sporting a long beard and a hoodie with thumbholes. He told us the whole story of the crosses (old man Vasquez was going blind and God told him to build a hilltop concrete shrine and he would get his sight back; he still went blind), the story of the goats (they were obtained to befriend a donkey), the story of the donkey (he didn’t like the goats, escaped, and now lives feral in the hills), and the story of himself (he came to Bisbee a year ago to escape the winters back east and bought the cheapest house in town, the former home of old man Vasquez and his large, eccentric family of hoarders).
Back down the hill Fred invited us in to see his work in progress fixing up the old home. He showed us the side yard where the goats lived (they were jumping around on the roof by then), an insane fence made of scrap metal and wire above his back retaining wall, and the inside of his place, which was very much a work in progress but had good bones. We were happy to have made another friend, and we figured that this kind of counted as being invited to a local’s house party (minus the party).
Walking back down OK Street towards town we passed Emily the shopkeep driving home. She waved and asked if we had checked out The Crosses, and we happily reported that we had just come from there. She was delighted. We went up to Screaming Banshee for dinner and Kyle (the young man from the bathroom line at the St. Cinder show the previous Saturday) was there making pizzas. I ordered the restaurant’s eponymous pie, and it was excellent.
The longer we stay in this place, the more it feels like we are transitioning from observers in an audience to players on a stage. We’ve met so many odd and merry folks, it’s easy to forget that we too, with our folding laptop stands and our Airstream home on wheels, probably appear as unusual birds from unknown shores to everyone else we meet. In a town like Bisbee, that means we fit right in.