Thursday. I really wasn't sure what to expect with Bisbee, once known as the largest layover “city” on the route from New Orleans to Los Angeles in the nineteenth century, now an artist's community and tourist destination out there in the middle of nowhere with wonderful old houses and funky small buildings built on the high plains desert a mile or so above sea level. I say desert, but my idea of desert has always been white alkaline dust and sand without vegetation and I'd guess this area would be better described as an arid plain with plenty of brush and bushes and trees, at least in the city itself, just a few miles from the Mexican border.
Ah, yes: the Mexican border. The fence. Border guard vehicles more prevalent than police cars, a DEA blimp overhead to the west, mimeographed fliers tacked to walls in Bisbee asking for donations of food and clothing to help those who've run into trouble, a check point beyond Tombstone some twenty miles plus into the United States where they stop you and they look you over. How's your English? Where now are you coming from again? Asked nicely, you understand, but it doesn't take much imagination to think what might happen with dust on your boots and the wrong accent.
You're on vacation in a swell town filled with photographic opportunities. Why this paranoia?
True. It was interesting, though, to drive to the border, the land flat and empty to the surrounding mountains, to photograph the houses and buildings at the border crossings, many of them old and weathered set seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. Bisbee itself is spread out at the base of hills, feels fairly large for a “quaint” artists’ community that was for over a century until the seventies the site of one of the largest open pit copper mining operations in the country.
Friday. Yes indeed, Bisbee is located on a plateau over a mile high, my shortness of breath attesting to the fact. A short walk here and there around the town, dinner later with Mr. A's friends C and R who've built a house near Bisbee located out on its own on the flat plain near the border, the house itself and the setting straight out of Architectural Digest, the dinner picked up by Mr. A at what was obviously one of the better watering spots in town.
The shortness of breath was not a problem, the solution again, a walk here, a walk back to the hotel to lie down for a while and watch the fires burning in L.A. on television; another walk there to get another picture or two, a walk back to see if we were going to have trouble getting back to Thousand Oaks Saturday as Highway 5 and Highway 118, both of which I'd used coming down from Oakland, were closed.
Saturday. Eleven hours of driving with a stop for lunch late in the afternoon at Steaks 'n Cakes. (How could we not?) Yes there was traffic as we approached, yes we could see the fire line to the south, but yes we were able to arrive at Mr. A's home in good time and good condition, the various fires displayed quite nicely on the flat screen up on the wall in Mr. A's living room as we talked art and life and sipped Maker's Mark well into the evening. Fast living, don't you think, for an old fart here in Oakland?
Sunday. A good breakfast out on the patio in the morning sun in Thousand Oaks, a six hour uneventful drive back to Oakland passing some smoke as I approached one of the fire areas, then to bed back from Bisbee.