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My Home is in Jerome

Can a Sense of Inclusion be Fostered in a Tourism State?

What do you say about Jerome that can’t just be googled and read about in a hundred different articles? What does one person, who doesn’t even live there, possibly have to offer?

As long as we are at it: how does one prove the authenticity of their motivations of anything?

Lots of writers, better historians than I,  have posted some great articles about Jerome, Arizona.  I am not going to repeat them here, but by all means take the time to peruse a few!

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The Haunted Hamburger is LEGIT

Jerome, AZ Home Page

Whores, Miners, and the Mentally Insane: The Haunted Arizona Town

Arizona Vacation Guide

Jerome Bars & Wineries

Top Ten Things to do in Jerome, AZ  2017

I cannot speak to Jerome’s ghosts: not in fact, as I have never seen any (although I desperately want to).  I cannot lecture on the history, nor specifics, of the mine: as I am not as expert.  I cannot claim to really, personally know any one person in town.  But, what I can tell you of, that is simply unique to me, is that Jerome, Arizona is my Muse.

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What makes a place, a specific, unique, personal place – magical? What gives it this power over us, allowing it to captivate our souls and imaginations? I am not talking about a mere weekend getaway where you flee from the heat to an overly populated place, try to relax, and then run home.  (Huge lines of lights coming down the Mogollon Rim on a Sunday come to mind; and in my case that means a sore, arthritic clutch hand.

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If that’s your gig, more power to you, but I am speaking to that spiritual core inside you. I am speaking to that place in your soul that ignites when you get there, when you feel your battery recharge. That place is supposed to be home, and if it truly is, you are blessed.  But if this is the litmus test to what home is, then, in that case, my home is in Jerome.

Years ago, Spirits of Jerome began as a novel about one particular ghost’s journey in the Netherworld.  However, as tends to be the case, life happened, and by the time I picked up the story again, much had changed.  During that period of time, my wanderings took me back to Jerome, time and time again.  Various locations around town started to weave stories in my mind; various stories about the town started to fill in colors of its locations.  Jerome became a place with a rich and shadowy history, and one that could completely chase writer’s block away if I would go, spend time, soak it in… and commune.

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On one such excursion several years ago now, I stopped in at Aurum Jewelry.  I was wanting a specific engagement ring for my wife.  The owner said no problem, and he had the yellow gold ring, inlaid with purple sugilite and clasping a white sapphire done for me by Christmas Eve.  Both her and I were without our kids that year, and a Christmas getaway to a haunted town was exactly …. well, it was perfect.   I popped the question at the Asylum Restaurant, where the table cloths were butcher paper and they served our menu with crayons.  We drank from wine tasting glasses that were too perfect not to buy.  You can say Jerome has had its clutches into us since the beginning of us being… an us.

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Over the years since, Jerome has continued to be our home away from home, and we find ourselves going there as often as time allows.  On Ghost, it is a great day trip from my home in Mesa, taking me just under three hours to get there – depending on traffic.  I soon discovered that a Blues/ Rock guitar-man named Dog of the Moon, played at the Spirit Room every Friday.  Many a Friday was spent plugged in next to the jukebox, visiting with the spirits, listening to Moondog.  What was even better, he played early, giving us day-trippers a chance to melt back down the hill into the drudgery of normalcy.

20161019_083830It was during these trips, that the stories that would eventually weave together to form the book, took place, and about 85% of it was written in the Spirit Room on warm afternoons with my notebook, a laptop, and a beer or three.  The rest of the book was written at the concrete table at the top of the steps underneath the proof that some people still believe in Headless Charlie.

I watched people, I listened to people, I dropped eaves on conversations and took copious notes.  I spoke to very few.  I wasn’t interested in the lore of the shop keepers or the ghost tours that walk through town almost on a daily basis now.  I was interested in listening to the conversations of locals that know which step is okay to bring your own beer to and pass an evening completely, and legally, drunk in public.  These are the people that will give you the real pulse of a place.

I dared to start feeling like a local, well, no not a local, but perhaps a common site.  Ghost was often parked in front of the Spirit Room, and I was often seen in either of my two favorite places.  I dared to start feeling like… I belonged in Jerome.  Like the spirits had parted the veil, just a little bit, and said, “Sure, this one is okay.  We like his company.”

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And then I handed out some business cards one day; and a stark and vivid truth, that I as an Arizona native resident I have always known, but had dared to forget, or hope did not apply, came rushing back  to salience.  For a state heavily dependent on tourism and exploration, we are not the most inviting of guests.

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For seven years, I lived and taught in Pinetop, Arizona.  I waited in anticipation for the Spring, so that I could hit the lakes, or start training sled dogs (I ran a pretty cool Alaskan Malamute Kennel for a while), or go for mountain bike rides in the woods.  And so did the entirety of the lowlands.  The place would be crawling with tourists.  The campsites would be loaded.  The lakes and streams would be full.  The one highway through town would be a steady influx of toy haulers and RVs.  Off road contraptions would be racing all over the forest roads making dog training on a wheeled chariot, careening through the trees, impossible.  I have to be honest; I hated it.

So here is the hypocrisy right?  Pinetop is a tourism town: requiring tourists to come and spend their money for the local economy to properly function.  Courting those visitors is a huge priority for the town, as it is the lifeblood of their very existence.  This is the story of most of rural Arizona.  We are a destination state.  We are a retirement state.  We are a state made up of a steady and rotating influx of people from other places.

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It makes sense, when one really looks at the reality of the situation with a sense of subjective observation, why residents in Arizona develop such a sense of ownership of their community.  The local man that I handed my card to in Jerome that day saw one word, “ghost”, and immediately handed it back.

“It’s all bullshit,” he said.  “It’s all a bunch of huey they made up back when the town was trying to come back from the dead.  People dressed up in costumes and staged photos right here in the middle of the street.”

Ironically, the local Ghost Tours van drove by, and the gentleman pointed as they drove by.  “Now we got every asshole in the universe trying to make a buck on it.  It’s all bullshit.”

Now, do not judge.  Stop, and think.  Jerome, Arizona averages approximately 1.5 million visitors a year.  It is known as one of the most haunted towns in America.  The town has been featured on Ghost Adventures, most recently, and Sightings, back in the day.  It also thrives off of … what I call Speculation.

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The Jerome Grand Hotel offers several exclusive nights a year to ghost hunters, world wide.  Its “haunted history” was the focus of the Travel Channel Ghost Adventures program.  As previously mentioned, Tours of Jerome exists in town to provide tours through the stories and legends of the town.  Both walking and driving tours are provided.

My time in Pinetop came sharply into focus now as I listened to the elderly resident from Jerome.  I could see him having to chase people off his property every night.  I could see him struggling to sleep with the constant barking of dogs.  I could see him not being able to assume, whatsoever, that common decency still existed.  He saw too often, too much evidence to the contrary.  So had I.  Every weekend, all summer, all the time.

Thesis?  We need to be better tourists.  Somewhere along the line in our overly-convoluted world, our collective sense of entitlements overcame our dying sense of decency.  I had a very awesome student, years ago, who wrote an award winning Oratory that was phrased as an Obituary to Common Sense.  It was brilliant, and prophetic in many ways… unfortunately.

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It was fitting that the day after my wife and I went up the hill to do the photo shoot for Spirits of Jerome, a different past student of mine posted a picture of herself with an electric device hunting ghosts in Jerome.  It was hillariously perfect!  Megan assured me that she was being courteous and staying off of private property.  But it brings up a point…

Have our entitlements overtaken our inherent ability to be kind?  Think of the various ways we allow our supposed “rights” to encroach on the given rights of our fellow inhabitants of this spinning ball of confusion.  I am not going to list them here, they are many, but as Tolkien said:

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”

God I love Tolkien!  And his quote is not only perfectly fitting to the motive behind my book, but it is also applicable here.  We can all see examples all around us where people have simply stopped valuing, in any real, daily, measurable sense, the social contract.  Definition:

“In both moral and political philosophy, the social contract or political contract is a theory or model, originating during the Age of Enlightenment, that typically addresses the questions of the origin of society and the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.[1] Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the ruler or magistrate (or to the decision of a majority), in exchange for protection of their remaining rights.” – Wikipedia (not always legit; not always wrong – know your sources!)

My intention as a writer is to explore this state.  I am blessed to be able to do so in a way that very few others can: from the seat of a rumbling machine, cruising through the environs of my homeland with absolutely zero distractions.

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My steed of choice is a 2016 Indian 911 Dark Horse Chief: I call her Ghost.  I am the Ghost Writer, and I wrote a new book, it is called Spirits of Jerome.  It is a book of speculative short stories that entwine to tell a version of the tale of a mystical place.  I have meant it in all ways as a tribute to the town that has captivated my soul, and where if there is any order in the great universe, I will end up residing as soon as humanly possible.  Spirits of Jerome will be released this October in select brick and mortar establishments, down in The Bone Hoard, and world wide on the Inter Webs.

41rY7-1pNeL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My friend Ken Lamberton, author of Chasing Arizona, and a man who intimately explores our state, has written the first review of the book.

“With {a} flare for the lyrical, Ryan B. Clark probes {deep} question{s} in Spirits of Jerome, giving readers astonishing insights into the other side, the dark places that come after the grave. This is where the dead philosophize while searching for what it might mean to breathe again. “Nothing lasting was ever created in safety,” Clark says, purposely blurring the lines between fiction and reality. Reading story after stunning story, you’ll start to believe it’s all true.”

Click the image for a link to amazon.  Lamberton writes with a familiarity that comes off the page like an old friend telling you new secrets of places you thought you knew.  Chasing Arizona is a MUST read for Arizona enthusiasts!

My long time friend, and idol, Stephen Ashbrook, Arizona music legend, has written a forward to the book.  Stephen has been inspiring me for over twenty years, and I am profoundly humbled that an artist like him saw something in my work to endorse.  Give the legend a listen as you read the rest of the article…. you won’t regret it.

“Music has taken me all over the country and across oceans, and almost every small town and small town hotel claims to be haunted. But this small town was different. Every traveler loves a good ghost story. Something here was alive, or dead rather, and still with us. Its story ran deeper than just any ghostly tale. Something here pulled at us to surrender and let it in.” – Stephen Ashbrook from his forward to Spirits of Jerome

 Our purpose is to show what Jerome has meant in our lives.  Our purpose here is to share that journey with anyone in the world whose heart resonates with that iron string.  It is a matter of awe, and it is a matter of respect.  It is not a matter of assimilation.

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My book releases at the Spirit Room on September 29th as part of the Dog of the Moon show.  Click the jump for event information.

In the meantime, it is my responsibility to earn the right to be there, among the ghosts, among the living, in Jerome, Arizona.

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And stay here… my personal favorite is the Lariat & Lace

 

Keep it Scary my friends!

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