Pack up all your Phantoms…
September is upon us. In many ways, it feels very odd to be living life as normal in Arizona while so many people around the country, and the world, are dealing with what has got to go down in history as one of the most catastrophic years for weather in history. But as the summer wears along, here in the Valley of the Sun September offers little relief, my own storm of activity was also looming ahead. Spirits of Jerome will soon be loosed upon the world, and as I prepare for book signings, tour events, and store marketing, I am starting to get a sense of the business side of my art. Writing stories, articles, poems, weaving words together to hopefully transplant the ideas from my head to yours…. creating visions that are both shared, and unique – is the beauty of what I try to do, and being able to share those ideas with the world is a simultaneously humbling and empowering event. But once that process is over, and the book goes off to production, and eventual distribution, the fact is becoming very clear: I am a small business owner. In a very real, but very small, sense. It is exhilarating, and fascinating, and terrifying!
So, as I watch the world, try to interact with the world, and hope for the world, I am also somewhat of a navigator of a rolling stone. September was always going to be the “calm before the storm” in my life, and going up, once again, to Jerome was important to set up the coming release party at The Spirit Room and the Jerome Ghost Walk Signing Event. In so doing, I was looking forward to being able to visit with two artists who both have been able to do what I have always hoped to do… leave the Valley, and become a resident of Arizona’s Ghost Town.
Haunting the Wilderness Road…
As I tried to share with you, my readers, before in my article My Home Is In Jerome, was why this small town captivates me the way that it does. This time, my journey started taking me from Mesa to Prescott, where I wanted to meet with Susan McElheran, the proprietor of The Old Sage Bookshop on Whiskey Row. It is exactly the type of bookstore where Spirits of Jerome could do very well. In a row of shops following the wall of Matt’s Saloon, The Old Sage sits at the end of a wooden floored hallway, next to the back end of a restaurant. It is an inviting corner, quiet, and quaint, inviting, and elegantly organized. I left my Media Kit with Susan, and she assured me that she ordered new books from Ingram Distributing about three times a year. Good news!
First order of business of the day complete, and off I went, headed through town towards the 89-A, the scenic byway that leads out of the Prescott Valley, up and over Mingus Mountain, down along the edge of Cleopatra Hill beneath the old remains of mine rail tracks and raised bridges, and finally, you drop around a corner into Jerome, Arizona.
Carry all those phantoms…
Through bitter wind and stormy skies
From the desert to the mountain
From the lowest low to the highest high
Like a ghost rider
Why Jerome? In the Foreword to Spirits of Jerome, Stephen Ashbrook writes,
“There was no judgement, there was no fear, and there were no boundaries. It was a safe place to let go and go beyond ourselves: the selves that we projected down in the Valley below. Jerome was like a confessional where our darkness could be shown to each other without fear.”
Also, do not forget… you have ONE NIGHT to get SPIRITS OF JEROME and have BOTH Stephen & myself sign it. Get your ticket to Stephen’s show at The Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix (folks, Stephen is NEVER to be missed. He is known as one of the great legendary performers from the Old Long Wong’s on Mill era.)
For myself, several characters in Spirits of Jerome are struggling artists trying to chase the Muse. Several characters are struggling with writer’s block, or deeply obstructing philosophical questions. I can tell you I am very good and deep friends with these characters. As far as proof… my book. Spirits of Jerome was written almost completely in town, and somehow the stories were never a struggle. In fact, some stories were completely reborn, and rewritten in one sitting, when the Muse kissed my brain sitting in The Spirit Room.
Is it scientific? Is it a provable hypothesis? Can it be tested and proven?
Does it matter?
For years MoonDog, or Dog of the Moon, or just Dog…. played the gigs and the scene in Seattle, Oakland, Portland, and Phoenix, before finally saying you know what… enough… and he chased the Ghosts up Cleopatra Hill. Now he is a staple with weekly gigs at The Spirit Room with his barefoot drummer Dave, where they are the Dog and Dave show every Friday afternoon from 1-4.
“You know, there is just something about this town. Shit, often it is small, just like any other small town, with small town bullshit…. but that drama never outweighs the peace this place brings.”
He put it into words very well, but perhaps the best answer to … Why Jerome? is the song he wrote shortly after moving there.
Show me beauty, but there is no peace…
Jason Voss, artist and guide at Tours of Jerome, came to Cleopatra Hill for similar reasons. He had visited Jerome on multiple occasions, and finally, tired of the rat race of Los Angeles, and spurred to change through divorce, he pined for the ghost town in Arizona. For its inspiration. For its history.
Jason has a show right now going on at the Cartwheels Gallery in Cottonwood. You can also find his work at the Tours of Jerome office which is in the old New State Auto Building just up the hill from Caduceus Cellars, the Nelly Bly, and The Spirit Room on Main Street.
Shadows on the road behind
Shadows on the road ahead
Nothing can stop you now
The Verde Valley is a spiritual place. One should never underestimate the magical powers of a seemingly ordinary place. Millions swarm to the Red Hills of Sedona and its energies, its beauty… its vortexes. Millions swarm to Jerome for its ghosts, its history, and its mysteries. I was so thrilled Stephen agreed to write the foreword to Spirits of Jerome, but he was just thrilled to have a way to write his way into its history. Dog came chasing a girl, chasing peace, sick of the bullshit…. and he stays… to grow old. Jason came from the hustle and bustle of LA to embrace the dark past of the town, and allow the Muse to sing to him through its history.
Riding on a nameless quest racing toward the light…
I hope. For many of us, who have danced with the darkness for a very long time…. sadness… trauma…. tragedy…. this darkness can be debilitating. It can make something like hope… terrifying. After all…. if one hopes, and fails….. there is that much more pain. There is that much more sadness and loss. Hope has not been an easy thing for me, for a very long time.
This book, these travels, this blog…. this is LIFE. This is what is happening while the plans are being laid. Each day is leading towards a goal, and that is a success. Any way you slice it. A progression of successful days… my friends… is a successful life.
I will leave you with a meme that I stole. I am not usually a meme guy, but this one hit… on the right day…. at the right time.
Keep the Greasy Side Down my friends !