Time’s warped in Tombstone

I was grateful for a happy time in Tombstone. Although the whole group did not all settled on specific activities and many have drifted off to the next venue or away altogether as Spring obligations call them, we have kept the routine of twice daily meetings. The slower pace and regular get togethers have meant we were able to spend more relaxed time together.

In my Facebook post, one post encompassing the whole long weekend as there were so few photos of everyone together, apart from my pics of the meetings, I talked about the magic of the place, the lines between fact and fiction are indistinct. Each shop, museum or bar seemed to be a world, a bizarre world within a world, as if one had somehow stepped through a looking glass. Time sees to have been warped here, we are in Yesterday’s westerns where tomorrows world has been held back, its ebb and flow drying up in the desert sands between here and the big cities.

The stained glass window, a back lit display, features feet hanging from above and hats fallen on the street.
The painted plank announces ‘Clean Baths and Hot Water for 25 cents more.’

Daylight, harsh bright daylight in the street with sharp contrasts dissolves as you push the saloon doors of Big Nose Kate’s place. The sounds of an old man’s electric guitar waft over you as he faithfully covers Johnny Cash, and Rick Nelson to appreciative applause from the patrons. The camera is powerless to capture the atmosphere, the strong reds and orange yellows blurring and fracturing into a kaleidoscope of whirling myriad reflections from glass to brass and back again, confusing it’s tiny lens, and lending an air of mystery to the scene that cannot be captured. Even though the smoke is missing the mirrors do their job.

The faces lined up at the bar, lined with lives lived near and far, tell stories to one another, but who listens? Not these barmaids, never pausing, ushering in the next guests, skilfully seating them serving them, leaving them to stare over all sorts of concoctions, glasses of joy. So much to see so much to evoke strong emotions. The cavernous tavern’s walls and ceiling are bedecked with momento mori. Dead men’s feet hung from invisible nooses. The dead Queen’s head pinned, framed on in a fiver on the beam above the optics. While one of the buxom bar tenders bustles between the busy kitchen and burgeoning tables, from the double action swinging doors to the dancing bourbon bottles. Her eyes refuse mine, in her low cut period costume, she sees judgement in my coffee mug, in my blue jean stockings and prim polo neck that is not there. I only have admiration – how does she do it? The eyes are not harsh, when I leave the two dollars fifty, forgetting the tip which should have been eighteen percent.

The caffeine craving having been calmed in the only venue I could find so late on a Sunday afternoon, I head out to hunt for Raw Honey. The baddie from yesterday’s gunfight recognisable by the real deep scar on his cheek, does not recognise me as having been in yesterday’s audience but starts to announce to no one in particular as I cross the street that his last show is starting soon. The idea of enquiring of him where the hone shop is swoons away before it can crystallise and catch me out in an embarrassing encounter. But I think I know the way so I walk on and sure enough the experience of so few days in town leads me round the right corner two blocks along Main Street. My sense of direction delivers me beneath the golden yellow RAW HONEY sign suspended above the dusty wooden sidewalk. Outside the small store what I take for a blind man sits on an iron bench playing an acoustic guitar well but softly as if only for himself. I come to a soft standstill outside the store two more people pass by at that moment and he raises his black spectacled head as their booted heals drum their progress, he calls “Welcome to Tombstone!” I slip into the shade of the shop and seeing no one in attendance start to scan all the various honey pots. Two things strike me, firstly there is only apiary produce on the shelves and that it is from killer bees! From historical gunslingers to pollen pickers Tombstone feeds on death. Every conceievable flavour of honey is represented but none of the jars are labelled RAW HONEY. Even while I have been many minutes perusing the products ranged around the small shop, no one has come from the back ‘Staff Only’ door.

Only missing in the photograph is the Killer Bee Honey Salesman.

Back out on the sidewalk I scan the neighbouring doorways, will someone appear? The soft notes from the guitar fill the air with complex Paisley patterns, like no music I have heard before, they fall over each other before building to a secret crescendo as if riding some invisible thermal, then fade away in the Sunday evening air until a conclusive chord completes the piece. The guitarist is returned from wherever the ‘duende’ had taken him, slipping back into here and now from the musical dimension, he seems to become aware of my presence for the first time, and turns his pale face up to mine, enquiringly, the black discs focussed squarely on me. “I was hoping to buy some honey.” I addressed the forlorn hope to the centre of the street, but the simple statement has an electric affect, laying the guitar down on the bench he jumps up, “That would be me!” then muttering something about “Slipping… not keeping my act together..” and leads the way back into the shop where he proceeds to introduce me to the many honey varieties I have already met and offering me salt sticks with which to taste them from the small glass octagonal jars that have no top but sit in front of each display dedicated to a different flavour. I wave them aside apologetically and explain “I’m afraid it doesn’t matter what it tastes like, I’m only going to feed it to my Kombucha.” He now removes his spectacles but the eyes behind are equally black, the pupils fully dilated, the iris a thin rim of grey around them and fixes me with an understanding stare, taking up a very large plastic container simply marked ‘Wild Desert Honey’ “Well quantity is the trick with the price.” “I only have to keep my Kombucha alive another three weeks until I reach my daughter’s farm.” I’m standing immobile as he replaces the large container. He tries one of the tiny octagons, this one lidded and labeled, but it is seven dollars and he sees the sale slipping away. “You might do better at the Farmer’s Market at the weekend?” I smile gratefully, I’m let off the hook, and reply positively that I may take him up on that suggestion. But the intensity of the visit to the Raw Honey shop has me taking his hand and telling him I’ve been pleased to make his acquaintance. His “Thank you for coming in.” fades behind me as I happily head off on the next adventure. for ‘home’ the Vegas RV down the footpath past the old station now a public library with the sounds of the last gunfight of the day popping away in the arena to my left as the sun slides down on the first day of Spring.

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