Monday, August 3, 2009

A Love Letter to Jerome, Arizona

Dear Jerome,

Right now I am officially on the mend from a nasty bout of the summer flu. The virus left me with a sepulchral cough and a prescription for several medications that chemically lobotomize me for a few hazy hours (and little else.) However, it also afforded me time to reflect back on my day trip to meet you.

While I greatly enjoyed Sedona's unearthly beauty, you were the crown jewel of my first vacation to Arizona. It was love at first sight for me...I'm not sure you feel the same. That's okay, Jerome. It was both your breezy indifference and casual hospitality that drew me in, among other contradictions.

How does such a small town generate all of that spunk?

House of Joy, you brought me your promise in spades. I read somewhere that after your birth as a brothel you became a world famous restaurant. Now you tempt me with your stockpile of original early and mid-century posters, military ephemera and other mixed media eye candy. In every incarnation, it seems you have lived up to your name. I appreciate your owner, who radiated warmth, but did not hover. This is a quality that I particularly value when I am up to my elbows in sparkly things, prints, and refrigerator magnets emblazoned with naked figures and bawdy puns.

Then up those serpentine streets. Past wine bars, restaurants, galleries, restaurants, wine bars, galleries, hotels. And it occurred to me that given your modest population, there is no shortage of local attractions. Or proprietors who are warm and approachable but never overly solicitous. Your status as a tourist destination seems to be more of a coincidence then a strategic decision. I like to imagine that if you existed in a vacuum, the same amenities would also be there, just for the brazen heck of it. That your oblique avenues and tiered porches materialized one day out of Cleopatra Hill like a southwestern Shangri-La. And you extended an elbow and offered everybody a drink and a place to stay and didn't give a hang about what anybody thought of you.

I passed the Spirit Room a few times without visiting. Mostly it was because I was with my Mom, who isn't much for bars in general. I must admit, I still feel kind of awkward getting tipsy in my mother's presence. Maybe it's because I have never seen her in any state other than crisply sober. Either way, I got past that concern and we eventually walked in. I love your molded tin ceiling and other original details. And that painting above the stage that seemed like an homage to Olympia. Mostly, I appreciate the fact that your friendly and expeditious bartender sold me one of the best gin and tonics I've ever had for four dollars. I left a four dollar tip just for that. Bartender who served my Mom a Sprite alongside my beverage without a discernible hint of irony: I salute you!

Well Jerome, I really hope we meet again. I hardly feel I have the right to continue singing your praises when we're barely acquaintances. But you just have that way about you. Maybe next time I'll sample a "Haunted Hamburger" or stay in one of your guesthouses. If your ghostly denizens in any way resemble your corporeal ones, I'll still sleep like a sated baby.