Visiting the historic old mining town of the Wild West with our favorite cartoonist witch as your tour guide
story and pictures by Dame Darcy for Reviewer
February 12, 2017
Perhaps named for the killer bees whose honey is as infamous as it is delicious. They are sturdy little desert creatures with long creepy legs. They will take over any dwelling in a matter of days.
They can kill a 150-pound peccary, an indigenous feral pig that runs in the desert biting things with its huge fangs. And if you leave even a little watering can out in the yard the bees will nest in there. They’re the spirit animals of the locals: creative, resourceful, weird.
Bisbee is the real deal. Bisbee, Tombstone, Saint David, and the little border towns, these are the Sky Islands. My witch sister just moved here.
I feel nostalgic. And this is only my second time in Bisbee. It reminds me of Bone Idaho where I lived as a kid on a ranch in the 70’s and 80’s.
I think this is the appeal for my sister too. She used to live in Idaho but is Jewish and from Philly, L.A., and even India.
So she fits in well with eclectic Bisbee. In big sky country the view is epic. Swirling massive clouds forever.
You can see the snow on the blue mountains miles away then closer another layer of jutting red and orange rock formations with some cactus and scrub brush. A primordial Vista that hasn’t changed in millions of years.
A timeless capsule. In the 1880’s The reign of the Copper Queen exploded the red hills into massive steps to rival ancient Egypt, and with it exploded the population of Bisbee.
Once 150,000 it was a bustling town of miners, cowboys, of all kinds, White, Mexican, Native American, black, Jewish. Not to mention the strange cults still operating in secret to this day.
And the booming brothels to accommodate everyone and cheer things up. Fences made from Victorian bed frames abound in this place showing where the old West brothels were.
Sold as souvenirs, we found tokens used by the ladies. The cash register in the store is from the 1800’s and originally only went up to $10.
This shows what a deal the miners got when for “$3 all night you could screw 8 ladies including 2 squaws!” Quite a claim for the copper coins, and horrifying in so many ways. All I know is the miners had a lot of energy.
Then Bisbee went bust and typhoid fever broke out. Diminishing the population of Bizbee to 5000.
Now there are beautiful decaying Victorian doll houses , steps leading to no where, past an art deco statue of a handsome man.
The use of corrugated steel and Tiffany stained glass both used to build a charming janky home built on what was once an ancient Indian burial ground then a haunted whore house.
Also you can live in a home literally made from a cave with a hot water spring in your backyard. All on the same winding little road, paved with a mix of cobblestones from re-purposed brick.
The miners, cowboys, and probably ladies of the night (or early evening, Bisbee closes early) are still here!
Along with artists hiding out and selling local hand made everything to themselves and visitors.
Everything I’ve seen here is re-purposed, home grown, vintage or hand made. It’s like an Old West version of Cuba.
Old cars from the 30’s, 50’s, and 70’s are parked randomly next to the barber with a red and blue pole with the hand painted sign. Same goes for all the food, clothing, furniture, and everything else.
Art, music, and weirdos of every stripe and age live here or drift through town.
Vintage is worn by Everybody here. Ladies in prairie bonnets for reals. I met about half a dozen folks who own ranches.
My theory is it’s because so much vintage and Victoriana was left over that now it’s just the usual fare of the general population.
I once thought my style was Japanese Lolita and random vintage. But I now know it’s homemade couture and Victorian cowgirl garb of Tombstone, Arizona.
I’ve been in Bisbee a week. The weather during the winter is very erratic. Because of this is the desert temperatures have gone from 80 degrees in the day in early February to below 40 at night.
This is a dry heat. And I highly suggest visitors stay hydrated. Many of the locals are at the median age of 60 and although they are spry, svelte, and rocking amazing white hair very trendy with today’s millennials, they are dried by the sun.
Being raised in the high desert of Idaho it’s a familiar feeling. Though one I will admit I had forgotten.
It’s raining now. And the sound of the rain on this large 100 year old house is very soothing. There was snow on Christmas and no other day.
The man who built this house was murdered in a water balloon fight across the street at the biker bar. And this house is haunted by him.
Basically he was a carpenter and transformed this beautiful old house into a duplex with skylights , stained glass, and interesting hardware.
It has its own cave under the Adobe veranda inlaid with ceramic Valentine hearts.
He died tragically, from a water balloon fight. Apparently, he was down the street when someone fired a water balloon from the balcony of what is now the art gallery into the biker bar.
A drunk biker came out of the biker bar, looking for the water balloon culprit. Seeing the carpenter the biker wrongly assumed it was him and stabbed him in the street. He died in 1980 and the place was full of bees until my witch sister moved in.
There were no maids to help her clean so she hired the local miners.
When I arrived in Bisbee my witch sister had her twin here visiting. They had met on the set of Carnival a decade ago.
My sister’s twin is a Hollywood actress and the daughter of a very unusual 60’s rock star. The reason they are twins and why they met is because Witch sister played the stunt double for the actress.
The role was a lady who was working as a carnival girl and ended up getting attacked by ghost miners.
My Witch sister is a fire eater, circus performing clown and contortionist. But now is a self made success story making hats and show girl facinators.
Hard core feminist as she is, she did a Jewish act during the Xmas season with a flaming menorah headdress. Also incorporating contortionist into her performance art act by eating light bulbs and lit up a florescent tube with her vagina.
Anyways she was the stunt vagina for the actress who in the Showtime TV series flipped upside down naked on stage before running off right before she got attacked by Ghost Miners.
Now seeing the two of them together in this ghost miners setting as a reunion location is two perfect. #twinning & #winning
When they drove me in the convertible to the border of Mexico in their identical floppy black hats and sunglasses I felt like I was in some wild West version of a Fellini film.
I was referred to the Mexico dentist by my friend Mark Hosler who invented the experimental music group Negativland.
The cost of a crown quoted to me in Savannah is $1200-$2600. And I needed 2 crowns and a filling totaling $6000.
In Mexico I got the work done for $1200. Total.
So the other main reason I came to Bisbee is to get my dental work done over the border in Mexico at a fraction of the price in America.
That is if you can handle parking in back of the Walmart, walking about 5 blocks up the long dusty path by the freeway through the border, and wait on the other side where all the signs are in Spanish.
The adorable young lady dental assistant came to pick me up in a little beat up 90’s Mazda. But Dr. Tostado does amazing work and has a beautiful fountain in the reception area.
I needed 2 days of 5 hour jaw bending and needles in my face to take care of the crowns and fillings.
Dr. Tostados dental work made my teeth look amazing and perfect. All porcelain! No metal mercury fillings for this Bitch!
Finally i had to go to Mexico to get my dental work done right with my new white privileged teeth. Because I certainly can not afford American white privilege.
Anyways, the toothless locals of Bisbee need to get hip to Dr. Tostado. He’s only a 20 minute drive away. If I lived here i would seriously go to Mexico once a week until all my teeth had glimmering veneers and every little flaw was fixed.
In Bisbee about a third of the population lives by squatting for free in the abandoned chipping Victorian doll houses and caves.
Then they eat for free every day where gourmet organic vegan meals are served in the court yard in front of the stock exchange. So they really should take advantage of the fact their busking money could easily fix a filling or two.
Dr. Tostado is a kind and patient dentist who apparently is also a nice landlord. Said the lady who I bought home grown squash from I met at the farmers market who rents from him.
I was showing off my new teeth there and apparently Everybody in town knows my dentist. He also owns a cattle ranch.
Dr. Tostado’s dental work comes highly recommended by yours truly. It’s much better than the work of Dr. Burrito, Dr. Gordita and Dr. Nachos. Though equally delicious.
Then we went to see Adam Ant in Tuscon. But that part of the story is so epic and emotional, that it needs its own whole other lengthy tome. Besides, it took place in Tuscon which is nothing compared to Bisbee.
Now the stars are out, the full moon lights up the gully. I shut my eyes and still see the endless sky as a owl echos in the distance. The dream of Bisbee is the same as the reality of Bisbee, epic and endless.
Love, Dame Darcy