Saturday, July 18, 2015

THE ROAD TO JEROME



Jerome is nestled onto the mountainside


I first visited Jerome, Arizona in March of 2014, my second road trip in the CoW, and my favorite overnight stop on a three-night swing through Arizona and Nevada.




So when I discover, to my delight, that Jerome is a mere twenty-nine miles from Sedona, it is a no-brainer to return.



Jerome Grand, left of center, Ghost Central


In addition to penning short novels set around longer road trips, I am writing a nonfiction book based on the whole road-trip experience.

Here is what I wrote about Jerome, as part of last year's road trip:



Once The Wickedest Town In America.


Now America’s most haunted:  a living, breathing ghost town—as promoted by its 444 inhabitants, who these days survive on tourism, not copper mining.



The road up curves through canyons, producing splendid panoramas, a constant reminder of the vastness of the United States, and our planet; of all the natural beauty mankind has yet to spoil.

Jerome was one of the biggest copper mining centers of all time—once a big bustling city with luxury goods, brothels, saloons, and much affluence.

World Wars meant boom-times, literally, as the copper barons dynamited mountains to get at the copper ore needed to manufacture weapons.


The end of that war led to the Jerome’s near collapse, worsened by the stock market crash of 1929.


World War II came along and revived Jerome briefly.  But renewed momentum was not to last.  Residents sold their homes for bus fare out, or simply abandoned them.



In the early 1970s, the flower power generation began to tire of their Haight-Ashbury scene, and cities in general.  

Some moved to Bolinas, a fishing village north of San Francisco.  




ERINGER: SURREAL BOUNCE...: SURREAL BOUNCE: BOLINAS, THE UNFINDABLE TOWN, OPENING SEQUENCE

Others discovered Jerome, which had become an almost ghost town, with only a few natives clinging to what once was.


What do you do with a ghost town?


Hype the hell out of it!


So now Jerome is Salem-West: 


They celebrate Halloween the whole month of October; everywhere you look, ghosts and more ghosts are coming out of the old wooden facades; some genuine, many contrived—they’re making the best of what they got and exploiting it for all it’s worth.

On this late weekday afternoon, it seems worth quite a lot, as parking is scarce and many people roam the streets, whose shops do a brisk business.

We could have stayed at the Jerome Grand Hotel, formerly a hospital and reputed to be Ghost Central, but decided instead on the Connor, in the middle of everything, partly due to its high-spirited female receptionist.



She eyes me.  “You’ve got to sign the rules.”

“We don’t believe in rules,” I say.


She pushes a page of small print across the counter toward me.  “You in particular.”


Singled out.  Again.


“Does this mean we can’t have our midnight soccer game down the hall?”


A genuine metal key opens into an old fashioned room with a sturdy bed, clean coverings, solid furniture, and a window that opens onto Jerome’s main drag.  The bathroom is basic and clean, the lighting incandescent.  (In other words, more homey than The Parker in Palm Springs at a quarter the cost.)


Downstairs, energy pulsates, as if the vortexes of nearby Sedona extend to this durable town.  


You can keep swimming pool lounges and spas with fancy mud baths and mineral facials.  The only thing you need for your face is olive oil in the morning and a vodka wash at night to remove grit.  


Life is about motion, not lounging.