Curt and Van Stein trudge into Roka bundled up and coated with snow and we commence a feast of lobster ravioli and rack of lamb, grilled to perfection and accompanied with root vegetables and potato in a rich wine sauce, made even better by the deep velvety Sea Smoke pinot.
It is still snowing when we depart Roka well fed and content and make our way down the hill and around the corner to a saloon called The Stock Exchange, C.C.'s place, where a band is performing on stage and colorful characters abound.
This is where we meet Bruce, who attaches himself to Van Stein, who sketches the scene with watercolors while Bruce shows off the cool devil pipe he carved himself.
Shots of Jameson whiskey all round and we are part of this scene, welcomed by all, elderly hippies and their grown kids, the hipsters, as if all these wonderfully friendly, positive people drink Lithia water with their whiskey.
It is Open Mic Night so the awesome band on stage is replaced by another just as good, and then a solo guitar player-singer.
A view through saloon windows of cascading snow renders this night magical.
Eventually we slush our way back to the Grand Saloon and continue our reverie among a new set of characters, plus Bruce, who followed us over feeling a kinship with Van Stein, lamenting that folks like us come and go and wishing aloud we’d stay a while, get to know Bisbee, become part of its character club, and we drinking samplers of local dark beer with names like Pecan Porter and Sexy Beast, engaged in lively conversation with a self-proclaimed “language psychic.”
A musical act spontaneously erupts near the saloon mascot, "Creepy Jesus," so-called because the eyes of this absinthe-green-lit sculpted face of Christ follow you wherever you wander throughout the joint.
“Epiphanized yet?” I ask Van Stein.
“I plead the pith,” he replies, partying on blissfully in Bisbee even as Curt and I fold near midnight, hanging with a bunch of new friends about whom he utters an original Van Stein-ism: “A friend you just met you’ll know better than a lifetime acquaintance.”