Apache Junction, Ariz., February, 2010
Those who know me best – you know who you are, and you’ll keep your traps shut if you know what’s good for you – know that I’m not about personal recognition, or public accolades, or large financial considerations; I’m about tourism, and the tackier the better. After our 12-mile stroll through some of Mama Earth’s least hospitable real estate, we headed down the road to Goldfield, a total surprise to me and one of the cheesiest tourist traps I’ve ever had the pleasure to be taken in by. Apparently, for a brief period in the late 19th century, Goldfield was and honest-to-gosh gold-mining boom-town, although, thankfully, it’s pure, unabashed camp, these days. We quickly set about mining the town for adventure, and immediately got the shaft.
Here’s a likely tableau in front of Goldfield’s deliciously conventional calaboose. What the hell do these people do in the off season? Or maybe I’d rather not know. Christa says “calaboose” is Chukchi for “stupid,” which I can’t easily refute, as I spent that week of Chukchi 101 camped out for REO tickets.
This is Madame Lily, a Tempe soccer mom who earns a little extra money for gas and Ritalin by playing the lead “Soiled Angel” in Goldfield’s ersatz House of Ill Fame. But make no mistake – Lily’s more than just a flouncy dress and big hair. For the low-low price of $10, she’ll give you an extensive tour of the brothel, scads of fascinating insights into the life of a frontier hooker, and an enduring case of drug-resistant ovine gonorrhea. It’s all part of the show, folks!
For lunch, we took an elegant patio table at the swanky Mammoth Saloon, making it doubly embarrassing when Christa’s unspeakable puns brought my entirely forgettable barbecue sandwich back up for a second presentation. And get this – Christa ordered the fish sandwich, and Doug ate half of it. I know, it’s incredible. They ordered one thing, and they BOTH ATE ON IT. It’s like they’re from some totally other planet, isn’t it? Inspired by the view of the peaks we’d so recently conquered, or perhaps by my explosive regurgitation, Doug composed – on the spot – a stirring sonnet about Lost Dutchman that easily stands alongside the best amateur park-related commemorative verse ever produced.
By Douglas Lucian Belle
The trail we took was kind of rock
Y, which made it hard to walk
On, but it’s a good thing I brought extra T
P, because Christa really nee
Ded it after she saw that
Audentes fortuna juvat!
So stunned by the beauty of his recitation, my ears started bleed profusely, and I scribbled those timeless words on my sham-newspaper menu in my own blood. I’m a great patron of the arts, you know.
It’s always fascinating to me when people reveal unsuspected layers of tediousness. An avid recreational geologist, seemingly, Christa droned on at some length about how the great mass of Lost Dutchman’s stony crown is, in fact, an ancient volcanic plug that was lifted high about 10 million years ago by the expansion of a vast magma chamber lying far beneath. She also maintained that “magma” comes from the Latin for “stupid,” which I hadn’t heard before. Imagine, for a moment, how much super-heated, highly pressurized stupid was required to raise several million tons of rock nearly 1,000 feet into the air. It’s called science, people.
Just outside, it appeared some shady-looking types were filming what I took to be a music video, or some similar affront to the culture. It was very exciting, until the star was arrested for beating his girlfriend, two of his back-up dancers were hauled away for possession-with-intent-to-distribute, and the producer took a half-dozen bullets in a drive-by shooting from a low-riding stagecoach.
As the son of a Welsh miner, the grandson of a Welsh miner, the maternal niece of a Welsh miner, once removed, and someone who can identify the business-end of a shovel in 1 out of 3 tries, Doug’s got mining in his blood, so I wasn’t surprised when he suggested we let the good folks of Goldfield extract a little more of our hard-earned tourist dollars by touring the Goldfield Mine. It was surprisingly entertaining, starting with a bogus elevator ride, a candlelight soliloquy, and some remarkably inaccurate ad libs by our sturdy tour guide, Big Augie. Of greatest interest to me were the square-set shoring timbers supporting the mine’s lofty roof. According to Christa, “square-set timbers” is Welsh for “stupid”, but then I imagine that just about everything in Welsh is Welsh for stupid. Speaking of curious ethnic coincidences, it turned out that a small boy in our touring party claimed to be a Son of Wales, which is notable because, under normal circumstances, the only other instances when one might expect to encounter two Welshmen together in the same place would be at a police line-up or in the dumpster behind Denny’s at about 2 p.m. on any given Sunday.
Taken together, it was a delightful morning and we all learned a lot about Arizona’s rollicking pioneer past, and about ourselves, as well. Christa learned that prickly pear cactus isn’t really edible until you take all the needles off it, and that the best way to make a friend is to be a friend, which I hope she remembers when Augie makes good on her off-the-cuff invitation to stay in her crawl space if he ever finds himself in the Denver area, and you can bet he will. Doug learned that stope-mining originated on the little island of Wales, that (physical evidence to the contrary) Wales is a little island, and that the only stupid question is the one never asked, if you don’t count when he asked Madame Lily how come, in her entire cat-house, he didn’t see a single pussy. For my part, I learned that it takes exactly six hours, nine full day-packs, and one car trunk to transport the storied treasure of Nils Van der Vanderhoof from Lost Dutchman State Park to my capacious suitcase, and that money very assuredly can buy happiness, starting with Professor Lily’s extremely comprehensive tutorial on the world’s oldest profession.
Well, there you have it – natural splendor, violent intrigue, talking rock creatures, barbecue vomit, sex workers…yes, Lost Dutchman had it all, and I hope you found my little account of it instructive, but not legally actionable.
Yours in Jebus,