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MISTIR, Ch 4: Tombstone Canyon Theology

Having successfully, with Adam’s help and penlight, negotiated the uneven stairway leading down to the gravel expanse where I had parked the Pegasus, it occurred to me that, for my night to continue with any dispatch, I would need to drive my vehicle. Adam was committed to getting me ventilated enough that he could, in good conscience, leave me to the rest of my evening. He’d even prepared for me a going away gift and wrapped it in tinfoil. I took the gesture as indication that I had not overstayed my visit or said or done anything irreparable. We didn’t stop at the Pegasus. I trained my eyes on the creature as we walked by, concerned about my ability to drive, but also enthusiastic about strapping him on, and in my present condition,  experiencing flight.

There are really only two commercial byways in Old Bisbee. Brewery Gulch is the shorter of the two and far more rambunctious. It used to host the breweries and brothels when miners were a flush in wages wayward inclinations. Brewery Gulch is now home to several rowdy bars, a microbrewery, and some interesting galleries and interesting buildings. Tombstone Canyon, in contrast, is the main artery of Old Bisbee and runs the length of the town from the old mercantile and post office all the way up, several miles, to the highway’s on ramp.

Whatever the time of day or night, unless the town is having some large event, there is rarely any heavy traffic. A thoroughfare yes, but the sort of which one can amble along sidewalks built by the WPA, and cast eyes along the hillside dotted by interesting homes and dwellings.

Adam I walked downhill, toward the courthouse and Iron Man Statue. In the middle of the evening, the night was quiet and cool and black enough to allow the stars their moment. We said very little to each other as I considered the asphalt upon which I walked, curious as to how many layers of road existed between the heel of my boots and virgin earth. Adam encouraged me to inhale deeply as we walked. I did as directed. I sensed the sacredness of the moment as we moved along, the night still enough for us to wander on to the wide street.

“I’m wrapped pretty tight,” I said to Adam. The weed’s ability to relax me helped me see the stress I was under with the two parishes and the border work.

“Yea?”

“I don’t remember the last time I just had a good time and let my hair down.”

“You’re the Vicar. You have responsibilities.”

“I guess.”

“Let’s go back. I’m going to bed. You’re on your own”

“Okey dokey.”

As we made our uphill, back to where I had parked the Pegasus, I felt lighter on my feet. Adam’s pot helped me recognize the heaviness I carried with me always. I wondered to myself if pot might not be a useful elixir to cure what ailed me. I didn’t share that insight with Adam. I had expressed, during the entirety of our evening, how much I enjoyed being high. Adam was already a tune to my addictive tendencies and now also aware of my mania once ignited. Thus, I didn’t share with him how I was, only a couple hours into my first high in a quarter century, ready to embrace weed as a regular self-care regime.

We arrived at the Pegasus.

“You okay to drive.”

“I think so. Yes. I do believe I am okay to drive.”

“Wear your seat belt.”

“I shall. Thank you for a lovely evening.” I wanted to tell Adam I loved him. But for all its  capacity to alter judgement, pot did suspend reason-mostly. I didn’t think that would be the best of moves. I hugged him, chose not to kiss his cheek like I had kissed Dr. Hermey’s in Berkeley, and bid him goodnight.

“Thanks for the regalito.” I patted down the breast pocked of my faded Levi jacket where my tiny apothecary lay.

“Sure.” Adam turned uphill to take on his stairs. As I opened the door of the Pegasus and climbed aboard, I heard his voice clearly, carried by the cool air.

“Be careful.”

‘Be careful.’ As I donned my harness, ready to fire up the Pegasus, I removed the key and took a few deep breaths. I did distinguish between driving under the influence of alcohol-my renunciation of spirits I implemented several years before quitting herb-but I knew that I had been significantly altered and I didn’t need any extra-curricular drama in my life. Lori’s tentative approbation of my new pursuits would wane indeed if I wound up in the pokey for driving stoned. I offered a little prayer to the God of the stars above me and the tierra firme below.

“I, ah, could use a little help here, Lord. You know, to drive this vehicle safely and not crash into shit.”

Satisfied with my appeal, I crossed myself, inserted the key, and started the motor. Oh, I liked that sound. The Pegasus felt steady and prepared to carry me where I chose. The wheel rotated in hand and both brake pedal and accelerator functioned according to parameters. I released the break, placed the silver bird into go and pulled up a little along Adam’s irksome drive. I head the ‘snap,’ ‘crackle,’ and ‘pop,’ of the gravel below complaining under the weight of the Pegasus. Movement ensued and my confidence grew. Leaving the space required some dexterity and visual acuity that I seemed to possess despite my condition. Once reconciled to the street and pointing downhill, I released the Pegasus to Tombstone Canyon. It felt like the truck was driving itself. I felt content and I felt blue. A blue night, my blue apparel, and my blue truck that was really painted silver. I kept to the speed limit, managed to operate the radio, and kept making sure I had my seat belt fastened. The drive invigorated me. Stoned and alone and not under arrest, I rolled down the canyon appreciative and curious about the lighted structures all about me.

My first right turn of my new reality loomed on approach. No stranger to that particular area of town, I believed deeply that I could safely turn the vehicle. I did and I rejoiced. The familiarity of the space helped. Even before my marijuana foray, I found that particular space helpful. It’s the widest spot along the canyon and the confluence of church, government, and commerce-all at the Iron Man statue. No one knows for sure why the 1930s art deco  tribute to a copper miner is known as the Iron Man, but that’s what it’s called.

Just across the street from the Iron Man sits a café with some groceries for sale. In the years I held my church job, I had become a regular, very regular customer there. I enjoyed the feel of the place, the informal atmosphere, and the quality of food served. Smallish in size, but with an ample patio, I began to get to know people, almost all of them not terribly interested in church. They found me a curiosity. I was a Christian priest with full-time parish responsibilities to two small flocks. I was also entertaining, decent company, and comfortable with profanity-my own and that of others. Though I remained a curiosity up and until the time of my resignation and really only developed a few friendships from those years, my time at the café served me well and helped place me on that current trajectory that I found myself.

As I made that right turn, the café was closed and dark, with no cars parked in front. The rusty but still solid fence surrounding St. Patrick’s Catholic Church caught my attention.  The fence, it links stuffed with colored cloth,  read, ‘JOY TO THE WORLD.’ It was an Advent message that the leadership of St. Pat’s decided to share with everyone everywhere in the vicinity of Tombstone Canyon. The four weeks prior to Christmas are known as Advent in the Christian calendar and tradition. Church folk use those weeks to get ready for one of the high holy days, the incarnation of Christ, when God takes a chance and lives as a human for a while-a short while because some assholes kill him.

‘Joy to the World.’ I liked weed because of things already mentioned. In addition to those benefits, weed made me more pensive and intellectually curious. I slowed then stopped to read the Advent message. Something about it troubled me. Something about its blatancy, its proclamation to the public without necessarily the public’s assent to such a message. Of course the church owned the fence and could put any message up there they chose. What ever good news it rendered, I felt as if the message was imposed. Plenty of Christians push their theology via billboards and church marquis signs. But they pay for those dedicated spaces and the routine of seeing them as one speeds along a freeway, helps make them innocuous. Which is good because their content usually irritates me.

There was nothing ordinary or routine about the St. Pat’s message. I began to wonder about the folks, mostly kind and decent human beings,  whom I met just across the street from that fence at the café I often frequented. For much of its history, Christianity has had the bad habit of making universal claims. for everyone, everywhere, at all times.  Sometimes those claims can contradict the claims of other religions. When that occurs, Christians typically assert their truth, rent a billboard for a while, and that pretty much settles it.

High, I wondered about the claim, Joy to the World, asserted by the good folks at St. Pat’s. Did someone like Adam, who didn’t identify as Christian, have to stipulate to starry night  angels and pregnant virgins to receive the Joy that our religion asserts? Or, is the Joy simply a gift to all of humanity, as indelible and permanent as the rust on that church fence that holds the message? I didn’t know at that moment but I liked that weed gave me a moment in my otherwise hurried life to consider chain link theology.

I made my way up hill, past the church and towards Max, to visit and perhaps engage him in my theological quandary. I would have gotten there sooner if I knew where he lived.

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