Why am I so absolutely enthralled with this tiny tourist-swamped hamlet called Jerome?
Well, there’s the sun, of course, which comes up over the Mogollon Rim through our front windows:
And goes down behind Cleopatra’s Hill, spreading a shadow slowly across the Verde Valley and making the Rim glow:
And then there are the structures (see the last post), which hang out over the sidewalk and the ravines, a bit like New Orleans, with more verticality and less class (and maybe more instability). Jerome’s housing and streets are clearly a precursor to the New Urbanism:
There aren’t many pretensions in Jerome. No gated communities (although there is one gated house belonging to a vineyard owner); beautifully restored mansions and uptown buildings sit cheek to jowl with what in Portland we would think of as public hazards:
There’s kitsch everywhere — or perhaps we should call it Post-Modern Art:
And there are those moments of unexpected beauty, like the purple cactus in front of the ivy and (just out of sight) blooming iris:
Or the Rim in the middle of a snow storm.
The stairs of Jerome deserve a whole blog of their own. Because the village is on a mountainside, stairs become essential. And often they are matters of convenience — some rocks stacked up haphazardly, so you can get from this level to that. The best ones are sort of hidden– the kids all know where they are — and can be contrived of easily traversed cement regularities combined with broken bricks that are treacherous underfoot. The photo below shows the stairs leading to the town hall, where the pensioners walk to pay their water bills. I found it when I was looking for the library, which is right next to the water bill paying place, and downstairs from the municipal court.
The curve at the bottom of these stairs (top of the pictures) is not a camera artifact; it’s a fact of the street, which curves back around the base of the concrete wall which supports the ground on which the Civic building rests, dives down a cobbled one-way-ish lane, double curves around the Methodist church, and brings you out on highway 89A — all without having to traverse the switchbacks and tourist vans that roll through the narrow winding streets of uptown Jerome. It’s one of Jerome’s little secrets that I figured out while lolly-gagging instead of painting.
Our favorite stairs go by that purple cactus and is perfectly suited to our foot size and step length. It took us two weeks to find them, although they go right up from the center of town.
People emerge from places like these unexpectedly — no one is there, and then, someone, usually a local but occasionally a bewildered tourist, pops up from behind some scraggly foliage.
The town tests its siren at 11:50 every morning. I know at that point I can stop painting, ’cause Jer will be along soon to take me home to lunch.
The Town Hall is not the Civic Center (where one pays ones water bill or goes to court). It (Town Hall) is next to the Mile High Grill, where doughnuts are readily available. The Civic Center includes the library and the humane society.
The oddments of Jerome go on and on: a guard rail on one of the upper streets, for example:
And a street sign for an all but deserted street which used to be the Nob Hill:
There are plaques everywhere — the historical society, in a town of 400 inhabitants, has done a fine job of identifying structures:
But there are many bits of Jerome that entertain without words:
What can I say? There’s sun. There’s character. There’s breathing room. There’s painting space. In short, there’s Jerome.
Oh and I forgot the Kaleidoscope shop, the rubble of the Main Street Slides that have sometimes been turned into parking lots, the necessity to cross streets at right angles because the curves in both directions means your life could be at risk, the fact that the curves and verticality of the streets prevent cars from going more than 15 miles an hour, which saves your life every day, and the triumph when you can walk uptown without someone asking (because of red face and gasping breaths) if you are OK.