“It only took me 40-plus years, but I finally made it to Main Street!” exclaimed artist Howard Kline once he got over the shock of seeing familiar faces in his new Bisbee, Ariz., gallery. “I absolutely loved my 12 years in Cambria, but I really needed to expand, and we got a great deal right here, front and center on the main drag and a bungalow just up the street.
“Another thing is, we celebrate everything here whether it’s the Great Stair Climb or if the sun comes up at a different angle. It's a city of renegade hippie artists and Kris (his wife) and I’ve loved our 9 months here so far!”
It was a lovely gallery with room enough even for his drum kit in back, and it was nice to see him so excited about his move — an even farther cry from his hometown of Boston than his space near the back of the Pewter Plough Playhouse on Sheffield Street in Cambria.
Howard was the second ex-pat of our fair hamlet we’ve visited on this vacation. The other was a young lady who misses the Central Coast but has many good reasons to be where she is in Colorado. Sometimes life happens in such a way that one feels the need to look for support elsewhere, a new way of life. Both friends caused us to consider our existence.
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But, isn’t that what travels do? All my life I remember driving through beautiful country settlements and wondering how the heck folks earned a living there, especially so out here in the deepest desert. How are we even eking out a living where we are? It’s challenging at times.
Many of us have lamented the decline of the free-spirited, creative characters that used to heavily populate Cambria. Driving through these small enclaves, I started to equate comfort with the demise of creativity. I don't know if that is true, but certain lifestyles seem to be more ingenious with limited resources available.
Of course, having a median age of “retired” making up your community, your lifestyle is somewhat shaped by that factor. Most of you who know me personally realize I am not a conformist, but the community at large has come to do so more and more.
Thankfully events like the Scarecrow Festival have lightened things up for at least one month of the year. However, I think I recall the beginning of the gentrification of Cambria many years ago on Main Street. How many of you remember the bookstore Fahrenheit 451 where the Garden Shed is now? They built this wild, flame-ladened sign that was ordered taken down because it was so “different.”
This is not to say I don’t love the beauty of Cambria and, absolutely, I know I would be hard-put to find the sense of community that exists here elsewhere — it is, in fact, that belonging that makes me hesitate over ever relocating.
Sitting here in a “classic” motel in Tonopah, Ariz., writing this, I am happy to be almost home and am grateful to be able to call it that: “home” (though the open road still calls).