Bisbee, Arizona, is one of those towns—every state has one—that gets called “unique.” Or “colorful.” Or “quirky.” Which can be a polite replacements for other terms. As it turns out, Arizona is blessed with two such communities: Bisbee, in the southeastern part of the state, and Jerome, half-way between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. Both are former mining towns that had to reinvent themselves when the mines closed. Both became havens for artists and folks who didn’t quite fit anywhere else.
Of course, no town would function if all the residents fit that description, so there are plenty of people in Bisbee who are simply more flexible and forgiving of the quirks of the more unusual residents. Debrah Strait is one of that latter group.
A friend of a friend recommended Bisbee to Strait in 2006. She was seeking a new place to live, away from Jacksonville, Florida, where she’d been involved in a traffic accident. After visiting many other cities and towns across the southwestern U.S., she stopped in Bisbee and decided that her father had been right when he’d told her she’d like it there.
After she moved, Strait began an annual tradition of writing a post-holiday letter to friends describing not only her year’s activities but also the exploits of the more colorful creatures—from snakes to people to bears to centipedes—in “southern Arizona’s open-air asylum.” Notes from Bisbee is a 21-year collection of Strait’s wry take on the behavior, and misbehavior, of the town’s denizens and visitors. Maybe not the kind of publicity the Chamber of Commerce would appreciate… or maybe they would. It’s Bisbee, after all, the home of “Keep Bisbee Weird” buttons, bumper stickers, and t-shirts.
It’s worth noting that despite the antics of creatures great and small—including the swarm of Africanized “killer” honeybees who made Strait the first of over a dozen human targets, bringing her more than 15 minutes of fame, and the Border Patrol, drug smugglers, and illegal immigrants whose presence waxes and wanes—she repeatedly emphasizes how safe she feels in this mile-high (and often high in other ways) town just ten miles from the border with Mexico.
Notes from Bisbee is a very personal, inside look at life in one small Arizona town. If you’re looking for a place to relocate to, you may decide, “No way!” after reading this little book. Or that you just have to check the town out. Either way, Bisbee-ites won’t mind. That’s just the way they are.