Monday, February 8, 2010

Vacation Diaries, Part 5: Brothels and Saloons

Who doesn't enjoy a good trip to a brothel.
Did I get your attention?
I should elaborate....FORMER brothel.

One of my favorite places that we visited on our Sedona road trip was the small town of Jerome. Jerome, AZ is touted to be "America's Most Vertical City" and "the Largest Ghost Town in America," according to the Internet. Jerome is a historical mining town that used to sit on the largest copper mine in Arizona. It used to be known as the "wickedest town in the West." Judging by the amount of former brothels and saloons, I know why! Let me start by telling you that this town is deliciously creepy. It looks like it is right out of an old west movie, while also looking like a small European village. It is now an artist community and tourist spot.

Our first stop was at a store called the House of Joy. The House of Joy is a former brothel, turned restaurant, turned gift shop. We had no idea it was a former brothel until we actually stood on the porch and read about it. We just wanted a picture of the very large pig statue wearing lingerie. The picture did not turn out!!! Maybe it was one of the "ghosts" of an old brothel girl who made the picture literally disappear off my camera. I promise we took one!

When you step inside, you just can't believe your eyes. In one small space, you can buy cold war propaganda (from the communist side, no less), old school brothel posters, early 20th Century adult postcards, roaring '20s costumes, Disney antiques, and Russian Harley Davidson shirts. Strange, huh? The owner is quite proud to tell you about her extensive collection of nude Burlesque pictures that belonged to her father.

I totally loved this place and all it's oddities. My cousin, Alexis, should know that this former brothel is on Hull Avenue....the name of her town in MA. She would appreciate the connection. I didn't bring my purse from the car. I had no idea that I would want to actually buy some things in a former brothel. I convinced my mom to buy me a greeting card and two magnets. This is a scanned picture of the top half of the card she bought for me. Isn't it beautiful? She wouldn't let me buy any dirty cards....cuz she is still my mom, even though I am nearly 31 years old.
Here is the lovely entrance to the House of Joy.

My MOST AWKWARD MOMENT on vacation occured in this store. I saw an old postcard from the House of Joy that advertised something that I didn't know the meaning of. I felt like I had heard of the word, but didn't understand what it meant. Bruce was the closest person, so I asked him, "Bruce, what is a prophylactic?" (Insert awkward pause). The lady next to us snorted. I waited for him to answer. When he said, "A rubber," I about died on the spot. Poor Bruce! He probably didn't think he would ever have to teach his girlfriend's thirty-one year old daughter about the birds and bees. Poor Alex! She had to hear her dad say rubber in public. The whole scene was awkward and quite weird. We recovered though.
I called one of my brother's at this time and just said, "Hey, we are in a brothel right now." He said that if I was serious, that I better tell our mom to buy him a plane ticket immediately. Sicko!
After the House of Joy, we needed a potty break. There was a biker saloon nearby. I was the confident one who convinced everyone that a hole-in-the-wall place like that would NEVER card Alex, who is not yet 21. So we went through the swinging saloon doors and immediately all got carded by the bearded weirdo sitting at the door. Then we immediately got kicked out. Needless to say, I didn't try to sneak Alex into any more saloons. We found a bathroom that didn't require photo ID.
The most notable part of our trip, however, was NOT the House of Joy or getting kicked out of a biker saloon. It was when Bruce tried to get us out of the town. Driving out of any normal town is easy, right? Not in Jerome. Not in Jerome when it is getting dark. Not in the "Most Vertical City in America." Imagine a small village in, let's say......Bulgaria. Winding cobblestone streets, huge drop-offs, weird shacks with roosters walking around outside......JEROME WAS JUST LIKE THAT! Now imagine that you are lost and riding in a new Mercedes. My life flashed before my eyes as we became more and more lost in the back roads of Jerome. The homes were more than odd. We got stuck in front of one particular home that looked like people had been murdered there....and never found. I'm not kidding. Bruce decided to try to take a nose dive in the Mercedes, down a cobblestone, rickety road. That's when I started getting nervous. We heard a large metal sound at the bottom of the car. Yep, he hit something. Yep, we were going way too fast down a VERY steep hill. This life threatening moment bonded me and Alex together for life. We can always say, "Remember when your dad tried to drive that Mercedes off a cliff and kill us?"
Good times. Brothels and saloons. All good times. I love Jerome, Arizona....just not after dark.