Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mizpah Memories

Mizpah by Julia A. Baker
And "God keep watch 'tween thee and me";
This is my prayer;
He looks thy way, He looketh mine,
And keeps us near.

I find it both ironic and iconic that my arrival coincides with the grand reopening of Our Matron the Mizpah.
It is pure unplanned romantic craziness.

One does not grow up in her shadow unaffected. By the time I became the green horn reporter at the Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News, the outlook for her was a bit bleak. I embarked on a one woman crusade keep her memory aflame as best I could, while she sat vacant steeping in secrets and ghost stories. I will tell you in a moment why I do not regret it for a second that I would whisper her name whenever I could find an excuse. It is a faith-based calling.

Oh, Tonopah. I do not even think the locals would argue that most who drive by (and plenty who still live there) think the town is a hole. A town on top of the mountain that is, now, but a hole. Even with the Matron aboard it is would take an offering plate collection of like minds to change that perspective...I digress.

Then, there are the crazies who like old T-town and the Matron for her unhol-e-ness. My girl Andrea says it best when she refers to out of the 365 you get 120 of pure bliss. Old Tonopah is definitely not for the faint hearted. Home is home. And, even when I am mad at or away from old Tonopah, it is like Julia A. Baker says in the Mizpah poem, "Yet God keep watch 'tween thee and me; Both be His care; One arm round thee and one round me. Will keep us near...."

have only just now admitted to myself I will not attend the grand opening. It does not jive with the family schedule. I have appeased myself with thoughts of lunch dates or after work cocktails, in her arms...sigh... because it was finally meant to be. I may not be there to celebrate the occasion, but I will rejoice.

There are one million memories swirling through my mind like the dress I imagine the lady in red wore, as she swished down the hallway. Romantic memories. Insanely mundane and of no consequence memories. A belly full of laughs with your best girl ever because you both ran away from home for a night kind of memories...That night we traded keeping the home fire burning (tending to the frozen pipes) for two turns at bubble baths in the hotels' old claw footed bath tubs.  It was definitely among those 120 days of bliss albeit in the middle of the hole. Without my best girl ever by my side, the memory is so much more important.

A few months ago, when I first heard the high hopes of Our Matron's revival I was immediately pleased. A little smile of  good- for-her-congratulations was on my face. As far away as I felt, I could not help but want to wish that project well. When it is boom and bust, every single boom counts. It will not save a dying town, but it does give her a leg to which to brace herself as she trudges along. The revival of the Mizpah and Tonopah are not one in the same. Again the words to the Mizpah poem is in mind, "Should wealth and fame perchance be thine, And my lot lowly be, Or you be sad and sorrowful, And glory be for me; Yet God keep watch 'tween thee and me; Both be His care;One arm round thee and one round me; Will keep us near."

I have been in and out of Tonopah quite a bit in the weeks leading up to this grand re-opening and nothing could not spoil my excitement over it. My best Mizpah memory comes to mind in tandem with that inexperienced reporter gig I held way back when. On that day, Sandy Harmon graced me with a grand tour and at some point brought me to the roof.

It seemed a bit precarious at first, to be on top of her. After my equilibrium adjusted, and in the excitement of the moment, I gazed upon the town below in every direction. For a minute I saw what those four men saw when they celebrated the Matron's birth with fine wine and cigars over 100 years ago.

I saw what they saw. I saw potential for prosperity. And, in that moment it did not matter to me the doors and windows to the hotel, and the town, were shuttered.

Even my deepest, darkest hour of self invested angst I never once looked at Tonopah the way I did before that moment I spent roof-top. I would go so far as to say my perspective of the whole world changed that day. It really did. It gave me the kind of fuel that drives freight trains forward.

Faith is a powerful force. Those men had it behind them when they built her. Obviously the new owners have a bit behind them, or they would not dare. And this coincidence of my homecoming, and her grand re-opening seems such sweet destiny....pure unplanned romantic craziness. Such a memory brings the lesson full circle. A little reminder of faith in myself and things that are finally meant to be.

I do not know what will happen next but I think Julia A. Baker says it best when she wrote it.
Yet coming to the Mercy seat,
My soul will meet with thine.
And "God keep watch 'tween thee and me,"
I'll whisper there.
He blesseth thee, He blesseth me,
And we are near.

Thanks for reading, HjB.

To read the poem in its entirety you can visit this link: Mizpah by Julia A. Baker

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