Monday morning I was walking through Twin Rocks Cafe on my daily quest for coffee when I noticed a man wearing a T-shirt with a skeletal dog image printed on the back. Above the canine cartoon was the caption, “In dog years I am . . . dead.” This experience started me thinking about the Grateful Dead, time, and, depending on your perspective, how I have spent, squandered or invested the majority of my adult life here at Twin Rocks Trading Post. Barry and Priscilla have made it clear they are in the “squandered” camp. Personally, I vacillate between “spent” and “invested”. Experience, however, tells me I spend better than I invest, so the answer may be apparent. All that pondering about death, music and the passing years led me to conclude time is both my best friend and my worst enemy, and that I needed another cuppa-joe to settle my nerves.
Around the trading post I often hear people speculate that time accelerated, as they grew older. Apparently they feel it takes longer to get from twenty to thirty than is required to progress from forty to sixty. That, however, has not been my experience. In fact, Bluff appears to be one of a few locations on Mother Earth where time actually decelerates and the world spins more slowly. Never mind long accepted conventions associated with the physical properties of the universe. As those living in Bluff will confirm, traditional principles of physics have little or no influence on the residents of this town, they exist in an alternate and mostly unexplored cosmos. Anyone who has ever tried to get a project done in this town will agree the inhabitants believe well accepted social, cultural or civil constructs do not apply. That goes double for the people of Twin Rocks, and quadruple for Barry and Priscilla, who are known to invariably stray from the known path and wander into uncharted territory.
Living in an ancient seabed, with the obvious effects of wind and water erosion spanning millions of years, gives one the illusion that things do in fact move slowly. It is easy to fool oneself into believing the arrow of time is irrelevant and that events will continue to flow as they always have, gradually, leisurely, deliberately. People often enter through the Kokopelli doors and ask, “Aren’t you afraid those rocks will fall?” We typically reply, “No, they’ve been up there a long time. What are the odds they will fall during our tenure?” The remnants of Ancient Puebloan habitations and the occasional thunder of rocks pealing off the cliffs surrounding Bluff caution us, however, that things do change, at times dramatically.
Almost three decades after leaving my adopted home of Sacramento, I still have vivid memories of the last days there before I exited the Golden State in favor of southern Utah. Over the years I have thought of one particular incident many times, and how things were so very different once I arrived in Bluff. On that particular occasion I was traveling west on one of the capital's narrow side streets when traffic began to back up. Glancing in my rear-view mirror, I noticed the driver of the vehicle immediately behind me grow increasingly agitated. The man finally got fed up with the gridlock, drove his car up on the sidewalk and bypassed the entire line of waiting automobiles. The rest of us seemed to shrug it off as simply more of the same, nothing truly extraordinary. Many of us might have considered it an ingenious solution to an ongoing problem and done the same if we had been late for an appointment. Not long after that experience I wound up in Bluff, a town where nobody is ever in a hurry, and no one cares whether or not you are on time. If you are an hour or two late, no problem, it’s a big land. After a week or so we might send out a search party, but only if we are concerned for your safety.
Unlike Sacramento, traffic rarely backs up in Bluff. If you ever see more than two cars at a time, it means a parade, powwow or rodeo is converging and you better get ready for the party. Indeed, even if we were to become anxious, there are no sidewalks to drive on and few pedestrians to consider. Because of this slow pace, almost every morning Barry and I sit on the wooden chairs scattered about the trading post showroom and discuss the coming day. I can’t say we ever actually get anything resolved, but at least it gets us closer to 6:00 p.m; when we reverse the open sign and go home for the evening. Time has become our companion, and we greatly enjoy her company. I do, however, fear we may one day adopt the practice of sitting there from beginning to end, requiring Priscilla to run the entire show and sweep us out at closing time.
When we opened Twin Rocks in 1989, Duke was in his early 50’s, a little younger than Barry and I are now. His routine was to arrive at the trading post, inspect the premises, give us hell whether we needed it or not and promptly fall asleep; sometimes on a futon set out on the porch and most often in a chair next to my office, where he could keep an eye on my activities. I think Barry and I have evolved a different, but comparable, convention. To ensure tradition is maintained, while we sit discussing important matters I will, at times, give him hell. On alternate days he extends me the same courtesy. Priscilla has been assigned responsibility for watching that things don’t go too far wrong while Barry and I are engaged in this important activity. And so it is that time flows by at Twin Rocks Trading Post.
The only thing that seems to change is our appearance, which the few mirrors we allow in the trading post record as significant. A few more pounds, a few more grey hairs and a little slower gait tells us that despite Bluff’s exemption from regular precepts of time, change is afoot. In that respect Mother Time is exacting a slow but steady toll. Otherwise, the artists come and go as usual, bringing turquoise jewelry, Navajo rugs and baskets; the seasons change on a predictable cycle; tourists ebb and flow as one might expect and hungry people show up at Twin Rocks Cafe for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I mentioned the diner’s T-shirt to Priscilla, she thought for a moment and then said, “In dog years, you are . . . extinct.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but with Priscilla you always get the unvarnished truth. I think I need more coffee!
With warm regards Steve Simpson and the team:
Barry, Priscilla and Danny.