The air was hot when we got out of the car half way between Las Vegas and Tucson. It was a sunny Sunday in September and we parked on an empty street near what looked like the center of town. We were in Wickenburg, Arizona, a place that before today we had only seen as a name on the map of “Tom’s Territory”.
There was a big train on display and tidy neat storefronts with colorful signs and windows, I grabbed my camera. All of the shops in the immediate area were closed, it being a Sunday…..in September, their season hadn’t started yet, it was still too hot.
I was framing up some train and Cactus when it hit me. The need for the little girls room. All of a sudden that 40 Oz cola I got in Kingman was reminding me we had been on a road trip.
I took an assessing scan of where I stood and noted how there was not a single soul around me. Just this giant train, a sentinel saguaro and clean sidewalks lining empty streets. Tom, being keen enough to see there was nothing open had gone in the opposite direction in hopes of sniffing out the commercial prospects of this little Western town. He is in sales after all he’s got a nose for this kind of thing.
And that’s how I found myself urgently yet gracefully I might add, hot-foot-ing it to the nearest anywhere that was open. I reached the bereft intersection and spying a few cars turning into what looked like a modern day grocery store a good 2 blocks away I turned to make it there. Let’s take a minute to examine what I was wearing because I think this detail truly makes the next part of the story real folks.
It was nothing special. A white linen tank top with a nice ruffle on the collar over my favorite pair of shorts – black linen, roomy with pockets, and a pair of birkenstock old faithfuls. Nothing fancy – if anything, I like to think I looked like I knew what I was doing wearing linen in the desert, but let’s face it I probably looked wrinkly and out of place in this small western town. To top it off I had my go to Wallaroo hat. A wide brimmed full bodied sun hat that demands a second glance and a pair of shades – full coverage if you get the visual I’m laying down. These last accessories – hat and sunglasses make living in Arizona possible. They are a must for me and thus I wear them very naturally everywhere -often forgetting that everyone does not don full incognito sun protection on a trip to the grocery store except maybe a celebrity. Camera in hand and a hurried bustle of urgency because of my need – I entered the automatic double door of the grocerystore with a gust of warm air. Within 5 seconds all 9 people in the checkout lanes that sunday were staring at me.
Not the usual glance of recognition but pure staring. Unabashed, lingering, puzzled stares. I-know-you-but-who-are-you stares. If I didn’t need to find a bathroom so badly I would have turned and ran. Instead I pushed passed it and eventually found a restroom. While in there I reflected about the staring people out there and chalked it up to a small town. They can tell I’m an out-of-towner I guess, boy some nerve! And that was that.
Feeling like myself again I more slowly walked through the aisles on the way out. I found Tom at the checkout buying some cheese and crackers. It wasn’t until later that day when we had a conversation with a local resident that I was able to giggle about all the starring.
Wickenburg is home to some well renown rehab facilities and with its close-ish location from LA and Hollywood is frequented by the stars. Just last week Sean Penn was seen jogging by the little red schoolhouse every afternoon for a week and recently Demi Moore, in town visiting her daughter who was in rehab at that time was seen at the grocery store. The very grocery store that I was just in. That’s why! That explains all pairs of eyes tracking my every move there in the store just a few moments before. They were trying to determine who was in town now? Who is the latest famous person to come to our town?
I get to laugh everytime I think of this happening, when I, plain old me, got mistaken for a Hollywood somebody. It’s funny even though it never amounted to anything more than strange vibes at the grocery. We’ve been to Wickenburg several times since then and it is one of my favorite places to see. Like checking in on an old friend. When there I always create a stir at the grocery store because I never forget to wear my giant wide brimmed sun hat, my dark sunglasses and wrinkly linen to keep ’em all guessing.