bostrom

Damon Bostrom spent time playing his music at retirement homes before the pandemic hit.

Editor’s note: “Faces of Cochise County” is a series of street portraits and first-person accounts and conversations with the photo subjects. This is the first in the series.

“I’m not a rock musician,” said Damon Bostrom as he paused his set. He glossed that compositions suited for an older crowd appealed to him even as a kid. Bostrom believes seniors are the forgotten portion of our population; and it’s his calling to work with and entertain the elderly. Before COVID-19 hit, he played classical tunes for retired folks in nursing homes from Phoenix to Sierra Vista.

Then, he explained that tonight’s performance in Bisbee was spurred by a looming tax bill. I agreed that money keeps me showing up to work, with a slap of my spiral pad.

Bostrom was perched under a tree at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. His busking studio: Cello-sized instrument, six-string acoustic guitar, plastic melodica, one knee-high studio monitor and a computer tablet that played background music he free-styled over. Twenty minutes before I stopped his flow, he had an old friend happen by and the two played together while I combed the breathtaking views along Tombstone Canyon Road.

Bostrom moved from Phoenix to Pearce around 2003. He spent a year or so as a Bisbee resident in 1991.

When he’s too far from an electrical outlet, he explained, his makeshift bandshell will be stripped down. Today, he’s run an amp cord from his dusty Honda CR-V across the sidewalk, giving him all the juice a street musician can hope for.

Bisbee holds anticipatory energy on a fall Sunday night, like pitching a tent next to a sleeping pack of javelinas. Tourists hike the windy hills, equipped with athletic knee braces, while locals congregate around St. Elmo Bar or share a joint on the north convergence of Brewery Avenue and Review Alley. It’s fair to say that recreational use didn’t impact Bisbee much. That’s the attitude I’m drawn to and can imagine living here eventually.

I strolled up to Old City Park for refuge and a place to sort my notes. A tourist family I noticed in Tombstone hours prior eventually broke my peace. One of the fathers asked me what I was up to. He recognized me and was compelled by what I was plotting. I rapped with him for a taste, explaining that I’m on assignment. He appeared excited and intrigued, which always comes as a shock.

It’s easy to forget how fascinating journalism is, especially when you’re fighting a rabid deadline, or terrorizing your own psyche in order to create the perfect project. For some reason, society decided to pay people to run around the world and tell stories, morphing online and print newspapers into our global campfire. The flaws of the industry are human, shared blotches. And I’m not sure I’d change anything with a few magical pen strokes. Conversely, I’m sure I’d have us all on speaking terms again.