Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stake-out

Bill simply got tired of being around the kind of people who weren't exactly happy to see him, and that he didn't want to see. So he quit law enforcement, dead-of-night surveillance, investigations, and watching bad people do bad things--and came to live and work at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Retired, his work is unpaid (his wife, the breadwinner now, directs operations for the Grand Canyon Association). His responsibilities, as he described them to me, were "to do anything asked."

"I build displays," he said as we sat together on the low stone wall lining the rim. "I take people on tours of the Kolb Studio," he pointed to the famous building wedged and clinging to the blunt cliff. I had visited the Studio earlier that day; the Grand Canyon had been a lonely place when it was timbered and mortared, stone by stone, a hundred years ago and more.

Now of course, we were anything but lonely. A crowd from a tour bus passed by us.

But this is what Bill loves most about his new life. He loves being around people who are on vacation, in a good mood. And being around tourists who represent the entire world.

"But don't you ever feel a bit crowded? Overwhelmed?"

No, he shook his Grand Canyon Association-capped head. The rim offered its periods of solitude. During a full moon, in winter, he often didn't sleep. Instead, he bundled up and came out to sit where we were sitting now. For hours.

If it had snowed, the earth around him seemed to glow, before dropping off into phantasmal darkness.

Even more amazing were the mornings when an inversion--he lay his hands flat and tried to describe this for me--filled the Canyon with white cloud. Then, it looked as though you could walk right across, from rim to rim. People, photographers especially, waited their entire lives to see it.

"Of course, the tourists end up complaining. They say they can't see a thing. But they just don't know what they're looking at. That what they're getting to watch is as beautiful as anything you could ask. And now it's one of my jobs," he adds smiling, "to help them understand."

--MD

Photo credit: Bruce Barone

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