One doesn't come into such a town so boldly and so quickly and not feel the pain and laughter of 150 years before.
Whispers from the creaks of wooden floors, stares from the eyes of paintings on the walls, a wayward traveler can only feel such presence through the bumps on their skin.
I could have smelled the same old scent of history in my great grandfather's basement when I was still a boy. Dank, earthy, and pungent, like the concoction of vodka and cigarettes on his breath, each step up the stairs filled my senses of the hurt and joy left behind after a century-and-a-half of service.
Murphys Historic Hotel stands as a sentinel over a small town struggling to hang on to its soul amidst the advancement of wineries, boutiques, and name brand labels. Murphys, CA knows better not to sell itself out, but even history has become too old of an attraction to lure tourists seeking newer pleasures.
Somehow, Blackbird felt at home here, as a light rain started to fall. I had her parked in front of the hotel where passersby took the time to appreciate the graceful lines of her chassis covering over the wear and tear of tens of thousands of miles.
In the hotel saloon, I slipped into a more comfortable state of mind over a pint of ale and a chat with the bartender.
And in the same way that hundreds of thousands before me had done, I traveled along the same road connecting one gold rush town after another, only to rest my weary mind and body in the same old hotel and saloon.
I laid down my resistance, sank bank into my chair, and felt the ghosts pull me back in time, syncing me to their wavelengths, and entering into my mind with each deep breath I took. For just this evening I became just one more soul swallowed up into a bottomless abyss of poker players, burlesque dancers and ragtime music.
Dorian, the proprietor, told me about Eleanor, a former 1860s chambermaid at the Hotel, whose spirit is said to still haunt the restaurant. But he didn't mention anything about Floyd, who since the 1920s, has resided in an adjacent room to mine, still waiting for Joyce, a woman who had already passed to the beyond. Sad souls who's memories can still be felt in the drops of water from the rain gutter, or the subtle flicker in the electric lights.
Mark Twain found refuge in these very walls during the 1860s, and at the time those walls had much to talk of the prospectors, claim jumpers, and ladies of night who sealed their fates at the height of the California Gold Rush. As I looked about the hotel, still containing the same fixtures from that time, I made connection to their hopes and dreams, albeit how brief and slim.
From all those who came to Murphys with hopes of striking it rich, only to find themselves empty and lost, the old hotel pours forth a drink so thick with the hurt and evil of humankind.
I became just a messenger who stayed long enough to feel their presence, and carry their memories onward.
Later that night, I returned to my room, and sank myself into the soft cottony sheets of an old squeeky bed, closed my eyes, and allowed their stories to fill my mind.