Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quartzsite, AZ: If You Can't Find It Here, It Simply Doesn't Exist!

Ed and I arrived in Quartzsite, Arizona on the evening of January 10th just as a full moon ascended over the desert peaks and stars illuminated the sky. For over 10 years, we considered the idea of attending the world famous shows under the “Big Tent” – especially the RV Show. We finally made it. The moon and stars finally aligned!

Quartzsite is called “the gathering place” according to the Quartzsite EZ-Guide, a book given to us when we registered with the camp host at one of the Bureau of Land and Mines Campgrounds. Snowbirds come here in RVs to escape the winter weather. Persons traveling Interstate – 10 linking Arizona and California find this place to be a hub of activity. Indoor and outdoor swap meets attract dealers, vendors, sellers and buyers worldwide.

Quartzsite is a commercial extravaganza currently featuring a Rock & Gem Show. Mario Vizcarra, President of El Paso Rock Shop, Inc. welcomed us under his tent. Pallets and boxes of rocks – agates, amazonite, tiger eye, malachite, amethyst, and quartz – fill his dealer space. Some are still in the natural state, others are polished and tumbled. The vibrant blues, pastel greens, muted caution yellows, and frosty white colors of the rocks attract the eye. The irregular shapes and textures – some smooth others jagged - invite the touch. The beauty and uniqueness of each rock represents nature at its finest.

Ed suggested that I select a rock as a memento, I did. The little green rock is the color of an antique Coke bottle and fits in the palm of my hand. In addition to this keepsake, our host Mario wanted me to have a piece of quartz because we had now become “friends.” He selected one, slender and long like a woman’s finger. He told me that holding the quartz in my hand would boost my energy as would the generous cup of tequila he poured for me to drink. I held the quartz and sipped the Jose Cuervo. A warm feeling did pass over me sustained only until the tequila buzz wore off by walking around the other spaces comprising the Tyson Wells Market Center.

We would have passed by the next booth had I not noticed a wooded box. What I saw was a larger version of a chess and backgammon board I had bought in Jerusalem in 1977. The inlaid stone and wood were exactly like the pattern of mine now wrapped and stored to preserve the beauty and associated memory of my first international trip. After admiring the game board, Ed and I came to admire an antique wooded instrument lying on a mound of handmade rugs. Then our attention turned to the rugs. They were bright red with woven patterns of animals and geometric shapes. We learned that the rugs were made of wool and had been woven over 30 years ago in Afghanistan. Age had not taken a toll. They looked bright and durable. I resisted the temptation to buy a rug for the coach, but there were two things that I found later which I could not resist…the Wasabi Peas and some small opals.

I sampled Wasabi Peas - dried peas coated with horseradish flavor – at a tent run by Root’s Nut & Dried Fruit Farm. Each crunch of the pea sent a warm sensation into my nostrils and gave a slight sting to my tongue. I liked the biting taste so much that I bought a 12 ounce bag for $4.

Unlike my new found taste for the tangy Wasabi Peas, I have always had a passion for opals. Alain Bloom of Love Harmony, Inc. saw me eying the small opals on his table of gems. The sunlight caught the colors of blue, green and tinges of red on the gems clustered in round plastic containers. “I have a bag of over 75,000 opals,” he said. “Are you interested?” Would any opal lover say “no”? Ed stood back as Alain spilled some opal out on a board covered by black velvet. As I turned them over one-by-one, Ed and Alain struck a deal. I studied each one. When I finished looking at the opals, I made a choice of 10, Alain added one as a gift, and Ed paid cash…11 opals, my new treasure!

I found more opal vendors as we continued exploring the Rock &Gem Show. Tony Thurber makes opal inlay pendants; his wife makes wire ants with opal bodies from his discarded gems. Donald Rankin of Opal Art Australia had gems as big as a Texas belt buckle. By 5 PM, the show closing time, Ed put his hands up alongside my head like horse blinders to steer me away from the Ethiopian and Mexican opals. I didn’t mind. We finally made it to Quartzsite with no limit to how long we might stay. I’d have my chance to look around some more because it’s all a Quartzsite. If it’s not here, it simply doesn’t exist and the RV Show is yet to come, our real reason for being in Quartzsite.

January 10, 2009

El Paso Rock Shop, Inc.


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