Friday, January 22, 2010

Tombstone: Tired, Dated or What?

Maybe it's the chill in the air, or the sideways wind carrying grit and gravel. Or the rain. I don't know. I'm just not loving my time in Tombstone, AZ.

How could I NOT love Tombstone? Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo, Bat Masterson (I was in LOVE with Gene Barry in the '60s when he played Bat Masterson on TV.)

The O.K. Corral. Cowboys. Indians. Stagecoaches. It's all here. And original. Not a recreation.

While more than 40 movies feature Tombstone, it's not a Hollywood town. It's an original. It's not a re-creation of the Wild West, it IS the Wild West,  renovated, with an acceptable amount of  modern-day thrown in for comfort.

But I'm not loving it.

I take the dogs for a walk and a REAL stagecoach passes by. How cool! The driver's a cowboy toting a sidearm, talking into a mic inside his vest (out of the wind) giving a history lesson to the only rider inside. The cowboy looks, well, bored. (Maybe he's just cold.)

We walk into town on dirt roads, down wooden sidewalks, passing by real saloons. Men in 10-gallon hats and leather chaps pass us by. They ignore us. (Maybe they're hurrying to work.)

An elderly cowboy, his face deeply creased by the southwestern sun, sells trolley tickets, but he's tired. So he sits and stares. At what? (Maybe he's just trying to remember the answer to a question a tourist just asked.)

I'm not loving Tombstone because it's tired today. Its  people weary. That's my guess, anyway.

We push on, touch adobe structures built back in the day, when a Chinese woman named China Mary was queen of the laundries and bordellos. We tour the original newspaper presses and see pictures of Geronimo taken by the famed Camillus S. Fry.

We dine in an honest-to-goodness saloon,  named after  Doc Holliday's woman, Big Nose Kate (surely Doc didn't call her that!).

Two of the saloon waitresses, in period garb,  dance around to entertain us.  One smiles and laughs.  The other, our waitress, looks, well,  bored. (She could be just embarrassed, you know, a little stage fright.)

We attend an amateur theatrical reenactment of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral ALMOST at the site of the real O.K. Corral. The actors compete with screaming winds winds and rattling roofs.

The actual site of the famed fight is fenced off. Inside the fence, very tired looking, life-sized mannequins in period garb face off in a slightly animated version of the fray. Press a button and a commentator discusses the fight. And the animatronics begin. A little bit. Not a lot. A head turns, an arm raises, gun in hand.

It's so old. All of their shoes bend upwards, so they look like magic slippers. The mannequins appear tired of dying all the time.

Next door, at the "Historama," Vincent Price narrates a 50-year-old story about the town in a 50-year-old way. Very tired. (The ticket-taker is a bright spot. He's funny, engaging,  informed. And, not tired at all.)

But I'm still not loving Tombstone

Maybe I'm the one's who's tired. Or maybe I'm spoiled, looking for the cowboys and waitresses to entertain, to dance or sing or at least say "Howdy" enthusiastically. Like Disneyland.

Or maybe I'm ignorant.

A girlfriend wrote to me of her love for Tombstone, of how she grew up watching the movies and when SHE got here, she felt those movies come to life.

I never watched those movies. When I got here, I knew nothing about Tombstone.

So maybe I'm not loving it because I didn't do my homework. So I don't know where to look for all the fun.

It's like going to Dealey Plaza and knowing only that Kennedy was shot there.

How bored would you be if you didn't know about the grassy knoll, or the Book Depository window where the gun was fired from, or the spot where Jackie climbed onto the back of the convertible ... well, you'd be very bored.

Kinda like I am in Tombstone.

But now I know more. I've toured the town. Watched the reenactment. Listened to Vincent Price. Had saloon girls dance for me. So today I'll give it another shot, and go to the famous Boot Hill Cemetery and try have a GREAT time.

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