(Editor’s note: This was posted originally on Conflicts Check blog. It’s reposted here with the permission of the author.)

Are you an out-of-work actor with no marketable skills and/or talent?

Did you try to make it in L.A. but just didn’t quite have the moxy?

Did you try to escape California only to discover that you only had enough gas to get as far as the next state over?

Do you love John Wayne in a strictly, almost harshly platonic way?

Do you hate Obama, the ACLU, Mexicans, books, and/or anything remotely effeminate?

Do you think that kindergartners should be issued assault rifles on the first day of classes?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then guess where might be perfect for you:

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Tombstone, Ariz.(with a little bit of Tucson and the surrounding area).

Yes, that’s really what things still look like in Tombstone. In its late-19th-Century heyday, Tombstone had a population of about 14,000.

Back then, it looked like cow skulls and broken wheels because it was, in fact, the Old West. Now things look like that due to a combination of the tourism industry (which is now the only industry) and good-old-fashioned poverty.

It’s like a living theme park, but with a shoestring budget. Think Westworld without all that cumbersome progress.

For instance, these guys are robots who don’t go anywhere:

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But these guys are not robots. They are actors. Very sad actors.

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They are part of the live shows, which really are the highlight of the whole town. If you enjoy a little trick shooting, and the occasional Brokeback Mountain joke, you will love these shows.

Then there are the quasi-museums. Imagine giving $150 annually to the creator of the Mallard Fillmore comics and asking him to curate a museum.

That’s pretty much what you got. Like this exhibit:

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An exhibit devoted to this rare “Chinaman” who was not worked to death in the silver mines.

As you progress through each museum, you get the sense that most of these places crested in the 1960’s and haven’t really bothered to update anything since.

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I mean…what the hell is that? A book about cats? Why is it in an Old West museum?

Other exhibits range from the mildly offensive:

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To the humorous-but-uncomfortable:

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To the positively bizarre:

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There’s also the world’s largest rosebush, which is about as weird as you might expect.

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But for my money, the best attraction by far was the Historama. I don’t think you’re supposed to take photos in there, but I take risks for you people.

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This is what is at the famed O.K. Corral. Outside, there are motionless robots.

Inside, you sit in a theater, and a diorama of Tombstone (past and present) spins before you.

A screen drops down intermittently to show you some genuine film of the Old West. And all the while, the whole thing is being narrated by Vincent Price. Vincent Eff-ing Price. 

You simply cannot put a dollar value on an experience like this.

Never in my life would I have connected the Master of Horror with the Old West in any fashion, but now the two are inextricably linked in my mind forever.

It would bring me no small satisfaction to learn that there is also a haunted house in New England with a spooky Roy Rogers voice-over.

The town itself is really only a couple of blocks, and can be walked in a day.

You catch a couple of shows, you go to a couple of saloons, you go to a couple of museums, you see some weird shit, you buy some spurs and a rattlesnake magnet. You’re done.

I don’t want to trash the place; it really is quite charming, and would be a fun family vacation.

Here’s the bee I’ve got in my bonnet: everyone everywhere has a political agenda, and they want to make sure you know about it.

This was the bulletin board hanging in front of the very first store a pedestrian would hit on the main drag:

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This shop, which is fairly representative of the numerous gift shops crammed into a 1/2 mile radius, sells unofficial Tombstone merchandise and NO DAMN YANKEE HATS.

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Incidentally, the Arizona territory was under both Union and Confederate control at different times during the Civil War (or the “War of Northern Aggression,” as the Georgians like to call it). But I suppose that doesn’t matter. The tour guides, who are of course all dressed like cowboys, are in on the act too.

If you look Caucasian enough, be prepared to hear all about political correctness and affirmative action and Obama’s gay Muslim agenda, etc. Even the bathrooms were not free from contentious political screed.

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We found Tucson to be that way too, just to a lesser degree. But to be fair, we didn’t really spend enough time there to get a good sense of the town.

We did, however, get some great Mexican food. In my experience, Mexican food in the American Southwest is almost universally better than Mexican food in Mexico.

So if you find yourself in Arizona, you might be in the best place on Earth for Mexican food.

I like to think that’s why there’s no Hard Rock Tucson.

I should also mention that the main reason we were out that way in the first place is to see the annual hummingbird migration at the Ramsey Canyon Preserve. which is about 45 minutes away. It is ridiculously beautiful. If hiking and bird watching is your thing, this is the place to be.

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I am not a talented enough photographer to get a good shot of a hummingbird, but they were all over the place. I did manage to get some other decent photos, such as this candid shot of a deer pooping in the woods:

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A creepy cabin in the woods:

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This bizarre plant (these are all over AZ, and despite my best efforts I still have no idea what they are. Aloe vera? Yucca? Something like that.):

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The snakebite kit in our cabin:

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And the giant Madonna/Virgin of Guadalupe statues that appear to be in every grocery store west of the Mississippi:

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One last stop which is not to be missed in Tombstone: Boot Hill Cemetery. If you like history, there’s plenty. If you like nature, the grounds are very pretty in an Old Westy sort of way. But the main thing to see is, well, the tombstones.

This isn’t funny, is it? Or is it? It’s real, right? I just don’t know. Other markers are not as descriptive:

Others give you more information, but in an extremely awkward way:

I have to wonder what Chinese tourists think about all this, but I didn’t ask any. At any rate, the cemetery is really well maintained compared to a lot of the other “historic” sites, and, for a collection of dead people, is pretty entertaining.

I’ll leave you with this gem, which we heard in the OK Corral.

I think it sums up the spirit of Tombstone quite nicely.

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Dan Canon
Dan Canon is a Louisville civil rights attorney and a musician who lives in Clarksville. Dan blogs at Conflicts Check.

One thought on “Dan Canon in Tombstone: Gorgeous scenery, gun-toting Obama haters and the best place on Earth for Mexican food

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