May 08, 2017 – Deadwood

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Near the intersection of Stone & Ft Lowell in Tucson, Arizona is this heap of rotting bricks, right across the street from a family owned Indian restaurant and a gas station. Al’s Deadwood Place has been closed for a long time, probably close to ten years, but it still sits here, the ‘cocktail’ sign slowly fading, the cloth long-since ripped from the awning. I only set foot in this establishment once, but the experience was memorable enough.

Deadwood was the darkest bar I had ever been in, before or since. My girlfriend and I sat down at the bar, a chatty woman behind the counter excited to share her high-school son’s academic successes with us. The place was dead silent; no jukebox or radio, just the humming of the electricity and the crunch of ice when our drinks were being mixed. We were probably two rounds of tequila deep before I noticed that there was another man at the far end of the bar, clinging to the shadows, not noticeably conscious. He was slumped over, head down, reminding me of some kind of bar-fly a caricature.

There was nobody else at the bar. Just my girlfriend and I, college-aged and curious about the bar down the street, the chatty-Kathy, and the figured slumped over in the shadows. He reminded me of a generic cartoon drunk, like something you’d see at Moe’s Tavern in The Simpsons.

Who knew how long he’d been there? Who knew how long he’d remain after we left
Only the barmaid, I suppose.
This was easily the dingiest, darkest, dirtiest little hole-in-the-wall I had ever patronized.

I kind of liked it. I’m bummed I can’t go there again.

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Tombstone & Tianya Milagro

Tianya - Big Nose Kates postThere’s nothing more dangerous than a beautiful woman packing attitude…and pistolas.

Everybody knows Tombstone from the movies. A few folks are lucky enough to travel through the desert valleys of Southern Arizona and lay their own eyes on it. It’s a small town, and one’s liable to miss it if they blink. It’s a bit of a theme park now, a mixture of pageantry and bravado, with an entertaining contingent of leather-clad bikers who walk the boardwalks side-by-side with entertainers dressed in 19th Century Western attire.

The West was won and the mining operations eventually slowed down. There are no Apaches in the hills to threaten the camp. The barges that ran north along the San Pedro River are just about forgotten, and the short-line railroads that carried the ore North to the Union Pacific line have been decommissioned. Daily reenactments of the famous “Shootout at the OK Corral” and a healthy flow of live music and adult beverage have prevented the town from turning into a wax museum.

Tombstone attracts a certain kind of person. Eccentricity is a prerequisite for anybody who’d move to a town and wear 1880’s period clothing for a living, adopt the language & mannerisms of frontiersmen and women, and exist under the punishing heat of Sonoran Desert summers. It also takes a certain kind of madman to spot the pretty girl in the saloon and hand her two pistols and insist she hop up on the bar for a photograph.

But that’s what Tianya did. She was performing with the Cochise College Dance Club, and that attractive specimen – fair skin in the sun-drenched thoroughfare, belly-dance threads, all hips and legs – turned a lot of heads. She finished her shot of tequila, plucked those pistols from his mitts and, with a puckish grin, hopped up onto the bar. She takes to the spotlight quite well, and the world is most certainly her stage.

To my own lamentations, the photographs didn’t turn out well enough to publish; the saloon was crowded and the light was pitifully low. Rather than scrap them entirely, it made a lot more sense to paint the scene instead. This would be the result of those efforts and, if I’m to toot a high note from my own little horn, it captures her spirit quite well.