Posts tagged Arizona
Going on three years ago Angie and I first ventured out to one of the most storied of places anyone ever dared to populate: Tombstone, Arizona. Famous for its high rollers, whores and a hella-load of silver, you can still sense the opportunity and desperation that once walked its dusty streets. Have a shot of whiskey in the Crystal Palace Saloon, buy obnoxious souvenirs at the sadly renovated Oriental or tour the mines that made, and broke, this proud town. Whatever you end up doing you simply can’t skip out on seeing the reenactment of only that most infamous of gunfights, the one that took place at the O.K. Corral. Behind it actually, if you’re being anal about the facts, but fifteen or twenty feet don’t make no difference when it comes to the overall quality of this current show.
I say “current” because the production has changed recently and for the better in rather immense ways. When we first saw the shootout (three years ago if’n you’re not paying attention) it was for all intents and purposes a one man show meant to highlight one Stephen Keith who portrayed John Henry “Doc” Holliday. “Crazy Fucking Steve” as I like to call him (because he’s fucking crazy) abused both Doc’s memory and the audience’s patience with diuretic aplomb. As writer, director and resident crazy fucker, Steve reigned in about 80% of the dialogue for himself. I was convinced that when the final confrontation began he was just going to soliloquy all the Cowboys to death. That’s if anyone was even left to see it as boredom induced strokes were an ever present threat. When I checked my watch at the curtain call to see how long the show had run it read “too goddamn long”. Why I even looked is a mystery as it merely confirmed what I already suspected regarding the tumultuous and tortuous length. To sum up, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral as it used to be brings to mind the words “nightmarish” and ”I feel like some of my soul is dead now”.
Mercifully, all this has changed.
Again, back to three years ago, upon first parking our horseless carriage on a side alley to then meander up Allen Street, the very first person I had any meaningful words with was this guy:
His name was Kyle and to this day he is still called as such. He’s a man’s man, an adventurer and a historical aficionado. We became fast friends, sharing a devotion to things past and a distaste for most things present. If he seems like a man out of time that’s because he is. His look, personal code of honor and general spirit of badassery that pervades him belie the fact he was born late last century. I’m fully convinced he was really birthed at some point in the 1860s. Alas, I have no proof of how he’s ended up here though I do have my suspicions:
Preposterous theorems aside, what isn’t up for debate is the fact that Kyle currently performs, in a multitude of roles as many of the actors there do, at the newly updated presentation of that solemn showdown. He bravely invited me back to give all of it one more chance.
You know the story. It’s Wednesday October 26th, 1881. About 3 in the afternoon. Shit’s about to get real. Real, real shitty. And all over the place. Maybe even in your mouth a little if you’re breathin’ hard like a lunger so be careful there Doc. Anywho, recollections of that afternoon vary but this fresh script makes sure most confirmed points of interest, moments of confrontation and their accompanyingly specific dialogue will be heard as the story unfolds. Like when Virgil Earp yelled “Hold! I don’t want (or mean) that!” in a failed attempt to cut the carnage off before it even began:
But no one listened, and the smoke wagons proceeded to smoke:
Thirty shots in as many seconds was a confusing mess but every performer positioned themselves well seeming even to slow time as to give us all a better grasp of what happens when harsh words lead to harsh action and ultimately a harsh end for some of those that spoke ‘em.
Once the dust settles and the blood begins to pool the scene freezes as Doc goes on to wrap-up the gunnin’-down. He educates us on the pertinent details about injuries and expirations both immediate and those on down the line for all the combatants. Surprisingly, this is presented without too much testimonial tilting favoring one faction over the other. Of course your average tourist expects for the ”good guy” Earps and Holliday to vanquish the “bad guy” Cowboy crew but no one was squeaky clean back then and this show, along with a memorial plaque conspicuously placed just outside the seating area by distant relatives of those who fell in that dingy alleyway, doesn’t seek to romanticize as much as instruct. This gunfight’s best not painted in crisp black and white, but rather in tangled shades of grey. Besides, if the Cowboys were all that bad would I have let Angie get so close?
Now see here, if you’d have ever told me I’d someday return to this show after that first forlorn review I’d have kindly asked you to open your mouth as wide as possible. And then I’d shit in it, filling your wanton maw with the very substance you’d been attempting to sway me with. Don’t talk it if you ain’t willing to chew on it every once in a while kid. Yes, such was the depths of my disapproval at what used to pass as entertainment within those hallowed halls lying next to Fly’s Photographic Studio. But now I stand relieved and thoroughly regaled.
Never have I seen an outfit go from suck ass to kick ass so wholeheartedly.
6 long delayed but now well deserved rounds in the cylinder for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
It’s an admirable attraction, this show and it’s attached museum of sorts. So, if you ever visit Tombstone, spend a bit of time and some money there too. You won’t be disappointed to part with either. And even though Kyle’s my pal I have no need to blow smoke up any respective asses. All the cordials I’ve afforded the Corral are earned through the tears, blood and mostly sweat by the ensemble cast. Dressed in all wool under a beautifully unforgiving Arizona sky, this group of men work for little fanfare and even less money. They don’t ask for much ‘cept that you remember and honor the past.
Amigos, you’re a daisy if you do just that.
But I still had to put this here. It’s on the Facebook and all over the net in various forms I’m sure but I needed it here. Maybe in case you haven’t seen it anywhere else but more just for me. So that I’ll see it in passing from time to time as a reminder to keep after what stirs my soul. Fearlessly.
This all started when I fell in love with Arizona. The fact I am not able to move out into the desert just yet and spend carefree days riding worms led Angie and I to call together some of our closest friends to spend a weekend together here in terribly Eastern Central Florida all in the Spirit of the Old West. The next few days will be filled with shooting competitions, feats of strength, poker, dice, several movies, one down home strip club, meat, clove cigarettes, biscuits, sleeping under the stars and barrels of bourbon.
If Gears of War: Judgment was already out, and was a Western, this might just have been the perfect weekend. But perfection, though admirable to aspire too, isn’t what those olden days were about at all. For me living on the frontier and carving out a life for yourself on the ragged edges of civilization meant you worked hard and you played hard. You also drank hard and screwed hard and shaved hard. Ever tried a straight razor? It’s a uniquely amazing and terrifying experience.
Life should be amazing and terrifying too. Else how can you be sure you’re really livin’?
I know full well I’ve grown complacent and comfortable in my life. Bravest thing I ever did was jump into a lifelong relationship with a girl I barely knew at all. I was engaged to another with a wedding dress bought and invitations in the mail.
And then Angie walked into view.
Something stirred in me, I swallowed hard, nutted up, took her hand firmly in mine and never looked back. That’s been more than 10 years now and is one of the most defining moments of courage I’ve ever known.
Time it seems is comin’ for another such moment. Our first drive up into the Tucson Mountains and I said “I can see retiring here.” And Angie, ever the Peregrine, softly replied ”Why wait?”
Fuck yeah “why wait”! I could die tomorrow or, hell, today. And I have to believe that most of those folks who ventured West back in the day felt the exact same way. So they got up, pulled on their boots and went and did whatever had to be done. And then stayed up probably way past their bedtimes for whatever else they wanted to do.
You grab Freedom by the balls it grabs you right back!
A big ball grabbin’ bro hug. I’m imagining I’m doing that right now with a huge, slightly anthropomorphic eagle. It’s awkward and a bit painful. It’s also liberating and I know I’m a better man for it! A few encouraging, emboldening words from my life wife and now another adventure is just beginning.
This weekend we celebrate that with our friends. We celebrate every twist and turn that brought us all into each others lives. And whether we’ve known them 2 years or 25, it doesn’t matter…these are some of our best and closest. They are ragamuffin and rambunctious and just the kind of people that make me smile with true joy. See, I had someone tell me a few months ago in no uncertain terms that he simply didn’t have time for friends who we’re too much work.
At best that’s lazy, at worst cowardly. What a shitty way to spend your days.
The folks that will fill my homestead tonight they’ve seen me at best and worst. We’ve exchanged barbs and bandages. They know I’m a loose cannon but don’t seem to mind too damn much. I haven’t agreed with their every choice and they certainly haven’t been on my bandwagon at times but we all knew from the start, outside of the pleasantries of horseshoes and hand-jobs, we’d all be willing to work at it for one another.
To tear each other down or to lift each other up as need be.
And usually to drink the whole time. Now, possible public (and certainly private) inebriation aside these are some of the most loyal, honest, generous and outright spectacular people you will ever have the pleasure of knowing. Cowboy Weekend 2013 will make us all some damn fine memories I reckon. And to say Angie and I are blessed to be surrounded by such a gang, well shucks howdy that just doesn’t do them all the justice they deserve. I will honor them with a whiskey tonight. And I’ll honor them for my remaining days in keeping the Spirit of the Old West alive by staying true to that gritty and gracious fire in my heart.