Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tombstone, AZ

The name Tombstone has been familiar to me most of my life, from the various tales of the wild west where it's mentioned. So I took a detour off my eastward path on I-10 and drove south to visit the place. It's on a high plateau (4500 ft) surrounded by desert and distant mountain ranges. I arrived in late afternoon, determined to find a motel with good internet access in the hope of catching up on work.

I skipped the chain hotels outside of town, preferring something with "local charm". The Tombstone Motel (motto: Rest In Peace) had a Wi-Fi sign and a smoking room, so I checked in; but it turned out that meant you could "usually pick it up" from someplace a block away, and I got no signal, so I got a refund. Down the street, The Larian Motel claimed to have Wi-Fi, but only non-smoking rooms. I've put up with having to break my chain of thought to step outside for smokes too often on this trip, and I was determined. So I went to the Holiday Inn down the road - they were booked solid. Best Western was non-smoking only. Back on the main street, the Adobe Lodge had no Wi-Fi. Finally, the Trail Rider's Inn had Wi-Fi (which "usually works") and smoking rooms, so I settled here. No signal in my room, but good signal at the office, so I got him to move me next door to the office - a non-smoking room, but I did some priority shifting. Ah, but now there was no Wi-Fi signal there either, or even in the office! Antenna-tweaking and power-cycling did nothing. I finally got him to let me run an Ethernet cable directly from his wireless router out the door and into my room, and got access. Only to find that they use some intermediate ISP service I don't quite understand. It seems to take your requests, get the output from the site, and then send it on to you - when it has time. So it's all very slow, and many operations just time out and don't work. The charm of the wide open spaces is offset by the flaky internet access. AND, this room came with no table, so I had to set up the laptop on a shelf in the large closet! Guess I'll try to stay somewhere more urban like El Paso tomorrow.

Tombstone started as a mining town in 1879. Silver mining led to a "boom" in the 1880's, but when the mines dried up, the town shriveled up. The two World Wars provided some business mining much-needed metals, but there's nothing else here. So "the town that wouldn't die" lives on through tourism. I toured the town - Allen Street has this 1880s feel to it, although with a distinct Disneyland quality. The buildings seem quasi-authentic, but like a film set; and gunfight reenactments seem to be a main attraction. The town was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1961, but in 2004 the National Park Service declared this designation "threatened", due to the way the locals have modified, simulated, and otherwise distorted many historical buildings and facts in the interest of enhancing the tourist experience. I guess a living museum consisting of an accurately preserved/restored frontier town just doesn't have the tourism appeal of the rows of cheesy faux-1880s shops and bars. The main historical event that took place here was the gunfight at the OK Corral between outlaw gangs ("cow-boys") and law officers in which some familiar names were killed. Wow. OK, move on...

I ventured into Big Nose Kate's Saloon for a burger and beer and to soak up the western atmosphere. More like a caricature of a saloon. A book on display inside about the role of Jewish women in the early settlement of the town gave me a funny feeling about the name of the saloon, and the social [un]consciousness of past centuries. I ordered and cancelled a burger - here I am out in the wild west, so close to cattle country, and they will not serve a burger anything but well-done! The creeping Nanny state taking care of me - I take my own risks with rare meat back east, but no can do out here. Makes me wonder how much longer we'll be permitted to eat rare meat in NYC as the new anti-harm laws pile up. Meanwhile, if I must eat well-done beef, it's better in a burrito with all that camouflage.

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