BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a journalist and photographer based in Port Jervis, NY and Alexandria, Va.

Filtering by Tag: kitsch

In Arizona We Carry Guns: 20 Minutes in Tombstone

The antidote to a morning spent driving in circles through Sierra Vista, Ariz., proving once again the uselessness of Google Maps was a 20 minute stroll along the kitschy (and scorching) streets of Tombstone, where the high today is a dry and sunny 103 degrees. Tombstone is the quintessential Southwest tourist trap, complete with sasparilla root beer stands, O.K. Corral shootout reenactments, a raft of Elvis impersonators, faux whorehouses and all the Old West charm of a B-grade Fifties western. It's hard to imagine a place more cartoonishly celebratory of firearms than Tombstone.

Tombstone just happens to be on the way to other places (Bisbee, Benson, Sierra Vista, etc.) in Cochise County and the surrounding area, so I couldn't resist a few minutes wandering around. Just remember, if you're a politician visiting here, you better wipe the shit from your boots (though I'm sure Tombstonians they wouldn't say that to their local congresswoman right now):

I'll refrain from ranting, but I feel like the Border Patrol is about to say, sternly, "Papers please!" when I pass through one of these checkpoints. "Are you a U.S. citizen?" the agent asks. Only on weekdays, I think, as I reply, "Sure am." He waves me on and I head north out of Tombstone.

What is "The Thing?" I'm still not sure...

If you've ever driven Interstate 10 between El Paso and Phoenix, you've seen the signs along the highway: "The Thing? What is it?" They usually say something about "The Thing?" being a great mystery of the desert in the same way those "South of the Border" signs entice travelers off I-95 in South Carolina.

I've dismissed "The Thing?" the thing on my many trips between New Mexico and Tucson or Phoenix over the years. But today, I had some extra time, so I thought it would be fun to experience "The Thing?"

In addition to the very well-stocked curio shop full of moccasins, trinkets, cowboy hats, T-shirts, a Dairy Queen and all the sugary beverages you can imagine, there was this, the purported "Thing":

Is it real? In good taste?

Of course, there's no explanation of what (or who) is in the coffin. It's up to the viewer to decide, I guess.

There were a few more things, too, more than a few related to matters of torture:

A closer look:

More torture:

A plug for Hitler:

I'm not sure what this one is about:

Highway kitsch is always a bit strange and, of course, cheap. "The Thing?" certainly exemplifies that standard. What kind of message am I supposed to come away from "The Thing?" contemplating?

Caveat emptor.