Sunday, January 20, 2008

More Stories About Buildings and Food

This title popped into my head earlier this evening. It's not entirely appropriate, but it's a Talking Heads reference and I'm going with it. So there.

Vintage vehicles in front of the Historic Depot

For the second Saturday in a row, I headed downtown to Toole Avenue today, camera in hand, to bring back photos for you folks from a locale that's uniquely Tucson. This time the primary destination was not the historic train depot but the building across from it, Hotel Congress, which opened in 1919.

John Dillinger reminisces for a modern audience.

Having determined last night that the John Dillinger reenactment was today, I decided to try to photograph it. I didn't set my alarm, though, and woke up late enough this afternoon that I only reached the Hotel Congress a minute or two after "Dillinger" began to address the crowd. I know this because I heard shots fired right after I left the parking lot just north of the train station.

Dillinger breaks the fourth wall as his gang is frozen in time.

The crowd was substantial, and with my late arrival I couldn't see a thing at first, although the actors were miked and I could hear just fine. I shifted around until I could see a little bit, and then resorted to holding the camera over my head and pointing down slightly. This actually did get me some usable photos, along with dozens of pictures of people's backs. Of the 152 shots I had when I got home, I probably deleted about 40, which is highly unusual for me. I also recorded a few brief films, but had trouble seeing the "standby" indicator. I consequently shot a couple minutes of upside down footage of someone's legs, and stopped recording just as I reached the only moment when I had a clear view of anything, as a car drove away from a bank robbery. D'oh!

Dillinger's portrayer talks shop with "Don Diamond."

The script was pretty good, a mixture of real history, character study, soliloquy and local humor. The guy who played Dillinger spoke to the crowd as if from beyond the grave, knowing what the rest of his life had been like after his Tucson arrest, and explaining the context of it all to the modern-day audience. One bit that was played partly for laughs was an exchange between Dillinger and a savvy shoeshine boy. Paying in advance for the next day's shines, the gang leader asks the boy's name, and advises him to invest in land because "nobody can steal it from you - unless you're an Indian." The boy's name is given as Don Diamond, a legendary land speculator who was active in Tucson for a good chunk of the 20th century. He was only six years old when Dillinger came to town in 1934, but what the heck.

The performances were mostly excellent. (The two cop characters in the robbery sequence were a bit broad.) I looked at reproduced photos of Dillinger and gang member Harry Pierpont inside the hotel afterward, and the casting was very good visually as well as in terms of the acting itself.

After the reenactment I photographed a bunch of the vintage cars that were parked nearby as part of the event, but had a bit of trouble with backlighting. Then I ate at the hotel cafe again, sitting at the bar and chatting just a little with the bartender there. This time I had lamb medallions with mango sauce, and afterward brought John a hummus plate like the one I had there last week. Good stuff!

Then I headed over to the train station to read the Wyatt Earp plaque and photograph the statues again. By this time it was 6 PM, though, and conditions were not good for taking those shots. It was too dark to photograph Doc and Wyatt effectively without flash, and with flash the statues were way too light and odd looking. Oh, well.

As with last week, I could come up with a bunch more words and pictures, but I won't. I'm still working out exactly what I'm saving up for which future entries!

(See also below for my stop-gap entry on this subject.)


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