Of Carne Seca and Saguaro

Lunch with an accomplished writer

Our combination plates arrive, in all their splendor -- a copious mound of the shredded, exquisitely arid meat, with rice, beans, guacamole and tortillas. As I attack mine, I ask Miller what his book's overriding theme is. "That the Southwest ain't what you think it is," he replies. "People think it's Georgia O'Keeffe. People think it's cow skulls and velvet art and bola ties. Which it is. But how it got to be those things, and how those things are made and marketed, runs contrary to the whole cowboy image. Anybody who's a journalist out here in this part of the country knows, when you talk to an editor back East, they want to hear the clomping of horses' hooves when you do a piece."

Tom Miller
Tom Miller

And the peculiar title? "In 1972 I attended an auction of all the fixtures from the Carousel Club," he explains. It was one of the first events that demonstrated the market for morbid Kennedy memorabilia. Miller did not buy the title fixture that day, but he did come away with a prize: "Jack Ruby's can opener is wrapped in a shammy cloth. It's in a Bank of America safe-deposit box on North Campbell Avenue. I paid a dollar for it; I suspect it's doubled in value, at least. If I put it on eBay, I wonder . . ."

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