The Wastelander, continued
The Wastelander’s Notebook, Continued

The Wastelander’s Tourbook…a few more days on the road on the marathon 2006 Year of Living in Jets and Hotels American book tour. It was supposed to be for the paperback of Hummingbird’s Daughter, but unexpectedly turned into a concurrent tour for the undying Devil’s Highway.

I know I didn’t send you post-cards from every stop. But I’m trying to make up for it now….

Book Tour
Day Six, Austin

Albuquerque, home of killer bees.
Glory, glory: out of bed at 5:15.
Good name for a 1969 rock band
or go-go discotheque:
The Constipated Hang-Nail.

Hotel TV: Imus, CNN.
Bombs, gas prices, video threats
from Al-Qaeda, bad weather, Charlie
I pack.
I worry
about packing enough underpants.
Fame, baby.

They have killer anti-illegal
alien computer games
where you can shoot
running Mexicans.

That’ll really


Turned in my rental car.

They were


that I’d had a flat tire out there.
The Mexican woman behind the counter
bellowed at the African American dude
in a jump-suit:
“He had a flat!”

The man
came out of his booth
w/ hair exactly like
Crab Man on My Name is Earl
and shouted,
“You had a FLAT?”


Somehow, I got a First Class plane ticket
Out of ‘Burque, and
I don’t know how that happened.

In Chicago, I was on the terror-watch,
but they know me better in the west,
I guess, because I’m
not on the evil-doers list
in New Mexico.
I accidentally took cuts
in front of about 47 people
but by the time I’d noticed
my transgression
the ticket agent was already
punching my data into the self-serve

Behind me,
an irate woman,
sounding like she worked at the
car rental desk,

“He just took cuts
in front of about
47 people!”


Airport breakfast,
except that in New Mexico
it’s spicier than
3 Naperville
Mexican restaurants put
together. My nose is

Guy at the next table
just like me
orders coffee & water
and I know
just like me
he’s going to take morning meds
and sure enough
just like me
he gets out his blue
rattling pill case—
old men like us
making a pill racket
like we’re playing


Airport bookstore oddness:
no Hummingbirds at all, but
a big stack of Vatos.

There are 12 of me.
I never know which one will look out
of the next mirror.


Boarding. Leg room!
Note to Little, Brown: dudes,
we ought to fly First Class

Someone says:
“It’s gonna be sunny till, like,
eleven o’clock at night.”

Passengers get on
and glare at me like I
glare at the fat bastards
usually in this seat.
I feel like a fraud.
I feel like the airline will discover
its mistake and have me yanked
from my seat in a ghastly
humiliating scene.

I’m such a


Day Seven

Cinderella joined me!

Last night, I got to Austin listening to
Jeff Beck’s “Rice Pudding.”
Rushed to the reading/talk
With hizzoner, the mayor,
Will Wynne. His campaign motto:
“Wynne Again!”
Cousin Dave Duty was there,
grandson of Gabriela Cantua and
Don Tomas Urrea—the whole trip rich
in Teresita spirit.
Living in Hummingbird Volume II.
The kind Texans
gave me a standing O.

Afterward, our hostesses took us to Cuban food.
Viva the mojito!


Today: finally, slept late.

Perfect Four Seasons Hotel
Breakfast. The room service man
would not let me sign for the food.
“It is our honor, Señor,” he crooned.
Yow! It pays to be buds
with the mayor!
Note to self:
The next tour of major cities
Will be called “The I Heart
Mayor _______ [Your Name
Here] Tour of the Americas.” (I want
to kiss up to the mayor of Guadalajara
while I’m at it.)

Then off to Johnston High School.
Shy & recalcitrant students.
I couldn’t get a smile out of ‘em.
So I busted out my Mexican
Wrestling masks. Viva El Rey
Escorpion! Viva
El Muñeco Infernal!
Suddenly, I was signing books.

Teacher lunch.
My sandwich was Cheez Whiz and jalapeño.
I’d never eaten that before.
Second honeymoon # 98—
all the sangwidges you can eat!

We went back to the hotel & lay in bed
like pashas, unmoving.
We didn’t move
all afternoon.
Though we stayed pretty much
Dr. Phil had a 700 pound woman
on his show, so I felt svelte.

Clay Smith came for us
& took us to a lovely dinner
at a hip spot & we insisted on
gawking at the house
where the Real World MTV brats
had been living,
thus betraying the truth
about our big city Chicago


Day Eight

They have predicted tornados tonight.
My reading is outside.
Should be fun.
Bring on the ghosts and bees, man.
I’m at large.


I couldn’t wake up.
Super Wife rose and
went to the exercise room.
Just lifting my eyelids was like curling
45 pound dumbbells.
The Four Seasons
attended to my health with
health food:
home-made nut & berry granola
in yogurt, w/ egg white & asparagus

Someone gave me Lila Downs’ phone number
and said she’d like to chat. I seem to be
reaching some place now that the Luis
of 1973 or 1993 would not have believed.
Fritattas? What the hell is a frittata?
Stars’ phone numbers and
mayors’ limos. The hotel made special labels
for our water bottles:
full color reproductions
of The Devil’s Highway
Kind of ironic, really—expensive
designer water with the cover of a book
on it depicting the deaths-by-thirst
of 14 poor men.
Karma komedy.

Mayor Wynne, my Close
Personal Friend, has declared it
Luis Alberto Urrea Day.


Radio interview in the hotel lobby.
Latino USA. CNN En Español.
Blab blab.
Mostly, I want to drive around
in an RV w/ Cinderella
and listen to Jimi Hendrix.
Maybe write a book about it.

After the interview, C and I
Strolled hand-in-hand to the Real World
house and restaurants—Nouvelle Tejano, Y’all.
Mahi-Mahi tacos! And
down to the river.

Homeless guy
went by in a cloud
of demons and rage:
“I don’t give a God-damn
about your cocksucking
fucking world! You’re
breaking my God-damned
heart! FUCK YOU!”

We loitered under the bat bridge.
Not Cinderella’s idea. Bats: all me.
Millions of ‘em up in there,
chittering and slithering, all comfy and
head-down in the cracks, dropping bat
crap and bat-pee drizzle.
The stench of the colony
was like the scent of the
rushing mad man’s


Day Nine

Travel day.
Tornado. Rush Limbaugh busted.
Phony American “outrage” over the
Spanish language National Anthem.
Two white boys stomp a Mexican
and jam a tent pole full of bleach
up his ass for kissing a white girl.
And TV pundits are up in arms
because Latino singers tried to honor the USA
and teach the visitors some America-love?
Ha-ha. You have to really enjoy
dark humor when you live
in a world gone mad.


Posh breakfast
Among Austin money-people.
Leathery ladies
in big clanky bracelets.
Feeling queasy.
Everything smells
like guano inside my head.
You let those bats in, and they
set up housekeeping
inside your skull.


A very odd gig last night. No tornado.
At Jovita’s bar/Mexican restaurant.
I went onstage to read to people chomping
tamales and drinking beer,
many of whom were actually there
to see the Mothertruckers
play rock’n’roll that night,
and they were wondering who I was and when
I was going to leave.

But who cares if the booksellers there
were members of the I Don’t Give a Shit Club.
Who cares if the Mothertrucker fans
tore into Bonnie Hannah’s
taco and beans buffet party and we didn’t get any,
or the evangelical Mexican preacher wanted to know if
Hummingbird was Satanic, or the band stood
beside the stage with their guitars and looked
around saying “Wha?” and “Huh?”

Because, afterwards, in our big room:


Feel bad.
This is the part of the tour
when things start to hurt:
Headache in the morning,
gut hurts from strange food,
feet hurt, butt and back hurt
from plane seats. Check it out:
I sound like my own grandpa. Clank.
Creak. Groan.

You start to want to go home
just when you have to launch
the biggest offensive.
You’re just getting rolling!
You’re on your way to
Duke University!
Cocktail party with
Tom Wolfe and
Jayne Anne Phillips!
And 100 other authors
way more important than you!


You have more dirty clothes
jammed in your bag than clean,
and you’re not sure when
you’re going to wash them.
You know you’ll be home
in 4 days for
1½ days.
Then gone

Nausea &
airport sandwiches.

I used to fry donuts
on the greasy night shift.
I scraped tourist diarrhea off
toilet stall walls from midnight
to six a.m. every night.
I sold midnight beer to hookers
and drunken sailors
in a suburban 7-11.
Worked a hard shovel
in the stony dirt of house foundations.
Yes, Lord.

Thank you.



Yo, Cindy—you seen my socks and my black underpants anywhere?

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