Exercise in Futility
Poor Dagoberto Gild. I have abandoned him to the wilds of New York City.

We were supposed to be on what has come to be an ill-fated panel for the big AWP (Associated Writing Programs) convention this weekend. The bizarre Curse of 2008 started up and caused much mischief to us all. It was a dream "Latin/o" or even "Chicana/o" gathering. Benjamin Alire Saenz, the poet and novelist, contacted several of us who were border-types to come to NYC and represent the new paradigm, the new voice of border writing and immigration wisdom. It was audacious and important: the AWP needed a strong Latino presence, and we all agreed to bring our (in some cases newly constructed) united front to the table.

Ben was the moderator/host/m.c. Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto, Ruben Martinez, Denise Chavez and myself rounded out the team. They were expecting 600 people to attend, and it was one of the major events of the day. (Today. Ahem.)

Sadly, Sandra's mother passed away. She went into seclusion and didn't want to be put on the dais so soon after this tragic event. We soldiered on. Then Denise couldn't make it--wow. A representative panel without women? But we limped ahead. Suddenly, and most unexpectedly, Ben himself took ill and was hospitalized. (He'll be OK, I promise.)

What? We're on a panel and there's no host? We didn't know what we were expected to do or say or how the structure was going to be planned out, since our head was now out of the picture. Ben even had a plan to have us compose a manifesto/credo about the border and immigration that we would all sign. Begin a bew era of conversation in America inspired by we, the writers.

The most hilarious round of phone calls and e-mails ensued, as Dago, Ruben, and I tried frantically to figure out what we were doing. For a time, since Ben was incommunicado, Denise thought she might rejoin us. Dago and I basically said, about twice a day, "Yo, vato--WTF???"

Comes the week of the AWP. I offer myself to m.c. the panel, and urge the AWP to give Ben a rain-check to launch this important event next year. And then, the storm of '08 hits Chicago. Inches and inches and inches of snow. Cinderella and I start out at 5:00 trying to get to NYC. The first flight is cancelled. A half hour is all it takes to negotiate the next flight and rebook. It's an hour later. It's cancelled. It takes about 45 minutes to negotiate the next flight. It's set for 3:30. It's cancelled. The 4:15 flight is cancelled. The 5:15 flight is postponed till 5:30. Not too bad. To 6:00. OK, no prob. To 7:45. Hmmm. The plane is at the gate, but now the storm is in NY, and we can't land, though we could theoretically take off. The flight is postponed till 9:45. The flight is postponed till 11:00. If we should get the 11:00 flight, we won't actually be in our hotel room until around 3:00 a.m. The woman at the gate takes Cindy aside and tells her, "Don't tell anywone I told you, but the flight isn't going out at all. It'll be cancelled."

The only flight we could gget on today would have gotten us there after the panel was over. Oh, and the one plane that did get out yesterday took our luggage to NYC. So, though I am not there, my underpants are representin'.

According the the panicky cell phone calls I got today--the "I'm here in the audience, where are you????" calls--Dago and Ruben manfully took the stage and recruited a few famous Latinos from the audience and soldiered on. Which is as it should be.

I did deliver my new novel, Into the Bueautiful North, to Little, Brown. By e-mail!


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