The Hospital Highway
Aspen, Colorado. We're staying at the Aspen Alps, in some guy's $2,000,000 condo. Today, the housekeeping staff made a celebratory Mexican meal for us in the clubhouse, and we had a sweet gathering down there.

Sometimes, writers come and act like jerks and divas. But you never know what the writer's going through on the journey or tour. As you know from the last installment, I've been sick the whole time. But I think I've managed to keep from being too mean to anybody.

I flew back to Chi, got a night's sleep, jumped in Tony Delcavo's car to drive to Detroit. Hours and hours and hours. We stopped in Paw Paw Michigan to eat at Gallagher's. Go to Gallagher's. America's sweetheart, Sara Labadie works there. We heart Sara Labadie. Plus, any woman who shows you her chin scar gotten at a baseball game is a goddess. Sara--I'm sending you a book, baby! And on to a dead-stop traffic jam. Many long bored moments later, we slopped into the wreck. A vast dumptruck had oveturned and dumped a couple of tons of eerie orange powder all over the freeway. Tractors were scooping up cancer-causing nuclear waste.

I made it to my hotel with about fifteen minutes to spare. I told the dudes at the desk I wouldn't be able to spend the night. "I'm the Lone Ranger." I told them they'd might as well call their buds and have them use my room. Horrible painful coughing jags, but I got on my monkey-suit and was gathered and driven to the country club or whatever it was where I represented Rudlofo Anaya for the NEA Big Read. Beef Wllington. Nice folks. A surprise demand for autographs. Did't expect that. Tony collected me and we drove about another hour to Ann Arbor where I crashed in his apartment. Off to the airport first thing.

Cindy, Megan and Chayo joined me on my lay-over. We dragged into the plane. I was coughing so much that I felt like my whole face was covered in a thin shellack of boogies.

We flew to Austin. I was so exhausted. No sleep forn the last 12,000 miles. We got a big fat Hertz Nissan Altima and drove around that awesome town. Stayed in the Omni Austin. The Urrea Corporation always stays at the Omni Austin--when you're in town, so should you! Bought Chayo an Austin bat in the gift shop in honor of, well, the Austin bats. I wanted to get the baseball cap with the Davey Crocket quote: "You may all go to hell. As for me, I am going to Texas."

Quivering legs and room service and cable. And--Chayo--started to vomit. VOMIT. And VOMIT. We fell asleep and every twenty minutes or so, PUKE! RETCH! I'd get up and cough up a quarter pound of lung just to join in.

It looked rough the next morning, but we got dressed and joined my ol' high school sweetheart Lyn Niles and drove down to San Antonio. Wanted to show the girls the Alamo. And--Chayo--started to vomit! Fortunately, there was a bag which we filled with gut-bomb. Yum yum. Lyn drove around looking for a drug store. We found a fancy hotel and Cindy ran in to find meds in their shop. I had completely lost my voice. We got Chayo settled down--the bounce-back kid said she felt great after she unloaded. So we went to my fave, Mi Tierra, to eat. the waietr made Chayo a special flan so she could eat something. The musicians serenaded her. The waiter said, "I could tell you were a Mexican." I asked how he knew. "Your eyes. You have Mexican eyes. You look like you're from a drug cartel."

Lyn dropped us off at the Omni after about ninety hours on the road, and Chayo fell ill again. Bad ears now. Fever. Yellow goo pouring out of her head. Megan must not have been feeling all that swell either. We had to take Chayo to a doctor, but we knew no docs in Austin. So we locked Meg in the suite and rushed Chayo to the city's emergency room. Yikes. Rummies and fight club types and crack-heads shuffled around. The intake guy actually told us to take our daughter out of there. That was a first!

We rushed up I-35 to the fancy and green children's hospital, where we waited for hours. Chayo had somehow ruptured her ear drum. Here it was nearing midnight, and we had to go find a drug store open.

I coughed and choked and poured sweat all night, then leapt up to go visit classes at UT! Dr. Charm! Mr. Affable! After that, lunch with really cool people. I soaked through my shirt.

Omni: bathe, change, make sure girls are all right. Cindy and me, back down for The Event. A huge crowd. A signing line that went all the way through the theater and down the stairs. My hosts thought I could sign books in ten minutes. "Good luck with that," I said. "I tend to sign books for hours." It was awesome--and I busted out my autograph book and made the fans sign it for me. I was photographed about thirty times. "We gon' put you on Facebook" all my new Chicana girlfriends insisted. The cops working security actually took pictures for us. "Just doing our duty," one copper quipped. My Teresita-cousins Dave and Grace were there, but I was so buried in people I couldn't get to them.

Dinner (I had KILLER duck enchiladas), and some mind-boggling ideas from UT that I can't discuss at the moment. Back to the hotel. Girls OK. Pack like maniacs because we had to get up at 5:30.


To airport in the dark. Girls dead asleep on airport floor. Uneventful flight to Denver, all of us sleeping and coughing. In Denver, we rented a big-ass SUV to brave the 20 inches of fresh snow in the Rockies and up, up, up, into God's country. When we got to our condo, Megan threw up. I was only sorry we didn't bring one of the dogs so it could poo on the floor and I could step in it!

Last night, after an amazing event in Carbondale, Cindy and I sat here at the breakfast counter of the condo, choking down Wendy's. I shook my cheeseburger at her. "Fame," I said. "This is the high life." Then I coughed up some more lung-cheese. But we laughed. We laugh a lot, except when we think we're dying. Or....maybe we laugh hardest then.

I was on the front page of the newspaper this morning. Maybe Antonio Banderas/Tomas Urrea saw it and will come down to ther gig tonight. Maybe some of us can barf on him.

I have done 4 events so far here in Aspen. Two more tonight. Drive down Sunday. Fly to Chi on Monday. Teach on Tuesday. Fly to D.C. on Wed. morning and do yet another dancing monkey show that day. Fly back to Chi early Th morning so I can teach all day.

But Friday's coming. And I am going to sleep. Until the following Friday.

PS In spite of the billionaires and drunken hot tub byootyful people and the million dollar jets clogging the little airport, Aspen could not be more lovely. And it's good to see our literary friends again. And my beloved Latina maids and I are having a swell time.

Megan and Cinderella are out buying expensive Aspen crap. Chayo found the Spongebob Channel. I'm reading a book about a guy who keeps a buffalo in his house.


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