Tucson Festival of Books
Linda Hogan once told me she had met fifteen different men who claimed to be the reincarnation of Crazy Horse. We wondered at the time if Crazy Horse had somehow gone condo in the afterlife, if he had managed to subdivide so guys who like to wear a fang on a thong around their necks, or wear dangly silver feather earrings, can claim to be him. I have, in the wake of The Hummingbird's Daughter, met a small army of experts, scholars, channelers, healers, urban shamans, re-enacters, and reincarnated Teresitas. The Saint of Cabora is in the house, y'all! In, apparently, about 75 houses! Go, tia, go! On our recent adventures in Tucson (Teresitacson) and the lovely Silver City, we encountered elements of the Teresista army. Every one of them, from grand and cosmic new age mavens to angry and clenched historical guardians took strange credit for my accomplishments, small as they are, and even for my work. It seems strange to me that so many people make some kind of living off the blood of my family...while challenging me to my own heart full of that blood. Thing that make you go hmmm. Still, that was a small element of an amazing and joyous touring event.

Cinderella and I flew down to Tucson, not sure what to expect. It was the first ever TFOB. An event, by the way, that turned out to be huge and extremely well-run. The planners of the event have done a heroic thing for Tucson, and I believe it will bring many wonders to that eccentric and lively place for years to come. I was amazed that Elmore Leonard, CK Williams, JA Jance, Billy Collins, et al, would be there. Sadly, I was scheduled to read at the same time as Mr. Leonard. I told everyone I'd rather see the legend than myself!

We picked up a 100 foot long red Impala at Hertz, and we tooled around town, remembering our past as desert rats. We met there, you know. Cinderella was a newspaper reporter when I was in town, fighting ghosts and devils in haunted adobes, walking the desert with javelinas, bikers and medicine women, drinking afternoon coffee with the local writers and starving. We drove along my favorite street--KOLB! Where the giant airplane graveyard spreads out for acres of surreal excellence! Dead planes! Yes!

On up to the Loew's Ventana Canyon resort. They did right by us at TFOB--a lovely room with city views out one side and a saguaro-studded slope up to the mountains in back. A waterfall spilled out of the vermillion/orange/salmon cliffs about a half mile from our door. That night, the first banquet. I hate these things--you sit at a table with really nice folks who paid a lot of money to watch you chew. You try to be funny and engaging. You scan for famous people.

Fitz, the great Tucson editorial cartoonist, was the m.c. for the evening. He actually called me by name and made me stand up so the room could turn in their seats and murmur, Who the hell is that? But Fitz came up with my new stage name. He said, apropos of The Devil's Highway: "Luis is the Capote of the coyotes." Dude! I am so putting that on a t-shirt.

I have pals who write. I put out this disclaimer because, when you blog, and have fans as involved as I do, when I mention somebody famous, I start getting piquant missives that say li' things like: "whore," "name-dropping whore," "careerist whore." But these are my pals and my colleagues. We work together--it just happens that our particular satellite office of Dunder Miflin is spread out in planes, hotels, bookstores, lecture halls, bars, festivals. Think of the next famous guy I mention as Dwight Shrute.

So I wanted to meet the insane novelist, Josh Bazell. If you haven't read Josh yet, git on it! He wrote the freakish and rabid Beat the Reaper. You read it and don't know whether you should laugh out loud or cringe. Some will no doubt retch. IT'S THAT GOOD. So I'm looking for him so I can introduce myself, and this guy shows up looking for me. Josh Bazell! OMG, as my kids might say. We were hugging and carrying on when I spied the legend, the 800 pound gorilla of desert writers, Charles Bowden working out some red vino. I put Josh and Chuck together for some more awesome author hook-up, but I turned away for a minute. By the time I'd turned bac, Chuck was grilling Josh on Jewish history, and apparently on the stupidity of the Bible. "You people walked around the desert for forty years being fed by angels? Is that what you believe? Some guy came down off a mountain with a rock with squiggles on it written by God? What about the one who walked on water! You believe that?" Josh cast an eye in my direction and sent me the psychic message: WTF? I could not stop laughing. Welcome to Tucson, baby. Let's see you beat this reaper. But Chuck went off to set a few banquet tables on fire, and Josh and I traded phone numbers and slapped each other on the back some more. Cinderella and I snuck off to the hotel, fried by exhaustion to a crusty golden hue.

The next day was the big bang. I started the morning trying to film a book trailer for the real deal, the big kahuna of Urrealism, my next novel, Into the Beautiful North. Eric, the filmographer, drove down from Phoenix. We walked up the mountain in back of the resort, and he set up his cameras and miked me and we got placed for the filming when, suddenly, The Man busted us! The Ventana Canyon Resort's Weekend Activities Director burst out of the undergrowth and ascertained that we were filming highly restricted cacti without a permit! He had a muscular Mexican standing guard on the path, lest the camerman and I try to escape! Yet another Al Qaeda assault on the resort's back yard thwarted in the nick of time.

In shame, we snuck to dntn Tucson and gathered ourselves at the University of AZ for the interview. Then I skulked around the green room, sipping water and getting to know my onstage iunterviewer, KVOA newsman, Tom McNamara.

I won't go into my speaking event too much. (Media whore.) But I will say it was jammed--SRO. People sat on the floor. I was startled by that. Lots of old friends there, lots and lots and lots of new friends, and about nine Teresitas. Tom was warm and open to anywhere weird place I wanted to go, and we had easily the most uproarious gig I've had in a long time. It was wild in there. When we were done, the audince gave me an unexpected standing O.

So, you know, time to sign books! I was looking around for one of my ol' writing pals, Craig Childs. Rumored to be there, but I never found him. We were also looking for our other pal, Amanda Eyre Ward, but it was a tsunami of bodies. I went to my tent, next to Dutch Leonard's, and I realized that I was never going to even get to shake his hand. Because there were...lots...lots...of people in my line. I'll get to that in a moment. But as I was signing, someone suddenly gave me a note. The best note of the weekend: "Craig Childs says DUDE!" Ha ha. I don't know where he was, but he sent a dispatch. (Name-dropping fame-slut.)

About an hour into the signing, a dapped slim fellow stepped up and sai, "My name is Joey Burns and I sing with Calexico." OMGx2. Readers of this blog know that Calexico recorded "Across the Wire" on their epochal cd, Feast of Wire. How good is that? How fulfilling? To hug Joey Burns and tell him you love him.

That's where it's at.

I signed for almost another hour. Started signing at 3:30, finished around 6:00. We staggered over to the Cinco Puntos Press booth to say hi to Bobby and Lee Byrd. It's all about love and art and friends. So were were happy.

All in all, like I said, the Tucson Festival of Books was a great success. Long may the reign. I want to thank them here and now, and give thanks to all the hundreds of kind people who visited with me there. I get hugged and kissed a lot--it's a real benefit of the job. Lots of senior prom pictures. Lots of friends both old and new. And a great hamburger at the hotel.

The next morning, we had to drive for three hours to Silver City, NM. Go, Detroit iron: I glanced at the speedometer and was creeping well past 100 mph and never noticed. We never turned on the radio once--just talked about all that had happened in Tucson.

When I got home, I was astounded to find out I had signed so many autographs that my right arm was slightly injured. The pain feels good. I know what it means. We had a similarly astounding time in Silver City (Billy the Kid's Homestead Cabin! Which isn't really Billy's cabin at all! But is Tommy Lee Jones's cabin from the movie The Missing! Donated by Ron Howard and put on the bankl of the stream where Billy's mom's cabin might have been! Now attracting scads of German tourists with Karl May cowboy paperbacks!) A Teresita scholar, during his lecture, pulled out a rifle, cocked it, and eyed me angrily and strangely announced, "I can kill a man at 500 yards with this weapon!" Cinderella whispered, "Is he threatening you?" Yee-haw, buckoes. Viva la Santa de Cabora.

It was great. You should go there. I will write about the wonderfulness of Silver City and Sandy's fine B&B, The Inn on Broadway, where you should go stay, in a subsequent blog. I'll just say that after the various events there, we drove back to Tucson--no radio again--and began our many hours of trying to fly home. Crawled into our bed at 2:30 a.m.

Up early the next morning to speed to UIC and try to fit my soul back into the English professor envelope.

When I pray, I usually just say: "Thank you."

See you out there on the road, amigos.
Ever Yrs., L

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