California Dreamin'


All the leaves are brown...well, not yet.  But the sky is gray.

I'm leaving in an hour for California. This starts my third straight week of being on the road. I've been in DC locked in meeting rooms, in Arkansas having strange experiences, in El Paso rceiving a literary legacy award and hanging with my homies.  On to Claremont, and from there to Pasco, WA.  Dad is getting tired and charred.  I hesitate to say all this roadwork is anything but AWESOME, since people who want to be well-known get mad if I do.  If we do.  You know, even Bon Jovi is a cowboy, on a steel horse he rides.

After that, I'll be in AZ and MI and CA again and VT  I don't know where I'll be. We keep the calendar on the website.

Like many Mexican-Americans (American-Mexicans?) I come from a long line of diabetics. Blindness, disability, death have been present in my elders from the sugar.  I watched Tia Flaca take a shot every day.  Even my brothers wrestle with it, I think.  Me, too! So it's hard and sometimes really hard to manage the blood on these jaunts.  It's hard to keep the food sane--that's why I pack low-sugar protein bars in case I can't eat the repasts offered me.  F'r example--I was recently served a lovely lasagna with noodles and white cream sauce and buttered bread.  Um, wow.  And, no.  But thank you, and I love you.  But I can't starch up like that.

You go!  Go go!  I need to remember that trip exhaustion and gig exhaustion (you have to fire up to incandescent levels if you want to carry an auditorium full of 750 or 1200 people...even if you want to elevate a classroom full of 15), and it's easy to confuse that burn-out with having exercised or actually gone out running or biking or hiking.  You're just freakin' tired.  And your feet hurt.  So you don't move. and the hotel has a.c. so being the ice man, I set it to freezing.  And watch cable or try to sleep.

It's like The Amazing Race: Urrea Edition. Unbelievable fun, unbelievably difficult sometimes.  But here's a wonderful thing my writing students don't know: out there, on the road, our job is to go meet new friends and receive bottomless cups of steaming pure love.  It's overwhelming.  Sometimes, I think I get tired at the end of a 6,000 mile day from the astonishing joy and affection that hits me.  I can't explain this enough, can't put it in perspective.  I am not worthy, and don't always know how to accept it.  One thing that wears me out is what I call Teresita Mind.  I have blogged about it before.  But if I don't have my Deflector Shields up, my heart breaks about every ten minutes.  I spend my life falling in love.  I fall in love with the old man struggling through the airport, I fall in love with the waitress, I fall in love with the shy student, I fall in love with towns, trees, stores, states, women, men, dogs, clouds, everything.  And I feel like I'm going to pop.

I might just need a Byetta shot, but I don't think so.

In Arkansas, I saw my old pals Spitzer and Robin.  They have a cool house near Lake Conway.  Right on a canal that leads into the lake, where Spitzer spends his time in battle with garfish and giant catfish.  He drove me around and took me to see his fishmonger, a locally famous dude who recently got out of the Big House for bad behavior.  His store smelled riotously of fish guts.  He was bantering with a beautiful woman with one lazy eye that looked over my head.  He said he was going to chop her into bait.  "I can take it," she said.  "Women are tougher than men.  Women bear children."  They jumped in his truck and took off, perhaps to go fishing.

Now, that night, Robin and Sptzr had me over to their house.  We reached in the fish tank and petted his two big pet garfish.  We ate delicious diabetic-friendly food.  Yum.  Sptzr, in honor of Arkansas, broke out a bottle of corn liquor.  I had to taste it--if you haven't likkered up lately, it's stout. Well, let's just say some boys gathered at the house drank a few and got the idea that it'd be fun to make a Lake Conway cocktail.  They called it "The Nipple-Bomb."  In it, cream, milk, corn liquor, tabasco sauce...and live minnows.  They drank it, too.  Poor minnows.

You don't see happy crappy like that in Naperville, Illinois!

Ah, how can I confess that I want to stay home?  But I do.  I want to stay home.  I'm gone so much sometimes I feel like I'm missing our life.  My 11 year old is older every time I get back.  But I am putting together everybody's future, or trying to.  And being a Kerouac Club member.  And falling in love...but moatly with my own family and home.  And you.  I will see little blue birdies and hearts and stars when we meet...out there...back of beyond.  I'll be watching for you.  Bring some sugar-free chocolate. 

Get ready for the Queen of America: one month till she arrives.


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Book club members have been some of my most enthusiastic and careful readers. I’m thrilled to share my work with you, answer your questions and tell you some of the stories behind the stories. This is our spot, just for us. Here, we can chat:  If I’m nearby, I’ll come and visit your club. Otherwise, we can Skype, talk over the phone or email. Sometimes, I’ll send surprises or hold contests.

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