March 14, 2009, Tucson Festival of Books, University of Arizona Campus.
I asked local Tucson, TV news anchor, Tom McNamara how he’d gotten so lucky as to draw the Urrea moderator gig – he admitted that he didn’t know but delighted in the job. Following a brief introduction, all he had do, was to sit back and laugh his ass off like the rest of the 300 guests who packed the UofA Gallagher Theater for the presentation. Midway through the Urrea performance, McNamara interrupted once to ask if Luis had ever considered doing “standup.” Yes, it was that funny!
Subsequent to the hour plus talk, Luis challenged the notorious, beloved Elmore Leonard to a signing duel. Their tents erected side by side. The sun broke free from the clouds and warmed the desert air. The tense horde assembled, formed two orderly lines and it commenced. Sign, smile, sign, chat, smile, sign, sign, sign, and sign here, “to Alicia.” It was exhausting yet exhilarating to watch the 84 year-old hang-in there with the younger Turk. Tucson showed its love and respect to both authors. After what seemed an eternity, tired and arm weary, this admittedly biased, but honest observer, declared the contest a draw.
The 3:10 tooted as it passed through Tucson and the nearby Devil’s Highway headed for Yuma -- without incident.
As night descended, Urrea was last seen his signing arm packed in ice, wagon loaded to proceed north. He’d heard that there was a New Mexico town that knew about the “Devil’s Highway’ and the “Daughter.” It too was probably loaded with books requiring an Urrea scribble and/or a Hummingbird doodle.
A whip cracked and I heard Luis shout, “Giddy-up!”
A woman sat up straight and alert next to the driver, shotgun across her lap. It looked like -- it was, yes, Cinderella.