Sunday, January 26, 2003

January 24, 2003
Kathy and I took off for Tucson last night. Hit all the worst traffic going through Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler. Took an hour on the 101. Bumper to bumper, stop and go all the way. Makes me glad I don’t have to wade in there daily. Got to Tucson at around eight, debated which Mexican food icon to hit first. Finally decided on El Charro in the barrio. Great old place. It’s in an ancient rock house (1920s). The walls are covered with Aztec-Mexican calendar art. Very lively and loud. Had a margarita, no salt-on the rocks, and the barbacoa (Mexican goat meat from the head). Kathy had the topopo salad (unique to Tucson, it’s a teepee of guacamole, carrot sticks, cucumbers and chicken salad, ($29 pus $7 cash tip). Got the hotel at around nine and checked in.

I gave a talk at 10:30 this morning (Friday) on writing fiction and non-fiction. I told them the Cliff Notes version of my journey and how I came to own a large chunk of True West magazine. Then we talked about their problems, what they wanted to achieve. One woman is writing historical-fiction and wanted to know how to get around the plot point of having a cave-in in the Copper Queen Mine (a real mine in Bisbee) and then the character visits Tombstone in time for Morgan Earp’s murder. Well, right off the bat she is locked in to the date of 1882 and yet was concerned that the horizontal mineshaft that existed at that time wouldn’t have produced a cave-in (historically). The class, which was full of seasoned writers, tossed out solutions and ideas. “Change the name of the mine.” And “Change the name of the town.” And “Who says a horizontal shaft wouldn’t have a cave-in?” It was fun. They were a good bunch.

Had lunch in the Seville Room with 350 other writers and wanna-be writers. Boxed lunches. Heard an author, Stephen Mertz talk about multi-genre writing. He had lots of good, solid info: “Show, don’t tell. Don’t write, ‘She was clumsy,’ when you can show her falling into tables and off curbs.” And, “In Mystery you can’t have a coincidence in the solution. Don’t do it.” Unfortunately, Stephen used the word “ir-regardless” not once, but twice. So there went his credibility. Ha. Imagine. A cartoonist castigating a writer for using a word that isn’t really a word.

In the afternoon Kathy and I swam laps in the hotel pool and listened to writer gossip at the surrounding deck chairs: “Most people don’t know the Japanese had their own A-bomb program (WW II). I pitched it as a high-tech piece, but they don’t care. Now if it was the Germans...”

For dinner, Kathy and I tried to beat the crowds to Mi Nidito down on Fourth Avenue. Got there at 5:30 but there was already a one hour wait. Got two Coronas and sat in the cramped waiting room and bonded with the other waitees. One couple was from Seattle and had heard about the food. Another couple was from Michigan, many locals. I had the Presidential Platter—there are photos of Bill Clinton everywhere (I’ll tell that story tomorrow). The chile relleno was the best I’ve ever had. Period. ($22 plus $5 tip cash). Unfortunately, when we finally got seated and the waitress took our drink order, I said, “Here, I’ll speed it up” and gave her my order. She gave me a funny look and left. Kathy said, “I don’t think that she took that the way you meant it.” When the food came I said, “Did you think I was commanding you to ‘speed it up’?” And she kind of shrugged like, “Well, duh, yeh.” And of course, all my backpedaling just made it worse. What she heard was, “Here’s my order, now SPEED IT UP!” We did get the food pretty fast.

“Silence may be as variously shaded as speech.”
—Edith Wharton

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