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Dust Storms, Murder, a Flood and a Celebrity - Four Days in Tucson

     Never been impressed with celebrities. What they do – yes. But as to meeting one in person… Well, I’m just not the type of person who runs down to the convention center because President Bush is in town. Or Hilary, either.

     So what’s this I’m going around telling everyone I shook hands with Andy Rooney at the columnists’ conference last month?

     It’s the whole Tucson experience – that’s what it is.  I’ve been there three or four times, but somehow this time was different. From the dust storm that obliterated my view on Highway 10 as I drove toward Tucson, to the discovery that I’d lost my kokopelli pin on the way home, the whole trip was a fantastic disaster.

     Fantastic, because from the moment I left home with my traveling companion – and sharer of costs (that’s always nice, isn’t it?) - the trip was great in the true sense of the word. Which is? Let me look… “Big, large.” Yes, it was big. Twelve hours on the road big. Four days in a beautiful resort big.  “Important, remarkable.” Sure was. I learned a lot of important stuff about the column writing business - and I heard the most remarkable voices at the karaoke fest Saturday evening. “First-rate, excellent.” Yep! The resort’s outside thermostat got stuck at a hundred degrees, but the rooms were cool and well-appointed, the meeting rooms were spacious and the meals were good enough to eat.

     Except for the flood and two murders and a dust storm and a lost kokopelli pin, the trip to Tucson was fantastic. The flood occurred the first morning, sometime between when my roommate showered and when I got up an hour later. Water slopped across the large square tiles, from the bathtub to that other piece of bathroom furniture, but with some skillful maneuvering, I was able to sit down without getting either foot wet.

     The murders – now that’s a different story. The poor fellow was lying on his back, feet straight up in the air – all four of them – when I stepped into the bathroom, early the first morning. The body blended quite well with the tile, both being a rich cinnamon brown, and was a bit smaller than the tile, so I hardly noticed it until after I’d brushed my teeth.

     The mortician, I understand, was vacationing in Santa Fe, so I undertook to do the undertaking myself and flushed the body down the toilet. Very gently, of course.

     On the way to dinner, my roommate confided that she’d discovered a – surprise! – small brown corpse in the bathroom earlier that day. For a moment we thought we’d seen the same dead body.  Further discussion revealed that hers was thoroughly crushed, whereas mine was flushed - not crushed.  

     Obviously there was a serial murderer running around our suite, but since he seemed inclined to go for the smaller species, we entertained no fears of becoming the next victims and strolled over to hear Andy Rooney speak.

     As recipient of the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed on him by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Andy gave a nice long acceptance speech and ever since I got home from Tucson, I’ve been running up to people I don’t even know and telling them, “I shook Andy Rooney’s hand!”  

     And I did. Shake his hand. But why I’m so impressed with myself for doing this, I can’t figure out. I’ve never been one to run down to the convention center because President Bush…

     Uh-oh. I’m back where I started. Well, one more thing about that trip to Tucson – it was a round trip.

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