PLAYBOY does El Paso
Luis Alberto Urrea's article about El Paso is in the November issue of Playboy and it’s now on the newsstands. From what we hear, the issue is destined to be one of Playboy's most read issues because Marge Simpson is the cover girl. It's good PR for El Paso. Nationally, El Paso is usually dissed by the media. People wonder why we live here. How come Cinco Puntos is here? In the 1970s when Lee and I first moved from Albuquerque south in search of a job, we asked friends where we should live, El Paso or Las Cruces. “Oh,” they said, wrinkling up their noses like they caught the whiff of something spoiled, “Las Cruces. You don’t want to live in El Paso.” (Why that is / is a whole other subject.) Anyway, Luis’ piece will help people begin to think differently about El Paso. And people (yeah, yeah, 90% are men) do READ Playboy. There are things to do, places to go, people to see. Yes, Juárez is a few minutes away across the river, its suffering remains in our thoughts and prayers, we worry about friends and families, the narco-wars in the recesses of our dreams, but here in El Paso is great music, a vibrant intellectual and cultural life. It's the paradox that Luis was commissioned to write about.
Luis stayed with Lee and me during his visit. I drove him around some during the day, historian David Romo did the same and daughter Susie Byrd took him out for some nite-time excursions around downtown and the Central Side (as opposed to the East Side and the West Side and the North East--El Paso enjoys its multiplicities). I wrote two blognotes here and here about his visit.
Odd thing is that the piece has created a little political controversy in the parochial parts of the El Paso psyche. The reason: Susie is District 2 Representative on the City Council, and her good friend County Commissioner Veronica Escobar made a cameo appearance in the article because she joined Susie on a night-time excursion. Of course they had fun. Susie and Vero, both known for their progressive straightforward politics, are fun to be around. They joke and riff and laugh loudly and they dance. Their faces light up with happiness. Luis fit right in. No wonder, like the rest of us, he loves the fronterizo sounds of the band Radio La Chusma. He gave La Chusma big kudos in his piece. Indeed, he gave kudos to the vibrant rasquache energy of El Paso. In a letter to me he said the Playboy editors wanted him to make the piece meaner, they wanted him to put some diss into his language. But no, he wanted his writing to churn up some love for El Paso. [He was disappointed when the editors chopped his paean to Papa Burgers on Piedras Street.] So he was dumbfounded when a few of the city’s radiomouths started squabbling and bloviating and throwing mud at him and Susie and even Vero. Luckily for me I escaped the onslaught, probably because I’m only a poet and publisher, two occupations that are considered inconsequential among the blabbering class.
Oh, well. Playboy is making some El Paso bucks. I went to the Westside Barnes & Noble and bought three copies for our archives. The clerk told me he was selling them like hot cakes.