Willie is freshly back from the wilds of northern India and the forested mountains of Nepal. He went with his stepson, Jason, and Isabel’s son, Nico. I wanted to ask him some questions about the trip for the blog; otherwise it would just be more of the same banter about how very grumpy Isabel is, and no one wants to read that! I do have one little Isabel update, though. If you are in Berkeley, near the UC campus, this Thursday, April 12, come see her read at the Morrison Library from 6 to 7 pm. Click here for more information and directions.
And, here is the transcript of my interview with Willie. I love him!
Q. Why did you go on this trip?
A. I wanted to take a photo of a tiger and maybe a leopard. I actually have a photo of a leopard that I took in Zimbabwe years ago but Isabel won’t let me put it on my website because I took it in William Holden’s zoo and photoshopping the background would be cheating. She’s rigid about that kind of thing…The only other leopard I ever saw was at night in Africa and the picture is so blurry that it would be embarrassing to show it.
Q. Did you experience any moments of “enlightenment”?
A. Interesting question. Until you asked, I hadn’t thought much about it. A lot of internal things happened to me on this trip. It was rough! I learned that I am finished with that rigorous kind of travel. I will stop looking for excitement in external things and turn inward. I have been headed that way anyway in the last few years, ever since I started writing. Maybe this trip was not about the tiger at all. Isabel says that I needed to prove that I was physically capable of withstanding the rigors of the trip, but that is HER moment of enlightenment more than mine.
Q. What was your favorite part of the trip?
A. The people. Nico, Jason and I have always been good friends, but we bonded even more on the trip. Brian Weirum, the tour director, is a committed advocate for saving the tiger, and he and the rest of the group were charming and very sharp, a delight to be with.
Q. Did you get what you wanted?
A. I got 20 blurred photos of a tiger’s eye because my lens was too big. (Isabel calls it my phallic complex lens.) My mistake. Everybody warned me that I shouldn’t take the stupid lens because it needs a tripod and how are you going to use a tripod on an elephant! But I got other things, like a few insights about myself, and I wrote 35 pages of my new novel.
Q. Did riding on the elephants cause chafing?
A. No, just a lot of bumping. We spent hours on the elephants. I thought my brain was getting loose.
Q. Do you have a spirit animal? If so, what is it?
A. Yes, I think so. My spirit animal is the stallion. The stallion is strong, independent, enduring and very loyal to those he is connected to.
Q. How many tigers would you say you saw?
A. There were plenty of tigers and, fortunately, Nico, Jason and Brian got good shots and they shared them with me.
Q. Were they burning brightly?
A. Not really. One tiger I saw had just eaten a cow and was sleeping. He looked as mellow as Olivia.
Q. Do you have a bucket list?
A. I don’t have what is commonly known as a bucket list. I’ve always been a wanderer and have gone most places I wanted to go. I will have to see if taking a peek inside myself reveals a bucket of something.
Q. What other trips/ animals/adventures are you dreaming of?
A. No more. That’s it for me, other than doing some things with Isabel that we have been talking about, and traveling to areas of the U.S. where there are Spanish-speaking audiences so I can talk about my books in English and Spanish. I am a shameless self-promoter.
Q. Who’s your favorite hero? Or literary icon, maybe. I don’t know…What I mean is, who is your Idol? Real or imagined.
A. My favorite hero in literature has always been The Dragon Slayer in The Faerie Queene by Edmond Spencer. I’m also hooked on the great wandering storytellers of the past like Chaucer, and my father, who I followed around as a young boy on his journey of storytelling around the Southwest. I have to add that Isabel is my literary mentor or she will kill me.
Q. Does Isabel like tigers too? Or is this just your thing??
A. She is only interested in animals she can pet or eat. I love their beauty and their strength but I am not so sure you can put me in the camp of being a tiger lover.