MM: Your book details a number of exciting and varied journeys. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned while traveling?
JW: I’ve learned we are all just people — once societal barriers are overlooked, we all just want to live our lives. The most contented people I encountered lived rather sparse, simple lives in remote Tibetan villages.
MM: How long have you been working on your book? When did you realize you needed to share your story with others?
JW: In many ways, I’ve been working on my book all my life, which is now approaching 80 years. I’m a strange duck who loves life and wants to make the very most of every minute of living. What a Trip! was written to explain who I am to my daughters and, in effect, to me. But when I finished — the writing part took 10 years — Steve Costa of Point Reyes Books really got me thinking about sharing my work and stories with others.
MM: Which experience would you choose to relive if possible?
JW: I’d return to the Tibet of 30 years ago in a heartbeat. It changed my life in that it calmed my ambitions and increased my contentment. I also could retrace my journey across America, which I traversed via buses, trains and hitchhiking in 1980–81. It would be fascinating to see how things have changed.
MM: What advice do you have for future life-embracers like yourself?
JW: As you age, stay in the game — don’t become a spectator to life. Travel in an adventuresome way, take public transportation whenever possible, work hard doing something that helps the community, exercise regularly and do your best to stay positive. Don’t let life tell you what to do; you tell life how you want to live. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you have to walk slow and hunched over — stand tall. And smile.
Local Page Turners
Tangled Vines by Frances Dinkelspiel (Berkeley), St. Martin’s Press, $26.99. Noted California historian Frances Dinkelspiel investigates the tangled history of California wine and uncovers the avaricious scheme behind the costliest destruction of wine in history. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera October 25, 4 p.m.
The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (Oakland), Hogarth, $25. From the Stalinist purges to contemporary Chechnya, Marra takes us on a captivating tour of Russian life, illustrating the dramatic changes over the last century. Here we see both the beauty of St. Petersburg and the darkness of Grozny, and we meet amazing characters like a Siberian beauty queen and a Russian soldier. Appearing at Kidney Foundation Luncheon in San Francisco October 24, 10 a.m.
Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson (San Francisco), Random House, $27. A programmer from Palo Alto, a father in post-Katrina Louisiana, a former Stasi agent in Berlin, defectors in Seoul — the characters in these six short stories each struggle with love, loss and the consequences of their past decisions. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera October 21, 7 p.m.
Devil’s Chessboard by David Talbot (San Francisco), Harper, $29.99. Allen Dulles may be remembered as the longest-serving head of the CIA, but the true story is far more mysterious: his connections to top financiers in Germany during World War II allowed Dulles to begin a shadow campaign in both Europe and America early in his career. Working from newly released U.S. government documents, personal correspondence with Dulles’ wife and interviews with his daughter, David Talbot exposes one of America’s greatest untold stories. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera November 10, 7 p.m.
The Only Woman in the Room by Rita Lakin (San Rafael), Applause Theatre & Cinema Book Publishers, $29.99. As a scriptwriter, Rita Lakin broke into the boys’ club that was Hollywood television in the early 1960s. Widowed and with three young children to support, Lakin began with a secretarial job at Universal Studios and with perseverance climbed the ladder to become executive producer and show-runner, meeting many fascinating Hollywood luminaries along the way. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera October 24, 1 p.m.