Adventures in Book Readings
When a travel book writer meets his latest fan
January 05, 2006
Brandon Wilson is the author of adventure travel books Yak Butter Blues and Dead Men Don't Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa. Both have done well, which have instigated a series of book signings far and near. And while Wilson may have faced alligators and dagger-wielding tribesmen in Africa, what he faces at some signings could be deemed a tad more perilous, as evidenced by a recent reading at Borders Books in Kahului.
The store was filled to capacity with an aggregation of shoppers just one weekend before Christmas. Possibly because of their holiday frenzy, the shoppers didn't notice the row of chairs and a table adorned with stacks of Wilson's books, as well as a wall map of Africa depicting his travels.
A few minutes after Wilson's scheduled reading, just three people occupied the seats in front of him. He smiled at the "intimate group" and proceeded.
He started his talk by citing the source of inspiration for his travels: Tarzan movies and National Geographic. Wilson said he and his wife were just sitting around the dinner table one night and decided to join an organized safari in Africa. They figured it would be safer to travel with experts.
"We were the old guys," said Wilson. "Some of these kids had never left home before."
And no one in their safari group had ever traveled across Africa, except for the one-eyed driver who would invariably veer into soft sand pists and get stuck every 15 minutes.
"Did you ever feel you're going to get lost?" asked the older gentleman in the front row.
"That was the least of my worries, at some points," said Wilson.
He continued to describe the 10,000-mile trip—a venture four times the length of the United States. After he and his wife separated from the hapless crew, they visited with French-speaking jungle inhabitants, went antelope hunting with Pygmies, rendezvoused with mountain gorillas, went whitewater rafting and climbed Kilimanjaro.
"You gotta be adventurous to do that!" said the front row man. "Weren't you afraid of getting kidnapped?"
Wilson explained that the people they met were so isolated, so cut off from the rest of the world that they were eager to talk to strangers as a source of information. He also said kids always asked for Bic pens since they couldn't attend school without one.
"Did you see a lot of crocodiles?" asked the man up front.
"Yes," said Wilson. He then proceeded to read an excerpt from Dead Men Don't Leave Tips, pointing to the map of Africa behind him and reading on about an adventure in Victoria Falls.
"How is the Zambizi River—is it cold or hot?" asked the man.
"Freezing," said Wilson. And he continued reading.
"You gotta be adventurous to do that," said the man again, interrupting. "My son's like that. He's been to Tibet and stuff. He used to be an Olympic swimmer, now he climbs mountains."
Wilson took the interruption as an opportunity to talk about his first book, Yak Butter Blues, in which he and his wife trekked across Tibet, from Lhasa to Kathmandu, Nepal.
"Your wife's gotta be as crazy as you!" said the front row man. "Did she get thrown out at the rapids?"
"We all did," said Wilson.
"What was your motivation to do this?"
"My passion to be able to travel, one step at a time," said Wilson. "Walking gets to be a meditation."
"Isn't there a civil war in Kathmandu?" the man asked. "My son got an award in San Francisco from the Dalai Lama."
Wilson smiled, eventually wrapped up his reading, and offered to sign a book for his new fan.
"I gotta read this," said the man. "It sounds interesting. I'm getting kinda bored and I'm gonna be here for two months!" MTW
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