A Conversation with Bill Whaley

Bill Whaley’s book Gringo Lessons explains how he came here after dropping out of college and becoming a ski bum in 1966. Although the book is relatively short, it is about his “ridiculously long existential journey in search of freedom and cultural adventure.“ Bill describes the ups and downs of being an owner of movie theaters, radio stations, bars, and other enterprises all while dealing with turbulent relationships, customers, and the occasional Hollywood star.

 “This wonderful autobiography is as honest as the day is long, no holds barred, no punches pulled. It’s beautifully written, highly entertaining, truly wild and wonderful even as it also may make you cringe on every other page. This pilgrim’s progress is definitely not a stroll through a summer meadow. Whaley might have done better not to have gone AWOL from the National Guard, but to have punched his ticket to Vietnam instead.” — John Nichols

Often disciplined for tirades against the Vietnam War with KP (washing dishes) while in the National Guard, Whaley shares a lot in common with Jeff Englehardt, one of the hosts of Monotone Mondays on KNCE, who barely avoided court marshal for blogging about the Iraq War while deployed there. Bill’s book is full of close scrapes with disaster and should be enjoyed by anyone living in Taos. The parallels between back then and now are pretty uncanny, really.

Bill says of Taos in his book, “I kept coming back and I don’t know why.”  Some of us are glad — as I like to say, “Bill’s wisdom is always appreciated.”

We interviewed him on Monotone Monday on May 4th for some insight into the old days, opening a business, potholes, and town politics. We also discuss issues like the farmers market, airport, and the Ski Valley. Check out the interview below:

Bill is a professor at UNM’s bachelor and graduate program and publishes the infamous blog about Taos called Taos Friction. You can pick up the book at The Brodsky Bookshop, Blumenshein Museum, Hacienda de Martinez, or Collected Works (Santa Fe).

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