Evanston Public Library: It says that you started ski places in 10 countries and 15 states, are you still actively involved in Enchanted Hills and skiing and all the things you were before your vision was restored?
Mike May: It’s not really to do with my vision. Sort of in the mid-90s my ski partner Ron and I kind of burned out on some of these things. It mostly had to do with typical politics and dynamics of non-profits and organizations, there are always a couple people that do all the work and a few people who complain, and then most people don’t do anything. So, we just burned out and said, “Well it’s time for somebody else to take on setting up ski programs and teaching guiding clinics.” And other people have. I still enjoy going to ski events and promoting blind skiing.
We were just in Aspen at a pro-ski event foundation fundraiser event with Olympians going back to the 60s and international pro-skiers, a lot of whom I’ve met before. And it was great to be back in that retired celebrity circuit.
You’ve inspired so many people through your story and all the things you’ve done. It’s hard to even list your accomplishments; I don’t know how one book could have done it. But, on the other side of that, who inspires you? Or who has inspired you in your life?
Oh, a lot of people. One of the guys mentioned in my book, Rob Reis, my high school buddy; we’re working on a new venture right now. And Rob really shares that spirit of, “There’s always a way;” which you really need to be involved in start-up ventures and a love for music and musical artists and so forth. So Rob is certainly on that list.
The older generation Warren Miller, who is the producer of many ski documentaries, is definitely a mentor. There’s another guy around his age, in his mid-eighties, named Ralph Emery, who is an orientation mobility instructor up in Washington State. And he was really an amazing friend and we traded cassette tapes about once a month over the years, so we each have the other person’s life documented for, I don’t know how many cassettes. Sometime I want to do a tape montage of, “The World According to Ralph.” Yeah, he lived in Japan, Australia, and Canada. And he’s done a lot of neat things and the way he expressed himself walking through the rice paddies and under a railroad bridge in Japan. I loved his stories and he was quite an inspiration.
Stevie Wonder is an inspiration for me. We spend a lot of time together, we are close friends and he’s just an amazing guy. He’s obviously achieved a lot in his realm and we enjoy each other’s inspiration.
Yeah, you two look like best friends in the photo I saw, how did you come about meeting him? Just reached out?
It was doing this start-up company with Rob in 1984 it was a turntable company. He said, “I want you to get in touch with people who really love records and who have a lot of money.” And that was Stevie and Gordon Getty. And it took me a couple years to get in touch with each one of them and when I did Stevie and I remained acquaintances over the years. Then a couple of things drew us closer together, namely technology and then our mothers both passed away around the same time and that was the sealing bond.
You mention Bryan Bashin in the book. Are you two still friends?
Oh yeah, he’s now executive director of the San Francisco group of the LightHouse for the blind and we’re still very close.
Has he gotten the surgery you have?
No. And he hasn’t talked about it in a long time. I think it’s not on his agenda.
It was very interested the dichotomy of your friendship. You were injured very young and adapted very quickly so you never missed it. It says in the book the one and only time you ever thought about sight was with the hypnotist to see if you could remember your visions from when you were a child. Then you didn’t really think about it again until the doctor proposed the stem cell surgery. As opposed to Brian who, as the story is told, gets Stevens-Johnson syndrome and as he progressively starts to lose his sight all he can focus on is losing it. He puts off learning braille or walking with a cane until he was 39. He just puts it off because all he can focus on is his vision, but when we get to the end of the book when you, who had never cared about sight, get this surgery and Brian, who cared deeply, was going to wait until science and medicine were more advanced and less risky. It’s very interesting to compare the two of you.
Yeah, you outlined it perfectly. It is interesting and I do hear from other people that have had operations that restored their vision or are losing their vision. They email me. I heard from a young gal just recently, everybody’s got a different way of looking at it, that’s for sure. It’s so individual.
Also at the end of the book it briefly touches on the skin spot you had to have removed. You stated to your wife that you would have done everything the same even if you would have gotten the cancer. How is your health today?
It’s the same. No reoccurrences of that basal cell carcinoma. Yeah, so I’m in good shape. Knock on wood. Things are going well. I’d say the most dramatic thing that has changed since then is that I’ve gotten divorced in the last year. So you read through Crashing Through and people get to know me and the kids and they’ll call up and, they’ve never even met them, but they’ll say, “How’s Wyndham? How’s Carson and how’s Jennifer?” And I say, well I’m not sure about Jennifer, but I can tell you about the boys.
So the follow-up question to that is: your vision is still tenuous right? It still could disappear at any moment with no warning correct?
It could. It could. Or there could be warning, not sure. I’ve had a few little downturns where the doctor will say, “Oh, ya know it’s getting a little bit thin or a little dry.” But nothing significant, it seems to be stable.
Would all of this still have been worth it if one day you wake up and it’s gone?
Sure, I think the longer I have the vision it would be harder to readjust completely. But when you think about it, it’s still been 12 years of having vision and 43 years of not. It’s going to take a while before that balance shifts.