Sunday, September 16, 2018

An interview with explorer Ponce de Léon

I have with me today famed 16th Century explorer and conquistador Ponce de Léon. Ponce, I understand you are dead.

PDL: Technically, yes. But then, in some ways, a rock is alive. So it's semantics. Oh, by the way, it's Juan. Ponce de Léon is my last name. 

GW: Whoa. All these years I've thought Ponce was your first name.

PDL: What kind of parent would name their child "Ponce"? Imagine the bullying. 

GW: You're right. You might as well go to school with a plume in your helmet.

PDL: Well, I did do that, actually.


PDL: Only once. Turns out we don't celebrate Halloween in Spain. I was misinformed. It was a painful lesson. 

GW: I'll bet. school I was taught that you came to the Americas looking for a fountain of youth. Now historians say that was all a myth.

PDL: Understandable. It's true that I was losing my hair, and I had remarked to a friend that I wish there were such a fountain. But that's the extent of it, until I left on an expedition. Then my friend spread the fountain story. He was joking, but you know how things take on a life of their own.

GW: You did discover Florida.

PDL: "Discover" in quotes. I was the first European to find it, yes, but of course it was already busting with native residents whose ancestors had discovered it thousands of years earlier. But yeah, I am known in history as the Florida guy. 

GW: So you were never obsessed with finding a way to live forever?

PDL: I died a good 80 years before Shakespeare was in his prime. Yet here you are interviewing me. I'd say that is as close to living forever as anyone can possibly hope for. 

GW: Without the fountain aspect, you're just another dude with a boat.

PDL: True. I guess I should thank my friend for that. 

GW: Tough question. You enslaved a lot of people in your quest for gold, didn't you?

PDL: Enslaved is a strong word. I encouraged a lot of people to dig for gold, build houses and plant crops for no pay and to opt out of being killed. 

GW: What does God say about your behavior? You've met him, right?

PDL: Everybody wants to know about God. God is...he's not so much a guy as a warm, cinnamony cloud. He forgives me. He knows I was a product of my time. As penance, though, I have to clean out the rain gutters for a few millennia.

GW: Wait, there are rain gutters in Heaven?

PDL: No.

GW: Ah. 

PDL: In Purgatory. Again, it's a grey area. Purgatory is not what they say it is in books, it's more of a really quiet, boring mansion. It has rain gutters. 

GW: So after a few millennia...

PDL: Then I get to move up, enjoy music again, see family.

GW: Where did all the gold end up?

PDL: The king commissioned some really nice bowls. Some chalices. I mean REALLY nice. You should go see them in Spain. 

GW: When you look back on it all, your 47 years above ground, what would you say was most important? What did you learn?

PDL: Well, don't attack the natives of Florida, for one thing. Boy, they are quick with some poison arrows! But as far as the big picture, get out. Explore. Learn. Fail big. Know that you're just one arrow in the Big Quiver.

GW: That's deep.

PDL: I've had time to ponder. You cannot imagine how many rain gutters this place has.