Tim Gallagher's books have all been interesting, but I have thought even in its first stages; no, since reading his first slightly shaky email from Mexico when he had emerged from the Sierra in a last nightmarish drive at 5 miles per hour past buildings that had been set afire since he had last passed them-- that Imperial Dreams may be his best. It is certainly his most thrilling: his account of trying to find a remnant of the biggest and most spectacular woodpecker that ever lived in a beautiful but damaged land now controlled by narcotraficantes.
From my "official" review, not yet out: "Imperial Dreams is a natural history of the world’s most spectacular woodpecker and a mystery: a forensic inquiry into what, despite the narrator’s hopes, looks like the death of a species. It starts as light-hearted adventure ... becomes a tragedy and a tale of terror. It may be Gallagher’s best book yet, one to excite adventure travelers who might never pick up a “bird book,” while telling an unforgettable tale of loss...
"The Imperial Woodpecker’s fate might seem even grimmer than the Ivory-bill’s; the researchers find evidence that loggers repeatedly encouraged shooting and poisoning the bird to ensure its demise. If true, it represents a case of successful, conscious biocide; worse, one done for imaginary reasons—the destruction of trees that were already infested with beetle grubs. "
Strong stuff, and all too relevant. But I also saw something funny. For various reasons, uber- guitarist Jimmy Page and his various bands have been crossing the screen lately, and I realized that Jim and Tim look like the old Spy Magazine "Separated at birth'" thing. Tim lives in upstate New York and grew up in southern Cal when there was still nature there, but like Page he was born in England. This is a very gringo face for someone who, with little Spanish, is walking around the Sierra Madre with a bird book, saying "Senor, have you seen this bird?" Tim, Jimmy:
Great? At one time they featured Jeff Beck, Page, and Clapton (some time will find photos of some of Clapton's London Bests).
Led Zeppelin were recently honored in Washington-- never thought I would see Page, Robert Plante, and John Paul Jones in tuxes, being praised by the president and serenaded by Heart... (Annie Davidson sent this one...)
I was conferring with my little sport- science lit and guns group-- five guys from 40- 70 who are variously, singly and multiply profs, biologists, bloggers, a novelist, a carpenter, a falconer, a former contributor to English Literary Renaissance, and a lawyer, stretched out over the nation from Marin County to Ithaca, about all these various important phenomena. A member who is several of the above, Carlos Martinez del Rio, reminded me of another band, more local in impact but as memorable in performance: Boston's Mission of Burma, who played the "Cellars by Starlight" (Jimmy Isaac's Phoenix column and collective term for the Boston area clubs) when I worked at Inn Square in the seventies, and in the eighties when he got his nose broken at a memorable concert. Gerry, this is what they sound like-- not Winterreise, though I like Fischer Diskau too.
Finally, Magdalenian Joel Becktell, last seen on the blog busting clays at Piet's last Thanksgiving, cellist and peer of Yo Yo Ma, doing just that, and then playing selections with his crossover classical group Revel-- including, of course, "Stairway to Heaven."