Free Association

I have been kicking a few unrelated (?) things around, having plenty of material but not feeling, with our tough environmental conditions (no water, heat, impending possible rain making it an uncomfortable mix of steamy and dusty) much like writing a long essay. I was rambling freely through these things to L. and suddenly thought: I’ll just post this, the stroll through. So:

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:

They both looked different back in the late Sixties. I will find a pic of Tim, who had long hair and a beard, but here is Jimmy Page with the great Yardbirds in ’68, on French TV:

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.”

Water– nada…

7 thoughts on “Free Association”

  1. 1979 was a good year to be young and in Boston — Mission of Burma, the Lyres, the Real Kids, Willie Alexander, Bo Diddley and the Clash at Harvard Square, green-haired Oedipus broadcasting the new groove weekly from WTBS. Funny just how much positive energy, joy even, was hidden in the trappings of nihilism….

  2. You too Richard?

    Readers, allow me to introduce Richard Anderson, who edits the best fly fishing mag in the US, California Fly Fisher. Seems like a lot of my readers passed through the Boston music scene…

    And for newer readers: Bo Diddley ended up in the Los Lunas NM sheriff's department, not far from here. ("Bo Didddley's a gunslinger!") He bought them two cruisers, and lived for a time in a trailer house, where he used to jam with Ted Bakewell, nephew of my old Jesuit explorer friend Anderson Bakewell. Ted, like me a fellow of the Explorers Club, is back in his native St. Louis. He is also former housemate of Jimmy Page– "everybody knows everybody."

  3. Yes, Steve, me too. And thank you for the good words. Without that Do-It-Yourself ethos that launched a million bands, there likely would not have been a Cal Fly Fisher. Those late night hours at the Rat in Kenmore Square, and at the Mab and other dives and clubs in the Bay Area, paid off in a way that still surprises me, and deeply gratifies.

  4. "Clapton's London Bests"- photos of his guns that I've seen generally feature single triggers and have primarily been over/unders.

    Don't miss Page's album with Allison Krause "Raising Sand" from a few years back.

  5. Good to have you back among the living, Mike!

    I suspect Clapton has and has had a LOT of guns (and rods– he blurbed Geirach once).

    I saw several in an auction catalog, all SxS's with bulino "picture" scenes; two, a pair, were H & H– I'll look and see if I can find more. Not to my austere taste but still first rate.

    Page or Robert Plante? I have been meaning to get one.

    Best to Miss A, too– tell her we continue to delight in our mutual MD, Jen, even if we are falling apart!

  6. There IS, though, a terrific Page/Plant composition on that album, called "The Letter"…

    Anybody seen this guitar documentary called "It Could Get Loud"? Page is amazing in it, with footage of him wandering around Headley Grange with a mandolin in a sort of tailored Prince Albert frock and also hilariously playing air guitar to "Rumble." At one point he demos "Ramble On" to Jack White and the Edge, and they both look like they're utterly stunned to be where they are…


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