Archive for the ‘Dan Koeppel’ Category

To See Every Bird On Earth

April 7, 2009



While looking up information on the Banana book, I discovered that the author Dan Koeppel also wrote a book about his dad, a hardcore “Big Lister” birder who wanted  to see every bird on earth.  At the time this book was published, Richard Koeppel has seen 7,000 birds.  Dan Koeppel wrote this book to try and find out why his dad was so obsessed with birds.  There isn’t really answer, he just was.  Richard Koeppel gave up his dreams of becoming an ornithologist and became a physician to please his parents.  He got married, had kids, bought a house and tried to live a ‘normal’ life, but he could never stopped birding.  Birding came before his wife, his children, his career, and his health.  This book was an interesting look into the more serious side of bird watching.  I did not know there were such specific birding rules that one must follow.  I didn’t even know there were such hardcore birders out there.

My goal is not see to every bird on earth.  But in the past few weeks during my walks around the Shore Road promenade I’ve seen:

Yesterday I was walking down Fort Hamilton Parkway.  Right at the intersection of Fort Hamilton, 7th Ave and 78th Street I heard really loud unfamiliar squawking/chattering noise.  I looked up and saw a pair of monk parakeets sitting on some wires on the top of a telephone poll.  In that in the late 1960’s, a bunch of monk parakeets where shipped to New York from Argentina and escaped from their crates at JFK Airport.  The parakeets quickly adapted to city life.  There are now established colonies of monk parakeets at Brooklyn College in Flatbush, in Green-Wood Cemetery, and in parts of Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Coney Island, and now apparently in Bay Ridge.

Somehow, magically, I have not been sick all winter.  But today I succumbed to a lousy cold/sore throat/body achy bug.  It is finally my turn to use my sick days.  This morning while browsing my blogs I found a recipe on the Smitten Kitchen for 44-clove garlic soup. What better time to eat something with 44 cloves of garlic in it then when you’re home sick alone on a cold rainy day?  So I trudged through the driving rain to the grocery store for lots of garlic and some cream.  Let me tell you, it was worth it.  This soup is out of this world.  Hopefully all that garlic is driving out my cold.  I probably should take another sick day tomorrow just to make sure.

Everyday Curiosities

March 1, 2009

After finishing the monstrous Savage Detectives, I went to back to my favorite types of books – books on random things in nature.  First I read Banana: The Fate Of The Fruit That Changed The World by Dan Koepple. Americans eat more bananas than any other fruit, including those that can be grown domestically, such as apples.  We have the banana companies – Dole and Chiquita, and their exploitative neocolonialist business practices to thank for turning this tropical fruit into a cheap, readily available commodity food for American consumption.  But we are able to enjoy bananas at a terrible price, and now the banana that we currently eat, plus plantain varieties that are a staple food crop for people in East Africa, are sort of going extinct. 

Then I read The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures On The Edge Of A City by Robert Sullivan.  Sullivan’s other books are about a cross country road trip, a whale hunt, and one about rats in New York City.  I read the rat book last summer and fell completely head over heels for Sullivan’s writing.  His doesn’t write with an agenda, he writes what he observes, he writes about natural history, about neighborhoods, about local history and local people.  In Rats, Sullivan spends a few nights in a alley in lower Manhattan observing rats, talking with local homeless people who hang out there, people who work in the restaurants who dump their trash there, local residents, city rat trappers and exterminators.  He digs into the seedy history of the alley and the seedy history of lower Manhattan.  And that’s the book.  

When I was a kid my mom would drive me and my siblings to visit my great grandmother who was in a nursing home in central New Jersey every weekend.  Driving through the meadowlands was my favorite part of the trip, it is a very surreal place.  If I were to write a book I would write something like the The Meadowlands.  A book about a seemingly unimportant place, its people, its history, its ecology and its role in society.  And through a combination of these things this unimportant place, in this case a 30 square mile trash filled polluted swamp, becomes something special. Sullivan canoes through the marshes and swamps, catches mosquitoes with government entomologists, tours active dumps with jaded dump owners, digs for ruins of New York’s old Penn Station, and chats with police officers, librarians, truckers, and eclectic local residents.  

Sullivan’s has a blog called The Thoreau You Didn’t Know, which is named after his next book due out at the end of March.  Sullivan is often likened to an urban Thoreau in reviews of his books, someone who finds beauty and wisdom in places you would otherwise think were ugly and a waste of space.  This is why I love these kinds of books because they change the way I think.  After reading Koepple’s banana book I will never look at bananas the same way.  As cheesy as it sounds, these books make my life more interesting.  They really give me a new-found appreciation for my surroundings and more people should read them.  Or at least check out The Meadowlands Blog which is updated by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.  It is sort of my dream job to work there, but that’s a whole other blog post.