Once on the water, we could see the rainforest pushing close to the river. The town of Coca, a depot on Ecuador’s Rio Napo, was already slipping away, disappearing behind a bend. It was early morning. There had been a week of heavy rain and trees had fallen into the river as the bank washed away. With the pressure of the current, branches emerged from the brown water and waved up and down, as if saying goodbye. Older branches, now blackened and leafless, broke the surface and then silently disappeared.

After an hour, we began to see wildlife: toucans and parrots, movements in the trees that suggested monkeys. On one log, I spotted four turtles sitting in a row, each with a butterfly on its head. (I took this as a sign, an offering; it turned out to be the standard post-card image from the Napo valley.) I had been on the lookout for caiman, fresh water alligators, which entertained our guides — sharp-nosed men who grew up along this river. The men were from one of the local tribes, most likely Huaorani, Kichwa, or Shuar. They wore t-shirts and baseball caps.
More… “In Search of Yasuní”

David Bartholomae is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where he held the Charles Crow Chair of Expository Writing. In 1982, he was a Fulbright Lecturer in American literature at the Universidad de Deusto in Bilbao, Spain. With his family, he returned to Deusto regularly as a Visiting Professor. He retired from teaching in Fall, 2018, and spends part of each year in the north of Spain. His current project is a collection of essays with the working title, Like What We Imagine Knowledge to Be.


In the last years of her life, Martha began to lose her feathers. Sol Stephan, General Manager of the Cincinnati Zoo, where Martha spent most of her years, began collecting the feathers in a cigar box without much idea of what he would do with them. Martha lived a sedentary life at the zoo. Her cage was 18 feet by 20 feet — she had never known what it was to fly free. When Martha’s last friend George (who was also named for a Washington) died in 1910, Martha became a celebrity. She watched the people passing by, alone in her enclosure, and they watched her. Martha ate her cooked liver and eggs, and her cracked corn, and sat. On the outside of her cage, Stephan placed a sign announcing Martha as the Last of the Passenger Pigeons. Visitors couldn’t believe that Martha really was the last. They would throw… More…


The average American is soft as a cashmere Snuggie™. He can’t even bag a Big Mac and fries without the assistance of a large identifying photograph and an easy-to-use numeric ordering system. When the stock market finally collapses, when Domino’s stops delivering and our global Snickers supply dwindles to the double digits, how many of us will able to fend for ourselves? It’s not as if potential food sources won’t be available. Deer are nearly as abundant as Big Macs now; squirrels are as common as chalupas; pigeons and coyotes are on the menu, too.

But how many of us — especially us city slickers who think roughing it means take-out instead of delivery — are confident in our ability to turn game into dinner? If we’re going to survive, we’re going to need meat. It takes a… More…

The day before the wild boar hunt, we’d eaten horsemeat, which was the traditional weekend lunch of chef Olivier de St. Martin’s childhood. Olivier had earlier taken me along to visit the village horse butcher, who complained that the younger generation of French didn’t eat so much horsemeat anymore. The butcher blamed it on inferior supermarket horsemeat, which he said came — like everything else — pre-packaged from America. “There’s also this idea that the horse is the friend of the man,” said the horse butcher, who also happened to be an old schoolfriend of Olivier’s.

That night, in Charleville-Mézières, near the Ardennes Forest, we drank champagne with Olivier’s uncle Jean, who proudly showed off a local hunting magazine which had published his snapshot of a huge, bloody, dead boar he’d recently killed. “That’s what you’ll be flushing out of the bushes tomorrow,” Olivier said to me with a laugh.