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  • Author hopes trip helps save Amazon

    The river, that is; his book on Jim Morrison is already sold via Internet retailer
  • Medford real estate broker Gerry Kirstein has three passions — storytelling, preservation of the Amazon rain forest and the late rock musician Jim Morrison.
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  • Medford real estate broker Gerry Kirstein has three passions — storytelling, preservation of the Amazon rain forest and the late rock musician Jim Morrison.
    Somehow, Kirstein managed to weave all three together in a 2012 book about Morrison called "Some Are Born to Endless Night." And now, he's trying to raise money online to fund a trip to photograph and write about a dam being planned on the Xingu River in the Brazilian jungle.
    His book, subtitled "Jim Morrison, Visions of Apocalypse and Transcendence," sells on Amazon as a paperback and an e-book. Its first half portrays the dark visions of the lead singer of The Doors — and the wild, LSD-fueled times of the late 1960s.
    The second half of the book is autobiographical, documenting Kirstein's earlier expeditions to the Amazon, his 285-mile float trip on the Xingu in 2008, his love for the indigenous Kayapo tribes and his opposition to the Belo Monte Dam, which would be the third-largest hydroelectric dam in the world.
    The project, Kirstein says, would result in increased methane from ranching, which has more of a climate impact than carbon dioxide.
    The expedition will cost $8,000. He is trying to get about half of it through an online fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/9fybro.
    "My 30-day journey to chronicle events leading to a huge environmental disaster in Brazil will begin at the end of July," Kirstein says in his fundraiser page. "My intent is to reveal this area to the world in story and images that will show the world just how environmentally dangerous this kind of development is ... the Kayapo Indians and the world are the losers. This is the subject of my expedition ... The dam will create a 110-square-mile lake that will drown the jungle."
    An avid fisherman, Kirstein plans to sell angling stories to sports magazines.
    Kirstein's book title came from a Morrison song, "End of the Night," which touched on the singer's frequent dark themes of apocalypse, death and madness.
    Kirstein was a literature student at University of California in Berkeley when he encountered Morrison and The Doors playing at the Fillmore in San Francisco during the Summer of Love, 1967.
    "I was so blown away, to another dimension," he says.
    The 60s, he adds, "were like a parallel world to this one. The fear of being drafted and going to war in Vietnam was everywhere. Young guys would get drunk and take acid (to go in for the draft physical) and flail about on the floor. It was part of a decline and fall of American society, Morrison believed, that began with the assassination of JFK."
    Kirstein details how he fled the country, both because of the general craziness of the times and the draft, worked as a waiter and bartender in Europe and South America, learning French, German and Portuguese, eventually gravitating toward a sense of belonging in Brazil.
    Contemplating his first solo expedition on the Xingu, Kirstein wrote in his book, "The earthly risk was that I was placing myself directly into a possible death-defying situation, increased by the extreme remoteness.
    "If I were to find myself on the banks of the river in the next few days, it might finally hit me what I was hiding from or did not want to pay attention to or what I was doing in this extremely isolated and potentially dangerous wilderness alone with an uncertain outcome and what might be, in the end, a gut-wrenching futility. I could be bitten by a Bushmaster snake. I could end up without a boat, lost somewhere on a minor tributary, with no food or fishing lines and hooks, burned to agony by the sun, half devoured by mosquitoes and out of my mind with delirium or conscious enough to know I was going to die alone — all in an attempt to understand why I had been fascinated by the Xingu River for half a lifetime. ...
    "Unlike Morrison, I never wondered what death was going to be like. It didn't interest me. If death was to come for me, it would come when the time was right. I wanted to live my life to the fullest. Death in the Vietnam War was more of an abstraction, even though with my friends dying, it was very real."
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
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