Anthropology

Traveling the Desert 

It seems some years ago, maybe decades even; I traveled a circuitous path. Down dusty desert roads in a jeep. Many of us hung on the back in excitement and fear. We drove down buttes then up foothills and got to see the magnificent Mojave Desert from many vantage points. One I remember rather vividly is once doing an archeological survey for a windfarm project up in the Techachapi’s. It took us hours of driving to finally get to the project location according to the map. Driving there was a tense yet enjoyable affair but it was the nights which roared. The wind started blowing at sunset and we gathered by a fire with warm beer and scary stories. Chili or a certain stew soon come out. The chili was world-class level since RWR entered his chili in many cookoffs. The stew was a contribution affair where each of us gave a can of something for the greater good.Stuff that went in included pork and beans, soup, cans of peaches, tomato sauce, peppers of some kind. What came out was a big pot of stuff that warmed the insides. We would then sit by the fire as it roared and twisted and wanted out from its captive state. One of our team, a certain person named Malutin was asked to bring more wood once and showed up with an entire tree trunk and mid part of the tree. This would have lasted us some days I think. We laughed though and started the log burning. And on it burned and the fire threw shadows and the wind howled and by late evening we had done our damage to the stew and the beer and we moved to our tents. But the wind was not done with us. It would roar the canyons and hills and we felt a tenuous hold that could slip away. By three days in or so, we had to leave so we all hiked down this hill as the truck and jeep hauled our stuff down. The road had become more dangerous and after loading the truck, we discovered the rear tire was flat. Robert also could not locate his tent until he saw it blowing down the hillside. Memorable quote was,

I think my tent is missing. I got up this morning and it was there.

Then a moment of silence…

We all saw this tent blowing down the hill and Robert explained rather plaintively,

That tent looks just like my tent. I believe, in fact, that is my tent.

We all watched it continue its tricky traverse laughing as Robert decided it was wortwhile trying to rescue it.

Then we hiked down that hillside or perhaps mountain as some were wont to call it.

It was the moments of life then which seemed rich and storied. Moments of time frozen as the archeology was done and fun was had. I started thinking of all the differences and things that have occurred. There were the usual things like time passing. There was the moments of marriage and divorce. There was life on the road after. Nothing added up to the traveling times in the desert

I could never find another thing which compares. I could move data centers and work on stubborn projects and try to project my good feelings that life was about to get better. But there was no real moment quite like that travel in the desert. Maybe it was the archeology or the beer or the facts of how we did it. And maybe everyone has a story about being on the road or doing a different thing that’s really there waiting to come out. I was told once each person goes through three complete career changes in their lives. Sitting here in Starbucks and remembering the moments, I could see it.

I could trace the steps I made once as I walked over dunes in the middle of some gunnery range on Edwards AFB. I could see my friend Dave’s complete astonishment at a field of wildflowers blooming and his “on the knees” taking photos and writing down Latin names. That was the desert too you see.

I know I shall never go backwards because we don’t. Like a sign says at work,

Don’t look backwards; that’s not the direction we are going.

But when you gaze at the years, you know that its a fabric and remembering those same times later fulfills the destiny of knowing where you’ve been and that it does affect where you are going.

So those desert travels and travails were full of potential lost and found. My daughter force asks what a thing was like and no matter how much I try to explain what RWR may have meant by a thing, she will never truly know. Because those desert walks were mine and she has to find her own path.

Thanksgiving 2016, Starbucks, a Room, a Story

Its come to me a few times that this blog is really about stories and considerations of things which have been news, views, or subterfuge in my life. After all, we only have a single point of reference we really know and that’s what we experience. We cannot put ourselves in another’s body and experience their stuff. That’s a good thing I think. For all the altruistic and worldly thoughts we have on this day, giving thoughts to dispersed family and friends, wandering in and out of reality in a room just big enough for a single person; I’ve realized. Realized that life for me is personal sized. There is enough room just for me in it. My friend Free now has a friend that shares the moments. There with him to take the thing he built and enjoy it. I have not built anything and I have nothing to share so this Thanksgiving is much the same as the ones since about 2011 after I returned from all those trips to Japan, Singapore, and India. A strange mix of holidays and less joy at them. Perhaps to enjoy these holidays in the fashion before where family gathered and enjoyed the food, you need to have that less than desired family. That extension which I have left behind. Now its Starbucks.

Starbucks in the morning on Google Wifi, on a iPad Pro 9.7 inch. Writing this blog post at this time, at this place. The classic coffee cake still is hot and the Latte steams still and the people are absorbed in phones and news and personal reflections. Starbucks has been and will be a place to escape to for me. A place to have people around but not engaged with them. Does that seem strange? I guess I need every so often to see people I don’t know and secretly watch them engaged in their phone and tablet behaviors without having some kind of interaction. Starbucks does that for me. I can leave my room in Newark California and engage yet not. That gets me to the succession of rooms I have been either happy or less than happy to live in.

At the current state, the living conditions are good. The house is clean and everything works. I’ve upgraded to a larger upstairs room that can hold more stuff. I got rid of the Japanese futon and got a Tuft and Needle bed which really suits me for sleeping now. I spend more time in that bed than sitting at the desk in the chair I put together. Prior to this room, I lived in a small room in the same house. That was also okay. It taught me a thing or two about what it takes to live and how I could live just about anywhere in the same space. A single person does not need boatloads of space to really live and even excel. There is a sublime difference between living and excelling. I’ve crossed that Rubicon. The Rubicon is a story for me. A story I’ll share about a time long ago. Maybe you stop reading now and decide I am an ambling blogger with no real purpose. That’s okay. You are still reading. So now the story.

Back in other days, I stumbled the deserts, the foothills, the buttes, the mountains of the southwest, west, northwest as an archeologist. Not an Indiana Jones archeologist searching vainly for the golden monkey head. A desert and arid ecosystems guy primarily interested in small team hunter-gatherer use of environments, how these groups traversed, used, and exploited through trade, social systems, group interaction, and tools. The archeological record as an instructor used to tell me is incomplete. One cannot excavate ideas but the material remains let scientists build hypotheses and then test them. If you perchance find a pacific seashell bead in the middle of a Mojave desert archeological site, question is how did it get there? But bigger questions too. What does it mean for group interaction, trade, technological reach? A little bead carrying so much story! We can build the back story though. So once as I ambled across the deserts, my friend and mentor RWR invited me to travel along to the annual Society of California Archeologists annual meetings. We drove and drank and ate together because that’s what you do. We got to the hotel and had to leave to buy more beer because the beer in the bar was way too expensive for a bunch of archeologists. There was a sign that said beverages not allowed in the bar from outside. That sign turned up missing or not considered as Mark brought in bottles and bottles of beer to the bar. Suddenly, archeologists were not paying dollars and dollars for beers but Mark was providing more and more as he went back to his car. The hotel staff was dumbfounded. The mortuary science fellows sharing the convention were astounded. We were all drunk. We sat at the bar with the pirated beer and one of the mortuary guys asked what we did. The archeologist we were with intoned with false sobriety,

You put them in the ground and we dig them up

Then our meetings started and we heard the crossing the rubicon reference. The person giving the big speech carefully told we should be prepared to cross that rubicon with science. RWR and I were mystified. We did not know what a rubicon was or that we should cross it. We left for the bar where Mark was still handing out the beer. Finally the hotel staff got wise and told us we had to leave. But we were residents there we told them. Go to your rooms they told us. So we left for the rooms. Mark fell asleep in his car. I woke up on the floor at 3am. 

It was all good. I had crossed the Rubicon and ended up on the floor.