Sunday 22 January 2012


So, the rains have come to Surf City, CA. Everyone says 'We need the rain,' at the same time that they sigh, pull their coats a little tighter around them, and trudge out the door brandishing their umbrellas ahead of them. You'd think that someone who spent the first thirty-something years of his life in or near Raincouver, on the ethnographically and culturally rich NorthWET Coast of North America would be immune to the rain, rather than immured by it. But that's the reality. Twenty-odd years in places that get, on average, ten or fewer inches of precipitation a year have evidently made me soft. It sounds crazy, but I'm hibernating. 
     Day turns into night, then night to day, with little to show for the passage of time. I'm badly in need of a recharge. Or oblivion. Even the cheap, good, California white wine holds little attraction at times like these. [That should tell you something!] I'm concerned, if only because both my vocation and my avocation are suffering as a result. Consider the Subversive Archaeologist. At times it's been exhilarating to think that people are reading what I say, after feeling quite the opposite for the preceding twenty or so years. But I have to say that I feel like the proverbial slug when I don't post something wicked or backhanded every day. I try to mollify myself by saying that no one should expect an incisive take-down every day, and least of all on the weekends. But I expect it of myself. I'm under the thumb of a relentless tyrant. Me!
     Even my trusty SA news ticker seems to have caught the malaise. Not a single silly elephant story for weeks now! Only sensible inferences and attitudes from irreproachable archaeologists! Nary a gaffe! And still falls the rain. I feel like I'm in a bad Victorian novel. You know. 'It was a dark and stormy night.' Or 'The heart of starkness.' Something like that. Or maybe 'Frankenstein.' After all, the only reason I can feel this way is because I'm the sum total of all the bits and parts that have come together (or not) to make me the person I now am. [And sometimes I wish I did have someone else's brain!]
     As a child, a bookworm and lover of show tunes and light classical music, few friends. I even played the piano, fer gawd's sake! Then delayed socialization as a teenager. Friends. A very bad garage band. Early drinking experience. Semi-good marks, semi-non-existent interest in things scholastic. Then, while the 60s became the 70s, college. More friends. More fun. I was having a lot of fun for almost the first time in my life. Too much fun, you might say. The result of so much Bridge and too many friends' parties was a seven-year undergraduate degree in English Literature (with an unofficial minor in anthropology), interspersed with an unofficial marriage, and handling baggage on the ramp at Vancouver Int'l. I fell in love with the metaphysical poets. I read poetry in public. Then, a summer as a graduate student at Oxford. Back to Vancouver. Work in a warehouse. A fair bit of drinking. A brief marriage. In the 80s, work in an Agriculture Canada library. Another unofficial marriage. A fair bit more drinking. Then a spark of light [Fiat lux]. A First Class Honors BA in Archaeology, with lots of varied experience, fieldwork in B.C. and central America, co-authored papers and one self-authored that did my academic aspirations very little good. But I'd found where I belonged. I made life-long friends. Then, acceptance with a full ride in the Ph.D. programme at Cal. I was on top of the world. I felt like a tourist in my own life! Fieldwork in France and Israel. Marriage again in the early 90s. Fieldwork in the Czech Republic. A SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship. A Ph.D. Then stop-gap work in California CRM. A child in '95. An academic position at UNE in Armidale, NSW, from '96 to '99. A fair bit more drinking. Left to find greener pastures for my partner. CRM again in California--everything from monitoring and field assistant to lab supervisor and project supervisor. The Sydney Harbour Bridge all lit up to celebrate the millennium. A fair bit more drinking. Then fired from CRM for what barely passed as a 'conflict of interest'--I had succumbed to my friend's entreaties to teach a class at San José State, at night. Then no job. And no inclination to be a scholar gypsy. I feel, unfortunately, too uncomfortable in the classroom that it's not a position I like to put myself in. Not much inclination, at all, really. But I forced myself to teach part-time; the other part of the time a receptionist (!). Crumbling (second) marriage. An entry-level administrative position. More than a fair bit of drinking. 2010 came and went.
     Quite a Frankenstein. No? Still, I have a Ph.d. And they can't take that away from me. Nor have I lost my desire to contribute to the field that (in a very real sense) gave my life meaning. I'm at one and the same time very proud and humbled that I've been given the opportunities that I've enjoyed. I'm not too happy about the rest. And maybe that's why the rain brings with it melancholy and the desire to 'rug-up' and do very little. Maybe it'll wash away the regrets and remorse.
     I think it was Keats who once allowed that when he felt 'vaporish' he liked to take a long bath, and it made him feel better. I only have a shower. I'm heading there right now to test Keats's hypothesis. With any luck there'll be something good on the news ticker tomorrow that'll give me a chance to kick some virtual butt. See you then. 

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