Wednesday, February 03, 2016

I graduated from the University of Michigan in June 1986, almost 30 years ago. Right before graduation I decided to volunteer on an archaeological excavation in New Mexico. I really did not know what to do with my archaeology degree, the professors at the university were not particularly useful at guiding people on other to tell them to get a PhD and become a professor, "All of the professors will be retiring soon!" Most of the archaeology professors who taught at the University of Michigan in 1986 are still teaching there in 2016, but I digress.

A bunch of us got into the big blue University of Michigan van to drive to New Mexico. We spent one night in Iowa and I am fuzzy as to whether it took one or two days from there. We ended up in Mountainair, New Mexico, living in a rather disgusting building (a former motel?).

Mountainair, New Mexico.

First day, we posed with the sign to thank the company that gave it to us (we cut it down and used it for the photo board. Back row: Ross, Tristine, and Homer. Front row: Jodi, Karen, and Holly.

Our luxurious housing, complete with vehicle parts and cattle bones. Left to right, Jodi, Holly, Ross, Jennifer, and Homer.

The first day out in the field at the Kite Site was exciting. We walked up a huge arroyo that was actively cutting through the site and you could see pottery sherds and bones sticking out of the wall. We started to lay out units and a rattlesnake showed up. Unfortunately, it had to be killed as it was not very happy about the humans encroaching on its home.

The arroyo cutting through the Kite Site. Dark stains visible in the left wall are from a pit structure or midden.

Karen and I were assigned a unit in the trash midden area. We excavated squares to collect a sample of garbage which Allison used for her PhD. By the end of the summer we had dug a bus-sized hole. I even managed to find an unbroken plainware mug (which I cracked with my shovel). I mostly screened dirt and filled out paperwork because Karen liked digging best. I remember finding this fired clay object and puzzling over what it was. I showed it to Karen and she exclaimed, "You found a dick!" It was a clay penis, something you occasionally find, perhaps used as a fertility object.

Karen and Homer on a rainy day.

Karen telling Homer what to do. A Munsell soil color book is next to my trowel.

Filling out paperwork while wearing short-shorts.

We often visited the University of Iowa crew, who worked at the adjacent Gran Quivira Mission.

Gran Quivira unit of the Salinas Pueblo Missions.

In Mountainair, we spent a lot of time at the Rosebud Saloon. The jukebox had Patsy Cline and Eddie Arnold songs. On weekends we went on field trips to Chaco Canyon, Santa Fe, and to the Billy the Kid Days in Lincoln. One night I slept next to a horse corral, the pickup next to us had a 101-year-old Navajo woman sleeping in the back. That night we danced at a little saloon that was opened once a year.

Rasmi, Homer, and Allison at a restaurant in Santa Fe.

4th of July celebration in Mountainair, Jennifer piggybacking.

I had brought along my Smokey the Bear teddy bear, which I got back in 1969. We were driving to Lincoln and saw the sign for Smokey the Bear's grave site in Capitan, so of course we had to stop.

Homer and Smokey.

I had been somewhat unsure what to do with myself. After spending 10 weeks digging and exploring New Mexico, I decided that I really wanted to be an archaeologist.

Pottery from the dig. I found the mug.

I always thought the design on this bowl resembled the New Mexico state flag.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

I flew to Washington, DC via Denver. The Denver airport is horrible in my opinion. I stayed first with John and Dan in Arlington. It was nice to catch up with John, who I have known for over 20 years.

John is taking a French class.

While there I had my first glass of port, which seemed like extra strong grape juice to me.


I went to attend an archaeological conference. On Thursday I sat through many 15-minute-long presentations. I can't say that I really learned much, most people do not know how to give talks. I did get to see many people I don't often get to see, plus Barney who is now living in Maryland. On Friday I gave my talk and, as usual, did an excellent job, People came up afterword to tell me how interesting it was.


I then moved over to TJ and Rob's house. We had an excellent time being lazy and watching television and talking about things and peoples. Plus their adorable cat Chuck was fun to play with. I showed them something that Forrest taught me, that cats need to be carried around and allowed to smell things that are typically out of reach. Chuck enjoyed that.

Rob, Chuck, and TJ.

On Sunday morning I made sugar cookies and showed Rob and TJ how to decorate cookies. The results were mixed (the frosting was not a little off.


On Sunday I headed over to Jim's house. We had supper with another gay archaeologist I met at the conference- Ethiopian food. It did not agree with me.

Monday and Tuesday were spent at the National Archives reading through 22 Civil War pension files, including one for my Ransom great great grandparents. The staff was very helpful and the cafeteria cook made me nice grilled cheese sandwiches.

National Archives.

Tuesday afternoon I met up with Pat in the Metro station. Pat and I have been friends since 1987 when we worked on the same crew at Fort Union Trading Post. I spent the night with Pat, his wife, and their teenaged daughter Bridget. It was great catching up.

Homer and Pat.

Of course I caught a cold and spent last weekend taking many, many naps. I am all better now.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Flint and Detroit were once bustling manufacturing towns, where millions of autos were made and millions of tax dollars generated. Those tax dollars helped build infrastructure in western and northern Michigan- state highways, bridges, dams, utilities, etc.

Flash forward to a time when Detroit and Flint have shed most of those jobs, lost population, and lost white people (who fled starting in the 1960s).

I visited Gov. Rick Snyder's Facebook page to see what people were saying about the Flint water crisis. The majority of people are calling for him to resign. A minority of white folks from western and northern Michigan are placing the blame mostly on the residents of Flint. It is their fault they had lead pipes, their fault that the city had financial problems caused by the movement of the auto industry elsewhere, their fault because they elected African-American politicians. And similar racist bullshit.

These white folks in places like Holland and Kalamazoo are living in communities enhanced by projects funded by tax dollars created in Flint and Detroit. And yet they have hardly any sympathy for the residents of Flint because they are poor and African-American. All they can do is victim-blame the people being poisoned.

It is really disheartening sometimes to see what a cesspool of hate that has developed because of Fox "News," Rush Limbaugh, and others of that kind.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Another year ends. This seems to have been the year of drama. Mother getting sick at my house twice. Couples breaking up. Stress. Marriage Equality. A lovely couple of road trips.

My wish for 2016. Less debt. Less belly. Less drama. Time spent with old and new friends. More games and crafts. A Democratic win in November. Lots of interesting work. Maybe a book completed. But you never know what happens. I wish whoever reads this well and hope you have a lovely New Year's Eve and Day.

Obligatory end-of-year self portrait.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Native Americans domesticated a plant in central Mexico, teosinte, and eventually this became maize (corn). People carried seeds of maize north into the Tucson Basin about 4100 years ago. The Santa Cruz River flowed year-round and the floodplain was a lush, marshy area. By 3500 years ago, they were digging small irrigation ditches to bring water to their fields, and were probably also utilizing flood waters.

Since 1994, archaeological excavations along the Santa Cruz River, many projects associated with improvements of Interstate 10, have uncovered the settlements and fields of these farmers. Back in 2009, my company uncovered massive field systems at the sewage plant. Each small plot was surrounded by raised berms. Small irrigation ditches diverted water to plots. Nearby were a few houses and many storage pits. Nothing like it had been found before.

Another company is doing a project along I-10. Even better preserved fields have been uncovered. The farmers had prepared the area by raising berms around the perimeter of each field and digging small planting pits. The area was muddy, and adults, children, and dogs walked across the fields, the berms, and the small ditches between the berms. The mud dried, and then a sudden flash flood apparently dumped fine sand onto the area. The fields ended up being buried deeply enough that everything was preserved, almost a miniature Pompeii.

Jump ahead a couple thousand years. Dan was scraping the area and started finding berms.From there the field surface was uncovered and they started finding footprints.

Square field area, with raised berms bordering it.

I've been on two other digs where footprints were found, one along the border (horse hoof prints) and one at Fort Union Trading Post in North Dakota (oxen foot prints). 

Raised berms, which would have had water running in the area between them.

I've never seen prehistoric foot prints. On one of my digs a few years back we did find fingerprints in the mud used to coat a prehistoric house.

\Some of the foot prints were small, child-sized.

 Child foot print.

Another child's print.

Most were adult-sized. You could occasionally see the heel or the toes.

Adult foot print. The trowel is probably 8 or 9 inches long.

The footprints provide information that we have never had before. The people appear to have been mostly barefoot. Kids and dogs were in the fields with adults. You can measure individual prints and get a rough estimate of height. And so on.

I have to say, I've been an archaeologist for 29.5 years and it is still exciting to see new things and learn new things about our human past.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Well, I have been watching episodes of the 1966-1971 Dark Shadows soap opera on Hulu. I remember as a child coming home from kindergarten in 1969-1970 and catching the last 15 minutes of the show, often hiding behind my mother's chair when it got scary.

The show holds up fairly well. The characters are interesting, I love the 1960s clothing and the Gothic sets. This one granny square afghan shows up in various sets, even in the 1795 story line.

My favorite characters are Mrs. Johnson and Dr. Julia Hoffman. Dr. Hoffman has the best scream.

So anyways, this is what I have been doing in my spare time.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Someone sent me a couple of books from my Amazon Wish List. One on Pompeii and one on melamine dishes from the 1950s to 1970s. I don't know who did this, it was a wonderful surprise. Feel free to send me an email so I can thank you!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Saturday night Dan called me from California to tell me that his wife Sylvia had died in late May. He had come across my phone number in her papers.

Sylvia had come across my blog years ago and back when I had good commenting, would often remark on entries. She was a Tucson native and loved seeing pictures and stories about her hometown.

I met her and Dan at Beyond Bread once, and we had such a nice time. In 2013, she and Dan came to my All Souls Procession Party. She gave me her Blue Willow child's teaset, which I treasure. She also made me some paper flowers that are carefully tucked away in my china cabinet.

Sylvia on the left.

Life is fleeting, in the grand time scale on the universe. Make the most of it, and have fun, because it is over so quick. I'll miss Sylvia. XO

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What's Holiday without some cookies? I made Martha Stewart's sugar cookie recipe (the lemon version) and the Better Homes and Garden gingerbread cookie recipe. The sugar cookies had a slight Meyer lemon taste.

I used a variety of cookie cutters.

I probably baked five dozen cookies.


Jeffrey and Patrick came over to help decorate. I made royal icing and lemon icing.

Patrick and me.

We were very successful, very creative.

Platters of cookies on the 1950s Visibake stove.

It was a fun couple of hours. Making things with friends is relaxing and you get to catch up on what has happened recently.

The finished cookies.

Patrick always makes the best ones.

Patrick with a tree, moose (wearing a sweater), and a psychodelic snowman.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

I'm sort of going through the Holiday motions here. I have made cards. I put up some decorations. Tonight I made rum balls for the company's cookie exchange. But really I'm not in the mood this year.

Partly this is because Mother isn't here. She's back in Michigan, living in her own house. She is very happy to be there. Has a nice woman that comes four hours a day, five days a week, to help her out and keep her company. Mother is too frail to come here, and I wouldn't be able to take care of her.

Partly, it is because finances are pretty difficult from working part time for the last year. I certainly hope things pick up.

Thinking about Christmas when I was a kid. The excitement of getting a few toys and some candy. My parents did not have much money, we knew not to expect fancy gifts. I poured over the Sears Christmas Wish Book, and would point out an inexpensive toy. One year I got a cave man play set. Another year a GI Joe doll (the black one with fuzzy hair, which I still have). The horrible year I got the snow pants instead of the book on Pompeii that I really wanted.

Sometimes being an adult just sucks.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Yesterday Mario helped me get a tree for the presidio park. We went to Home Depot and found a nice one for $46.

I'm in charge of the annual Luminaria Night at the park next Saturday, so I am busy doing what I can to get things set up for the event. Mario helped me put the lights on, I'm using the big bulbs that I usually put on my front porch. This year I am being cheap with electricity.

Mario and the tree.

For decorations I went to Ebay and searched for vintage Christmas postcards. It is easy to save the scanned images and put them in a Word document and then send them to the color printer. I cut each out, punched a hole, and tied on a loop of ribbon. I am so Martha Stewart.


Another card!

I've been doing Holiday cards this afternoon. That is about all I will be doing this year. Short on funds and not really feeling any seasonal spirit.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I've been busy. Spent a day out on an archaeology dig. I worked in a 1920s-1940s trash dump from a dairy, collecting samples of bottles. I had gone on a site tour the previous week and saw this polychrome pot on a pit structure floor.


I had a game night and invited Paul, Jon, Chuck, and Billy. We played Pit, Sorry, and Monopoly. I lost but didn't care because we were having a good time. I ate a lot of pizza.

Paul, Jon, Chuck, Billy, and Puff.

After work on Wednesday I drove north to Phoenix to spend the festive holiday with Craig and Jesse. They were busy playing the latest video game, whose name I cannot remember.

The next morning we went on a hike.

Jesse, Craig, and Taco.

It was over 3.5 miles. I had to run twice to keep up with them.

My cell phone camera blurs things.

When we got back, it was time to prepare a festive meal. I made orange-walnut-cranberry stuff. And mashed potatoes. Craig made vegetarian stuffing. We also had tofurky (never again), rolls, and a squash pie that I made. I showed Craig how easy it was to make ice cream in the Cuisinart ice cream maker I got myself for my birthday.


Afterward we made Holiday cards. I was able to think up a couple of new varieties- little scenes with houses and Holiday trees decorated with punched out dots.


Winter is here. When it gets below 40 Buddy goes and sleeps in the guest house with Doug. He is a happy dog.

Buddy and buddy.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

For two widely different reasons I was pissed off on Thursday, so I decided to put up Holiday decorations. There won't be much to celebrate this year, no one to buy presents for. No spare cash to do so.

White and red trees, red and white decorations.

Monday, November 09, 2015

So busy. It seems like I never sit still (although I do). 

Couple weekends ago we had a wedding reception at the park and I did an initial set up, the final set up, acted as host and busboy, and put away tables, chairs, and lights. It was a lovely event and now I know how to do it so it will take much less time in the future.

Then Seumas came to visit from Australia. I took him to see the park, the gardens, the Mission, and Mount Lemmon. Also Mexican food at La Indita. He had a good time.

Homer and Seumas on Mount Lemmon.

I set up my All Soul's Altar. It is a time for me to think about the people I have known who have left us. 


Craig and Jesse came down to help do things. I showed them how to make soap.

Jesse melting the soap and Craig getting ready to add rosemary and lemon.

This was in between rolling out cookie dough and baking them, and before we started decorating them.

I am rolling gingerbread.

Despite problems with the white icing, the cookies came out nice.


We went to Saguaro Park West and walked the Discovery Trail. Lots of different kinds of cacti.

Fat saguaro.

The El Nino event is bringing lots of rain. The wildflowers will be crazy in the spring.

Skinny saguaro.

I made stuffed grape leaves and a yellow cake with chocolate frosting Saturday morning. Sunday morning Craig helped me make hummous, spanikopita, and pico de gallo salsa. The one problem, I didn't have a lot of drinks on hand. Having a cocktail party with few drinks is problematic.

I showed Craig a video of the Day of the Dead makeup and he did most of the makeup application.

Makeup application.

He did a great job.

Makeup completed. So itchy.

I just managed to get dressed before guests arrived.

The end result.

For some reason, most of my pictures of the party did not turn out. I ended up applying makeup to five people (Helen, Chris, Matt, Julia, and Jeff), and I did an alright job. Having the correct makeup really helps, although the black face paint really wanted to run.

Jeff and Olivia came down from Flagstaff.

Surprisingly little mess after the party. 

I shaved off my beard for the makeup application, and I think I look goofy. The extra weight I am carrying makes my face and neck look puffy. The Doctor today told me I need to lose weight and restrict sugar and carb intake. I will starve, but if I get my regular chin line back, that would be a bonus.



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