attending a five-day professional archaeological conference in Corpus Christi, Texas

So there I was, sitting in my room at the Omni Bayfront Hotel in downtown Corpus Christi, Texas, looking through the program for interesting papers to attend at the 30th Annual Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology. I'm always a little bit nervous before the meeting begins, because I have to mentally prepare myself to mingle with 800 other historical archaeologists from the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world. Gotta put on that smile, introduce yourself to peple you've never met before and will probably only see once a year at meetings like this one, and listen to paper after paper about the most recent excavations around the globe. You also run the risk of seeing people whom you've met the year before and whose names you just cannot recall. You know that face, but god, what the hell is the name??? So you have to look at their name tag when they are not looking at you, and say, "Hey, Dr. Big-Shot-Archaeologist-Back-East, how have you been?" and hope that they still remember you, a pidley little grad student, too.

Honestly, I always really enjoy these conferences. When you work on 19th- and 20th-century sites in California day in day out, it's really nice to hear about Colonial American sites and the Chesapeak Bay culture for a change. Those of you who are archaeologists will know what I'm talking about. I listened to presentations about the rediscovery of Jamestown (hey, is there a website for this project?), the pet cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco (most amusing), and the remains of 19th-century gold mining in California (I never thought I'd be interested in sites like these 'till I heard this paper!).

What was most entertaining was a set of papers in which a group of archaeologists, instead of reading off lists after lists of boring data from sites they've excavated, as in

    (in monotone) "At Feature A, we found 2 nails, 3 glass bottle sherds, and 5 plate fragments. At Feature B, we found 3 broken pieces of tumblers, a gazillion buttons, and 1 unidentifiable metal fragment. At Feature C...." so on and so forth. *yawn*
Where was I? Oh yes, the most entertaining sessions. The 10 archaeologists and 1 historian (congrats to Lauren Cook, Daniel Mouer, Mary Beaudry, Robin Ryder, Lu Ann De Cunzo, Mary and Adrian Praetzellis, Julia Costello and Judith Marvin, and Rebecca Yamin and Daniel Roberts) were able to combine historical documents, oral history, and archaeological data to make up stories about the past, and make the whole process much more interesting. They were, as their session was titled, archaeologists as storytellers. This is also what I hope to do in my M.A. thesis (read the prospectus).

It's also at times like these that you get totally inspired to continue your work. I was sitting at the awards banquet where they were honoring my mentor from my undergrad years at Berkeley, Dr. James Deetz (a.k.a. "Jimbo!"), for his lifetime achievements, and thought to myself about how nice it would be to work really hard, and in 20 years, become one of those big-time archaeologists, and have another grad student point me out to his/her colleague excitedly, exclaiming in total awe, "Look, look, there's Jeannie Yang! Wow...." What an ego trip that would be, no?

Anything else interesting happened? Oh yeah. Every one of my colleagues has a little story to tell about this trip. My friends Anmarie, Ginger, and Glenn were offered $60 each in return for seats on a later flight to Corpus Christi, so they took it and had a great time in the bar in the Dallas airport. On another archaeologist's flight, there was a drunken woman who, during mid-flight, started banging on the door of the cockpit and demanded to be let out of the plane. She apparently also grabbed the steward's crouch. The pilot had to make a detour to Austin to let her off. When the plane landed, the police greeted her and took her away. On my flight from Houstin to C.C., our small, 40-seater propeller plane got ready to take off ("Vrrrrrrrrrrrooooomm....."), and then aborted its efforts. The pilot came on the intercom and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we were ready for take-off, but a little red light came on so I aborted it. But it was only a bogus light, so we will try again now." A bogus light? What in the world does that mean? And if it IS a bogus light, why bother telling us? Anyway, we historical archaeologists always have airplane stories to tell because we always meet in early January, just in time for all the wonderful winter storms. Many of us got trapped in Cincinnati last year during the Great Storm of '96 (I got on one of the last flights out, thank goodness). Next year we will be meeting in Atlanta, so it might be a little bit better weather-wise.

My return flight was quite a drag. We were supposed to leave by Continental Airlines at 12:30 p.m., but that flight was canceled, and there was no telling whether the next flight at 3:30 would be too. So we switched to American Airlines, flew to Dallas, and got on another airplane at 5:30 p.m. Then we sat in the airplane on the runway for 6 hours because there were 40 airplanes (!!!) ahead of us waiting to be de-iced first. Good thing most of the passengers were in good spirits, and the rest of the trip proved quite uneventful. My colleague Julie and I landed at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) at 1:15 a.m. at night. After I got home, I called Continental Airlines to find out what happened to the 3:30 flight we could've been on. It got to Houston on time, and flew into SFO at 8:30 p.m. So if we had stayed with that flight we would've been OK.... Oh well.

I think that just about wraps it up. Oh wait, one more thing. One of the websites I co-manage (though the other two Webmasters did the majority of the work, as the site was pretty much done by the time I joined this particular Web management team), the Society for California Archaeology, got an honorable mention at one of the presentations titled "Archaeological Resources on the Internet: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," by Christy Dolan and Rebecca Allen. The speaker said, and I quote, "The SCA site... has a good map with everything clearly labeled, ... and the topics are current and of interest." A major ego trip for the Webmaster. Score!!!