Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rory has Left the Building

Rory left yesterday. I am almost as sad as when my boys left. Rory has been a great intern, and a great worker at the museum. But more than that I have enjoyed living with him.

Though it makes me mad when anyone kills me in Medal of Honor, at least there was someone here to play with, and Rory wanted to play nearly every night. I think I defeated him twice in the last eight weeks.

I will also give him credit for finding the new reef we swim on constantly now. He never tired of snorkeling. In fact he was trying to get Jess and I to go midnight snorkeling during the full moon his last night here. I thought better of this. All I could think about was we made it eight weeks with no accident, wouldn't it be ironic is on Rory's last day he was eaten by a Great White on a midnight snorkel. Did I say that we watched Jaws two days ago.

Anyway, Rory will be on Pine Cay for a week with his family; a good vacation at the end of his two month vacation. And then he will be back to the snow. Good Luck.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Galleries, Grants, Awards,

This week has been crazy. We have had two 12 hour days at the museum. Between Jess, Rory, and I we have put in 175 hours this week. That is no lie.

On Monday I was in Provo all day. Flew over on the 8:30 flight, came back on the 7:30 flight. Tuesday, we had an evening event at the museum. On Wednesday the Endangered Archives Grant from the British Library was due. On Thursday, we had to finish the script, artifact selection, and printing for the Island Wise case exhibit, and we also began work on the AASLH Award of Merit nomination that is due on Monday. In the evening we entertained guests at the Bohio. On Friday we had to confirm that our referee letters had been sent to the British Library and had to complete the award nomination. Between all the work, we have had seven ships in this week.

No break for the weekend. On Saturday we have a children's club program with Lucayan archaeology. Rory will do this. Right before he gets on a plane to leave. Just like Dinah, just like Tiffany, just like Jessica the first time, volunteers work right up to the minute they leave. We did not even get to swim today, as I had promised Rory.

Then Saturday afternoon we will have to print and package the award nomination.

Maybe Sunday we will get a day off.

Or maybe we will just clean the house now that Rory will be gone, and get ready for March.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jammin with Jarvis

On Tuesday, we hosted a local musicians jam at the museum. Wes, who was here for several months last year, came and played sax. Wally Jarvis also came and sat in. He is a Renaissance musician from Michigan. Now, normally a Renaissance musician would be playing in a museum. But in this case, I don't think they would normally be playing in an "island" museum.

Anyway, it was amazing. Wally was a crazy good harmonica player. But he was even better on a 13th century wooden flute. Now, I know what you are saying. Wooden flute. Reggae music. Didn't everything sound like "Land Down Under" by Men at Work?

Yes! Exactly! It was about as cool as hearing an entire two hour concert of Land Down Under by Men at Work. Except with me singing instead of Colin Hay.

Seriously though, it was really incredible. One of the best nights I have had playing on Grand Turk. All thanks to a first person historic music interpreter. How "museum" is that!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spring 2 Collections

We are doing a series of events called Spring 2 Collections. These are small events held on the 2nd of each month based on a few new collections. The last one was well attended and fun. Last Friday we hosted an event with Betsy Carlson, the archaeologist who has been here all last week. She has just published a book called Talking Taino. I wanted to have her sell signed copies at the event, so I had every book on Provo shipped over here.

There were two. But we sold 100% of the books, so statistically it was a huge success.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why I like Historical Archaeology

For the last three days I have been working on the survey of GT4. This if the fourth Lucayan site to be found on Grand Turk. The museum has wanted to do work here for a long time, but it was never a priority and has never been funded. Well, now the area is going to developed, so it s priority.

It is funny that in Ohio I always wished I could work on archaeological projects but could never break into ranks of the elites who controlled the Ohio Archaeological Council. However, here I am one of the few people with a great deal of archaeological experience. A few months ago we received a proposal for completing archaeology on a site that is extremely significant. The price seemed unreasonable, so I countered with an offer to provide two volunteer staff who would serve in place of two archaeologists in the proposal. The savings of $10,000.00 was enough that it made the project feasible.

OK, that sounds great. How excited I must have been. But now after three days of digging 53 holes I am beginning to re-think the wisdom of my folly. I am so tired and sore. One of my issues is that I can dig a really good hole. This should fall to Rory, who has the youth to dig holes. Unfortunately, I dig a much, much better hole. So I dig holes. I can also swing a machette. Evidently an acquired skill working at the conference center.

But I have to say, doing pre-historic archaeology is really boring. Shells, really? Tiny bead fragments, really? Don't even get me started on fish bones.

Today, we hit an area that is called the Corktree Plantation. Ah, finally, blue transferware, pearlware, even cut nails. The real stuff of human occupation.

I like archaeology where you find cannon balls. I could smash Lucayan artifacts with any of the cannon balls we found on Ft George. In fact, I could smash the whole Lucayan culture with a few cannon balls. Oh, wait a minute, that was already done.

Well, anyway, I still would rather be digging privies or really cool foundations. This is real history, isn't it?

Monday, February 15, 2010


I keep getting emails about the snow in Ohio and Baltimore, so I that I would post this from this weekend:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Sucks

Just another day here. I fixed Davis's old bike. Now I have to figure out someone to give it to. This is one of the strang things about being here. No one has ridden the bike for a year. And Davis is way to big for it. But giving it away somehow feels like giving a part of Davis away. I don't want to keep it though, because it is just junking up the porch.

We have archaeologists coming in today. So mostly I have been cleaning the house and getting another room set up for guests.

It is interesting living with people who write. I found a journal that Dinah wrote during her first week here. I am sure she never meant for anyone to read it, but it was in the bookcase. It made me very sad. Her first week here was very difficult. she hid this very well.

Jessica has been keeping a blog for her family and friends. This is interesting because again, it is the thoughts and reflections of someone you spend the day with, but don't really know what they are thinking. I read through it today. It is at:

It is interesting to see what it is like to live with me from someone else's perspective. Kind of surreal. Don't talk about anything. Just read about it later.

The other day we had a huge household discussion about the use of capitalization. I am sure I blogged about this already, but I was thinking about it again. Most people would find this absolutely boring and ridiculous. But I find myself living in a house with people that are incredibly gifted and interesting...if just to me. The down side: everyone is on their computers writing, like all the time. That is also kind of surreal and crazy. We are living in this amazing place, but instead of really living we just spend all our time writing. OK, we spend our evenings writing.

Today, Betsy Carlson came into Grand Turk. She has written almost everything I have read about the Lucayans, who were the aboriginal peoples of the Turks and Caicos Islands. I met her this afternoon. She seems just like a normal person. Just another writer that I will live with for a while. Well, just like a normal person except that I think we are going to be working every waking moment. So, to me, I guess a normal person.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Salt Cay Trip

Rory and I went to Salt Cay today. We took a boat over this morning. On the way over we came across two dolphins. They swam in front of the boat for several minutes. Like other days I have spent on Salt Cay, I walked around a lot, and sat in Porter's a lot, and then I snorkeled on one of the most amazing shallow reef areas I have ever been on. The north beach of Salt Cay is incredible. I had never been there before. It was very cool. The day went fast. Tonight we are home watching the Olympics and eating fried lionfish. I don't feel like I did anything today, but I am exhausted. But maybe 6 hours of sun, swimming in a raging current, and getting beat by the waves on a boat will do that to you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Private Party

I am going to tell two stories. One is a professional story and one is a personal story. If this was a script for a movie it would be the two sides of the same story. And it would be funny with a touching ending about how the protagonist came out looking like a hero.

Story one...

Well, after more than two years it is still crazy here. For any possible future employers, what I mean by crazy is exactly as planned and performed.

Last night we hosted a private party for some very special friends of the museum who brought some friends who included a former CEO of of BMW, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The most impressive thing about the evening; the jerk chicken.

After being very disappointed with this same event two years ago, this year the museum did our own catering. Rather than spend all the money on hiring a local caterer, who did not really care about the quality of the event, we bought supplies and cooked everything ourselves. We had traditional local dishes of jerk chicken, BBQ chicken, peas and rice, and a very special dish of ginger and garlic lionfish. The evening involved tours of the museum, tours of the conservation lab, and a set of acoustic reggae music.

The event was amazing. It was fun, but we were able to express some issues in an nonthreatening venue. Especially with the lionfish, an invasive species that is killing our reefs. I think the message was discussed in a way that was very palatable.

Story two...

Deneen called today to say she had to take something to the PTA meeting at Ft Hayes last night. She took a bag of soup she bought at Gordon Food Service. She said that everyone complimented her on her cooking. She did not say a thing.

When I think about this story, I think that this is what I love the most about my wife. She has the ability to take care of things. But she takes care of them in a way that works out for everyone. I say all the time that I did not marry her because she could cook, which is still totally true. But I did marry her because she has the skills to get through the type of situation we have found ourselves in since Hurricane Ike. And that is what I love the most.

Did I already say this? Last night I catered an event for the governor!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Learning to Write

My nephew, Jared Mahone, is working on a project to write record and publish one new song every week of the year. This week his blog was about reworking a song I wrote in the van on the way to King's Island, what now must be years ago. His blog reads in part:

"Neal has always been a writer of many forms and encouraged me and now his kids to learn and refine the craft. This particular informal training session, as I understand it, was on a family trip back from an amusement park. Neal, my cousin Martin, and my cousin Lucas were riffing lines about things they hated."

Jared Mahone Mixtape Project blog.

I would love to take credit for encouraging anyone to write, but I am just one cog in the stream of family genetics. I say that to tell two stories:

Story one...

This week the new issue of the Astrolabe is due. In fact, it was due on Tuesday. What day is it- today is Not Tuesday. We are doing three short articles in this issue. Though I am not the author of any, I have been editing and rewriting all week. I have also had to write the directors log. I like, however, that both Rory and Jessica will have published articles in this issue. I think for both of them this will be their first professional publication.

This is all we have been doing this week. It is 8:17 on Friday night. I am in one of the top ten vacation destinations in the world, and I am still editing.

Story two...

My blue Dell laptop is stored in the hurricane proof closet off the master bedroom. This computer contains my dissertation and my first book. Every once in a while I get the computer out turn it on, and every time a read this story.

King Pickle is in a pickle
by Lucas Hitch

"There was once was a pickle named King Pickle. He liked the sound of his name so much that it became an pickletion. He made a pickle that everyone would have to use his name in every sentence. No one could pickle his pickle. Even the words in the pickle were all changed to pickle. It was easy to pickle the outcome of his pickle. The King was pickled for bad pickle, and his reign received a pickle. Now he was really in a pickle."

I don't remember how old Lucas was when he wrote that, but I think is is funny every time I read it. It is good because it is a word puzzle and makes you think about semantics, vocabulary, and word choice.

* * * *

I rarely get to write songs anymore. This is a bummer to me and I wish it was different. But the process of writing songs is one of word craft. The more you write, the better you become at writing. This works for music. This works for school essays. This works for writing a public history publication with a circulation of 38,000 magazines.

But I still sit in my living room and play songs I wrote twenty years ago, and this is still one of my favorite thing to do.