Chasing Ghosts?

Hey there every peoples…

Been a long time since i posted anything. The main reason was i was in Utah for 2 weeks after which i took a week to get back to normal life and at the end of that week i started school. I had a post in mind, but i have been really down in the dumps lately. I am still able to go about my daily routines, but my heart just ain’t in it. A cornerstone of my current slump rests in, what else, paleontology. More specifically, though, is a sense of hopelessness regarding that foolhardy goal of mine.

I’m going on ad nauseum, it seems, about this ridiculous vision of mine where i start a paleontology on the Central Coast. Is it viable? Can it be done? I have a feeling that it cannot. That sounds defeatist for sure, but allow me to explain. For starters, it would require a lot of resources, specifically money. Museums right now seem to be having trouble staying afloat. I mean, i still get donation requests from the American Museum of Natural History. The American Museum, one of the largest and most prestigious institutions in the world, is asking some unemployed hack like me for donations? Maybe that’s not the best example so here’s a better one. The San Bernardino County Museum had planned to open their Hall of Geological Wonders back in spring 2009. Last i checked, nothing has changed and the last time i visited the museum and looked inside, i saw nothing but a bunch of folding chairs. Further still, the Raymond Alf Museum’s Hall of Life renovation was delayed a couple years by funding troubles (it is slated to be finished in October, thankfully). The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History had plans to build a new facility; now you can’t even find a link to the new building project’s web page in the main menus. I’m from a middle-class family whose mother was just laid-off after 30 years of teaching and i haven’t been able to land (or at times even find) a job since 2007. It should be obvious by now that i don’t have the dough to get things going.

That is one hurdle. The other significant hurdle is getting people interested in joining such a project. So far not one nibble on my rally call (though i didn’t expect that to go anywhere). I go to museums a lot. People love to see fossils and skeletons, but from my observations, it’s from a more “ooh, look at that” mindset. Fossils, and pretty much any natural heritage, don’t seem to mean to other people what they mean to me. And most people don’t seem to care about where they live. John Fuhring, who volunteers at the Santa Maria Natural History Museum, laid it out (He is talking about Santa Maria, while i submited my letter to the city of San Luis Obispo, who never responded):

You know Doug, this IS Santa Maria and we are not now nor have we ever been a town where its people are proud of the community they live in and feel any kind of community spirit. All the wealthy people, who have and continue to make millions of dollars out of the ground and soil around here, go off to live somewhere else with never a thought to beautify or culturally enrich the region they have exploited. The rest of the people here scratch a meager living and have little left for over for cultural things after they have paid their cable TV subscription and payments for the large screen TV. They certainly don’t want to pay any taxes that might go for something like cultural enrichment or beautification of their mini-LA bedroom community.

I’ve lived here (off and on) for over 50 years (since 1958) and it’s actually worse today than when the town only had 10,000 people. What I’m saying is that it is highly unlikely that a paleontology museum will ever be built here given our lack of community and cultural taste. Take for example our town’s Natural History museum. It is housed in a tiny, tiny three room shack, the main room of which was built in the 1870s as a bachelor apartment by Mr. Heart.

The Natural History Museum of Santa Maria, in its tiny 3 room shack, is the best this town is capable of and we just have to face the fact that this isn’t a community that supports anything cultural. Consider too the fact that our symphony has to use Baptist and other Fundamentalist Churches to play in since building any kind of municipal auditorium is out of the question in this town.

He does have a point, even if he was talking about a different town. Who out there on the Central Coast, from Paso Robles to Moorpark, care if the fossils documenting the rich prehistory of their home are locked up out of sight in far flung institutions? How of them care about a piece of that heritage (see below) is rotting away, never to be seen again? I could probably count them on two hands. Science has to beg for crumbs when it comes to funding and volunteers and paleontology seems to get stiffed even then. Because people are more concerned with enriching themselves with money and because the right wing and christian fundies have waged all out war on science, can there be any hope getting people to contribute to this ridiculous vision of mine? I don’t think so…

No about that piece of the Central Coast’s fossil heritage rotting away. I am of course referring to my sea cow. I have tried everything to get it dug out: no scientists i referred to it want anything to to with it; i would try to dig it out myself bu i need permission to do that and the fucking Harbor District will not return my letters or emails. I mean, the answer doesn’t even need to be yes, i just want a response. Ok, a yes would be preferred, but not absolutely needed; an approval would be appreciated, a rejection would be manageable, but no response at all is unacceptable. And i wish for permission to collect not just for the sea cow but for other stuff i might find, like this bone:

I'm not sure what bone this is or what it belongs to, but we may never know...

It broke off, most likely due to all the rain we have had this year. I can’t probe around in the dirt to see where it might have been buried by runoff but i can’t without a permission (or for that matter, if i had permission before had i could have salvaged it before it broke off). Bobby said he was working on a permit for a long time, but he’s just so busy with other sites, school, and apparently being a publishing machine. Plus i have seen him taking about going to college in New Zealand, so obviously he and his permit won’t be around forever. Plus he said that he had to go through hell to get the application. If mighty Bobby Boessenecker had trouble going through the right channels to get an application, i certainly would have stood no chance. Don’t worry Bobby, i ain’t blaming you for anything.

My therapist told me to forget about the sea cow, to not go there anymore, but i just can’t. I have know the site since high school and obviously the chance to do paleontology would be a morale booster. If i could dig it out, prep it, and give it to the Santa Barbara Museum (where is the best pace to send it, thy are a regional museum on the Central Coast), that would be a huge boost to my nonexistent self-esteem. Or just a chance to get out into the field. Spending an afternoon at Carrizo Plain hunting for invertebrates was a nice start, but it’s like crack; you can’t have just a sample, you crave more almost insatiably (at least for me that’s how it is). I have gone o a couple commercial ventures, out to Lake Manix an to Red Rock Canyon. I have signed up again for Red Rock Canyon, but even though nothing has happened yet, it’s got me a little down. I didn’t find anything last time (just like at Lake Manix) while other people did (including people who have been doing this quite a while). People keep telling me I’m smart, but i don’t see it. Where i go, I’m not some known or appreciated member of the body academic; I’m just another dumb tourist with a camera. I mean, i have to pay to go prospecting and so far i have yet to produce anything with the exception of Carrizo Plain (that’s 2 to 1 for those keeping track). We will have to see how this year’s goes.

That last paragraph aside, the rest of this post lays out how i often think about giving up on the Grand Vision. The odds just feel like they are stacked against it. I mean, i bought a little book of inspirational quotes about accomplishing your goals at the Forestiere Underground Gardens and have been reading it almost every day but it’s just not cutting it. Truth be told i don’t know why i hang on to such a foolish notion as being able to open my own museum here on the Central Coast. I could be very happy not opening it if i could just be a paleontologist here on the Central Coast. But where would i work? I don’t think i’d be able to due to lack of job opportunities. I would love to help the Santa Barbara Museum build their fossil collection, but i don’t know if they would go for it. I have have toyed with the idea that instead of building a museum up here, maybe try working with the Santa Barbara Museum to create a little satellite down there, likeĀ  the Tye Warner Sea Center, devoted to paleontology. But again, i don’t know if they’d go for it. Right now I’m trying to get a permit to go fossil hunting in Barstow to find them stuff (Barstow has many of the same animals found in the Caliente formation) but only time will tell how far i can get. I feel like getting out into the field is the only thing that can get me out of this slump. But i ain’t holding my breath.

Till next time…