Friday, September 6, 2013

The Big Dig


“I’ve got your shovel,” I said hoisting the tool.
“Okay,” Mr. Wonderful said lacing his boots.
“I’ve got my hammer and chisel.”
“Okay.”
“I’ve got our pith helmets.”
Silence.

It was a new day on our expedition and I was thrilled because I love beginnings. Actually today’s project was not so much a new beginning as a continuation of what we’d been doing for several weeks. But that’s how it goes on archeological digs. Each expedition is composed of smaller expeditions, each “Big Dig” is comprised of smaller digs, and—as my esteemed fellow archeologists say—each clump of earth is made up of beaucoup muddy dirt balls. 




Luckily I was not digging alone. My trusty assistant, a bloke by the name of “Wonderful”, was working this dig with me. Actually he’d been working for me since I’d found him on a gig some years back and I kept him around because—as my esteemed fellow archeologists say—if you find a man who likes to work, make sure he never leaves you.  

Our Big Dig was located in the hinterlands of California, specifically, the Valley, specifically, the plot next to an ancient watering hole, in other words, my swimming pool. On this Big Dig we’d already discovered a sarcophagus, near impenetrable concrete and endless back pain. But it was a new day and I was thrilled to see what today’s digging would reveal!

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Mr. Wonderful said grabbing a shovel. I hired the bloke for his brute strength but it didn’t stop him from having opinions. But as my esteemed fellow archeologists say about their assistants—opinions, shaminions.

Indeed all that mattered to me was history, ancient cultures and discovering the truth. So I grabbed my tools and got to work. While the Wonderful bloke did the digging I, armed with hammer and chisel, chipped away at the bricks to remove them and get to more dirt for us to dig more, which was more than exciting! Since the bricks had covered a significant portion of the dig site since ancient times, specifically, the 1950s, who knew what we’d discover!

“We won’t find anything,” Mr. Wonderful said tossing earth over his shoulder. 
“Don’t be so pessimistic,” I said just before I heard a clank. He stopped shoveling. We exchanged looks. “Keep digging!” I said diving into the hole he was excavating. His shovel pushed deeper. Perhaps it was an ancient relic? A piece of Native American pottery? A moneyball lottery jackpot?

Mr. Wonderful held up a shard. 
“A-Ha! Glass from an earlier tribe,” I said rubbing it clean of dirt.
“It’s broken glass.” 
“But look at its pattern,” I said lifting it to my eyes.
“It’s from a Coke bottle,” my assistant said with a shrug. I looked closer and recognized the distinctive Coca-Cola lettering, its cursive font, its 3D relief. It’s unfortunate when the assistant’s opinion is correct. I tossed the glass in the recycling bin.

But there was more digging to do as well as hammering and chiseling, and major back-paining so Mr. Wonderful and I pushed on. That’s the thing about archeology, you never know what the earth is hiding. You just have to keep working. So we did, only stopping when we heard a scrape.

“What’s that?” I said racing over to Mr. Wonderful’s hole. I thrust my arm into the soil and revealed a white shard of glass. “Look!” I said blowing the dirt off it. “A piece of pottery of an ancient Indian tribe!”
“It’s a shard of a jar.”
“Ancient peoples needed pottery—”
“It says ‘Pond’s’.” I looked carefully and noticed the distinctive white glass of the ancient cold cream container as well as the brand’s name. It’s horrible when the assistant’s opinion becomes fact. I tossed the junk into the recycling bin. 

Perhaps we weren’t finding significant archeological treasures because or our respective jobs? I convinced Mr. Wonderful to wield the hammer and chisel while I shoveled earth. While I knew discovering a Roman relic or a second King Tut’s tomb was out of the question in our California soil, I was confident we’d find something Indian. After all, Los Angeles had been home to indigenous people for centuries before Hollywood starlets showed up. In order to find their relics I just needed more time, more digging and a full bottle of Advil.

As I inserted the shovel in the soil I felt something firm. It wasn’t rock hard but it wasn’t pliable like the soil. I dropped to my knees and dug with my hands—like a ravenous gopher—pushing the earth left, right and out of the way. Then I saw it in the sunshine—lying before me—a brown Indian relic! 

“I knew an Indian element was here!” I said leaping to my feet.
“It’s ‘Indian’ alright,” my assistant said. “A toy Indian.” My digging had unearthed a plastic figurine of an Indian warrior. It stood two inches high and resembled the toy kids in the 1950s played Cowboys and Indians with. I didn’t like it, but my trusty assistant’s opinion was correct again. 

Today’s Big Dig revealed the truth about the ancient peoples of the 1950s alright: 1) They liked soda pop; 2) They cared for their skin; 3) They threw everything into holes they dug in the backyard. Which is exactly how we are today, except the latter feature has changed, I thought setting the toy Indian on the table.