March 15, 2004

Interview #7

Today I've got another really special guest with me in the studio. Her name is Kristen and she's an archaeologist in Texas with the U.S. Army. Kristen and I went to high school together in Utah. Being non-Mormon in Utah is enough to make people friends in high school there, but we were also reporters on the school newspaper together, and that's probably how we really got to know each other. Kristen also was a very good friend of my sister's, who was in the same year as Kristen. I'm a year older than the two of them, so I was really more of a mature, fiercely intelligent woman role model for Kristen. :-) At any rate, let's get started with the interview.

KC: Kristen, when we were in high school, you were really committed to the idea of becoming a journalist. You wanted to go to Columbia and really go all the way with it. I'm curious to know how you shifted gears and ended up in archaeology.

KW: good question! When I went to college, I started out a communication major with every intention of becoming an international journalist. I diligently signed up for my first required courses in communications (a core requirement of courses had to be filled before you could be "accepted" into the journalism program or something like that). The first course had some vague innocuous title like "Intro. to Mass Communications." On the first day of class our instructor had us go around the room and explain why we were in communications as a major. To my dismay I was surrounded with a bunch of eager freshman wanting to become (and these are quotes), a "PR representative making 80k a year" and, my personal favorite, "the next Jane Pauley" that in and of itself was not enough to drive me away from the field...after all I was an idealist, hopeful that I could save the world through obective reporting of world events. However, with every assignment, I became more dejected about the field. One of our projects was to develop a "spin" for the Exxon Oil Company in addressing the Valdez Oil Spill. In hindsight, I can see that there was a reason to prepare an assignment, this was a general communication class not a journalism class. I was offended and simply wrote a paper saying that I would encourage Exxon to admit their error and take proactive steps to mitigate the damage, working in conjunction with the environmental groups who were the most vocal about the spill to clean-up the spill. I received a C for not thinking creatively in how to spin the issue. The PR wannabe-Young Republican who wore a tie to class everyday received an A for finding a way to blame it all on the Captain and not directly acknowledge fault. I hated the class and stopped giving it my all immediately...there were mountains to hike and hours to be
spent hanging out talking about important issues.

At the same time that I was dragging myself reluctantly to that class, I was thinking back on a class I had taken the quarter before. The class was called "The Human Past" and it intrigued me. I had never been too much into science in high school but in this class, genetics and the role of physical sciences in uncovering the mystery of human evolution and adaptation fascinated me. The class was writing intensive and after the first exam, the professor had berated a mortified room of students about the poor quality of writing and how disappointed he was that only 3 students had managed to write coherently and earn an A. Well, you can guess who one of those students was! Nothing like a little positive reinforcement.

I still hadn't given up my journalistic goals, but I had become more interested in pursuing international politics as a degree rather than communications which I felt wasn't going to give me what I wanted (in my idealistic mind). I can't really pinpoint when I decided to officially pursue becoming an archaeologist, I just know that the classes in cultural anthropology I took to supplement my international politics class were far more interesting and stimulating to me. I loved exploring the mystery of how culture defines us as human beings and the role it has played in world geopolitics. After my first archaeology class, I became even more hooked on the idea of literally digging stuff up to piece together history. I loved being outdoors and out in remote places, I found it hard and still find it hard to spend long periods in big cities and stuck in offices. I thought archaeology was the perfect way for me to stimulate my mind and my body at the same time...and now, over a decade later, here I am!

I could go on and on about it, people are confused. You should have seen my parents when I said I was switching majors, I consoled my Dad with the idea that because of the intensive writing involved in Anthropology, many people used it as a springboard for law school. In all reality, I did toy with that idea as I wanted to pursue Environmental and Native American Rights law, but couldn't give up dig-in-the dirt archaeology.

Also, as an irony, the girl who was editor-in-chief of paper before me, Sherri Murry, also became an archaeologist. She got her masters like me and works in SLC as a professional archaeologist. Isn't that funny?

KC: Actually, I don't think it's such a far stretch that you (or Sherri) ended up in archaeology because it's still a form of story-telling, and not in the sense of fictional story-telling, but in the journalistic sense. What do you do? You piece together bits of evidence you've collected to come up with a bigger picture and cohesive story of what happened. Like you, I became disillusioned with the journalistic field when I was in college because it seemed so obvious the push was more on how you had to write a story to increase submissions and viewers. I did consider just switching to PR because I thought, hey, that's really all it is. I'd rather just be truthful and call it what it is. In the end, I finished out with journalism, but you can see it's not where I stayed. I got sick of writing what other people wanted me to write and not being able to tell what I saw as the truth, so I focus on my fiction now because I can tell the stories I want to tell. Now, with all of that out of my system...what comes to your mind when you hear "Utah?"

KW: Love your comments about your own experience with Journalism. I don't think PR is so bad now either, after all, at least it is explicit, whereas I wonder with the media...whether swinging a blatant liberal or conservative agenda it bothers me that there is very little objectivity.

First thing that comes to mind when I hear "utah"? Well the first thing I do is physically cringe (I swear! I did it just now)...the second thing I think of is "STERILE" and "STIFLING" is a place that just scares the s#$t out of me because I think it tends to just drain the individuality out of people in the long run. My brother still lives there with a wife who comes from a mormon family. She doesn't practice the religion but she carries the values and behavior at some intrinsic level despite her attempt at liberal posturing...and my brother, my family feels like he isn't the same person, he has started talking like a Utahan, you know that sing-song kind of nervous voice...and they are just so sorta uptight and afraid of anything different. In fact, this year was the very first time their whole family traveled out of state to come see my parents and us in Santa Fe. My brother thinks Utah is so great, but I just can't stand it, the minute I get there I start feeling repressed. Does that make sense? I went there for some training with a co-worker and he didn't believe all the stuff I said about it but after a day or two, he changed his tune to "I can't believe you are right, this place just FEELS oppressive." And now with all the growth, it has all the negatives of big cities with none of the positives despite all their attempts to internationalize (is that a word) the place for the olympics.

There is a woman I work with here who is a civil engineer and she grew up an airforce brat in Layton. She is Catholic and the first time we both realized we were from Utah and NOT mormon we both launched into this laundry list of common things we hated about the place. She never wants to go back there to live, even though her parents retired there and she does visit them with her husband and child. There is just something that Utah does to you, there was an article on MSNBC.Com during the Olympics from a reporter who grew up there as a Non-Mormon and it really articulated the experience well. I wish I had bookmarked it!

Have you read that Jon Krakeur book on the polygamists in Utah? It really is a well-written history about Utah in general that really captures the overall feeling of being in Utah and not running with the Righteous so to speak!

KC: Actually, I haven't read the book you mention, but last I time I was in Utah visiting my friend Erin, I actually got to see a polygamist family up close and personal. We were hiking at Zion and we were at the visitor's center and there they were in all their glory. I was really excited because I'd never seen a polygamist when I lived there. Oddly enough, they reminded me of the Amish. They kind of dressed that way. The really funny thing (maybe not so funny, really) is that the husband was just gross looking. I mean, there was nothing about him that would make you look at him twice, let alone let him touch you, and there he was with his multiple wives?banging away every night, I'm sure. I'm sure they didn't appreciate me staring at them like they were an exhibit in a zoo. When I first started college, people couldn't believe the things I told them about living there. I do try to get back every few years to visit friends, because they're still my friends despite it all, and I can't help but lovin' them. Now, who is the guy in your past that you think "what if" about?

KW: Yeah I saw polygamists when I worked in a government public affairs office in college there, they would come in for forms and stuff...kinda funny how they are anti-government until they need welfare and stuff like that because the man is too lazy and busy procreating to earn a living to support all these women and children...very strange..people do have a hard time understanding what it is like. When I used to spend my summers up north of the Arctic Circle, my colleagues looked forward to the after dinner relaxation in the kitchen tent and would pester me for stories of Utah and
Mormons..funny, huh?

What guy do I think "What If"? Easiest question ever, I've always wondered about a guy in high school in Virginia, Christopher G. When I started school there after moving from Austin, TX, I felt in major culture shock. My family had moved us from the richest school district in Austin (where we were the "poor" family) to the middle of rural Virginia farm country where we were suddenly, the "Richest." I had never been out of the suburbs except on vacation and was shocked by the demographics of the high school population. They were equally shocked by me with my odd clothing (MTV had been a staple in Austin). Christopher was this preppy guy who had moved there the year before from Texas and he was immediately friendly to me and started talking about Texas and our shared love of good music. He was popular, a swim team member, fine looking and he was always a good friend to me. I'm sure his prepster friends gave him a hard time about me (oooh, it sounds so "Pretty in Pink" now!), but he never shied away from being a friend to me when they were around or anything like that. Of course, he never asked me out on a date or anything but when I moved to Utah, I remember being shocked that he had actually written me back after I sent him a letter (he actually sent me a tape that he talked on and put some tunes
on, I thought it was cool). I don't know what happened to him, I'm sure he is either settled down and happily married with 1.5 kids or maybe even gay (with my luck)! But I always thought we would have ended up a really cool odd couple!!

There is also Trent S. from my junior high days in Texas. We were going steady until I dramatically broke up with him for daring to want to hold my hand in school!! Too much physical contact for me in my opinion! I thought he was even geekier and more boring than me. He tried to win me back with a Garfield calendar at Christmas....I wasn't impressed. I later found out from my best friend there (who I still talk to also!) that he ended up becoming an Olympic level swimmer (actually tried out for Olympic team, may have been on it) and was really good looking and had got a PHD in computer science and owned his own software company in Austin and ran triathlons...sigh...don't know where he is now, maybe Austin but also might be getting an MBA at Harvard last I heard (ironically I don't know if he is married, but I can't imagine he isn't!

What about you? Who is your "what if?" Is it someone from Weber? hint hint, anyone I know ;^)

Sorry my answers are so long! I can't shut up when it comes to dredging up memories!

KC: My "what if" is a fellow Weberite; although, I don't know if you knew him. I dated him the summer before I started college, my friend Erin's brother Steve. It was a very whirlwind sort of romance and the only one in my life where I felt completely swept off my feet. Of course, there were too many barriers for it to really work. There was the religion issue, just to begin with, and the fact that he was in Utah and I was in Pennsylvania. But, I still like to wonder about it because it's really the only relationship I've had where it came to an end because of logistics rather than due to the fact that we were done with each other. There's nothing more intriguing than a relationship that didn't have the chance to run itself out. At any rate, he made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world at a point in life when every girl should get to feel that way. So, I owe him a lot for that. Also, don't apologize for the long answers?you're an interviewer's dream. No prodding needed here. :-) OK, I'm going to liberate you now. What thing from your past have you been hiding because you'd be absolutely mortified if anyone knew?

KW:I remember you dating someone but I can't remember the guy! Oh well, I'm surprised I remember as much as I do, but it always seems to be odd stuff, like the place I used to eat lunch at Weber with Angie, some stairwell near our lockers and I'd hog all Ang's lunch because it was usually some awesome leftovers of your mom's Korean cooking (the fact that there is not one but several Korean restaurants around me since it is an army town balances the negatives of being in Central Texas! Although I still can't find some of the
things your Mom made (some spicy pancake and a kinda stew like thing with rolled up ricecakes sticks in it...mmmm)

Anyways, I digress, as usual.....avoiding the issue obviously. What thing are you hiding from your past that you would be absolutely mortified if anyone knew???? I suppose it would have to be an affair I had with a fellow graduate student whilst I was coming to the end of a turbulent romance with my ex-fianc?e...although we had officially decided to become unengaged we were still a couple working on things supposedly (although it was mostly me trying to deal with this very intelligent, tortured writer guy trying to get into graduate school for philosophy). The fellow student was someone who WAS just engaged to a girl he had dated for 7 years and who I knew and
liked. They were also having relationship problems, but that really is not justification for what happened. It was an easy way to escape problems by running to someone else. It stopped obviously although I have to admit by that point I was starting to like him a lot since my relationship was failing so miserably. He married the girl but they ended up divorcing a year later (weird huh, almost 10 years together and then marriage made them implode). He rushed out and married the next girl he dated and they have a kid. We email as friends but we've never really talked about what happened. I feel most awful about my ex-fianc?e, for all his faults, he was always
faithful to me and made me feel beautiful. He just was so devoted to reading, wandering the wilderness on solitary journeys and writing that there wasn't a lot of room for me. I really wanted us to work but even though we tried after our "Disengagement", it didn't really work. I think the main problem is that I could never really come clean and tell him what happened and he deserved to know that...but I was afraid it would devastate him and felt ashamed. So I've kept it to myself, only two other people really know it happened. My ex-fianc?e and I stay in touch, he has moved toFrance to pursue his writing dream, but I still can't bring myself to tell him. Shameful isn't it? I hope you edit this down! I used to feel really awful about this, while I'm still not thrilled with it, after observing and talking with people over the years, I realize I'm not the only one who has made some hurtful choices in my life.

KC:Wow! I don't have anything that good. All my secrets revolve around stuff I haven't told my parents. So, I'm going to come clean with you. Dad, that time Laura Glenn got drunk and I told you I didn't, well, I did. I feel really bad about that one because when my father looked me straight in the eye and asked if I was telling the truth, I looked him straight back in the eye and said, "When have I ever lied to you before?" And he took my word for it. Also, I took birth control pills in college and had sex before I got married. OK, that felt good. Now, in what way do you think we (Americans) as a culture have failed our children?

KW: Man, you are so good! I debated about just going with the run of the mill, I lied to my parents, but I never really did. I always told them about when I drank and my parents pretty much accepted me living with my ex-fianc?e and knew I was sexually active, they just wanted to make sure I was safe and covered my Mom took me to the doctor so I could get my birth control pills!!! My Dad just kinda pretended he didn't know it was all going on! It was safer for him that way!

In what ways have we as Americans as a culture failed our children? I have to say that there are probably many ways we have failed: in not protecting our environment more, in not protecting our country more, in not giving greater recognition to the past and in emphasizing the "Me" in American....I hope I can write my ideas out here because there are a lot of things that bother me. It bothers me that kids today are exposed to so much hedonistic and greedy behavior via the "role models" put out there by the media. Whether it be Britney Spears or Kobe Bryant (I know innocent until proven guilty but still his behavior was wrong) or 50 Cent the rapper, we feed our kids a culture that it is o.k. to be a superficial person. If people say to me that Britney Spears is about female empowerment, I laugh, she doesn't even know how to spell the word much less explain what it means (and I'm not saying girls should stomp around in combat boots and not shave their legs, just that I don't think Britney gets balancing femininity with equality). Kids today get bombarded with the notion that the easiest way to be a success is to sing well like on American Idol or play sports or just be attractive. The show Survivor summarizes to me the problems I see in American Culture. As an anthropologist, the notion of Tribe means a group
of folks with shared values and behavior who stay together as a result of their common experience. On the show survivor, the goal is to outsmart and outwit your teammates to win a big wad of money. That doesn't make any sense, a "tribe" would never behave in that way. In most primitive societies, groups of people banded together find communal sharing a better way to deal with exterior pressures.

I feel sad, I think we grew up in a generation that was more socially and politically conscious than youth today. The technology that was supposed to improve education for future generations in some ways is contributing to its demise...videogames, sound bytes, some ways we have shortened the attention span of an entire generation! Awareness and study of the past, of theatre, of art, of literature are all important aspects of a modern society. I don't think the Technological and Scientific advances we've seen would have taken place without is like that Sting commercial for music and math, have you seen it?

I guess that sounds really depressing and it probably shouldn't. First of all, I don't have kids so I guess I don't have a great perspective although I do outreach and programs at a lot of schools and am sometimes horrified by what I see. On the other hand, I do think there is a lot of hope for the future based on my positive experiences from schools and also from witnessing my own niece and nephews. There is plenty of good out there, I just hope that this fascination with the gluttonous media blob of reality tv and greed is balanced out some.

Phew, this soapbox is making me dizzy!!! If that doesn't make any sense, I wouldn't be surprised, I was putting down my thoughts quickly. Edit down or condense into something legible, if you can! This was great fun!

KC: Is that your polite way of telling me you've got more important things to do right now? :-)

KW: no! I'm still finishing up lunch! It just sounded like it might be the last question! Gal, I could write all day about stuff and since I'm stuck in front of a computer anyway with this mapping I'm doing, what the hell? :^)

KC: OK, since you're still willing to answer questions. What's the best piece of gossip you've heard about someone we went to high school with?

KW: What is the best piece of gossip from high school? Geez, I don't know, I remember hearing that one of my best friends, Jodee Knight, got married and divorced later which was kinda shocking to me....I also found out that a guy (Danny Wade) I was in World History with ended up being gay and living with a flight attendant partner in SLC(and he was not a drama guy, he hung with
the popular-sporto crowd)....Seems like I should having something more "juicy"...I mean Angie is a little bit of a story but she is my friend so I don't count that! I think I was gossip for a little while because when I was at home after my freshman year, I hung out with Brian White and we both had become, um very briefly, deadhead potheads...I'm sure some of the old crew talked about that but we were in college so it was ok to be smokin' (and I did smoke cigarettes for a long time and lived with someone out of wedlock, gasp, the shame!)... I feel like there is someone big I'm missing but can't think of it....whatchya got? Anything good?

KC: No, I don't have anything really, really good. Although, I did hear that before Jennifer Cragun got married she went in for a gyn check-up and the doctor felt a large tumor on one of her ovaries, so they scheduled for immediate surgery because they thought it might be cancer and when they opened her up, the tumor was an egg that had tried to develop without being fertilized and it had teeth and bone in it. Of course, when told this, I found it hard to believe and said, "Are you sure it wasn't an ectopic pregnancy and they're just trying to cover up the fact that she had sex before marriage?" I still think that's the case. But that's probably the best thing I've heard. Did you even know who Jennifer Cragun was? You were friends with Jodee Knight? I have to say that really shocks me. There was nothing about her that would make me think you could be friends with her. I definitely want to hear more on this, but, alas, I have to go pick-up [my daughter] from school. Maybe we can start this up again tomorrow if you have time. At any rate, thanks so much for talking to me today. It's been real, just like J-Lo.