Monday, March 8, 2010

LA = Field Site, Portland = Home?

When I first moved to LA and my homesickness for Portland was in maximum overdrive, I used to think about a scenario in which I would be able to travel through some kind of wormhole to a specific part of Portland. Would I still want to do it if I could only visit, say, SE 82nd Avenue between Holgate and Stark? I could never decide if people would be able to come and visit me in this space, or if I would be unable to communicate with my Portland friends.

I think I got the idea from the Arabian Nights, like it would be the product of me finding a genie and wishing to go to Portland, but somehow misspeaking and then the genie would laugh evilly at my human folly.

Today as I get ready to return to LA yet again I wish I could hide from my flight like I used to hide from my mom when she would come to pick me up from friends' houses. It always seemed like maybe if I could hide well enough in some closet or behind some pillows, she'd give up and we could resume playing with gusto.

I doubt that Horizon Air will come hunt me down if I go hide in a big patch of daphne odora and inhale its sweetness till I pass out. However, hours later when I would awake in a puddle of rain, I would remember that I'm not a little kid and that I do love my LA project, as challenging as it is most of the time.

So it's back to the field I go. After all my years of yammering about how racist, colonialist, scientistic, unethical, etc. it is for anthropologists to leave their homes and go study the native others in Vanuatu or whatever, I've ended up replicating the pattern by feeling as bitter as Malinowski about going back to LA.

(Invariably, though, LA wins me back within a few days of returning from lilting, porchy Portland with its palimpsest of lives and smells and colors.)