Old, old ancient things have always fascinated me. This was exacerbated, no doubt, by growing up in a place -- California -- were very little was old. 1850 was ancient. I craved contact with the old. My uncle, a world traveler and antique dealer knew this. He brought me a nail, an old rusty nail, square, curled in a spiral at its pointed end. He'd found it on the wall of Constantinople. I still have it somewhere. He also showed me his collection of Phoenician tear bottles, small irridescent glass bottles that the Phoenician women would collect their tears in when a husband went to war, a child died or some other heartbreak occurred. When I was in outback Australia, I met a guy -- Grahame Walsh, now dead -- who had documented most of the aboriginal rock painting in the country, some if it tens-of-thousands of years old. The place I found most moving was a rock wall he led me up to in Carnarvon Gorge. As we came around a bend, there it was, 80-90 feet, and for half of that height the sandstone was covered with handprints -- black, ochre, red -- as vivid as if they been made the day before. "3000 to 5000 years ago," Grahame told me. "That's when these were made, 3000 to 5000 years." And as he repeated the age a tear rolled down his ruddy whiskery cheek. Where's a Phoenician tear bottle when you need one?