Back the great white south.
Trip Start Oct 23, 2009
6Trip End Feb 28, 2010
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Started writing this on 10/18/2009
I've been in-between jobs here for
about a month. My bank account is getting low. I just called Ma
earlier and asked her if she would put $200 in my bank account, so my
check doesn't bounce for my bill payments. Things are tight but as
usual my experiences are making me rich.
I arrived home in September, just about
a week before my Birthday. My visit home was awesome. All the time
spent at home was spent visiting friends and family, drinking beer,
did, but not enough to tell, anyway. Probably from all the running
around. Detroit isn't an easy place to get around. It's very spread
out. Urban sprawl is the term that comes to mind. There is no good
public transit. (Thanks to GM, and there efforts to rip the rail
system out in the mid 20th century.) But it is what it
is, and I love it. Everyone must commute and it becomes a way of
life. Detroit has earned its title of the “Motor city.”
So I drove and drove and drove. I used
station wagons, foreign two seater convertibles and motorcycles, and
any other ride I could get my hands on.
I spent time in Chicago, for my
to my friend, Radiohiros place, for the Freakeasy. Kinda a Speakeasy
but more of a modern day version of the underground dance scene. He
literally holds the party/show in his own home. A flat in the city,
with a huge roof deck that had two geodesic domes outside on the
roof. The domes housed the stage for a dramatic demonstrations of
fire antics and belly dance performers.
Inside his home he has turned his
recording studio into the dj booth, ripped out the one wall in the
home to make one giant dance space with 12 foot ceilings and kind of
a make shift upper loft for people to chill out and watch the people
dancing while they take a rest from the dance floor themselves.
Wow, so much fun
of the more memorable parties that I have been to, and it was filled
with many, many, many good people Some I knew previously, and some I
didn't. But lot's of which I consider my good friends that I know
through Burning Man.
In the morning, as the sun rose we all
sat out on the roof top watching the amazing scene unfold over the
Chicago skyline. Still sipping drinks, sharing stories, the light
din of laughter resonating through the air. Someone steps out onto
the porch and and yells, “hey, can you all see me???” Everyone
looks at the guy and he whispers “the cops are here.” We all
laugh, because we already now this, and he is just being paranoid
The cops just roll into the party and come outside onto the porch,
where we are all sitting and enjoying our morning. They just take a
walk around and greet us, Saying good morning. One of them even stays
for some breakfast, and some conversation. Nothing to worry about he
says. Nobodies in trouble. Unsanctioned parties are so much fun.
It's really like a little bit of history unfolding right in front of
my face. I am sure we will be revisiting Radiohiros Freakeasy
parties in the future, as the stories get passed on through the
generations of hear say text books, on throwing underground parties!
Other stand out moments on my trip home
include... Going with Dondo to Hitsville USA. The Motown museum.
Where all the great Motown artist recorded their most famous songs
In the recording studio the floor still has holes where the
technicians stomped their feet furiously to the beats of Stevie,
Diana, Marvin, and Michael. Later that same day we went spelunking
through an old abandoned building. A music school that has been
closed for just 4 years. The place was totally stripped of all
useful items. All electrical wiring, machines, even one of the
boilers was missing.
Other great times were, my visit with
Ben Brown, a friend from my days in Boot camp in the Marine Corps.
My visits with Stanley who, I've had blowout, drag downs with in the
past. I hadn't really talked to her for months, but made up within
the last month or two
growing, with more growing on the way. But best of all was a visit
with my Uncle Jim.
Uncle Jim is facing his deathbed right
now. Battling Cancer, Diabetes, and Congestive heart failure all at
once. It doesn't look very good for him. I leave home so often and
for so long that I have to see him every time I come back, even
though he lives 3 hours away in South Bend, Indiana. Uncle Jim is
one of only two living relatives on my Fathers side of the family.
Aunt Marlene is the other. But Uncle Jim has been an important male
figure for me in my life since my Father died when I was very young.
He's been the story keeper for our family! Being a writer, he has
researched and written down a huge chunk of my family history
a great storyteller and he finds great pride in keeping our history
alive. He doesn't look that healthy and he is very emotional on
this visit. His voice cracks when he speaks of the kindness of his
neighbors and his family who are there for him when he needs it. I
have a bad feeling that this is the last time I will ever see Uncle
Jim, and I cried on the way home as I thought of this. But we had an
awesome visit, as we always do. I asked him if he had considered
alternative medication to his conventional ones. But he is so old
school and he felt comfortable with what he was trying. He feels his
time is up, and he is satisfied with that. We talked about death a
bit and he didn't seem very scared at all. I wish him the easiest of
passing and hope he finds himself in an amazing utopia when he wakes
up from that transition
I left for Denver a little bit early to
visit two new friends who invited me out to visit them in the
interest of open hearts and new friends. So I accepted. The
Hostesses are Tracey and Jill. Two beautiful people inside and out.
They live near Boulder and put me up for a couple of nights. Taking
me out dancing and feeding me. We are very open with each other in
an effort to really get to know each other. The first night they put
me up in this Chateau in the hills outside of Boulder that Tracy is
house/cat sitting. The funny thing is there is already someone else
there too. He's a personal friend, and employee of the home owner
(who is out of town.) His name is Josh, a DJ/ web designer
think this situation would be uncomfortable for me but it isn't in
the least. We bond with music and he invites us to his show at “the
B-side” a small local bar in Boulder, for some drinks and dancing.
In the morning the girls came to get
me for Breakfast and then took me on a nice hike just outside
Boulder. It's a place called Chetauqua . A local retreat in the
foothills. I have been here before, many years ago, for my best
friends, cousins wedding. Boulder has a beautiful system of trails.
Later on, we have a mid day nap, some food and finally dancing. On
the next day we took it easy, and by the end of the night the girls
were dropping me off in Denver so I can report to my Winter job in
too boring. Just right. It's a great success all in all. I am
really glad I took the chance, and took the time to re-meet these
girls in circumstances outside of Burning man.
In the morning I wake bright and early.
In time for a shower and breakfast before reporting to the company
that will take me down to the ice. I'm not looking forward to the
next few days. It's all briefings, safety meetings and marathon
traveling. All in all it's exhausting and I arrive in Christchurch,
New Zealand 4 days later, after days of lectures on how to act when
representing the company, and more than 24 consecutive hours of
flights and layovers. I have never been so jet lagged. Both nights I
was in NZ I couldn't get more than 4 hours of sleep in a row
Christchurch is a great town. I know it
thinks it's a city but it's really a town. Even though I am tired I
find time to run around and shop for a Halloween costume, safety
boots and booze to bring with me down to the ice. The costume was a
no brain-er. I go to the consignment stores shopping for a dress for
my bearded lady costume. I met a girl who is also working for the
company. She's a friend of a mutual friend of mine, from the last
time I was down on the ice. Susha and I are having a laugh a minute
trying dresses on me, and seeing how ridiculous I look, especially in
the ones that don't fit too well. After all the hoopla we are on our
way to eat at a recommended restaurant called two fat Indians, when I
discover that my wallet is missing
consignment store and barely make it in time for the store clerk had
already closed . She was just minutes away from leaving for the
night. Sure enough the wallet fell out of my pocket there on the
floor when I was squeezing the dresses on and off. Lucky for me it
was just sitting there waiting for me on the small riser ledge. I
think some nice soul may have found it and just set it up there for
me. Nothing was missing, not even one dollar. Whew, what luck!
The hotel that they put me up in is
really cool. It's called the Hotel So. Each floor has a theme, blue
circles, Pink squares, green triangles, and I was on the 2nd
floor, white, crosses. The rooms are kind of futuristic
and it makes me feel like I am walking into a scene from the movie
Bladerunner. It's a very small room. The bed stretches from wall to
wall at the end of the room and has a blue light glowing from
underneath. The back wall is a mirror. And the bath room is
essentially in the same room separated only by a riser, and a giant
curved piece of frosted glass with a sliding glass door and mood
lighting. When you step up into the bathroom there is a toilet and
shower also separated by a sliding glass door only this one is a
clear piece of glass. It's so high tech, I can't figure out how to
get the lights to work. It seems straight forward but what I didn't
know is I have to slide the key card into this special slot in the
wall to get all the electronics to work in the room. When I do
finally get the lights on the I find all sorts of amazing little
quirky things to play with. I can play my MP3 player through the Flat
screen TV. When the alarm goes off it starts by slowly turning the
lights up with a dimmer switch and the TV starts playing beautiful
scenes of the southern alps, with clouds flowing in fast motion, and
soothing music filling the room. It's quite a scene. And they have
a virtual touch screen concierge to answer general questions for you.
It's amazing and beautiful and surprisingly inexpensive. Only $69
NZ a night. Of course I'm not paying for it. But I take a mental
note because it still is impressive for the price.
Susha is a girl that my friend, Kristen
Fargher told me to look out for. The one I mentioned earlier.
Kristen being a friend I made last time that I came to the Ice, who
I've stayed in contact with. To Kristen, Susha is an old friend that
she met from her days in the ski patrol back in Keystone, Co. To me
she is a cute, slightly boyish looking woman, with a slight build who
has an energy about her that is magnetic. She speaks with her hands,
has a short haircut and it opinionated. She can bullshit like the
best of us. Speaking on subjects that she is passionate about and
speaking passionately about subjects that she may know nothing about.
We can “debate” Straight up! No hard feelings. Some people
think we are arguing. My mother surely would take it that way if I
said the same things to her. But for Susha ,it's a hot topic and she
will press, push and think her way into an opinion. I think she is
wonderful. Susha is on her way down to the ice with me. On the same
flights from Denver all the way to Antarctica. On the C-17 flight
somewhere over the Southern Ocean we both donned our earbuds and
started to dance in the small aisle standing directly in front of
everyone sitting along the side of the plane. It was the type of
dancing that you do when nobody is watching. Well, at least it is in
the given amount of space that we had. Which wasn't much. But anyway
it was a good time. I think some people were jealous of our
When we landed on the sea ice runway,
people on the plane cheered . You can tell who the FNGY's (fingees)
are based on their enthusiasm. FNGY is just another McMurdo acronym meaning Fucking New
Guys. I was happy too, but not being a FNGY. I didn't clap and cheer.
I knew what we were actually getting into. As we exited the plane
you could feel the cold air biting on your exposed skin. It was
brilliantly white outside the plane. You must wear sunglasses or you
will be snow blind when you get back inside the buildings. The sun
had stopped setting already, just a day or two before our arrival.
Mt Erebus, the only active volcano on the continent, was in good
form. Completely white, an unobstructed view, silhouetted by the blue
of the sky. She was spitting out just a little puff of smoke. Almost
looks as if someone was on top sending smoke signals. Enough to make
you say, is that a cloud or is that the volcano venting.
As I boarded Ivan the Terra bus, I
thought about how badly I had to piss. It's been over twenty minutes
I've been holding it already since the flight crew made us sit down,
fasten our seat belts and get ready for landing. Ivan the terra bus
doesn't go very fast. Plus, I found out the driver of Ivan was a
FNGY and on her first day of training for this particular vehicle.
Which meant that she was only going to drive slower than normal. Oh,
hurry, please. I gotta piss, like now!!!
Whew, I made it, without incident.
Just a couple more briefings and then I'm off to dinner and bed. I
am trying to beat my jet lag, that has been a bitch to beat. I can't
think of a time in my life that I have had more trouble adjusting to
So now it's time to report to work.
Day two. Seems like old times. People are welcoming me with a heart
warming, chide and jab. “Hey sully, whats up?” “Sully, where
you been?” Big hugs. It really meant a lot to me.
The next week is spent getting my sea
legs back, so to speak. Driving loaders, deltas, and 5 tons.
Spending time relating to people. Telling old friends what I had
been doing for the last year. All about the Baja, The Canyons, The
National parks, the people I've met, and the Green Tortoise. Trying
to recap one and a half years in a nutshell is quite a feat.
Oct, 28th is my first day at
the air strip. This is what really gets me off. Working outside, on
the ice, on the Ice runway. It's an amazing feeling to be back.
Surreal. The whole place is slapping me in the face with Pavlovian
memories. Just hearing the backup beepers on the loaders sends me
into a pseudo hallucination. The reaction is to look up and out
across the Ross ice shelf, at the Royal Society mountains about 70
miles away, with my mouth hanging agape. The view really is
astounding. I can't even count all the glaciers I'm seeing in this
I've been setting goals for myself this
year. I want to get involved. My first idea was to become a radio
DJ again. I had done that in the past and this time I wanted to get
right back into it. But all the good slots are full. Nothing fits my
schedule. Maybe second half of the season. I think I will have a
better choice when I am working nights. Also I want to get involved
in Freezing man. It's the regional Burning man event in Antarctica.
I may even take the lead here, or maybe take a co lead with Galit.
Another burner who is now working in Antarctica. I am so happy and
stoked to be here and I really want to be a part of the community and
contribute on a level that I can relate to. Burning Man is
definitely something I can relate to. My general mood is, TOTALLY
STOKED, and I am ready to work for it.
(side note, Uncle Jim has passed away
since I originally wrote this. Rest in Peace Uncle Jim. I'm gonna
miss your spirit being around!)