Trip Start Oct 23, 2009
6Trip End Feb 28, 2010
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Most people who know me, know that I love Burning Man. The annual Festival that's held in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada celebrating art, radical self expression, and radical inclusion. So naturally, when I found out that there was a regional event happening in Antarctica. I was stoked. The first Antarctican Freezing Man happened in 2008. That was the season I stayed with the Green Tortoise for the winter, doing the trips to Death Valley and traveling the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. It was a great year in California, but I couldn't help feeling a little bit of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) for not being here on the Ice for the first annual FM on the continent of Antarctica.
When I returned to the Ice in 2009, I was determined to be a part of the Freezing Man planning committee
This was a bit of a blow to me. My fear level started rising considerably. Self admittedly, I am not the best organizer. Plus, one of my biggest faults happens to be asking people for help. So as you can imagine this was a bit of a challenge for me.
The date of Freezing Man was set for January 9th, so I had some time, as I was on top of it from the start of the season. As the date drew closer I was feeling more and more confident in the idea of how it was shaping up. It would differ from the first FM in so far as, we were gonna have performance art this season, not to include live music. Mostly because the event was book ended by musical events on the weekends both, before and after FM
My biggest challenge with all the planing came from dealing with the local bureaucracy. Getting the station manager to give the go ahead with the evening was not so hard. Getting him to allow us to stay open past 11pm was proving to be a bit more of a challenge. This was outrageous to me as I had requested to have the event open from 7 pm until 1 am. There was no way we could have a successful event with performances, activities and fun, and squish it all into a 4 hour time slot. It would take more time to set up and clean up than the event would last. (Which might be typical for most parties) but this was very upsetting to me none the less.
The Station Manager was very worried about an alcohol related incident happening and having it tied to a recreational activity. I lobbied and lobbied to him and the others involved in the decision process for that extra time at the event
So in the end we had a compromise. I agreed to postpone the event to the following weekend, which would be after the DV's had gone. And they agreed to let us stay out and play until 12 midnight. Whoo hoo! I considered this a victory in compromise, and a win, win situation. I originally requested the event last until 1am, but I was happy with this.
Finally the event was upon us. My team mates and about a half dozen others from work, were all behind me helping set up the big gym. As expected it took a while, we were all worn out tired, doing all of this after working a 12 hour shift
One of the last things we tried to do was "erect" the Man. Ha ha, I know how that sounds, so get your mind outta the gutter. "the Man" was an effigy I built out of bamboo. It was human sized and frozen into a giant block of ice weighing about 1800 pounds. Making the man wasn't hard, but it took weeks to freeze him into the block of ice. Meticulously starting a layer of ice in a giant box, then adding the effigy, and slowly layering it with water and retuning it to the freezer milvan. Time and time again until he was almost completely consumed in ice, except for the head. I finally had to stop adding water. Because in the end I added too much water at one time and the box sprung a leak leaving a small puddle of ice forming in the freezer.
The idea was to put him in the gym up against the wall, in a drip berm, with back lighting, so you could see the shape of him in the ice. This idea didn't work so well when we tried to stand him upright. Indoors and without the help of a loader or pulley system we really didn't have the man power to get him out of supine position. So we put him outside at the entrance to the gym using a loader we were able to stand him upright.
Just like most of the Burning Man events I've been to, we were still setting up as people were arriving. And just like most of those events the people started to help set up as well. It was a great feeling, strangers helping without going and soliciting them for it. It's a sure sign of community in my eyes.
So the night stated to kick off. But we held off the performances for a while hoping to gain a bigger audience. In the mean time we had the spicey popcorn penguin popping away with all the good fixin's. As well as, the Hugging deli, in full swing.
My friend Justin, who built the Hugging deli, was manning it with Chase and Mandy, my supervisor. They were having a ball. Lots of laughter was coming from that side of the room, while people were ordering hugs of all varieties. Including, the "wheat field hug",(two people running in slow motion from opposite sides of the room)
The chill room was glowing in UV black light. It had a kinda hookah lounge feel to it, with mats and pillows on the floor a couple of chairs and a couch. There were also these weird chunks of plastic hanging from strings on the wall, that glowed in the black light. There was one big piece on the coffee table, and they looked light chunks of radioactive meteorites glowing in the dark. This, adding to the ambiance.
There were lots of extra costumes available for everyone, and the toys were all being used too. We had two rocker style teeter totters. Both homemade by carpenters here at McMurdo. One was pretty large and was out front with the Man at the entrance to the gym. The other sat 4 people and seemed more like something to hang out on, a place for people to gather. Plus there was the "twirl and hurl" essentially an adult size sit and spin. It was made by the wasties from the Waste Barn for last years event. It was amazing, made out of a giant cable spool, with chair castors underneath for the spinning action. Lot's of laughs on that.
Finally it seemed like it was the right time to start the performances. The stage was just a stage, I didn't even have a back drop which is something to remember for next year
Acting as the Emcee and performing was proving to be kind of awkward. But I handled this with one thought, "what is left to do, but just do it." I opened the show with my staff spinning routine. I bought a special glow staff just for the occasion. I've been so outta practice lately that my performance anxiety was in full effect. Of course it's hard for me to remember all my cool moves while I'm performing. But it didn't matter. I don't think many here have ever seen a glow staff in their life, so I had that going for me. I dropped the staff, 1, 2 , then 3 times and they didn't even seem to notice. People were going crazy. The girls were all hollering and hooting. It felt great, the adrenaline was flowing, and I was all smiles, and having a ball.
The sole reason I performed first was so I wouldn't have to follow any of the other acts. Which I knew would all be fantastic. We had Samantha, doing her belly dance routine. Which of course was phenomenal. Breezy did a Zumba demo. Kind of a bunch of different Latin dances all mixed into a routine. Then Travis and his friends did a hip hop routine on the cardboard we had in the middle of the floor for the Breakers. That was quite an amazing routine for just two weeks of practice
In the midst of all this I found myself in a surreal moment. I forgot I was even in Antarctica. It was a moment of clarity that urged me toward being myself that much more. I suddenly realized, I felt at home away from home again. I was comfortable with the imperfection of the night. In fact the imperfection felt perfect. We made people happy that night. The energy that was present was amazing and tangible. We felt like kids again. All that worry, trying to make it a perfect event, was for nothing. All the effort and even some sleep loss. I giggled at my insecurities.
There were more glitches throughout the night, but nothing seemed like a problem anymore. We danced and played the rest of the night away, until Midnight, the witching hour when we had to shut the doors. The laughter and good energy continued up the hill and into the community that night. Resonating for days and weeks beyond the witching hour.
Later on, long after the party was over, I was walking alone. Revisiting the last 48 hours in my mind
I was humbled by the selfless help of my friends and the community. I was high from the good energy being shared by all. I was grateful for the lessons learned. I was whole and complete again.
I quietly wept, in exhaustion and with pleasure. I felt as if my deceased relatives and ancestors were all there with me, celebrating in life again. I felt they were happy for me! I took a moment to honor them, and thank them for everything they've ever given me, in life and death.