“It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s just that I don’t like being around them all the time.”
Boston Bill, contract electrician, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
How different it is.
No driving in the right lane at 85 miles an hour with someone on your ass because you’re only going 15 over the limit. And they’re so much more important than you are. They might be. But where’s their humanity? I know. They don’t have the time.
On the ice …
It’s been a year now since I first set foot.
Maximum 25 and that’s to keep the ice, that beloved ice, and volcanic gravel roads drivable. And people are cooperative. Some on the precipice of charting new worlds. Yet they break bread and break ice just like the rest of us. Back stateside, probably a lot of the vipers that slither through the cities and rural landscape, posing as citizens, lack real, are really machines. Soul-less machines. At best good consumers.
No one racing in front of you to get to the checkout line, because they have to be first.
First, for what?
Sure, there were lines in the galley, line at the bars, the coffee house, lines to get to the observation tube, but it gave you an opportunity to talk with people. People from all over the country. All over the world. Of course what would you want to say to someone at your local discount? I see you have a cart full of some three dozen frozen pizzas, some toilet paper, two cases of cheap beer and rot gut vodka. Right on.
People thought they were championing the cause of science, exploring the last frontier on Earth, what’s left of the Earth and moving forward.
They are. The Ross Sea was just set aside as a refuge protected, whereas the land has been, the waters just now are. And we’re looking to the stars.
You get on the road back home, you’re just another rat on a wheel, a drone going back and forth to the hive. For what?
Of course it is cold.
Cold as ice.
Tranquil serenity amid beautiful desolation.
Tiff, a contract electrician came from around the corner after just coming out of Southern Exposure. One of the bars. I had just finished up at FM 104.5, Ice Radio where I DJ’d four nights a week doing an Antarctic version of the show I do at “The Nation’s Music Source” here in this America. Something to keep me my sanity. Aside from working my perpetual day job. She cornered me and said we needed to talk.
As a fire technician, I worked with the electricians, the plumbers, the utility techs, the Antarctic Fire Department, the scientists. But it was the other contractors, your fellow mates of the FEMC, (Facilities, Engineering, Maintenance and Construction,) that you saw every morning after breakfast for the thirty minute morning start of the day with stretch in the yoga studio that you seemed to get to know.
I didn’t know Tiff, other than that she showed up at stretch wearing a down jacket, made tea every morning, probably weighed all of one hundred pounds but carried the weight of any electrician anywhere in any continent.
Antarctica. Am I really here?
It’s after midnight. The sun: brilliant. Ice reflecting its frigid radiance at the bottom of the world.
Washington, and Little Mike (not Big Mike, South Africa Mike – or Medium Mike as he was sometimes known) fellow electricians, they left us alone. We ducked inside a furnace room aside Gallagher’s, the other bar next to the radio station. We had keys. She opened the door. She could see I felt overworked and under-appreciated at the edge, my personal perpetual periphery, looking askance. Why? My frozen self-deprecating ego as frozen, fractured, frakked up, shattered as icy shale. I probably needed some rest. I thought this would be my reset. Maybe it was. I tensed up.
She said I made a difference. Said if it wasn’t for me, the fire techs, none of us would be here. Said I contributed to the program.
I thought about how I tackled an issue with the fire system in the power plant that could have led to disaster. McMurdo, America and Scott, the Kiwis, New Zealand, plunged into darkness, and worse powerlessness — if I got it wrong. And then: Success. Then went on to work another eighteen hours, after on my way back to the shop, getting the VMF, the Vehicle Maintenance Facility back on track.
She went on and I felt choked up, yes, tearful.
We never talked again.
Meanwhile back in the real world, now back on terra firma … I posted on Facebook, confirmation of a grand adventure and so much more. My friend Teresa and I had just seen the latest Jason Bourne franchise the night before and then: arrival.
I was compelled.
“I got this today. A black SUV was parked in my drive and two men wearing suits and dark sunglasses got out, shook my hand and handed me an envelope and disappeared.”
I look again at what they presented.
Liked by more than any other on anything I had previously posted, that’s pretty good for me and a lot of comments.
Judy Simonds, artist: “Thanks for your hard work.”
Tom Crawford, WMSE 91.7 General Manager: “Thanks so much for what you have done.”
A burly biker, John Church: “Way to go Jeff. Wear it with honor.”
Well, I can’t and that’s explained on a card box the medal comes in as I’m not Military.
Carter Hunnicut, a former firefighter and musician that I did an album cover for: “Wow.”
Another “Wow wow !!!! – Wanda De Bella.
Mark Meyer, a fellow alarm tech, I worked with: “Very cool, Jeff! Congratulations!”
Marty King, another alarm professional: “This is too cool!”
Jose Antonio Delgado, another fellow co-worker: “Don’t drink the coffee Jeff!!!”
What? Makes me think of Zappa and yellow snow, but coffee? No worries.
Carri Skoczek, an artist in New York: “Scary, but so cool”
Mark Garber, a fellow colleague at ‘The Nation’s Music Source, WFAQ-LP FM’ where I DJ and provide technical support – “Can you fix parking tickets now?”
Craig Schmidt, editor and writer I worked with at the Milwaukee Shepherd Express: “a proud moment I am sure.”
Scott Schanke, owner of the legendary Café’ Voltaire, an ‘80s music venue where I performed as Deke Marler in the Deke Marler Consortium, his comment: a smiley face emoticon.
Eric Hoppe, another alarm professional I worked with: “So thanks for freezing your balls off in the name of science … lol”
Michael DiMilo, artist, art director … I worked with him also at Shepherd Express: “That’s Great!”
Carolyn Manley McCarter, another writer from the Shep: “Wow.”
Diane Pozorski Bakos, an old friend from back in sixth grade: “supercalifragilsticexpeialidocious, and real nice! Way to go Jeff!”
Comment makes me think of that old Shepherd slogan: Really, really nice. Flashback: 1983 …
Jeffrey Beaudoin, another alarm tech and the guy that helped me buy my Trek Madone and get me riding Centuries for charity: “That’s pretty cool. Or it was cool or cold or congrats.”
The certificate, framed it and it sits at my office in Madison and Sugar Creek.
Therese O’Grady, a friend: “That is so dynamite, it’s f—g unreal! I’m not surprised it happened to you. But let me just ask you Jeff, did you think for a moment they may have mistook you for an alien, lol?”
Ann ABelle Z, another friend: “Congratulations!”
Lauren Carpenter, friend from when I lived in Chicago: “Wow! Congratulations!”
Reading this all, thinking about what I posted about that black SUV and the two suits. Getting thick.
Andi McKenna, an activist and videographer: “Awesome! Good for you!”
Kelly Pope, another friend from the East side of Milwaukee: “Awesome!”
Andrea Witkowski, another friend I only see in FB: “that’s awesome along with how it was delivered.”
How it was delivered.
Jane Prusko, someone I haven’t probably seen in a thousand years: “What a unique accomplishment. Congratulations.”
Bill Conroy, writer, editor a Shep alum now in Seattle and former roommate: “Very cool Jeff. The National Science Foundation, that’s like getting a medal from the United Federation of Planets. A keeper for posterity.”
Diana Stonie Rivera-Caldwell, friend and lead of the Psycho Bunnies: “Congratulations!”
Byron Blake, a fellow Fire Tech at McMurdo, now in Djibouti, working at Camp Lemonnier: “Ditto. Same black SUV showed up at my home in FL. Though I’m still here in Africa at the moment..,”
Roger that. Thank you for that. Lol.
Julie Topetzes, you know, I’m not sure how I know her: “Congratulations!”
Doug Hissom, another Shepherd Express editor: “Last time a black SUV was parked by my house I ran.”
I had to put a stop to it.
Grant Richter, musician, inventor: “A tip o’the Atomic Hat to Jeffrey Jay Worman for his public service medal. Mr. Worman, a much loved local local cartoonist and bandleader, set his sights upon McMurdo Station near the South Pole.”
Local? I’m everywhere and nowhere.
Craig Schmidt, again: “Heroes aren’t maid; they’re bourne.”
And before Craig posted that, I told Teresa, my good friend Teresa who along with James and my sister, she watched my house, watched my cats, watched my back … I told her about the medal, the award, her comment: “It’s just a fucking job. Who do you think you are? Jason Bourne?”
Making trouble. I had to post on my post.
I didn’t have my HD with the photos of the one I wanted to share I knew would be perfect.
It would have to wait. Or would it? I opened FB and it was one year to the day so FB had the image I wanted to post as an explanation, ironically.
There it was.
My next second summer for 2016. One the Austral summer, the southern hemisphere in Antarctica, the second: here.
I sat alone watching my friend, Raymond Hubbard, an Iraqi Veteran, playwright and fellow karaoke madman, in his play at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee: And Comes Safe Home.
In closing, Raymond Hubbard’s comment: “So damn happy an Antarctic Mission Veteran saw my damn show.”
I too was home. What an honor to have someone who nearly gave all, blown up in a roadside bomb commending me.
My closing comment, lower case, “wow.”
The show must go on.
Jeff Worman lives in Walworth County, Wisconsin where there is water and a crisp, cool night sky conducive to the creative process. He has been drawing and writing since he was able to hold a pencil in his hand. Worman started out as a high school intern at the Bugle-American, an alternative newspaper in Milwaukee, and was a founder and long standing contributor to the Crazy Shepherd which emerged from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is published currently as the Shepherd Express. Worman’s column The Hourly Why was conceived in 1982, published broadly in underground newspapers over the decades and can be found online today at www.thehourlywhy.com. He has a great love of the outdoors and champions charities by riding those long distance centuries on his road bike to raise funds. Contact the author.