Jamesway Fever

Sigh – feeling that impending crash of loneliness. Helped host the open mic here last night out in the Summer Camp Jameway, and got quite the rock star reception. Was definitely “on”, as Devon would say.

But everyone was amazing. Really spectacular talent – every person who played was the caliber of the best folks I’ve seen at open mics. Among others: Mark and Joselyn doing old Velvet Underground. John Fonseca pulled off a Hawaiian slide version of “Long Black Veil”. Nathan with some originals – his ode to Spaghetti-Os and Cheez Puffs as hilarious as it was disturbing. Then Joel stood up in his open-front Hawaiian shirt and stole the show with sheer guitar charisma and raw talent. This must’ve been what it was like to see young Elvis: amazing energy, with the crowd shrieking, hooting and singing along in a swoon.

To finish up, we all rejoined the stage for an unrehearsed version of “The Weight”, then swirled into a crazy jam of The Dead. Everyone dancing in a frozen canvas tent under the midnight sun.

And then, suddenly, I just had to get out of there. On no obvious signal, the evening had imperceptibly turned to that moment when everyone starts to look around to see who they’re going to pair up with, who they want to go home with tonight.

There’s not been a lot of that on station – not a lot of the explicit “casing the prospects” that I’d read about in Williams’ article (again, she was in McMurdo which, even from my four days there, has a completely different feel). The couples I’ve seen form here, e.g. – oh, I’ll spare the innocent – have the feel of sweet innocent “Aw shucks, aren’t they cute together” summer camp romances. But tonight, feeling whatever vibe it was that had suddenly welled up in the crowd – it was like the sound that a grandfather clock makes when the minute hand reaches top, when the gears start spinning to pull the clapper back on the midnight bell. It hadn’t yet struck, but the gears were spinning, and I knew it was only moments away. Like Cinderella, I knew I just had to be out of there before it struck 12, or I’d feel really sad and lonely.

Thus is one of the faces of loneliness. I remember Beth saying (yes, I quote Beth like the gospel here, don’t I? Well, she’s not been wrong once so far). Anyhow, Beth had said that at the Pole, you’ll feel more liberated than you’ve ever felt, but also more lonely.

It’s only hit me a couple of times. Early on, when my Jamesway froze. Thanksgiving eve, without mail. That time was tough – I’d been anticipating things from home, and the call finally came for mail pull on the last Herc in. Doing mail pull always feels like being Santa’s helper on Christmas, handing packages up the DZ stairs in a bucket brigade. Big bags of letters and beautifully-wrapped packages – halfway up the stairs, someone will yell “Whoo-hoo! Kelly’s got cookies!” or “Who’s shipping bricks to Bruce?”

But when the packages were all in and lined up against the first floor hall, there was nothing with my name on it. And no letters for me in the “C” cubby.

For the most part, we’re all prepared for disappointment and loneliness. And by the nature of the lives that have led us to the bottom of the world, most of us have gotten very good at coping with it. Me? I found a quiet corner amid the revelry, plugged in my headphones, and listened to Erica Wheeler’s “Beautiful Road”. Let her lyrics and guitar roll over me like warm waves and got it all out of my system over a good sniffle. Then dried my eyes, went up to the galley and helped Rick and Ashley deal with the 7:00 rush in the dishpit. Always feel a helluva lot better doing some good.

Anyhow, that was then, this was now. Came back to my Jamesway and turned in for some sleep. But somewhere around 2:30 this morning, hell broke loose in hallway. No details here – I want to give it time to play out, and give those involved the chance to settle it amicably. But a simmering feud over noise apparently boiled over. There was a lot of yelling and kicking of walls. Some unsuccessful attempts at hallway mediation, and some more yelling. A couple of folks who, perhaps, aren’t dealing with this as well as might be hoped. It all settled down some time after 3:30, but I don’t think anyone in J7 got much sleep for the hour or two after – too much adrenaline in the air.

It’s 8:30 now, and all is calm. I’m typing as quietly as I can. Welcome to Sunday morning at the Pole.

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