Leaving Las Vegas, Antarctica

So, nearly a week has flown by in small town USA.

It may be time to leave McMurdo, homeward bound for Dome C.

Myself and Seb (Frenchie II), have been knocking around these parts for a week.  So much has happened in a week.  It feels like a month has gone by.  Thats Antarctica though.  One hour becomes a day, a day a week, and a month a year… well, probably a lifetime.  I’ll get back to you on this.

McMurdo is like Atlanta Airport or Heathrow – people flying in and out daily.  Worse, we are staying in Building 155, aka Transit House, where in the space of 6 days we have had 5 flat mates.  With flights to-ing and frow-ing from the South Pole, and various distant and remote camps, McMurdo buzzes with refugees and displaced persons.

The hospital and town is like a remote Médecins Sans Frontières unit, operating at the opposite, far end of a developed world country.

And the bars, feature like in an old western movie, but the people don’t stop to put their drink down to look round to see who just walked in as they are so used to newbies, old timers, drifters and drunks.  The alcohol flows as freely as the Ganges.

One guy told me how the cash machine here (yes indeed- there is a cash machine) is restocked directly from the money from the two bars.  A circle of life, of some kind.  No Simba in sight.

Myself and Seb, seeing people come and go, feel like we are stuck, in between a volcanic rock (Erebus) and a hard, icy place (the Glaciers leading to the South Pole).

He is the only French person in this town and I am the only British person.  Like refugees, our passports aren’t recognised and to leave this town you require permits and tickets issued by someone you don’t know, otherwise you are stucker than stuck person in a very sticky place.

I read my passport, Her Majesty permits the bearer freedom of passage without hinderance.   It means nothing here.  17,000 kilometres away in Antarctic nowhere.  It reminds me of the Mexican border.  People sleeping in hammocks.  Stifling hot heat.  All sticky.

Our number hadn’t come up until today.  Some news is better than none.  There maybe a flight tommorow.  Weather dependent.

So until today, we were living in the film The Terminal. A ground hog day.  Again and again and again.

Eating on meal vouchers, sleeping on a bench, awaiting our future.  Ice-cream, coffee, and, ice-cream and coffee.

There are over 1,000 people here.  A huge mixing pot from a monastery.  All is shared.  With a population a hundred times Concordia’s over-winter population.  Transient.  Odd.  Loud.  Obtrusive.

Don’t get me wrong – its anthropologically fascinating.  A distant human outpost.  Perhaps this is what living on a transport hub on a different planet will be like in several hundred or thousand years.  So far from civilisation as we know it, from London, though with the busy and public nature.  There is no privacy here.  Even the shower curtains don’t stretch over the spaces.

My nails are long and I still need a haircut.

I resort to the library to rest my brain.  And what a library.  I transplant my mind, into Mawson, Scott, Wilson and more.  Great God, the library is a wonderful place.

In front of the internet space, people walk past, scraping their heels on the floor.  Its 1am and its becoming increasingly irritating.  Another plane has arrived in from the Pole, which has coincided with the closing of the bars.  Limp Cowboys drift aimlessly around.  The door is left open to the Laundry room opposite.  Someone walks past, mindless, talking to them-self. Drunk.  Big, dudd, oversized, insulating, polar boots and hollow drunken voices, scrape the walls like fingernails down a blackboard.  Drunk.  And loud voices cut the silence in the corridors like a Lemon, in two.  Bitterness leeches out.  This big place, whilst on the one hand, invigorates the soul with the surrounding natural beauty, and with the other hand, slaps you clean around the face, again and again and again, growing heavy on the soul.  Only curiosity for new things saves you.

The same stories are retold with the same inaccuracies, by different passer-bys.

My watch tells a tale of its own.  I have stopped believing it is keeping to local time.  If you can accuse a watch of lying, there it is.  I am tired.

Maybe I am a small town person after all.  Or maybe, having travelled nearly a month and what feels like three times around the world, I am very tired.

None of it makes much sense.  Up side down and the wrong way around.  I wonder if I am missing a piece.

There is some of Alanis Morrisette’s Irony here too… I chose to come here.  I guess next week (or month), we’ll miss this place.  It certainly holds a dark attraction.  I want to come back.  You have to.

I get up and close the Laundry door, for the last time.  The laptop fans’ whirring, tears at your shirt and soul.

You try and pick up a broom to help clean up, but realise it belongs to someone else.

An email pops up – from a producer in London – who wants a story.  Well, here it is.  This a two disc special edit.  With voice-over.  I’ll be in touch soon.

Place your last bets… Maybe tomorrow, we’re leaving Las Vegas.

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