Lawn mower madness

(This is a true story!)

I know this guy, Michael. We used to date once, and when we drifted apart we remained close friends. He is a nice enough guy, but he's got a mean temper. When something annoys him, he gets really, really pissed off. Not just irritated, but downright hopping mad. Luckily he only shows this side of his personality when it comes to inanimate objects - not people.

A couple of years ago I was living in a small house on his property (there's a long story behind this, and I haven't yet decided if it is worth telling here...), and one of my chores was mowing the grass. It must be said that he had a really big lawn: just around 70 m * 80 m, with a lot of flower beds and small trees and whatnot. A real pain to mow.

He had a rather new lawn mower: a bright yellow gasoline-powered monster with a basket to collect the grass clippings. It had been running fine for weeks, but this particular Saturday it just wouldn't work. It kept stopping. I would start it, and after five or six metres it stopped. I have no idea what to do when a machine won't go - I'm just not blessed with the mechanical insight needed - so I threw a couple of tantrums, while Michael watched with disdain.

Finally I gave up.

'If you're so good, you mow the bloody lawn!' I blurted out, and stalked off to sit in the shade (I have no patience whatsoever when mechanical things don't do what they're supposed to do).

So he got the lawn monster started and mowed off - only to have it stopping dead after a minute or so. He started it again, and it stopped again. I watched from my seat under the big pear-tree, holding my breath. I knew he wouldn't be able to contain himself...

I counted six stops. And then Michael lost it. He isn't a particularly big man (170cm, lean and trim), but when he gets really mad, he seems to grow. He picked up the lawn mower and tossed it through the air. Twice. I kept as still as I could, because I really wanted to see what he'd do next.

What he did was run off and get a great big axe. Still fuming with anger he attempted to chop up the lawn mower, only to get the axe stuck in the wreck. He pulled and yanked all he could, but in his fury he was in no position to get it unstuck. So he ran off again, this time disappearing into the garage.

He came back with a jerrycan. Gasoline. A raging Michael with a good 10 litres of gasoline and a lighter will spell trouble.

'Take out the axe first!' I yelled, since it was a perfectly good axe that was sticking in the dying lawn mower. He glared at me, but actually managed to free the axe and throw it away, almost decapitating one of the chickens.

He splattered gas on the wrecked lawn mower, and threw a burning piece of paper onto it. There was no satisfying 'WHHOOOMPH!' It just burned a little hesitantly, flickering and threatening to go out. Needless to say, this did nothing to placate him.

He ran off again only to return with a second lawn mower - one we had done many a battle with, because it was basically crap. He dumped it on the smouldering heap of new mower, emptied the can of gas on top, and lit it anew. This time the heap blew up, sending Michael jumping backwards to avoid the flames. From where I was sitting I could feel the heat from the fire, and a few small bushes caught in the mayhem withered and died almost instantly. The aluminium radiator-thingy melted and dripped onto the rapidly blackening ground in big burning drops.

Michael stood looking a the carnage for a minute or two, before walking back to his house. I could tell from his posture that the show was over for now. A couple of minutes later he returned with two bottles of beer, and joined me under the pear tree.

We drank in silence for a while.

'Guess I ought to buy a new lawn mower', he said finally, lighting a cigarette.

'Guess you ought to buy two...', I said, '...since the yellow monster burning out there really belongs to your brother...'

Today I looked at the seismometer output and the geologist told me there was an icequake here last week. Pretty big. Shook the station. Freaked out everybody. The story everyone wants to believe is this: just a little way away is the icecube project. They're pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of hot water into the ice and it's leaving huge voids that settle. Although drilling like this has been done before and there were no quakes.

And then the guy who tells you that tells you they drilled down to the pyramid.

Seems everyone has seen that movie but me. And there really was an icequake. Maybe the polar plateau is falling off the continent. If that's happening I'm not sure where it would be better to be: riding the ice to the sea or waiting for the tidal wave to destroy all known life.

Something is happening. Don't know what. Global warming? Climate change? Earth change? The magnetic poles are moving. Volcanos are waking. The pole is rumbling. Everything static is mobilizing.

Get ready, and by ready I don't mean you have to prepare to be inundated by tidal waves or pyroclastic flows rolling down from the mountain tops. Because you can't stop the ice. Kyoto be damned, what's happening is happening. So pray to your gods and hug your children. That's your preparation. You can't hide in basements and hoarding guns and food won't help you. Your preparation is to practice not screaming when it comes.

While I am here I feel that not a moment should be wasted. These are precious hours. Something will happen I will tell my grandchildren about. Something will happen I will be sorry I missed. The sundogs flank the sun. The snow underfoot growls like a distant locomotive.

Today I spent two hours chatting with the station doc over dinner. Will Silver was the doc who Jerri Nielsen replaced. He's the one who came back when she was medevaced for breast cancer, and we all know that story now. Seen the movie. Nobody likes who played them. They're all mad down here over Jerri and her movie. And the book. Mostly the book.

Polies have an ethic that doesn't map well into life we know up north. Winterovers are an ad hoc family existing in the brutal boredom of nine months of darkness and temps colder than dry ice. They have rules. One of the rules is that you don't go out and write a book about your trials that makes you the central figure in a ballet that involves the family risking their lives for you. You don't discount their bravery. You don't tell family secrets.

Other people have had more serious problems than Jerri. People have died, and are dying. People have been medevaced under more treacherous conditions and the medevac actually saved their lives (Jerri would have been fine a couple more months). Much more dramatic things have happened at pole than Jerri's breast cancer lump.

I have previously reported talking to others who were involved in that adventure and they all say the same. Jerri is available as a motivational speaker for $25,000 and none of the others could fetch more than a free lunch. There is bitterness. The family reconvenes without her.

I have never been in Antarctica so close to the end of the season. The winterovers are all here and they're anxious for us to leave so they can get on with their nine months of solitude. Even so, they're a smiley upbeat lot.

I used to think I wanted to try it. Nine months on this vast ice plane would change me in ways I don't like to think about. Maybe better, probably worse. Part of me wants to know who's inside. Who would be released when the burden of society is lifted and only survival matters. And wouldn't I be better off, live more comfortably not knowing?

Station closes in twelve days, and I leave in ten. I will be on that Herc. I will leave this tiny dot on the vast ice plane and think of all the souls who remain behind. There will be days in midsummer I think of the polies in the darkness. I will think of them during rainstorms they will never see. I will think of them when I see the ocean or a stand beside a river.

I've thought about the polar winter a lot. To me it's a terrifying nothingness. The terrifying darkness from which the first spark of life emerged. Looking into it means going back into the empty mind of the creator, the horror he faced that made him build the universe. Could any mere mortal withstand that blast?

I feel like I'm at its front porch. It's behind a door they'll close behind me and seal themselves off from the world. They're a family I've eaten with, shared space with, cleaned plates with, shoveled ice with. But I'm leaving and they're committing to the loveless nowhere. In truth, the pole is so much nothing it exists only in our minds. What we bring here in our hearts is more than God left behind when he built the place. We are everything here.

They'll hug us when we leave. They'll sigh and smile like hosts escorting the last dinner guest to the door. Then they will be the south pole. I will wish

...that I could have such courage.

And for the rest of the year I will remember them and admire the way they were all afraid and so happy for it.

- South Pole Station - Feb 3, 2006

This morning I decided that I don't actually wish to die. Not right now. Not in a positive way, anyway. If I get hit by a bus this week it still wouldn't matter too much to me. What's different about today is that I'm no longer so bothered about the fact that I'm still alive.

I was never the most productive person in the world. I never gave anything to the universe, I spent my life sucking up everything she had to give me and not actually making anything of it. This morning I realised, there's no good in living like this. Like a black hole, I took and never gave.

I vow that from today, I shall (at least try to) give at least as much as I am given. There isn't nearly enough love in the world. I need to do my small part in increasing the love by being good to people. Increasing the love, spreading it around as much as I can. Spreading love and happiness. Maybe then I won't be so dissatisfied with my life, maybe then the world will be a much better place to live in, for everybody.

Respect, compassion, love and above all things, LOVE.

OK Wilson
Ease on down...ease on down...ease on down the feces.
Wilson, please do bring Goldman. Oh wait, if you bring Goldman, will that mean I will learn his first name? You had better not bring him. However, Goldman in person is rather impressive, and will frighten Colombo into taking manful possession of you. You had better bring him. Will he help us with party planning? Yes. Yes. Bring Goldman! We will work out sleeping arrangements later. Plenty of room for all.
Am reading one of the P.G. Wodehouse Jeeves novels. Narrator is helluv funny. Abbreviates everything and puts in funny bizarre Britishisms. Think you would enjoy.
Am attaching funny coffee enema article. Best part is the end. (Sorry for the pun.) I just appreciate how the writer immediately goes out and uses his newly healthy feeling to justify getting trashed on all manner of drugs. Good Stuff!

Call it Judy and her dream of feces. Call it Judy and her dream of feces. Dream of feces......
Will advise Goldman to accompany me to SF. Will have to accomplish this without Simon’s knowledge, as he would become very pissed that he was not invited. Do not think I could deal with him on any more trips, however. Goldman is ever so much more fun. Will explain to Goldman I may be spending time with Colombo as well. See what he says. Will probably be OK. I think Goldman will be marginal help in party department, but if shopping with him is any indication, he may require more help from us.
Do not think Simon has any plans to move out of my apartment soon. Wants to save money. Situation is uncomfortable in light of my romantic correspondence with Colombo. Simon and I are getting along OK and it makes me feel guilty. Have asked him repeatedly if he is moving and have told him I think it is a good idea. Have also told him that we should see other people. Do not know what the problem is in light of the fact that he broke up with me during your visit, except he now denies it. Do not know how he views relationship. Am afraid to get into it with him. Do not want to fight. Frankly, I could stand to save some money as well. Do not know how much longer I can hold out. I could be spending a lot more quality time with Goldman and other friends if he were not there. I do not hate him though, and do not want to hurt him. What do you advise? Am I a terrible person? I feel like a terrible person. I just cannot handle hurting anyone deeply and abhor conflict.
Have read coffee enema article. Do not know if it was best article to send me as far as unbiased info goes, but was entertaining. Am kind of afraid to get one now. Why must they make you watch the poo being flushed out of your bum? Do not think that is good. Am still considering having one, though. But first think we should try fasting/roughage combo. Or something of that nature. Got anything in mind? Know of any good cleansing diets? Will try one with you and report daily on results.
Over and Out
PS Will inform Goldman he is not to tell you his Christian name.

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