Monday, January 9, 2012

Camp life, an excert

The comedy of camp life directly reflects the intimacy and isolation of the situation. The survival and sanity of the members of camp is at stake and is often perilous when access to outside communication, nutrition and pleasurable activities run dry. Life on top of the plateau, where supplies and personnel arrive by weather-dependant helicopter runs, can range from hysterically comical, when the sun is shining and the beer and cigarettes are plentiful and the drill is running correctly, to dismally depressing, when there is nothing to smoke and the drill helpers have mistakenly drained the hydraulic fluid out of the machine. The setting for this tale is 7000 feet above sea level, on an alpine plateau, deep in the Coast Mountains. When all is well, the drill is turning 24 hours a day and the rumbling and creaking of the drill accurately reflects the mood of camp. A silent drill equates to grumpy drillers and grumpy drillers equate to a somber camp. The drill is extracting core, up to 900 feet down, and within the core samples, the geologist hopes to see signs of copper, molybdenum and gold. Presumably, the search is on with the ultimate intention of mining these minerals, but the vast and pristine alpine environment seems incongruent with a mine and the disgusting tailings ponds that go along with such an environmental disgrace. To the North, East and West, camp is flanked by glaciers and on the south side of camp, cliffs drop hundreds of feet to the valley below. Standing on the side of the cliffs, even without getting close enough to see over the edge, one can feel the enormity of the precipice and sometimes can hear the cries of the hawks echoing against the sheer cliff walls.
One quiet afternoon in camp, with the humming of the drill audible over the ridge and everyone in camp content in their respective afternoon tasks, the phone rang, and the driller’s wife was on the other end, urgently wanting to speak to her husband. “Pete” we called on the radio several times, repeatedly asking if he had his ears on. Obviously his radio was on, but due to the ferocious volume of the drill, the drillers frequently missed their calls on the radio. “Pete. Pete. PEEEETTTE” we called, again and again. “Your wife is on the phone and needs to speak to you urgently.” He replied that we should patch it through the radio, jokingly, but being the literal bunch that we were, we commenced an exercise in holding the satellite phone up to the radio, with the intention of eavesdropping on their conversation. After several discussions and failed attempts, we finally deduced that the only way for them to effectively communicate in this matter was to hold the receiver end of the sat phone up to the microphone on the radio and have both parties say over at the end of each. In retrospect, it was this phone call that represented the demise of the finances of our employer, and the comedy of the way in which this information was transmitted to us reflects the generally lighthearted nature of the members of our camp. “Pete, I called to let you know that there is still no money in the business account. You haven’t been paid in nearly six weeks. None of the contractual obligations have been fulfilled yet. Over” Pete’s reply was barely audible to his wife, and considering the din of the drill, and the method in which she was communicating from her home office to her husband, who was perched at the controls of the drill, it’s a wonder that communication was possible at all. “I copied that, hon,” came Pete’s scratchy reply. “I’ll be home tomorrow afternoon and will get hold of our lawyer. Over.”
The next day, as the chop-chop of the helicopter blades faded into the distance, those of us left behind stood there with our hands in our pockets, perplexed by the departure of the two camp bosses. Both the geologist and the owner of the drill had boarded that chopper, leaving us, an assorted bunch of greenhorns, to oversee the camp move from the plateau to the lower camp, 2000’ down the valley. Surveying the camp: the five tents, the drill, the piles of food and the assorted flotsam and jetsam that supported our existence on this alpine plateau, we truly had no idea how to go about the enormous task of packing up this camp, organizing it into sling loads for the helicopter, and then reassembling the whole circus into a liveable camp down in the valley. Without the leadership of the two boss-men, anarchy was likely to prevail. The following day, the morning dawned overcast and dark, but clear skies to the southwest indicated that sunshine was possible for later in the day. The high winds that had been plaguing the plateau for days had dissipated, which was good news for the dozens of trips that the helicopter was likely to have to make. As the chopper landed, however, the weather socked in completely and within a few minutes, we couldn’t even see the chopper from the cook tent, let alone expect the pilot to be able to see the end of his 50’ long line where all of our gear was to be attached. We suggested that he sit down in camp for a spell and we would all hope together that the weather would clear up. In a vain attempt to make his stay more comfortable, we offered Rob some cashews and a granola bar. Ordinarily, we might have hot coffee or even a meal available to unexpected visitors, but due to our complete lack of planning, experience and utter inability to foresee the logistics of a camp move, we had foolishly packed up the food first. To our credit, the food was now neatly bundled up in a sling, in well-labelled totes, ready to be flown down to the valley in anticipation of the nutritious and exciting meals that the cook would prepare there. Rob politely accepted the nuts and stale granola bars but I noticed that he ate very little of both and both were so stale that few crumbs tumbled to the floor. The conversation with Rob was lively and nothing at all like most of the conversations that happened around here. It’s not that the occupants of camp were stupid or even uneducated. It seems, however, that it is difficult to be a hardy working man who can fix any problem and also be a bright intellectual with original opinions and thought-provoking ideas. In any event, Rob’s explanations of anarchy and contribution to a discussion on women’s rights in the Muslim world proved a welcome relief to the inarticulate swearing and discussions of female anatomy that plagued the dinner table in this drill camp.

As the day wore on, Rob kept a keen eye on the fast moving clouds, and the instant that he could see all the way down the valley, he hightailed it out of the tent, calling over his shoulder that he would be back “soon.” And just as soon as we realized we were about to be abandoned on the plateau again, he had fired up his helicopter and was on his way, the clouds closing behind him and leaving us alone on the plateau, shrouded in clouds and blowing snow. With the conversation between Pete and his wife still a recent memory, we couldn’t help but wonder if there was money to send the helicopter back up to us, good weather or not.

Just say yes

It was something that we had talked about, vaguely, but the hesitation on my part had something to do with a fear of the unknown and an uncertainty about who a likely candidate would be. Adding another girl to our already exciting and unpredictable antics seemed like a good idea while we whispered late at night, but in the harsh reality of daytime, seemed unusual and downright unbecoming. Where would we find such a person and how would we broach the subject?

Just say yes. If you never say no, then the possibility for adventure and campfire story-worthy escapades is significantly higher. Also possible with the never-say-no mantra is the acquisition of new skills. For example, when the old mechanic down the street offers to teach you how to square dance and tango, the immediate answer should be yes! Throw caution to the wind and go for it.

Let me recount a story that had the possibility of two very different outcomes…Saturday night, as my lover and I giggled in front of the family planning section of the drugstore, debating the merits of our many options, a woman wandered down the aisle behind us, browsing for a headache remedy. She heard our giggles and, with a provocative smile, commented that our night was shaping up to be much more fun that hers. My charismatic and charming companion did not hesitate to inform her that we certainly had room for a third in our festivities, and she smiled in a modest and seductive way and took a step closer to us. At that moment it occurred to me that such events cannot be planned and certainly shouldn’t be anticipated and such a moment was a perfect example of how yes might lead to an exciting and erotic night a trois, while no could only lead to a mundane and predictable evening.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

living with an incurable disease

It’s an inescapable force that weighs heavy on the mind at all times. All social engagements must be carefully considered as the weight of this disease affects any social interaction. It is contagious and, once contracted, is unlikely to ever be lost. There is no known cure, and its origins are not known. Those without the disease cannot possibly understand the constant frustration that come with having the disease and once afflicted with this life-changing disease, the carrier will always be more comfortable around other carriers. The ubiquitous support groups, meetings and forums that exist for other ailments are simply not available for this particular problem and sufferers may find themselves with little open and honest support for their disease. A romance between a carrier and a non-carrier may prove detrimental to the relationship as the non-carrier simply cannot understand the constant pressure of the disease and the inescapable desires that the disease presents.
A sign of the disease include a constant need to know what is going on outside one’s present set of circumstances. Symptoms include checking twitter while on a date, calling voicemail from another cell phone because one has misplaced one’s own phone or signing into facebook while at a party. There of course, a myriad of other signs and symptoms but the general theme is the overwhelming desire to know what else because it might be better than the present activity.
If a support group existed, I think many would be wise to attend, myself included.
Hello, my name is KC and I have FOMO.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

ode to the northern man

You who is tough but unable to forget your manners. You who can figure out how to build anything and answer any question. You who has travelled the world but is content to spend your days and weeks in a 60 square kilometer area. You who is so ruggedly handsome but without the accompanying vanity. You with steadfast confidence yet complete humility and respect for the environment. You who can stitch up a dog with fishing line so as not to ruin the party. You who can round up three friends a build a deck. You who will sleep outside in -40. You who builds model jets in your spare time. You who is conservative yet informed and curious about the outside world and its populations.
The Northern Man comes from afar or has been here for generations, but always values and understands the sense of community that the north cultivates.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

the comedy of distance and the tragedy of separation

I remember the first time I experienced the pain of a broken heart. I remember the enduring agony and the days, weeks and months of consuming sadness. I remember having a complete inability to see beyond my anguish and recognize that the very real pain of the moment would pass and become nothing more than anecdotal evidence of yesteryear’s relationship. I remember languishing in my gloomy house, uninterested in outings with friends and existing in a seemingly unending state of melancholy.
I remember the first time I broke someone else’s heart. I remember the pain on his face after hearing that I was no longer interested in being one half of the couple. I remember remembering my own pain that I had felt upon hearing such sentiments from someone else. I despaired for the power that one person can have over another heart, and silently wished him a speedy passage through the dismal mourning and heartache that would surely ensue.
As the years have passed, variations of heartache have come and gone in my life, but none as poignant or noteworthy as the first.
The trouble with the initial few days of heartache is the prevailing silence of the phone. Late night phone calls give way to time spent woefully alone, hopefully coming up with important and valuable goals for the future rather than lamentations about time wasted in an insignificant and perhaps inappropriate relationship. But gradually, the thoughts about the relationship and the lost person become fewer and the moments of joy caused by other friends and new scheme’s become longer and more frequent.
Eventually, the heart heals and memories of time spent with someone who gave the illusion of significance are reduced to funny anecdotes. I am sure.

Monday, July 4, 2011

trust and the internet.

The issue of trust is something that comes up repeatedly in relationships. Monogamy, financial accountability, secret-keeping, promises…

Trust is a fairly easy thing to acquire once, but nearly impossible to acquire a second time. The commencement of a new relationship inevitably involves some kind of trust in that we have to trust that a new lover will call when they say they will, will keep certain secrets, will not laugh at any sexual idiosyncrasies that arise, and ultimately will maintain tight lips about certain sexual acts that may have been performed during the course of a relationship.

A specific trust issue that seems to come up with increasing frequency is the suggestion that it is acceptable to photograph or film a sexual act and keep the evidence. It seems to me that such an act is extremely risky and is perhaps the final frontier of trust in a relationship. Other issues, such as monogamy and honesty can perhaps yield devastating repercussions if abused, but ultimately can be overcome. A hard drive with a video of a blowjob or a suggestively naked photograph may never die and if such a video were to find its way to the internet, the embarrassment and the shame surrounding the situation could potentially last forever. I’m sure few of us are immune to the temptation of filming sex, but we must approach the situation with the utmost caution and concern for our future selves. We do not know what paths our personal and professional lives will take and there are certainly many scenarios in which an online amateur pornographic video could have devastating consequences.

So go ahead, film the great head that you got on a polar bear rug with a flickering fireplace in the background. Keep that digital image of the best tits you’ve ever seen or the video of the Eastern European man handcuffing you to his kitchen table. But for the sake of everyone’s future self, and for the sanctity of trust, keep those .mpg and .jpg files to yourself, to be looked at only late at night and in private.

Monday, June 27, 2011

relationship criteria....?

A lot of loving and learning has gone by in the past four point five years. That’s been four point five years of single, autonomous, free-wheeling, free agent, selfish and un-witnessed living. Four point five years of carrying on without the security of a long term partner. I hardly remember the caring and compromise that surely must epitomize relationships and my only knowledge of coupledom now comes from observing my friends and their trials and successes in relationships. This is not the forum for analyzing why singledom has defined me for nearly half a decade, as there may be reasons which I’d rather pretend weren’t so, but I do often speculate as to why so many people are inclined towards monogamy and, furthermore, how they manage to keep their relationships alive and exciting.
I’m certain that the early days of all relationships leave the participants with pangs of excitement and nervousness, but I’m also certain that the desire to pass unending hours together must be overcome in favour of preserving some of the excitement and newness for the days and weeks to come. It can be hard to imagine, when one is caught up in the mystery and allure of someone new, that there could ever be a day when boredom or annoyance might set in, but I’m certain that such emotions ultimately plague all relationships. What I am uncertain of, however, is how such feelings can be overcome. Ultimately, I imagine that relationships settle into a sense of comfort, providing nurturing support for both participants. Frankly, however, I haven’t the faintest idea of what it takes to get there. It’s quite possible, I will admit, that I have no sense of selflessness and no real ability to look after anyone other than myself. I observe friends and family, taking the time to do things for the sole purpose of pleasing and supporting their partners, and I wonder if I am capable of such selfless behaviour.
The desire for a companion, a supporter, a witness to all of life’s ups and downs is, I suppose, a valid reason for embarking upon a committed relationship, but what of the desire to make autonomous decisions and operate as a free agent? Is the desire for companionship stronger than the desire to be independent? And if the need for companionship is stronger than the need to be solo, then how does the mate selection go? Obviously, every possible mate is going to possess a certain number of flaws and qualities and, in theory, there is always going to be the possibility of meeting someone better. But at what point should the search be called off and commitment to an individual be solidified? If, as one friend told me, five non-negotiables are to be used, then is it acceptable if a prospective mate has four out of the five non-negotiables? What if finding a five for five partner isn’t possible? How long should you wait? What if, upon finding the ideal partner, one is so out of practice and so conditioned to solo living, that it is impossible to love in the selfless and compromising way that is the defining quality of any healthy relationship?