Archive:  Year 2 - Wednesday, February 20, 2008 #15: "Mercury Lining"

The temperature is currently zero.  Nothing.  The absence of temperature… but with the wind-chill, it feels like -21.  It’s just past midnight and I am only minutes in from cracking ice around the hull for the last time this evening.  As it stands, I have no running water aboard the boat – haven’t had since February 10th, exactly 10 days ago.  That battle being fought and standing as the loser, I feel relatively at ease.  It could be worse.  As far as I know, nothing in the plumbing has burst, but instead, the fresh water tank itself has frozen.  Anyone’s guess is as good as mine in terms of when it will thaw out, but it does not, apparently, happen with daytime high’s below 10 (shocking) and it is not an eminent danger to the rest of the boat. 

Here is the essential truth of it:  February in Minnesota (and Wisconsin) sucks.  This is a truism.  Having to boil water in order to do my dishes has give me a certain status in terms of bitching rights, but make no mistake – February sucks for everybody.  There is not a single exception.  Whatever charm winter may hold was tossed out with the Christmas decorations and even avid outdoor winter enthusiasts are stumped by the brutal cold.  There is one comfort and that is the fact that, eventually, it will be March.  

It seemed like the best time to answer a question that has been posed to me by various people in various ways over the past few weeks:  will I do it again next winter?  My knee-jerk reaction is HELL NO!  I’d be goddamn nuts!  Two winters is plenty, my salt is proven and between November and March I will take any job, in any town south of St. Louis, for any pay, under any circumstances.  January and February are hard and expensive and scary and miserable… and yet, significantly less miserable than last year and I’ve learned even more about how to prepare for next… I’m waffling.  

One thing I see clearly, even through my current circumstances, is that I would feel no more satisfaction in this moment if I lived in a warm condo up the hill from here.  If I’m not going to do the winter aboard the boat next winter, than it will be because I’m not doing winter at all.  Just trading it all in for a hot shower would feel like ducking out to me and I wouldn’t rest well with that.  

I’ll ask myself again in April.  Right now is a resounding ‘maybe.’  It’s the best I can do.

There is little else new to report, as I spend a bulk of my time between gigs watching the hourly changes on the weather channel and google-mapping places like Costa Rica…  So green.  I did get one enormous boost today that has managed to elbow me out of the blues’ grasp.  I got a letter from Matthew Rutledge, the soldier in Afghanistan who I have been sending letters and care-packages to since mid-December!

Prior to today, he was an ambiguous everyman.  But now, he is real.  He is 21, from a small town called Griffin, GA and he’s been deployed for three years.  He is engaged to a girl named Amber who he says sends him constant support, and he is a good, strong writer.  Among other things, he confirmed that yes, in fact, the guys do spend a bulk of their time playing poker and trading things for cigarettes… thought so.  His letter was relatively short and he tried to stay upbeat throughout.  He did mention, however, that since he’s been there, he’s seen “over 2 dozen” of his friends fall.  He said that what really got to him is that most of them were never married or even had a chance to “go to the clubs with the guys and pick up girls.”  He said that although he is only 21 that he heard that you age 3-5 years for every year you’re there so really he’s “over thirty already.”  

Yeah, no shit.    

He also said that in regards to the care-packages, the body wash was less of a score than the beef jerky, and everybody loves getting new socks… very good to know.  

As for me, I have chosen my strategy to cope with the next couple of blistery days.  By most accounts it will be pleasant (comparatively, of course… we’re talking 20’s) by Saturday.  Until then, I am laying low and dodging the world as much as I can.  If, upon reflection, it proves unnecessary for me to leave the warm comforts of wherever I am, than I won’t.  So far so good.  And for the record – eating and showering are not considered ‘necessary’ in this particular situation.  I have merrily accepted that I will be hungry and filthy until June.  Fine.  I’m in.

In an effort to close on an up-note, one additional noticeable improvement to the state of the world over the past couple of weeks is the extended daylight hours.  One cannot but notice, that despite the punishing air temperature, the sun is still visible until almost 6PM.  Until very recently, it felt like every time I checked the time at midnight, it was only 4:30PM.  Improvements are improvements and I will gladly take them.  

Next Post: April 22, 2008 #18: "Undone"

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