Married.

On August 3rd, 2013, six months ago today, we got married in a snowmobile/generator mechanic shop in Antarctica. It was the austral winter, and we hadn’t seen the sun in months. Did this really even happen?

hi five[I realize that we briefly talked about this event on facebook, vague anecdotes and pictures trickled through, but we never made the whole story public to the internet (far flung friends and family, this one’s for you), or gave many people the proper public credit they deserve (McMurdo Winter Crew 2013, this one’s for you). There were many, many hands involved with the creation and execution of the event, and we really just can’t thank you enough. This is a lengthy story, and that’s ok. We love you. Here goes.]

The Postal Service holds several meanings for us. The band, we exclusively listened to during our brief initial courtship in 2006. The USPS, we exclusively used to deliver mail to each other while I was in Antarctica for a year and Bryan was in San Francisco 2006-2007. Collin Stackhouse, Joseph Singleton (violins), Kira Morris, Charlotte Howell (vocals), and Brad Geer (director), performed the song, “Such Great Heights” (by The Postal Service the band), as we rappelled from the second floor of the Science Support Center (ok, “technically” lowered by Mountaineer Ben Adkison). Our Wedding Party, who waited for our arrival onstage, was a result of those who signed up on the rec board sign up sheet and was a ragtag group of heavy equipment operators, Science Support staff, warehouse workers, mechanics, IT crowd, fuelies, Kiwis, and other people that make up the community that makes McMurdo go.

The rest of the event was a bit of a surprise to us, or, shall I say, it held surprises all around. Our officiant was the newly minted Universal Life Church Minister, Communications Technician, and long-time Phillusionist Rev. Philip Doug Jacobsen.  As Phil put it to us weeks before, “We can do this your way, or we can do this my way. I would prefer you do it my way and let me run with it. I see the ceremony as kind of an entertaining show, and you get married at the end.” We were cool with that, and recognized (and appreciate) all the effort he put into orchestrating one of the greatest/most elaborate ceremonies we’ve ever been part of, but it was still the biggest trust fall of my life.

After a couple welcome zingers and jokes, Phil was about to tell our story when friend, filmmaker, and Waste Management Supervisor Ben Morin stood up in the audience, interrupted, and screened a video they had made in secret – The Drunk History of How Sandwich and Bryan Met.

- I must pause here, and tell you that it’s really hard to keep a secret in McMurdo, and even harder to do so in the winter. Hats off to you, Ben, Phil, and everyone. -

- I must pause again and admit that when the title of the video flashed on the screen, and we did not know what was in store for the next 17 minutes, may I refer to the aforementioned trust fall. -

The video was hilarious. (You may have seen Phil’s other work here.) The entire room was holding-their-guts laughing. Many other brides might have been horrified to see some drunk guy trying to reiterate the story of how she fell in love with her husband-to-be. Our McMurdo friends re-enacted the origin story of our relationship, creating scenes they’ve never been to, impersonating people they’ve never met. All made with love, cardboard, string, and an iPad. To us, it couldn’t have been perfecter. Everyone loved it. I almost peed myself at my own wedding. Internet, behold: https://vimeo.com/76196823

Phil had contacted our families and close friends back home. Melanie Troftgruben, our station Physician’s Assistant, read speeches from our moms. It was hard, having a wedding without family and friends from back home present. The sentiment was dear, and emotions got real – all over my face. (ps San Francisco and New England – We’re getting married stateside this Summer.) Thank you for including our families.

cardThere may not have been traditional, repeatable vows, but there was magic: Phil’s famous storytelling card trick of love and future. We selected cards that told the fortune of love, and some things to expect, look forward to, and work towards to build a solid marriage and maintain a stable relationship. And of course, when the time came to guess which card I was holding, Phil’s sharpie-decorated chest burst out of his shirt screaming IS THIS YOUR CARD? I love that trick. And we did not see it coming.

I’ll be honest, the week before, when Phil asked if we knew what a handfasting ceremony was, we said yes, but thought that was a little too hippie for Phil (and us).  Trustfall: with the McMurdo spin on it, our wrists were bound with 2” velcro, tygon tubing, climbing rope, and metal banding (complete with banding tools, clip, and an assist from Waste Technician Shannon Wilson) – each material with their own special meaning to our lives and work in Antarctica.

Phil had MAPCON records made from the MET. Bryan and I are officially in a DOS-based inventory database, gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in Warehouse 004.

In traditional ceremonies, next would come the part where we would exchange rings and kiss. This being winter in Antarctica and a lack of jewelry stores or smiths, on top of the fact that we are not ring people (Bryan has webbed fingers), we decided to do our own thing. Since the US Postal Service had served us well cementing the foundation of our relationship, we found it an appropriate theme to serve as the backdrop to our wedding. We had found a scrap piece of junky 4×8 plywood, and painted it like an airmail envelope addressed to us. With other scraps of plywood, we painted and cut two 1’x1.5’ stamps – one with a mustache and one with a sandwich, both icons laid on top of a line drawing of the Continent. In lieu of exchanging rings we didn’t have and wouldn’t wear, we screwed these plywood stamps onto the plywood airmail envelope (with a DeWalt screw gun that matched out wedding attire).

Immediately after Phil pronounced us screwed, we ran out of the Science Support Center building together, holding hands, out into the Antarctic night. This would be the equivalent of exiting a chapel, I guess, and moving on to the reception part of the evening. A small Kawasaki Mule was waiting for us at the bottom of the metal industrial stairs, chauferred by friend and Groomsman Martin Dragonbeard Robinson. We hopped in the back, Martin drove us in a big donut around the quad for approximately 45 seconds, parked in the exact same position he picked us up in, and we proceeded up the metal industrial stairs amidst a flurry of snowballs (throwing rice would be littering the pristine environment) to commence the reception. Which involved live music, dancing, and dancean obligatory conga line.  People dressed in dresses and suits and tuxes, and flannel and jeans. There was a skeleton and a penguin and a drag queen and a clown and buttless chaps. Upon hearing our wedding colors, Zach and Jen dyed their skin yellow with turmeric.

 

dress_9596107325_lTHE DRESS. In McMurdo, we work with what we’ve got. My wedding dress consisted of a corset made from Carhartts, a polar tent, and a month and a half of my spare time. Somehow I saw potential in a single pair of black Carhartt pants with a blown-out crotch. I navigated the usable fabric, rivets, tiny pockets, and tag onto an industrial sewing machine, grommeted the back for lacing, and used 12” heavy duty zipties for boning to make the corset. (I also pulled out my hair a little bit a lot.) The skirt was made from the top of a retired, UV-faded yellow conical Scott tent. I just clipped off the top to fit my waist, added a retired cargo strap, inserted a Carhartt fly (because I had one lying around: see above) as a zipper in the back, sewed some Antarctica-shaped patches to cover rips and stains (classy!), and added D-rings and a small carabiner to clip up the train. I made a tiny top hat out of cereal boxes, scrap Carhartt, scrap Scott tent, zipper, and a feather I ripped off a terrible Mardi Gras mask. The retired Scott Tent also provided fabric for a vest I made for Bryan, bowties that he made for himself and groomsmen, flower corsages and barrettes for the wedding party, and tons of pennant flags throughout the shop. Huge thanks goes to Sarah Leonetti for being there while I fit the damn dress, for tracing out the shape of the skirt, keeping me on track, and dressing me the night of the event. And thank you to Amy Shields, who made the bouquet out of Antarctic maps (lack of flora on the 7th Continent and all) and telco wire.

THE FOOD. Logan, our intrepid (yes, intrepid) baker volunteered to make desserts. Displayed on a silver platter during dinner in the galley were hundreds of cookie mustcakeaches (“Kiechle Cookies”), piped with chocolate and perched on a small white stick. At the wedding, the cake was multi-tiered, gorgeous, and included devils food, jelly, Italian butter cream, and whisky.  It delightfully matched the colors of our outfits: A black (fondant) backlit silhouette of the Royal Society Mountains across McMurdo Sound, with a gradient of soft yellow (Italian butter cream frosting) signifying the slow return of the sun to Antarctica. That’s pretty damn poetic (and way more poetic than the selection process of our colors – “Carhartt and Scott Tent, yep, that’s what we’ve got”). Tiny metallic stars climbed up the cake, and two small maps of San Francisco folded into paper airplanes on toothpicks perched on the top, ready to take off home.

Also big thanks to the galley for creating a wonderful meal, to Kira for creating the ambiance and decorations, to those who helped set up and quickly clean up, and to Sarah, Liz, Sue, Bamma, Stef, Logan, and all who helped put in extra time with hors d’oeuvres (prosciutto wrapped dates!) at the event.

The décor: There was so much, we are still shaking our heads as to how it all happened. First of all, it wouldn’t have been as beautiful as it was without Kira Morris, our wedding planner. We. Had. A wedding planner. I sent her my Pinterest page (yeah, I guess I turned into THAT bride), spent a couple of evenings crafting on her floor with her, and she pretty much did the rest. She incorporated the industrial function of the mechanic shop among sheets, drapery, art, and lighting to transform it into a completely different place. She made fluffy clouds with soft lighting that hung above the audience as we rappelled in. She draped sheets from a hoist and made the stage look like a circus tent. Our RSVP airmail Mad Lib postcards were strung like garland and spilled out of a giant model airplane made by Dave White. Kira painted a giant variegated watercolor map of the world that hung next to the cake, and sketched a portrait of Bryan and I on canvas and let the community color us in.  She coordinated the community of volunteers for load-in, decorated the Galley for the dinner, clean up, moving furniture and equipment, etc.

Our friend Libor says that the greatest gift you can give someone is time. At McMurdo, there is never enough time. We work ten hours a day, six days a week. Those hours are often spent in below zero temperatures in unforgiving wind chills doing physical thankless labor. After work and after dinner, there may be a good couple hours in you before you completely pass out and do it all again the following day. Sunday is your one day off. During the ceremony, Phil spoke about the Greatest Gift. I looked around the room. I looked at the people in the audience, and the wedding party behind us. All of this happened. Many hands made this happen with valuable time they didn’t have. They did this for us, for each other, for the community. In August, after a season of being tired, this. I had a series of unblinking moments where it didn’t seem to be real. There were fluffy clouds with lights in them. There were hundreds of handmade paper flowers, and I don’t know who made them. Phil spilled a beer on the stage during the ceremony and asked for another. They made a movie. For us. There’s a clown in the third row. Morale and motivation was high. The sun would finally rise next week. I’m madly in love. And holy shit, we just got married.

Here are the pictures. Thank the photographers. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandwichgirl/sets/72157634936230991/

downstairsOur hearts are bursting with love for you.  Some of you barely knew us, some of you knew us too well. Six months later, as we open the boxes of our winter wedding celebration and live it all again, we’re thinking of you. It was perfect. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  (Remember, the coupon is no good if you don’t use it)

 

This is my best attempt at listing them all:

The MEC: thank you for letting us use your space. Station Managers: thank you for letting us do this.

Wedding planner/Volunteer Coordinatrix: Kira Morris

Officiant/Master of Ceremony/Mastermind: Rev. Phil Jacobsen

Groomsmen: Zach Anderson, Jeron Garcia, Dan Pells, David Chu, Larry Fabulous, Mike Rowe, Tim Delany, Martin Robinson, Todd Russell

Bridesmaids: Spring Wood, Colleen Hardiman, Meghan Brown, Molly Anderson, Dan Vedra, Dean Martin, Sue Nylander, Shannon Wilson, Bamma Mellott

Flowergirls/boys: Faye Lee, Rich Gunderson, Liz Widen

The Cake (and mustache cookies!): Logan Atkinson

Food: Sue Nylander, Bamma Mellott, Sarah Leonetti, Liz Widen, Shane Stevens, Logan Atkinson, the entire MCM galley (filet mignon!)

DJ: Michael Hartman

Live Music: Zac Schroeder, Jason Barcomb, Mark Walsh, Libor Zicha, Tim Deale

Toasts: Phil Jacobsen, Melanie Troftgruben, Ben Morin, Nikki Beard, Libor Zicha, Erin Heard, Spring Wood

Photogs: Deven Stross, Ben Adkison, Meghan Brown, Rich Jeong, Eric Woolley

Dress advice/fitter: Sarah Leonetti

Bouquet: Amy Shields/Santos

Flower makers/décor/setup/cleanup/everything:  Wedding Planner Kira Morris, Todd Russell, Phil Baur, Rachel Javorsek, Erin Heard, the MEC, Lance Warrick, Libor Zicha, the entire wedding party, Jeremy Nylander, Shannon Wilson, Mikey Lofton, Jason Miers, Bryan Chambers, Natalie Potell

THE VIDEO: Ben Morin, Phil Jacobsen, Spring Wood, Mike Rowe, Shannon Wilson, Molly Anderson, Zach Anderson, Collin Stackhouse, Nikki Beard, Jason Miers, Colleen Hardiman

GIFTS: Ray Reed, Shannon Wilson, Mikey Lofton, The Firehouse, Jaron Garcia, Dave White, Storm Schott, Dan Vedra, Libor Zicha, Ben Morin, Molly Anderson, Spring Wood, Nikki Beard, Miles, Scott Base, and the anonymous person who left us that 1/3 bottle of Buffalo Trace – we know what that means, and I nearly cried when I saw that. Thank you all.

QUILT: The Quilt deserves its own photo album and blog post. Massive thanks to Sue Nylander, Bamma Mellott, Mike Rowe, Colleen Hardiman, Cynthia Spence, Stefanie White, Todd Russell, Collin Stackhouse, Cindy Foster, Anita Keitel, Liz Widen, Kira Morris, Meghan Brown, Jeremy Nylander, Phil Baur, Bryan Chambers

THE VACUUM: Bryan received the best gift a boy could ask for: A Dyson stick vac he had been ogling for months. Maybe longer. (NOTE: Since there’s no mail for months without a plane in Antarctica, they collected money for this gift, which was beyond thoughtful and totally nailed it. I couldn’t have selected a better present).

 

T3, scurvy, and you.

i just finished writing a 12 page paper on Antarctic maladies.

my favorite passages:

ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was named such because it prevented scorbutus, a condition more commonly known as scurvy.

a quote stolen from a 2008 winterover:

"(T3 is) a mental state reached as a result of living in the dark for six months on a cold, remote island full of depressed bipolar psychos with constant ADD and PMS."

i miss antarctica.

salvation mountain and the salton sea

a week ago saturday we rolled through the wind farms and swap meets of yucca valley and palm desert, and made the salton sea in the late afternoon. we stopped at the northern most beach, at the state park recreation center. the scene was gorgeous, a serene sea, silhouettes of families fishing on the jetty, the alignment of jupiter and venus, and a colorful sunset (thanks, wildfires!) splashing pinks and purples onto the sky above the mountains and reflecting on a stretch of white sand.

wait. that’s not white sand, it’s crunchy. like, barnacles. and fish bones. millions of fishbones. and dead fish. good lord. it’s fish bone beach. are those people fishing? is that ok? what’s that putrid smell?

and that’s the salton sea. it’s fascinating. i love it. i love it up and down, and i wish i had more time to love it more.

the whole place is a tragedy which arose out of a disaster. before it was the salton sea, it was the salton sink, well below sea level and nearly as low as death valley. a massive flood occurred in 1905, drowning the sink and didn’t stop filling it for 2 years.
by the 50s and 60s, communities popped up, boat leisurers and water skiiers came in droves, money was poured into this inland desert riviera, and the place was hip for about 15 minutes. now there are a few nearly ghost towns, tracts of land divvied up with no sellers in sight, and a polluted sea of a dead fish and pelicans with botchulism. water rights being diverted to LA and funding for the wildlife and environmental restoration are constant battles. their favorite politician skiied into a tree.  life is hard at the salton sea.

the people who hold out are the strong survivors of the salton sea. many are there because they can’t sell their house and move away. we visited the ski inn at bombay beach, and the locals were incredibly friendly. we had seen plagues and pleasures of the salton sea (narrated by john waters) and made this our thanksgiving weekend destination. sadly, hunky daddy met his maker a couple years ago in an unfortunate dune buggy accident.

the next morning we headed south to niland. i have been looking looking forward to meeting leonard knight, the visionary behind salvation mountain, for at least 5 years. after a couple wrong turns, the mountainous rainbow palette of latex paint and haybales rose out of the barren scrub desert next to california’s favorite hobo depot, slab city. hearts and rainbows and waterfalls and a general meaning and feeling of love. and god. much to my dismay, mr knight was in town for his weekly errand.  , devin, and i frolicked among the folk art and leonard’s collection of disabled automobiles, coated with adobe texture, primary colors, biblical passages, a shoutout to jesus, and love. to the right, there was what seemed to be a newer project underway. i saw a young boy drilling holes into the ground. i’m not sure how to recreate his character here, but let’s just say he would do really well in a david lynch film.    

We figured leaving the site at 3pm would get us back home by midnight. We were grossly incorrect. Tip: when going away from home on a holiday weekend, leave 6 hours earlier than you think you need to. devin popped in wil wheaton’s "just a geek" on audiobook. all conversation and negative focus on traffic ceased. i had no idea what time it was or how long we had been listening until his commentary at the end when he made a passing comment about it being compressed do to something like 9 hours.  "NINE HOURS?! WE"VE BEEN LISTENING TO THIS FOR NINE HOURS!?" awesome. it was good. and that’s exactly how you want 9 hours of holiday traffic to pass. wil wheaton’s life story in one sitting. thank you sir.

legoland, salvation mountain, and a drive thru donut

i’m a big fan of american kitsch and roadside attractions. perhaps it’s just my optimistic view of being an american today. i am a hawaiian shirt wearing gay man in my 50s who lives in an airstream with 2 obligatory plastic pink flamingos in the yard, caught in a 30 year old female body. i have all the necessary tchochky collections to get me into the club – pez dispensers, snowglobes (~250), and beloved lunchboxes, not to mention my polyester eyesore dresses. someday, when i grow up, my house is going to be so cool.
when i get in a car, i reference roadsideamerica.com.

this thanksgiving holiday season,  , devilcrayon, and i took a little road trip to the wonderful and weird southern california. i know nothing about this place, except that it’s between here and mexico and they have a lot of plastic surgery clinics. thanksgiving was spent learning to make pies, competing for oven space, and eating with bryan’s friend’s family. i met a woman who worked in mcmurdo 35 years ago, so we were instantly BFF and spoke to no one else for the entire night.

friday morning, we swerved over turnbull canyon, admired the smog, appreciated san francisco, and landed in la puente. you haven’t lived until you’ve driven through a donut.

also, the donuts are good. that’s saying something for a girl who hardly eats donuts.
we sat in the parking lot across the street, taking photos, (  recognizes class when he sees it. thanks for squidding us.) and admiring the awesomeness of the donut. if you are a fan of giant donuts, and find yourself in southern cal, this is your guide to awesome.

the rest of the day we went to legoland and i screamed and ran around chasing rollercoasters. 10 years ago, while tooling around europe, i spent a lot of money to take a detour into denmark, just to go to legloand in billund. it was necessary. i didn’t even go to copenhagen. as i passed through the rite-of-passage turnstile, and felt a pang of childish immature excitement strike me in the chest, a pang of shear "oh shit" slap me in the face. no less than 20 feet from the entrance, was a large sign proclaiming "COMING IN 1999 – LEGOLAND CALIFORNIA!" fuck you, denmark. if there was a talking moose, i would have punched it in the snout.

so, i’ve always wanted to go. hooray! there’s egyptland, pirateland, and miniland, in addition to the many other lands we didn’t have time to play in. miniland is pretty much the best, as there’s a boat tour that takes you around to the re-creations of international monuments, and another area with entire US cities, built entirely from lego. i don’t care how much of a hater you are, it’s pretty inpressive. wheeee!

i’ll expand upon the beauty of salvation mountain at another time. thank you.