I just realized today that in two weeks it will be winter for Luci and I. And I don’t mean the pseudo-winter that we had this summer up at Boccalatte (lasciamo perdere, eh) but real true astronomical winter. No, wait that can’t be right. Ah yes, spring starts in New Zealand next weekend. I can’t even keep it straight anymore. I guess we haven’t seen astronomical winter in over three years. But in all the 27 winters I’ve experienced in my life I can’t say that I have ever stood on snow and ice a kilometer thick before like I did last summer. Or can I say that one day we had 8 inches of snowfall and the next day it was sunny and 70F outside like happened to us this summer on the Grandes Jorasses. I guess you can say we are just sailing on a sea of irony.
Tomorrow we leave Italy, and I have to say, I have never been happier to be out of here. Sure, in the past I have always been ready for a change of scenery by this time in the season but this year I am simple ready to be GONE FROM HERE. This season in Italy was going superbly until the 4th of August when in began to snow. I determined that we had about 4 feet of snowfall throughout the month of August. Snowfall means no clientele for us at Rifugio Bocalatte; no clientele means, well, nobody at the hut. Kind of a novelty at first but by the end of the month (some 20 zero-counts later) it was simply madness.
By the time the Alpine club came up to do the work they were scheduled to (see earlier posting) we were ready to make a run for it. We couldn’t get in the helicopter fast enough. What insanity, though. About a week before the date they were supposed to come up to work we got in touch with the contractor to see how many days he was planning for the work so we could plan their meals. That is when he drove the last nail in the coffin of our august. He said that he told all his workers to plan to eat cold food because he thought they would come up after we had closed. We were kind of looking forward to the extra income a couple days of guests would bring us but, in a way, the news was kind of a relief. So we called his bluff and said, “Fine, we are going to fly down on the helicopter you fly up on.” I don’t think he was expecting that. Our theory is that he was going to bring up his own food and then turn around and charge the Alpine Club for full-pension at the hut. So when he tells the Alpine Club that we are not going to be around they are surprised and he tells them, “They said they don’t have enough food to feed me and my crew” to try and cover his ass. The truth, of course, is that we needed to FLY down because we have so much left over food that we can’t possibly pack it down on our backs. Not only is this guy a bad worker, but he is a terrible liar. We keep telling the Alpine Club that this guy is a crook but they won’t listen.
Anyway, the day before they are scheduled to fly up it snowed another 4 inches. So, on the morning of the flight it is kind of hectic getting everyone and everything on and off the roof of the hut and in and out of the helicopter. We almost lost my brother’s sombrero in the process. But, we arrived safely in the valley like rock-stars in our private helicopter and promptly caught a bus (very not-like-rock-stars) into town to our friend Gio’s. He wasn’t around but he let us stay at his place, being the brave soul that he is. We threw massive rock-star like parties and made sure to clean up really well before he arrived at the end of the week (Just kidding, Gio!). Luci’s parents came up for the weekend and we did a little hut to hut hiking to a couple of the huts in the lower valley.
Since we had the motorcycle, we decided to take a detour through Val d’Isere and the Vanoise on our way back to Milan. We also had to stop in Turin at the Alpine Club office to sort out my payment for the painting of the hut and to talk about “things”. We found out that it began to snow again at the hut later the same afternoon that we had flown down and they had beat a hasty retreat without doing any work whatsoever. Sono i cazzi loro.
Back in Milan…Luci and I had been talking about taking a little three or four day motorcycle trip to the Dolomites. But, she and her folks took most of the week to recover from the hike to the huts and then this came up and we needed to finish that and, “oh crap the post office is closed on Fridays”, blah, blah, blah and we never got around to it. So I have spent the last two weeks at my in-laws…fun. My personal in-law law is: two weeks. After two weeks, suicide begins to look like a viable escape. Coincidently, two weeks is the time it takes for my older bother and I to begin seriously considering fratricide.
So my bad mood has been building for days and then it started to rain. It POURED for 24 hours straight without stopping and has since been drizzly punctuated by the occasional drenching. I decided to just go ahead and put the motorcycle away early. Sad day. But it only got sadder.
Yesterday, Saturday, we all went to an antique show. I like antiques; they like antiques; there is no reason this shouldn’t be fun. One of the few things my mother-in-law and I can agree on is that we have completely opposite tastes in almost everything; especially when it comes to clothing and domestic decoration. I am not going to give examples because it is enough to know me or read a couple of pages of this blog and imagine someone completely opposite in everyway and you have my MIL. Alright, alright, an example; she says she could never go to Antarctica because she would get claustrophobia…yea, fear of ENCLOSED spaces.
So knowing that we have opposite tastes it is just easier to split up in the antique fair to look at things we each like; me alone and Luci with her mother and father. It didn’t take long to discover this was not my kind of fair. It was mostly jewelry, furniture, silver, high-end stuff. I did find an old Leica 35mm camera for 500€ which is a good price but I wasn’t carrying that kind of cash around with me. I had seen everything I was interested in seeing and went to find the pod of Pandolfis. I found them in the vintage clothing section.
Now for those of you who know me, you know that I have never been any sort of animal rights fanatic. On the contrary, I once put myself unintentionally and somewhat embarrassingly at odds with friends and colleagues at break time at McMurdo. We were all sitting around reading the photocopied New York Times and there was article about a guy who had been sentenced to jail-time for brutally killing someone’s puppy. I exclaimed something along the lines of, “that is nuts that they would sentence a guy to jail time for killing a stupid dog”. From then on, I was a crazed canine murderer to at least one of the group. But, I digress.
Before going to look for my wife and in-laws, I had been looking at a series of old Chinese sculptures in ivory. Some of these piece were made of very, very large pieces of ivory. They were obviously from very large Tuskers that are simple not found anymore. It made me think of a study I once read about how the genetic traits for large tusks in elephants are being selected out and how large tusks are becoming less and less commonplace almost as a mode of self-preservation from poachers. With poaching on my mind, I went to look for my family. I found my mother-in-law wrapped in a ocelot coat in a vintage furs stall. When they saw me, they collectively jumped. Luci made a futile effort to distract me by showing me something she found in a different stall. Yeah, right. I was upset. I said to Luci, “you are trying to convince her NOT to get that, right?” She said, “I just spent the last fifteen minutes trying to convince her not to get TWO”.
I have always been indifferent to fur. In fact, I think rabbit fur is great. I think using the fur is a great way to put to use something that might otherwise go to waste (I guess since Americans don’t really eat rabbit like Europeans, that sounds like kind of a weak argument). But seeing my mother-in-law buying the fur of an endangered animal that was killed exclusively for the value of its fur on the international market I found upsetting. But what could I do? Try arguing with someone who thinks she would suffer from claustrophobia in the wide open space of Antarctica? I just walked away and waited in the car. I am leaving tomorrow anyway. No more mother-in-law for seven months.
Yes, its true. Tomorrow we leave this wonderful country for cold, white wastes of Antarctica. This year we are going to the USAP’s newest field camp, WAIS Divide. Luci is going to be one of the two cooks and I am going to be the fuels tech and light mechanic. This camp will be much larger than Siple Dome with an average population of about 30 from what we understand. But first we have a couple of weeks back in Maine where hopefully I can bring to a close the long motorcycle licensing saga amongst other things. This year, our employer is doing training in Denver like it used to be done in the past. Why they have changed back I am not sure. Probably because it is cheaper to send new people home from Denver than from Christchurch when they begin to discover that McMurdo is going to more like a gulag than the penguin and pony show they saw on the Discovery Channel. Hopefully my brother Joel isn’t one of them. He has signed up to go to the South Pole for the season.