by Steely Daniella
The following is a volunteer dispatch from a volunteer librarian at the McMurdo Library, blissfully empty as usual, who is listening to a volunteer DJ doing a volunteer radio show.
I thought with the TV satellite down, we might get a visitor or two. Alas, no. I forgot any CDs and I’ll be damned if I’ll listen to the only one that remains here always, Steely Dan “Two Against Nature.” Whoever is doing the radio show tonight is playing some Carpenters songs, which gets me to thinking. In an attempt to get Karen to eat something, anything, as she withered away, sad and stick-like, I bet they tried to get her to eat “just a little Jello, Karen… please!”
A couple months back I marveled at how frequently spiked Jello is proffered at this fair outpost, as I noticed Jello shots were actually advertised on the official Rec Board outside the Galley for a “Country Night” fundraiser at Southern.
All the tips from the hoe-down at Southern, nearly $500, will be donated to a children’s charity in Christchurch. The well-meaning stewards of those disadvantaged tots hardly suspect that all those American dollars were thrown across the bar by chain-smokers listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and rooting around with their tongues to get the last bits of lime Jello and vodka trembling on the inside of a dixie cup.
The average age in McMurdo this Summer was 38 – I don’t know what the Winter average is, though it feels about the same, and no one seems any more innocent now that it’s goddamn dark, that’s for sure. So what inspires this adolescent imbibing? Maybe it’s living in dorm rooms decorated with hand-me-down beanbags and those abhorrent tapestries from stripmall head shops, or maybe it’s the sheer speed with which one can go from “I’m so glad it’s Saturday,” to “I can’t believe I’m doing a Jello shot…” to “My fav’riss is the grape ones (hic).”
Most of us are more likely to slurp up a liquor-laced dose of Jello down here than we are to have a pulsating portion in the Galley at lunchtime. It is served occasionally; but without the booze, who really wants it? I’d rather get my sugar from the chocolate delectables lovingly prepared by our expert baker. Yet just when I thought I was totally jaded by all things Jello, by all things McMurdo, and by all things institutional in general, I found myself astonished recently at the massive energy some in our community are willing to expend to sink to a level on par with our latitude.
Back in April, in a dorm room upstairs in 155, someone hosted Live Jello Wrestling.
Every Monday night, when nary a watering hole in this drinking town will serve the thirsty, the man in question hosts a party, always well appointed in the snack and booze department, and therefore well-attended. Plus, he’s a swell guy.
Whatever your standards of personal hygiene, your feminist viewpoint, your predilection for gelatin, it is undeniable that this man went to great lengths to host Jello Wrestling, and seeing how I seldom have even enough energy to do my laundry on Monday nights, I will applaud him for his efforts. Mattresses and pillows were arranged on the floor and encased in heavy plastic in such a way to contain the 600 pounds of red Jello in a sort of kiddie pool. Yes, 600 pounds. Only those living directly upstairs from the institutional clamor in which they work can harness that kind of infrastructure. A crowd gathered. Sheets of plastic hung from the ceiling to protect the spectators from the spectacle.
The next day in the Galley, from a stainless steel shelf above where the shrimp cocktail would be if it were Thanksgiving Dinner, his laptop was showing highlights from the previous evening, A new crowd gathered.
Weeks passed. His window blew out in the big storm and his room filled with snow. A crowd gathered with screwguns and scrap wood, shovels and plastic bags.
Another couple Mondays rolled by. He hosted Slip and Slide in the hallway, and used a pony keg of cooking oil to lube up the runway. And wouldn’t you know, a crowd gathered. Always courteous to his neighbors, he winds it down at a decent hour, and he cleans up better than any disgruntled janitor (“…how the hell did I get into this mess…”) ever will.
Back in April, when the Jello wrestling debuted, I’ll admit, I was unnerved. I felt guilty for even watching. I feigned disgust as Jello flew out the open door, into the hallway and onto my bare big toe. The implications of Live Jello Wrestling in a dormitory hosted by adults well past college age is troublesome to the sensibilities of any sophisticated diesel huffing minion. I sometimes wear an old junk brooch of my grandmother’s affixed to my soily and oily Carharrt bibs, as a sparkly reminder of the world beyond, and I know she would not approve.
Grammy probably wouldn’t approve of the GGGGG cup-sized Jello molds we attempted to create at a BFC party last weekend either. The BFC, mind you, a place where once upon a time, it might have behooved one to be especially mindful in the use of gender specific pronouns. Yes, I took special delight in watching those booby-shaped bowls, nipples and all, get upended on an industrial-sized cookie sheet in the back of the BFC. They flopped out, ragged and collapsing, not looking much like bosoms at all, more like “Two Against Nature,” if you will: too ugly to serve, but it’s the thought that counts.
So now, at midwinter in McMurdo, I find that my lukewarm distaste, so dangerously coupled with fascination, has set up perfectly into undulating admiration for J-E-L-L-O.
Or is it breasts?