Sunday, March 30, 2008

Adam Blue Project Update: Second Draft Progress and Excerpts Day 13


Coming on the heels of sleeping all day, (recovery from a late night in Philly) I've finally gotten around to posting new samples from the recently completed 6th Chapter of Adam Blue. The project reached a milestone recently, 50 pages of completed second draft material. I'm not sure how many pages are left to do, but the recent momentum has been a huge push in the right direction. Right now, I'm kind of hoping that I can knock out at least ten pages of material a week. Even at that rate, which is admittedly slow, I can have this book done in a few months and ready for peer review and manuscript distribution. I finished 30 pages of material in the past two weeks, so I'm on track again I think. I'm really excited about the project, and I have good feelings.

This one was kind of interesting, a lot of the original material slated for this chapter was cut in favor of new text. So here's the chapter tracker summary...

Peter Potter Takes a Leak

Consisting of content from Adam Blue Gets Dirty, Private Adam Blue Shits His Pants and mostly new text, this chapter details the search of the helicopter crash site. Also the ride towards the FOB.


Pretty bland, in planning, this chapter ended up taking up roughly 14 pages of actual text, including a lot of dialog. So, it's sort of a proud addition in the sense that I wanted longer, meatier chapters. The actual writing itself is pretty decent too, I think. One thing I've noticed with Adam Blue is that a lot of my dialog tends to feel forced and meaningless. I don't feel bad about that at all, part of the cause is that all my characters are pretty two-dimensional. Just about every character in the story, with the exception of Adam, the sun, and the moon, are arch typical characters designed to represent a certain demographic. Not all those characters are going to blossom vocally. I can accept that. Also, my dialog is a little rusty, I tend to favor monologues when I write. The back and forth of conversation, is at times, a very unnatural and time consuming way to express a secondary character's thoughts and feelings. I think that is part of the reason that I introduced Colonel Fretter in this chapter with such a long soliloquy/aside with Adam. It gave me a chance to establish him as a villain from the onset, kind of cartoonishly even, since his evils mostly reside in Adam's head.

Anyway. Here is the sample...

Chapter 7

Evening, Day 13: Peter Potter Takes a Leak

Adam was grimy from his chest to the toes of his boots with milk chocolate muck. Sweat ran in rivulets down his body, creeping through the fabric of his uniform and ballistic vest to mix with the waste from the irrigation ditches he had been skulking through. The river rose ominously before him in the fading glow of day, brown slowly fading to black as night’s grip tightened on the recovery site.

“I reckon not.” Cowboy agreed.

“You need to turn the truck this way, Blue.” Specialist Peter Potter yelled from the fringe of the palm grove. Adam ignored him as he plucked a cigarette from the soggy hard pack. He dragged his thumb over the roller of the lighter, sparking a flame. He brought the burning lick of fire to the tip of the cigarette mashed between his lips. He shot out the first mouthful of fumes, ejecting smoke and spent lighter fluid. Adam filled himself with smoke as he rested his side against the steel plate bolted to the door of the truck.

Peter Potter ambled with a practiced nonchalance towards Adam. He held his fore and middle fingers to his lips, using body language to confer his desire to smoke one of Adam’s cigarettes. Peter’s liberal upbringing had taught him to have a sense of entitlement to things which inherently belonged to others. The warmth of Adam’s heart had taught him to give things, which were inherently his, to those in need. In that regard, Adam and Peter got along swimmingly.

Adam tossed the filthy pack of Camels to Peter.

Peter pilfered a single length of tobacco, filter and paper. He brought it to his lips and struck his lighter to life. He took a long drag, closing his eyes behind the fashionable frames of his designer glasses. Peter handed the pack back to Adam as he stepped closer.

“Can we get the lights over there? We need to be able to see where we’re wasting our time.” Peter said. The conspiracy in his voice indicated that his vocalization of dissatisfaction was meant only to fill the short space between his face and Adam’s face.

Peter’s rampant disinterest in the mission was fueled by a life long and passionate apathy towards goal oriented activities. Peter was the product of a changing America. The country had become, over time, a place where those who could, often chose not to do. A place where those who wish they could, but couldn’t, believed they could anyway. The American dream had come to foster an environment where the stupid and talent-less aspired to greatness, and the facile minority aspired to nothing more than a buzzing social commentary rooted in snobbish criticism. Peter was a lazy intellectual, with a haughty bone to pick with the institution that paid his bills. The government of the United States and every brain-dead soul that worked for it were in the cross-hairs of Peter’s jibes. He also had larger and less immediate issues with God. God didn’t seem to care.

“Fuck it.” Adam said, trying to sound casual. He had bigger worries than the bellies of the muddy irrigation ditches. The bellies he was worried about had eyes, fangs and scales wrapped around them. For the sake of everyone, Adam would suffer his comrades to fumble in the dark.

“Yeah, fuck it. I think we’re getting out of here soon, anyway.” Peter replied, shooting a jet of smoke from his nostrils. “This is bullshit, they had crew out here a half-hour after the crash and they didn’t find a damn thing. They wait twelve hours, bring us out and have us spend the whole day combing wreckage. Fucking retards.”

“Fucking retards.” Adam agreed half-heartedly.

“Fuckin’ ungracious little pistol startin’ cocksuckin’ polecat, got no respect for the dead. I got a high mind to track down his pa and set him straight for the wrongness he done raisin’ that boy. I’d set him straight by bustin’ his ribs, for one.” Cowboy spat.

The moon plugged her ears and held her breath. Foul language and violence had a way of taking a toll on her, and she wanted nothing to do with any of it. She watched Cowboy shadowbox the sprawling emptiness of space, cussing and spitting. His spurs spun brightly as he stomped and growled. The moon waxed bright red as her cheeks bulged into the night. When he reached for his flask, she knew it was safe to surrender her guard, so she did.

Cowboy tipped whiskey into his mouth, gulping twice before relaxing the bottle. He wiped his mustache clean with the sleeve of his checked shirt, and turned his ornery eyes on Peter who, for his part, was still being a prick.

“I mean, who the hell cares?” Peter asked. He brushed the smoldering end of the cigarette against the side of the humvee, leaving an ashen streak across the armor. Peter cupped his mouth in his hand and pulled it down across his chin, his fingers dragging the sweaty sheen that had gathered around his lips away from his face.

“I’m gonna go piss.” Peter said as he walked off. He trucked down the river bank towards a stand of reeds outside of the prying eyes of the humvee headlights. His M4 assault rifle bounced against his legs as it waggled in its sling.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Puertasmo

In order to prove what total asshats we are, the friends of Gene Paul Puerta have made a website for him...

Puertasmo

You can find some of my "in-character" writing there pretending to be Gene. I write as Mr. Puertastic. He can post now too, but we only gave him limited power. He can't edit or alter anyone's work but his own.

That's right, we gave him a website that we use to make fun of him. We're the best friends a guy could ever have.

That said, I am going to talk a little bit about Gene in this post.

Gene's definitely one of the most loyal and proactive people I've met in my life. As friends go, he's the kind of guy that will go out of his way to not only maintain a friendship, but to help a friend. He impresses me in a lot of ways. I think, because he's got a lot of qualities I lack, like dedication and motivation. He's one of those people that you make friends with and regret it for the rest of your natural life... because he's going nowhere.

He's kind of spasmodic, and almost always a little bitch.

That's his charm.

So, go to his new site, show him some love. He needs it while he's alone and away at college without his boys.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Adam Blue Project Update: Motivation, Strategy, Update and Excerpts from Day 12

Motivation

Well, it's strange. I think I kind of missed the point of this blog, which was half about working on the Adam Blue project to begin with. Yesterday, I posted an entry after finishing the most productive day of work yet and it spurred me onward to eek out some more writing today.

I think I owe a lot of my early successes to the fact that I received constant motivation from my readers. Those pats on the back went a long way towards making me feel like I wasn't working in a vacuum. During the seven months or so (math is stupid) I was working on the project in Iraq I got a ton of positive feedback from the readers of my MySpace blog. (Several of whom will receive free copies of the final product in appreciation of that much needed help.)

Last week, Monica (Garden State of Euphoria) asked me a fairly poignant question about what it takes to actually put words down...

How do you deal with a little ailment that goes something like 'I keep writing in my head but can't seem to sit still long enough to type it up and hit submit'?
At first, I didn't really have a good answer. The only time I'd made any significant progress writing was in Iraq when I was posting the Adam Blue stories as I completed them. I realized that the reason I was having such a problem editing and adding to the existing content was because I was working in a vacuum. I had pulled all my Adam Blue material off of my MySpace blog, and swore not to publish any more of it until it came out in an actual no shit book. A great plan, except that I apparently suck at self-motivating. I got myself into a bind of sorts because I couldn't just publish the book wholesale on my blog in its final form, and I couldn't finish it without sharing my work in progress. I don't really have a local writer circle to bounce my ideas off of, and I can't spread material I want to be paid for across the internet... so I need some sort of compromise.

That compromise is this: as I complete material for the book I'll be posting excerpts on the blog and write about the process I used to complete that particular section. Writing the second draft has been a lot more complicated, I find myself checking references for dates, events, factoids and that sort of thing. That gives me a little bit more to talk about here in the blog to make up for the fact that I won't be posting whole chapters here.

Update

After a trip to the bookstore and a lot of talk about writing the other day, I hit the ground motivated. I worked for about thirteen hours yesterday, and five hours today (on and off) to iron out two chapters of the book. Here are the write-ups from my chapter tracker...

Adam Blue and the Giant
Consisting of Adam Blue and the Sticky Situation, Adam Blue Doesn’t Find Jesus and new text, this chapter combines two day time events into a single day. This chapter focuses more on the sun and further expands Horus Alcott in a mostly negative way.

Mack Loses a Tooth
Consisting of all new text, this chapter details Mack’s helicopter ride and the subsequent crash in the desert, and his escape from the scene. The Sun speaks, but makes no direct communication with Mack. Mack’s religious beliefs may play a large role.

The green highlight is a good thing, in my tracker the green highlight means that the text is down in its second draft format and is still open for editing. Yellow means it is partially written or only contains first draft text, and red means it hasn't been written at all. Once I am absolutely satisfied with a chapter, I clear all highlights. It takes a lot for me to be absolutely satisfied with a chapter, I just cleared the first chapter yesterday and it had been green for over a month and a half. I was struggling over a single sentence.

Anyway, Adam Blue and the Giant was the longest chapter I've completed to date. I combined two daytime events into a single string of events. I did this for two reasons. One, Adam Blue and the Sticky Situation did a good job of giving a strong introduction to the sun, but it was lacking in meat when it came to length and actually developing the story. Adam Blue Doesn't Find Jesus had some major flaws, both stylistically and in terms of character personality. It did however plant the seed of Mack's plot-line, which ended up emerging with some fairly strong solo chapters much later in the project. Adam Blue Doesn't Find Jesus had some strong content in terms of imagery, but it needed a lot of work to fit in with my second draft vision of the book. By linking the two chapters I cut down on the amount of jumping around that the reader has to put up with by forming a single linear series of events, and I made a more presentable looking chapter in terms of length and consistency.

So here is an excerpt from the newly minted Adam Blue and the Giant...

Morning, Day 12: Adam Blue and the Giant

Adam slipped out, turning quickly to curse the sun.

"Fucking bastard!" He said. His voice was crisp and low.

The sun held its silence. It pretended not to hear Adam, as if it had some other solar system somewhere else it was keeping warm. The sun acted like it was stepping out on its satellites to visit other orbital bodies in some other galaxy. The sun wanted Adam to believe it was living a double life. Adam knew the sun wasn't doing anything that exciting.

"What did you say, Blue?" Alcott asked.

Alcott made a point of only hearing things that confirmed his presumptions about the nature of existence. In his opinion, he Ulysses S. Alcott was not a fucking bastard. In truth, he considered himself to be a role model and a leader. He wasn’t. He had a fairly good heart and a bad brain filled with bile, hatred and the ignorant preaching of those who came before him.

Adam spoke truthfully, "I said fucking bastard, because he is."

The fat toad's eyes exploded open in confusion, they meandered back and forth in a clumsy dance. When performed by a more gracefully featured person this expression might have been called darting. His hand awkwardly scoured the desk for a forgotten can of soda. He clutched the aluminum vessel and brought it to his chapped lips, and then he took a long sip from the day old cola. He cleared his throat, emptying stale tobacco juices, snot and dust into his mouth. He spat back into the can and looked at Adam.

"What? Who is?" Alcott asked.

Adam spoke falsely, "My father."

Adam’s father was, incidentally, not a fucking bastard at all, but was in fact a fairly likeable guy. Adam's dad went to work every day, he wore a tie, suspenders and leather shoes. No one had ever had a problem with Adam's dad, ever. He was meek and reliable man.

"Well, we can handle that on your personal time. There's work to be done Blue… but if you need to talk about it, I think I know a thing or two about bad parents." Alcott said, with a brown smile.

Alcott knew more than a thing or two, having been a poor father to five children of his own. Given ample time and motivation, his ex-wife could attest to his failings as a father and as a husband. These were the traits he’d inherited from his own Army father, who had inherited them from his Army father, and so on through the twisted branches of his overpopulated and miserable family tree.

"Roger, Sergeant." Adam said with just enough feigned excitement to not be labeled what some people in his profession would call a ‘shit-bag.’

In the Army, a shit-bag was the worst kind of person, they were a boneless bag of skin filled with human waste: useless brains, broken hearts, damaged kidneys, and dying livers. Almost every single person Adam had ever met in the Army was a shit-bag in at least some capacity. It was a natural result of doing the job. Sergeant Alcott was the biggest shit-bag of all, having done the job since before Adam was born. He suffered from all of the tell-tale ailments brought on by shit-baggery.


I ended up completely pulling the opening of Mack's plot-line from the last chapter in order to give it a bit more attention. Since I already had later chapters exclusively featuring Mack on his own, I thought I would run his story parallel to Adam's in separate chapters from the start of the book. This chapter proved to be one of the most difficult I had to write. I'm not very good with action sequences and this chapter called for a helicopter crash. Have I mentioned that I've never been in a helicopter crash? Thankfully, in this day and age we have YouTube to come to the rescue. A simple search for helicopter crashes yielded plenty of fodder to draw from. The following videos were particularly helpful...









So, let's see how I did. Here's an excerpt from a chapter comprised of all new material, Mack Loses a Tooth...

Afternoon, Day 12: Mack Loses a Tooth

The pilot screamed into his headset, and the black hawk lurched downward. The aircraft heaved riotously, rocked by an explosion. Flares fired from the rear port side of the craft, moments too late to deter the attack. The wounded howl of the rotors was peppered with the clangor of flying debris, terrified screams filled the black hawk as it spun wildly out of control.

Mack tilted his head back and closed his eyes as the torque of the engines jerked the helicopter into a spiraling descent. The noise of rockets pierced the uproar of the crashing bird. Their noses tore through the atmosphere leaving a ripple of distorted fury in their wake as they shot towards the two other helicopters in the chalk. Hugo tensed beside him, screaming, terrified.

“Oh shit, oh shit, holy shit!” Hugo chanted.

“We’ll be okay, if we all do it the same.” Mack stated, his eyes still pressed closed as he leaned as far forward as his safety belts would allow. He slid his hands behind his neck. His mind wandered to the tornado drills of his childhood. The siren wailing as the teachers ushered all the students into the hallway. He remembered crouching with the top of his head to the wall and his hands bracing his spine at the base of his skull. The smell of floor wax and forty-year old grass stains on his knees overpowered the acrid smoke from the shattered tail rotor. The slick smell of human feces rising from the Tigris disappeared. The four strapped harnesses wrapped around his body were the reassuring liver-spotted hands of Mrs. McGillis letting him know he was doing just fine, just dandy. He could remember the shaking of her stiff arthritic fingers scratching out the principles of tornado safety on the blackboard.

“Everyone do it the same.” She said, her graying red bun of hair facing the class.

The long sleeve of her dress sagged down to her elbow, the bones of her forearm visibly rubbing together beneath her pale skin. Mack remembered not knowing what a widow was. It was some sort of nervous condition afflicting Mrs. McGillis, those were things children whispered, things they repeated. How could he have known that her husband had died, how could he have known that anyone could die? The tragic fate of sea monkeys provided little meaningful education in regards to matters of life and death. If nothing else, flushing the briny bowls of water down the toilet made him even less cognizant as a child of the divide separating what is from what is no longer.

The black hawk dipped suddenly to the side, mowing down the tops of the palm trees with its blades. The airfoils made quick work of the upper fronds, and dug effortlessly into their narrow boles. Trees cracked as the helicopter sawed through the grove, tipping this way and that. Wet chunks of vegetation flew into the air, and the nose assumed a downward profile as it smashed into the hard dirt riverbank. The lift of the tattered airfoils and the momentum of the crash spun the aircraft on its nose, balancing briefly as the rotors shattered, and then it crashed into the water on its side. The helicopter twirled twice on its side in the mud before coming to a standstill in the slick brown waters. The river rushed in through the open sides, viscous and dark.

“Walk, don’t run, out of the classroom.” Mrs. McGillis continued.

Mack opened his eyes, dangling sideways from his seat, blood pouring from his mouth and nose. Hugo lay limp beside him, his face bobbing in the surface of the water. Mack reached down, grabbing the front lip of his helmet and he pulled Hugo’s battered face out of the water.

“We’ll be okay, if we all do it the same.” Mrs. McGillis said.

Hugo’s eyelids burst open, his left eye was large and black, the pupil exploding over the retreating silver of the iris. He coughed blood and silt from the river, black and slimy down the side of his face.

“I’m s-sorry I called you an-an-an asshole.” Hugo managed to say.

“What?” Mack asked.

Hugo expired, feeling no reason to further elaborate.

Hope you enjoyed my new strategy. It helps me to share my work, and I'd appreciate any feedback, tips or questions you might have.

Also, I think more people should see the picture posted on Monica's blog...


And thus, I've justified my favorite tag.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Adam Blue Project Update: Second Draft Progress and Strategy


As many of you know, I've been diddling around with the second draft of Adam Blue for a while. Due to a rampant case of laziness I haven't really accomplished much in the way of making my wildest dreams come true. However, there has been some progress. I've been applying a bit of design savvy gleaned from working on Rogue Dao Studios' Purgatorio to keep track of the general structure of the book. For example, I now have, for the sake of consistency and reference, a chapter tracker.

Before I start working on a chapter, I review the material I produced in Baghdad, decide which elements to add, and then write a short blurb of the projected contents of each chapter. So, the first two chapters look something like this in my notes...


Day 1: Adam Blue and the Eyes of the Cosmos
Consisting of Adam Blue’s Brain Goes to Baghdad and additional text, this chapter introduces Adam, Cowboy, the Moon and Alcott. Takes place at the Baghdad International Airport.

Day 2: Adam Blue and the Arrival
Consisting of all new text, this chapter introduces Mack. It takes place on the Chinook in the skies of Baghdad and in the formation area by the landing zone. Mack makes a speech to the Brigade.


I've also begun numbering the chapters by the day on which they occur in the story instead of simply numbering them sequentially. This helps to explain the irregularity of activities occurring within the story. When the reader moves from Day 2 to Day 8 they don't expect the new chapter to pick up exactly where the previous one left off. This is consistent with the vignette style chapters I wrote in Iraq, and should help alleviate some reader confusion regarding the events of the story.

I'm working on interjecting plot characters into earlier chapters, for example in the original draft Sergeant Alcott wasn't introduced until the sixth chapter, and Colonel Mack only gets mentioned once in the sixth chapter. Now I've introduced Alcott briefly in the first chapter, and given Mack an immediate role in the second chapter. In the first draft I created characters as needed to fill certain archetypes and roles in specific chapters, and in some cases these characters, like Peter Potter, ended up being fairly prominent in the following chapters. So, I'm trying to structure the book a bit less haphazardly. After all, with all the oddness of the content, I feel I owe it to the reader to at least structure the book sensibly.

Here's a revised second draft version of my first chapter. This chapter was originally published on my MySpace blog somewhere around the middle of my first draft. I had written this one in a notebook and took my time getting around to typing it up. So in the original online publication I had started with Adam Blue and the Sea Monsters which made a decent opening chapter in terms of establishing Adam's character, but did a poor job of opening the plot of the story. Going back with a mind for revision, I placed my original first chapter Adam Blue's Brain Goes to Baghdad at its rightful place, added some new text (including a stronger opening line), and injected additional plot characters and concepts. Thus, I ended up with my new opening chapter: Adam Blue and the Eyes of the Cosmos, let me know what you think...



Day 1: Adam Blue and the Eyes of the Cosmos

The universe flung itself to and fro, dramatically slinging its bits and pieces against each other. No one really cared enough to notice. The petty rustling of mankind had drawn the eyes of the cosmos to a splintered desert nation. The icy fingers of death were snapping a catchy tune and humanity was stomping and clapping in time with every ounce of enthusiasm it could muster.

The airstrip used by the Coalition Forces in Baghdad sprawled into the desolate quiet of the Iraqi night. Private Adam Blue stood airsick and stupid in the rough gravel pit on the east side of the tarmac. The far off lights of the Baghdad International Airport hung dully in the mottled black air like tallow candles creeping beneath the whispers of the full orange moon.

“Adam, take out your earplugs.” The moon mouthed.

He tugged at the plugs and the silence was vanquished by a brilliant burst of sound and experience. Adam placed the tiny yellow buds into an empty grenade pouch. The shuddering of black hawk helicopters washed over him; their mighty rotor blades beat angrily against the dome of the sky. Suddenly Adam could hear everything: voices, chewing gum popping, an enthusiastic breeze whistling through the slick barrels of machine guns, and he could hear the faint crackling of distant bamboo chutes. Somewhere far away, there were pandas chewing contentedly as they conspired not to fuck. Elsewhere, there were a billion Chinese laughing at a dispirited American zookeeper who had grown weary of the lack of romance in his professional life.

Adam's brain was a nest of glistening madness, a lump of tissue riddled with pulsating veins and some fairly cockamamie ideas about the universe. Amongst them, the idea that things which were, were in fact not, and things that were in fact not, were. Over the years he’d learned to hide the fact that he was, for all intents and purposes, completely bat-shit insane.

Cowboy loomed above Adam. The old salt tipped back a shot of whiskey and wiped his whiskers clean. He tilted eastward on his dusty leather boots and let out a long hoot.

“Would you listen to them? Oooeee!” He sang in his western drawl.

“Pandas! Them bastards think they’re so clever! They’re hidin’ their evil ways behind fuzzy faces. Like we’re gonna forget what they are.” His crooning voice halted, and his lips wrapped into a sneer.

“Commie bastards.” He snarled. Cowboy was stuck in the 50’s. In his opinion, pandas represented everything wrong with Sino-American relations.

Adam's brain was a soggy clump of crazy snapping off millions of electrical impulses at the speed of light. 182,282 miles per second. Incidentally, that was also the speed at which teeth sparkled. Adam's brain couldn't slow down, it twitched and tangled with every breath, it spun strong circles through loopholes in outer-space when stimulated. Cowboy stumbled through those hoops and curlicues. His breath wreaked of booze, his tongue stumbled over slurred advice. His grizzled face was all pins and needles and his chin quivered with lack of sensation; he was an alcoholic. No one knew, but Adam and the moon.

“Hey, darlin’.” Cowboy called out, looking affectionately upon the blushing pock-marked face of the moon. He tipped his hat backward, his feet creeping slowly out from underneath him until he was forced to grab the massive seal of his belt buckle for balance. He hiked his dungarees up, pulling himself forward and grinning sloppily.

The moon hid her abashment behind a veil of slow moving clouds. She had self-esteem issues, a result of her ruddy complexion and yo-yoing weight.

“Hello.” She peeped, hidden behind the gauze of condensed air moisture. Still, the embarrassed glow of her face hedged the fringes of the clouds, painting them a timid custard haze.

The pair fell into an awkward silence, as they always did when words failed between them. Cowboy quickly changed course, turning towards Adam.

“You ready for this, buckaroo?” He asked.

“I don’t think so.” Adam replied.

“Well, you just do your best and things’ll fall into place. Usually do.” Cowboy said, the whiskey in his blood lending backbone to his air of rugged confidence.

“You’re a good kid. Ain’t nothin’ bad gonna happen to you.” He said, nodding with a wobbly reassurance.

“I hope not.” Adam said. He couldn’t help but feel that the matter of his life and death was completely out of his hands. That sort of thing was decided by men far away, men with far more stake in what Adam was doing than Adam himself.

“Blue!” A voice belonging to Sergeant First Class Ulysseus S. Alcott bellowed. “Pick it up! We’re leaving!”

Adam scrambled to gather his gear. His unit wouldn’t be going anywhere for hours, and everyone knew it. Everyone that is, except Sergeant Alcott, whose complete faith in the Army had filled him with the delusion that somewhere there was someone who knew what the hell was going on. There wasn’t.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Due South?




You may be looking at my new swim buddy.

I was reading the May 2007 edition of Men's Journal today in the bathroom. I flipped through page after page of manly endeavors, adventures and boasts. A small blurb caught my attention. Amidst the para-gliding, treacherous nighttime skiing, and mountain climbing, I found something brilliant. Antarctica. I'm not talking about whale watching trips or just flying in to check it out. I'm talking about, no bullshit, taking up residence on the southern most continent.

When it comes to travel, I'm no tourist; I want to live and breath the places I go. So when I got to the italicized text after the blurb about popping in and doing shots at the bottom of the Earth, my heart raced. Not just because I was answering nature's call, but because I think I heard a calling of a different sort. In that text there was a link to Raytheon's Polar Services website with the promise of work opportunities.

I'm no stranger to Raytheon, I ran into a few of their contractors in Iraq, but I had no idea they were at the South Pole too. Apparently, they operate the facilities down there and they hire employees through seasonal contracts in a variety of support fields. Not everyone working at a research station is a scientist. They've got mail clerks, couriers, communication technicians, carpenters, plumbers, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and so forth. There are four to six month contracts available during the Antarctic summer, and eight to ten month contracts available for the winter.

Now, I've learned one thing about companies that fill complicated and unusual government contracts; they pay top-dollar. There's no environment more extreme than the polar ice caps, so I imagine that the pay is probably none too shabby. Even if it paid crap, which I find hard to believe, I'd probably come back with 97% of the money I made while I was there... since, to my knowledge, they don't have any malls or fancy restaurants on the South Pole.

So, here's my plan. I've applied to go to college this fall. I'll go to school for three semesters, then I'll take a year off and work ten months in Antarctica doing one of several jobs I'm qualified to do. Then I'll come back with enough money to pay for the remainder of my college. I should be pretty close to graduation by then, given the number of credits I have from DLI. Who knows? I may be able to finagle some college credit out of the whole thing. After all, it is a scientific research station. Not to mention that they boast scientific lectures and all sorts of educational garbage. Think of it as the most profitable and exotic study abroad program ever.

If Iraq taught me anything, it's that I write best when I'm in an environment without distractions. You don't get more distraction-free than Antarctica. It's just you, the birds, the nerds and the snow. There's a book down there, it's waiting for me.

Apparently they'll also let me ski. That's a plus.

So hopefully, two years from now I'll be living here...