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a toast… (by guest blogger Andre)

Check it out – two entries in two days! You lucky dogs. This is less of an update, though, and more of an addendum, an appendix. I was unhappy with the update I wrote yesterday in its dealings with “toastiness” (or, the gradual, Antarctica-enduced losing of one’s mind). I didn’t feel that it captured the true essence of this unique Antarctic zombie-dom. And so, I turned to an expert. You will recall my friend Andre, my closest friend from winfly (August and September). He’s back, which is happy times, except that he’s been down here way too long. It shows. He’s struggling, a bit. However, he’s also an excellent writer, and while the rest of his mind crumbles, his wit remains sharp and pointy. In the interest of educating and entertaining you all, faithful readers, I asked him to write a guest entry on the topic of “Being Toasty”.

Therefore: Andre, The Toasty…
He writes:

“when susan asked me to write a guest-blog for her on the subject of being toasty, as i cowered from the crowds at mcmurdo’s first annual prom at gallagher’s, my first thought was “do i know you?” i noticed that there was a spark of familiarity, and seconds passed before the recognition came. “ahh! you’re the food girl!” i then spent a moment wondering if i was being honored or insulted.

i’m guessing that she asked me because i may be the poster boy for toasty, the ambassador of fried brains, a former vital and reasonably-intelligent person reduced to the intellectual equivalent of that feral and boomerang-flinging orphan from the road warrior.

as i begin my fifteenth month on the ice (out of the last sixteen) the idea of toast is very real to me, or – rather – it would be real if i had the mental capacity to spend any real time contemplating it. i am, however, struck by the irony of the word usage to denote someone who’s suffering true brain deficiency due to long periods of isolation in this frigid place – all the terms relate to heat, as in toasty, fried, burnt, or singed. perhaps freezer burnt might be more fitting?

the symptoms of the toasty condition are many and varied, can be quite amusing for the short periods that you can remember them, and are a goldmine of storytelling material once you manage to extricate yourself from our island paradise. these symptoms include insomnia, memory loss (both short-term and long-term), irritability, anti-social behavior, chronic fatigue and an increase in alcohol intake, and i have suffered and / or enjoyed every one of them.

your previous life, before antarctica, ceases to have relevance, and the names and places of people you know and where you’ve been fade away. at one point, i incorrectly spelled my own name. i forgot that my sister had children (she had two at the time) or that she was pregnant. i forgot that i had a sister (i have three). i couldn’t remember the name of the town i lived in, or what those big vehicles that people pay money to ride in are called. i referred to them as “kind of like a delta”. just last week, i couldn’t remember the word ‘hose’ and referred to them as “those squirty things”. (i’m a firefighter, and we use hoses on a daily basis). tragically, i forgot that my father had died, and tried to call him one afternoon.

a toasty person might start walking in one direction, only to wake and find that they’d been walking somewhere with no recollection of where they were headed, or why. a really toasty person then forgets that they forgot something and keeps walking, quietly enjoying the alone time.

one afternoon in the middle of winter i decided to have a shower. i gathered up my showery things, put on the soft, fluffy parka (you might know it as a ‘bathrobe’) and walked out into the hallway. i turned right, and walked to the stairs. i walked down, through the doors into highway one – our main corridor in building 155 – and over to the galley. turning right, i continued past the barber shop, the newspaper office, and turned right again, past the radio station. i walked into the light room – one of the dorm rooms converted into a lounge with bright lamps and a hydroponic growth chamber – and stood there in the doorway, towel in hand, wondering where i was supposed to be.

i should mention that my room was directly across the hallway from the shower, a distance of about ten feet.

i have lost the ability to be social, and for the last three weeks my best friend has been the digital recreation of the 2001 new england patriots on my x-box. i have a tendency to sit in the dark and stare, wishing that i had the ambition to get up and do whatever it was that i had forgotten to do that day. if only i could remember. i write things in my green brain – the little notebook we are all issued to write down what we will inevitably forget – but forget that i wrote them. i forget that i have a green brain. i forget that i have a pen. i stare at my pen while i try to remember what this marking stick is called, and wishing that i had a pen to write down what it is called when and if i remember. i forget to eat. i have daydreams and think that they are real, and start conversations based on the events of these dreams. “so…” i might say to random person, “that was quite a large snake we found this morning over by the practice field.” i’ve gotten used to the blank stares of incomprehension.

i have one concrete measure of my descent into idiocy. before i came down here, i had an addiction to logic puzzles, and would bust them out in any situation where i had to sit and wait for any long period of time. i would rapidly complete the ‘four star’ difficulty puzzles in contented bliss. it wasn’t too long before i found the ‘four star’ to be increasingly difficult, and moved down to the three, then the two, then i found myself unable to complete the basic puzzles. currently i hide the puzzles in a drawer, as i’ve found them as incomprehensible as the code of hammurabi in the original babylonian.

these symptoms truly manifested themselves when i left the ice for a short vacation a few months ago, when i found myself walking into traffic, lost on some street in christchurch. i was incapable of operating a pay phone, and as for the intricacies of ordering food in a restaurant, well…the less said about that the better.

i’m told that the condition fades once you leave the ice, once you spend a significant time back in ‘the world’, back amongst the people. i can only trust and hope that this is true. the thought of spending the rest of my life as “i am sam” is too horrible to contemplate.

my friend genevieve was witness to some of my post-ice nonsense, and documented it brilliantly on her blog. the story is available at this link: play that funky music pale winterover boy

You can follow more of Andre’s adventures here.

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