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July 25, 2005

My Birthday

The last few days in Thule were somewhat crazy. There was a lot of GPS to be done. Monday, a long field day in what they call the Polar Desert, and in the evening a trip to D-Launch, a cold-war missile-firing site. Tuesday, a day at North Mountain and then a wrap-up session at the Pavilion in the afternoon. The Pavilion is a house-like building down by the water with a living room and a kitchen and a great deck. Our first week in Thule, we gathered there to be social and get to know everyone. Significantly, Patrick had brought a Frisbee and we threw around outside. This time, Molly made us dinner and the archeologists talked. Afterwards, I went with Erik and Quintin to the Community Center on base, which has free video games and pinball. We skied, snowmobiled, drove, and shot people (yikes). Then, went back and I got ready for the next day. Wednesday, everywhere: North Mountain, and then around town in the morning, the Polar Desert and then South Mountain in the afternoon. In the evening, relaxation and packing and more relaxation with wine and food. Thursday, we were off to Kanger.

There are a few things in these last days that are worth elaborating on, though. One is my birthday.

First off, I was not excited about having my birthday in Greenland. I realized that it could be fun, but I was thinking ahead of time that I’d be spending it again in a foreign place with people I didn’t really know. By the time my birthday rolled around, I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather spend my day with. Except that I’d been up late the night before working, and had to getup early to go into the field, and was ridiculously tired and grumpy along with. I hadn’t woken up thinking, “It’s my birthday!” I’d woken up thinking, “God damn, I’m tired.” At breakfast, Cynthia said a bright, “Happy birthday!” as soon as I sat down at the table. I was a little traumatized. I’d forgotten it was my birthday, and it was way too early for anyone to be that chipper, and it was certainly too early for anyone to be that chipper towards me. Darren, too, and Quintin, wished me a happy birthday, and I just grumbled something in response—probably ‘it’s too early for that, man. I can’t even deal with that yet.’

I loaded up into the car with the other GPS-ers for the day, Cynthia, Lucas, Erik, and Diana, with Ron at the wheel. I couldn’t shake my thump. I was all the more grumpy for being tired because I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy my birthday. Cynthia said something about needing coffee, and Ron suggested we swing by the Igloo Inn, which is the Danish community center. I think they have red dogs, he said. “Red dogs?” I perked up. “I would *love* a red dog,” I said. I was thinking of a Red Bull, and coffee isn’t usually my thing, but an energy drink certainly sounded like it could make a difference in my day. “And it *is* her birthday,” Cynthia said. “It’s your birthday? Really?” said Ron, and the deal was done. We were pulling in. “Wait,” I said, waking up a little, are red dogs what I’m thinking of? Is that the energy drink?” “You’re thinking of Red Bulls,” Erik said. And then I realized that red dogs are certainly not Red Bulls. Red dogs are long, very red hot dogs. “No!” I exclaimed. “I do *not* want a red dog!” Nothing sounded worse. But it was too late. Ron’s mind was set. And, he is Norwegian.

Inside the Igloo Inn, Ron spoke with the Danish vendor in Norwegian and the Dane answered him in Danish. The rest of us didn’t understand either. There was nothing we could do. The vender prepared six red dogs for the six of us, complete with a sauce which is something of a cross between mayo and tartar, spoojed generously into the buns. Ron also got two pitchers of coffee, six paper cups, six spoons, and a pint of neopolitin ice cream. Since it was my birthday. So there you have it. 10 AM, coffee, red dogs, and ice cream all around. And, it was actually good.

We had a long day in the field. By the afternoon, it was cold and windy and rainy, but we kept on in good spirits until the work was done, and all went well. Ron said that since it was my birthday, he’d try not to give me a hard time. I don’t know if he tried or not. If he did, I don’t think he succeeded so well. We got back to the hotel around 7:30.

I was pretty excited about dropping my stuff and getting a shower and going to dinner when I got home. Dinner at the dining hall ends at 8, so we were cutting it a little close. A bacon cheeseburger was calling my name.

There was a group gathered at the top of the stairs on my floor as I ascended. “Have you been able to get into your room?” Jolene asked. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Quintin has your key,” she said, “and he was worried you wouldn’t be able to get into your room.” Right. Quintin has asked me for a handheld GPS in the morning right as our group was loading up, so I gave him my key and told him to just grab it off my desk. It would be a little bit of a bummer to have to hunt Q down rather than just getting into my room. I went down the hall to check it out, and saw my key in the door. Relief. I also saw a pamphlet tucked into the doorway above the doorknob. “The ABCs of World Religion,” the cartoon version I’m sure was plucked off the rack of inspirational reading in the dining hall. In the pamphlet was a note which said, “Happy ‘B’-day, Beebs!” Sweet. I really could use some spiritual guidance into my 29th year.

I opened my door. I couldn’t move. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to make it far. The room was pretty full. Toilet paper criss-crossed all the open space, which was limited by the fake trees and plants brought in from stairwells and lounges and other bedrooms, and by the full-sized American flag on a post which had been in the third-floor lounge. My coffee-maker had also multiplied (apparently asexually) from one to five, and each contained an article of clothing which I took on first glance to be socks. Not socks, as it turned out. My very own underwear.

A small group had gathered in the hall, grinning. “So…. Should I guess who’s responsible for this?” I asked Molly. “Sure,” she says. “Um, Darren maybe?” “Yeah, Darren might have been involved.” “Mmmm, maybe Quintin?” “Maybe Quintin, yes.” “Is that it?” “Oh, there maybe have been other people involved…” “Were you in on this?” “No, I didn’t really have anything to do with this.” “Patrick?” “Mmm, Patrick may have been here.” “I wonder where all those guys are now,” I said, and someone suggested they were probably listening from their rooms. Darren’s, for instance, was right across the hall. I tried the door. Unlocked. I opened it. Darren was in there, sitting on his bed, with a tentative half-smile on his face. I attacked him. Then I got pig-piled by another body. Quintin. They had been watching through the peephole in Darren’s door. Sneaky rats.

Needless to say, I missed dinner, partly because I was just laughing too hard. I went to the dining hall just in time to be late. The woman at the ticket counter, taking pity on me, pointed out the desert rack and the fruit bowls and gave me to-go containers and two Coca-Cola Lights. I had already gotten excited to order my bacon burger take-out from the TOW club, so I walked out of there with a paper bag with two soft drinks and two to-go containers, one of which contained four jalapeno poppers and the other of which was empty.

When I got back to the hotel, the group was motivating to go to D-Launch, an old military missile launch site. No time for my bacon cheeseburger. I was sad, but being sad does not make a bacon cheeseburger appear, so I sucked it up. I mean, I can eat a bacon cheeseburger just about anywhere, but how many chances would I have to check out an old missile launching site in Greenland? To tell the truth, I was more excited about the burger, but my friends were heading on the field trip. So why not.

There are some neat underground chambers to check out at D-Launch. Ron said that you could ice-skate in them, there being a layer of ice over the floor, but the layer of ice was actually a layer of water, so not all of us went down into the main chamber. Folks who were wearing high and waterproof boots ventured all around the large room, but people like me descended the ladder but stayed perched on the wall. Until Ron discovered a pile of snow. “I don’t think I’ve ever climbed a ladder that fast,” said Quintin.

There was also a watchtower, from which Erik demonstrated his impeccable pirate speak.

When we got back, Erin shared the dinner she had made with me and Quintin brought out a bottle of wine. AND, Erin and Patrick had made an awesome cake. Love that. So I got spoiled, over-spoiled probably, and my belly ended up full after all.

Posted by beth at July 25, 2005 5:51 AM