Once I finish writing my first novel, I’m going to start on a second. That’s usually how it goes, right? This second book is going to be about Antarctic explorers. I’ve already done a great deal of research. From my notes:
The adventurers discover that the huts and cabins from previous Antarctic explorations are overrun by colonies of penguins. One cabin was for lodging and the other for supplies. Nearby there is an magnetic observation hut. In the living quarters there are two ante-rooms, one serving as a darkroom and the other used for taxidermy.
I have about a million little ideas like this compiled in a story outline. This is one of the less interesting ones—I don’t want to spoil the story!
OK, one more:
Lots of provisions to make it through the winter: butter, tea and coffee, herring, sardines, cheeses, soup, canned tripe, plum pudding, dry potatoes and vegetables.
Riveting stuff, huh? (It will be good, I promise.)
On June 5th, 1898, Émile Danco, the magnetician aboard the Antarctic sea vessel Belgica, died of heart failure. Henryk Arctowski, the expedition’s geologist, described his burial in a way that greatly moved me:
“In the obscurity of the midday twilight we carried Lieutenant Danco’s body to a hole which had been cut in the ice, and committed it to the deep. A bitter wind was blowing as, with bared heads, each of us silent, we left him there. . . . And the floe drifted on. . . .”
The Belgica and its crew were imprisoned in ice for over a year. From May to July 1898, for a total of 63 days, there was nothing but total darkness outside. It was during this time that Danco passed away. I can only imagine the desperation and deep sorrow these men felt as they lowered his corpse into a tomb of ice.
The End of the World, John Martin (1851–1853)
For just about everyone, the end of the world can’t come soon enough.
In 1887, the crew of the Belgica set out on a long journey to explore Antarctica. Aboard their ship was a cat named Nansen (named for the famous Norwegian explorer), who kept the men company and presumably kept the place clear of mice.
A few weeks after crossing the Antarctic Circle, the ship became moored in ice and remained that way for nearly a year. Halfway through that long stretch of darkness and despair, Nansen the cat went to that place all cats go one day—maybe because of a severe nutrition deficiency, or maybe because he was sad as hell and ready to leave this planet for good.
I wonder where in Antarctica Nansen the cat is buried. Poor little dude.
I didn’t want my friend Leila (who is newly single) to go without flowers on Valentine’s Day, so I decided to send her some. Every florist I called in New Orleans (and I called about twenty of them) said they weren’t taking any more orders for delivery, but told me I was more than welcome to walk in and pick some up. I am five hundred miles away in Austin, so obviously I couldn’t do this.
Instead I called a local plant nursery and asked for advice on what to do. The guy on the phone told me he would be happy to put something together and deliver it to Leila’s house. He said he was going to “put two orchids in a pot and make it look nice,” and I said that sounded fantastic. He asked me if I wanted to include a card, and I dictated the following message:
Roses are red,
And ready for plucking,
And ready for high school.
Forty-five minutes later, the flowers were delivered to her house. She called me as soon as she got them and said it was the first time anyone had bought her flowers. Huh.