Travesty Tuesdays On The Road – The Lesbian Arctic Edition

Last year, prior to leaving me for the Arctic without a second thought or one love letter (I wrote her three), I attended a conference with Sula. We went to a banquet together and then spent a weekend roaming about the city having a grand old time. Despite all of my attempts to the contrary, only one person mistook us for a couple: the gangly youth who drove us to the airport and likely spent the rest of the time fantasizing about Sula and me acting out the scene from Scream 4 where all of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends wake up in bed with Charlie Sheen, only without the tiger blooded madman of course. The following is the last two letters that I wrote to her and her crew ostensibly to lift their spirits and remind them of the horrors of the South: traffic, bathing, more than five people!

Dear Sula,

You’ll want to stay in the Arctic because as soon as you return to the lower ten, I’m going to waste no time in trying to convince everyone we meet that we are a couple just like the guy who drove us to the airport in Winnipeg. The difference is I think the majority of people when they ask us “Did you go on any dates?” won’t be thinking “Oh please let them say “no we just stayed in the hotel room having naked pillow fights and jumping up and down on the bed”.

Also the minute you get back, I will take you shopping (horrors!) and then tell people that I’m pregnant with our love child that we made without the aid of a sperm donor through our devotion for each other, like Immaculate Conception only with more crocheting.

Either that or when I’m asked what I’m having I’ll say “an ostrich probably or maybe one of those warm blooded fish actually not maybe, definitely” think of all the awkwardness you’re avoiding up there. In the Arctic there are no bewildered salespeople only people with tanned faces and hands if everything I’m told is true.


Enjoy your time in the sunny North, I’ll be preparing the best way to tell people that we’re having a baby iguana and that you plan to take it on walks with a leash.

So much love,





You need to stay in the Arctic, it’s a matter of self-preservation or at least that’s what the comic Piled Higher and Deeper tells me. According to them, grad school is terrible and should be avoided at all costs. By Piled Higher and Deeper standards, you are winning the International World Universe Grad School Contest; you are avoiding being in the lab and the grind while looking like you are being hard core and an awesome, amazeballs scientist. (Sorry I know that “amazeballs” isn’t a word but not everyone can win the International World Universe Grad Student Competition.)

Hence you need to stay where you are, based on my limited research which doesn’t include attending grad school; I’ve determined that it’s in your best interest to remain in the Arctic permanently. Don’t worry, Elizabeth will be there with you and you can pretend to be doing important science while reading Diana Gibaldon books for at least three years by my calculations.

Before you call me a crazy person, (which in fairness would be unfair- in all honesty I’m more of a failed scientist/ dirty hippie) listen to my reasoning. Grad school has deadlines whereas the tundra has pretty icebergs. Grad school has stress and supervisors; the Arctic has sweet, sweet solitude. Grad school has papers; the tundra doesn’t even have trees! Where would it get papers?

I believe the correct decision is obvious here, I shall be sending you a care package of overfilled calendars and recordings of colleagues telling boring stories about their pet gerbils in the event that you have a moment of weakness and think of returning home.

Sincerely yours,

Your savior from the perils of academia

From Far Away

I almost didn’t take the call. In fact I almost hung up the phone. When my behemoth, construction worker cell phone started to vibrate on my desk in the middle of the day I thought “Who is calling me while I’m at work?” The twelve digit phone number was a question in and of itself. Against my better judgment, I pressed “talk”

“Hello?” I said to silence.

“Hello?” I repeated, waiting a beat to conclude it was a telemarketer. The moment I was about to pull the phone away from my ear to press “end call”, I heard the words that only one person in my life ever says.

“The Great Unwashed”

There is exactly one person in this whole world who loves to say my full name as much as I do.

“Sula!” I half cried and half cheered into the phone. Then my words became a hurried conjoined sentence as my brain tried to right itself from the surprise of hearing that voice, her voice, the one I had been missing for nearly a month; “Imissyousomuch.Icantbelieveyou’recallingme.HowistheArctic?”

“What?” My beloved friend yelled from across the frozen country.

“HowistheArctic?” I repeated.

“You have to talk slower it’s a satellite phone.” She explained, her words staccato stripes through the crackly connection.

“How is the Arctic?” I repeated slower this time, my brain which was slowly catching up to the situation was able to process instructions and the limitations of incredible, new technology which allowed me to hear my friend’s voice over a distance of thousands of uninhabited desolate kilometers.

“It’s cold.” Sula laughed, “It snowed today.”

Knowing how badly that would affect her work and research, I apologized, then my brain finally recognized that I was talking to my cherished friend who was in THE ARCTIC, and blurted out another rushed sentence; Areyousafe? Isthecrewsafe?

“Orry?” Her voice, went in and out over the tenuous connection.

“Are you safe?” I enunciated loudly.

“Yes, I’m safe.” She replied.

“Is the crew safe?” I asked more tentatively, not wanting to hope too hard that she and thus we could possibly be that fortunate.

“Yes, we’re all fine and getting along.” She laughed in the way that only someone who understands how to foster easy camaraderie in the most terrible of conditions can.

A small lump formed in my throat from relief and joy at these last two statements, but then I remembered the sight of my friend’s hands when she returned from our true Great North last summer. The rippling scars that crisscrossed her skin, from small cuts received in the field, which in the cold climate that prevented adequate circulation, were unable to heal. “How are your hands and feet?” I asked worriedly.

“They’re fine.” She assured me.

Next she inquired about my medical condition. Last year, when life was hard, but truly just its run of the mill self, I didn’t warrant such luxuries as the sound of Sula’s voice from the middle of the tundra. Especially in the midst of antenna problems, this made already tenuous connections nearly impossible to keep. This year, an improved antenna bought me just under ten minutes of short shouted statements. I was elated.

I stayed late at work that night, and puttered about at home for an hour or so before I realized- I hadn’t called Sula’s mom, Mrs. Jackson. I rushed to the outlet where my cell phone was charging, the effort of holding the connection with the satellite phone having exhausted the battery.

“I talked to her today, she’s safe.” The words tumbled out of my mouth, I was so eager for Mrs. Jackson to feel my relief. While she’s in the Arctic, Sula and her crew are busy and although occasional calls home are permitted, they’re expensive – think 1960’s trans-Atlantic phone rates but adjusted for inflation. I had received one of her two monthly calls, thus it was my job to share the good news with everyone important in her life; for today Sula is safe, and her crew is safe.

Sula loves her work and is successful. Thus being her biggest fan (next to her Mom of course) I love and support her work too. That being said, sometimes being the person who is left, the one who can only worry about cold and polar bear visits and all of the other dangers that are inherent to the Arctic and thus Sula’s work, is hard at times, which is why short conversations, the knowledge that for the moment she is safe, are reassuring. Sula, ever the adventurer counts down until she leaves for the Arctic, the rest of us count the days until she returns. Safe travels my friend, 44 day until you are home once again.