The season’s running long- it’s running so long, I’ve lost track of how many days straight we’ve worked. Cooks have come and gone, we’ve merged camps, and the fruitful beginning of the season has devolved, as we gleefully anticipated, into a fuck around. “Things are going too well,” we said. It’s almost like we wanted things to go badly. The season’s gone so long I had to push Julia “What’s a Spatula?” emergency second cook back into the kitchen for thirty six hours for me to drive the round trip to Sudbury to drop off Jude before G. jets off to Nepal, to pick up my bags and shove them into the dusty trunk of the Pocket Portable Pontiac Party and bust it back to the bush to finish the god damn thing off with a bang. The season’s going so long that when I roll out, there’s a coup d’etat unfolding in the staff trailer and we’re all mad about money and being salaried and how we’re not making any money now that we’ve run two weeks long, and we’re mad because we’ve been in the bush for so many days straight that we’re all out of beers and pot and cigarettes and there’s construction happening in the pit- they’re digging up our road with excavators starting at four am, which isn’t so bad for me, the cook, with my three forty-five a.m alarm, but for the planters, it’s hell. The world is dust, sun and bugs. The mess tent blew away in the windstorm- but we five-man half ass assembled the new Weather Haven, which weights about eight hundred pounds. I think the coup’s been smoothed over with a peace offering of cash and a case of beer and some packs of smokes, because nobody’s called me from the sat phone to tell me that they’ve bagged up my tent for me and thrown it into a car that will be impossible to track down and I’ll only get half of my equipment back, but it will be ok because in just a few days we’ll be in Oyama and it will be paradise- I fantasize that that’s what’s happened, but I know it’s not the case. Rumors fly around about how many trees are left and we’re simply not sure, but I hear anything from three hundred thousand to half a million, and planters are dropping by the day with low morale and injuries and other commitments and simply not wanting to be there anymore.
It’s a weird moment to realize that your job is basically keeping sixty people alive, especially when you’re maybe not a very nurturing person, like me. I don’t want kids. I’d go Andrea Yates and drown them in a bathtub. It’s not sadistic, it’s true- I know my mind, I know my mental health, I accept it. It isn’t something I want. “It’s my turn,” I say one night, being talked down from a mental breakdown by my boss and best friend, “to have somebody fucking look after me.” We’re just all so busy- even when my friends show up, its because they need something. “Do you have any Band-Aids?” Go fuck yourself. “Where are the condoms?” Thanks for reminding me of how dry this season has been. My alarm is set for 3:45. I get up, boil hot water, make coffee, grill a hundred and twenty grilled cheese sandwiches, wrangle eggs on the tilted grill, fill dish water, lay out the mess tent with the lunch spread, make sure there’s bread and fruit and peanut butter and jam. I put out a lunch treat (or sometimes make it in the morning…) start dinner prep, and lay on the horn at six a.m to wake the camp. Hot water and coffee go out at six, then we crush breakfast out at 6:30 and lay on the horn again. We bring everything in when they leave at seven, restock, make platters, prep breakfast, have our coffee and make a prep-list for the day. Then we nap, or try to- its been forty degrees during the day recently and too hot to sleep, except in the staff trailers, but it seems like as soon as we lie down the entire camp tramps through looking for shit. We come in again around one pm after having our weird fever dreams, tossing, turning, sweating, and I lie there dreaming about scalloped potatoes and dessert and how much we’ll need and whether I need to climb on top of the bus to place a Sysco order or not with the sat phone and the spotty service. We merged camps last week- so for a few days there were three cooks, but with that damn long running season, one had to bail to go on a trip to Norway that was already bought and paid for and we had to merge the bus into the trailer and shuffle everything around and then start planning for how we were going to feed double the amount of people and I keep pushing back food orders because I think it’s the end, but it never is, so we’re running on bare bones leftovers and getting used to working with one another and I’m getting used to new planters, who aren’t used to my particular brand of crustiness. “Why the fuck are you eating my vegetarian food, Viktor, I see meat on your plate.”
“Its just food…”
At which I stamp back into the trailer and bang shit around and make my displeasure clear the next day with a cardboard sign out with dinner that reads
I’M FUCKING WATCHING YOU.
I’ve had the chance to really come into my own this season after struggling through last year with very little guidance and a series of setbacks that were out of my control, pertaining mostly to camp moves, distance, undelivered orders and a huge amount of personal drama (oops. Let’s blame the Leo me.) This year we’ve had some dope camp food- home made buns and naan bread and butter chicken, sliders and cheesecake brownies and a pretty sick lentil loaf. Donuts have been the real show stopper thus far, though. Nutella glazed bacon maple donuts. Twelve hour days on the block can be trying but a mutiny can be squashed with good food at the end of the day. It isn’t possible to do amazing food every day with the budget we work with, but we try. We put out breakfast and a lunch spread and a block treat and dinner and dessert every day, so give me a break, for fucks sake, I’m working with less than twelve dollars per person per day and I think I do pretty damn good with what I have to work with (and the excellent help of Julia and Gabby, who are both kitchen warriors and emotional support and great friends).
This is the worst blog entry ever and the shittiest way to end it, but IDGAF, it’s eleven pm and I have a solid nine hour drive ahead of me tomorrow to get back to camp and start the afternoon portion of all of my prep and dive back into the obscene amount of prep it takes to keep a kitchen trailer in the middle of the Hearst forest clean and functioning and tidy and organized and pumping out whatever various combinations of pasta, potatoes, rice, bread and canned chickpeas will still appeal to planters and staff. 10-4, pals.