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Minus One

January 8, 2010

When I woke up yesterday morning in Harlem it was a balmy 27˚F. On Medicine Lake it was -1˚F. I left for Minneapolis Wednesday evening. My plane landed at midnight just before another storm blew in.

The indoor workspace provided us is not heated, two nights ago while talking to my team, I came to realize how not heated it is. These are the times that make for precious memories.

On Saturday, our primary “on-ice” installation day, the low temperature is predicted to be -12˚F. I don’t know what the “real feel” temp is calculated for. At those temperatures, nothing works. The batteries drain nearly instantly rendering power tools useless. Also rendered useless: exposed skin and overtaxed brains. Everything fails to cooperate when it’s that cold including humanity’s will to make art.

Last week’s fear that the ice might not be thick enough are dissipating quickly, replaced by visions of piles of poles and wooden platforms at the side of a frozen lake, wind blowing, not a useful tool in sight. It might be too cold to work. So we are going back to the drawing board, redesigning the modules of our deck to to be larger and go together faster. The deck and (the tipi on top) must be built on skis so it can be dragged out to its site on the ice with chains and ropes by a truck. The weather and the holidays have conspired to thwart our best laid plans to scavenge the wood and other materials for the deck as we had planned. All this means we need more material—and more money.

So I did what I could in Harlem before I left: packing everything wool, down, fleece, and gore-tex that I own; reading and re-reading the tipi book; and rehearsing in my head the tipi assembly dance. It is good to have my gore-tex wool-lined “boots on the ground,” and to meet face to face with the Black Bania team this afternoon after hours of phone time and millions of emails. I have a grocery list of building supplies to buy and a stove to pick up; a 50-foot diameter semicircle of tipi skin to cut and grommet. I’ve packed twenty five yards each of hook and loop velcro in my suitcase just in case it comes in handy.

…And I am writing you and hoping some of you will send a few bucks towards the project. Times are tough, don’t feel bad if you can’t help. You help me everyday by being my friends and family. But if you want to contribute, do it clicking the “donate” button on the website.

Admunsen brought 52 high quality sled dogs with him on his trip to the Southpole. He returned with eleven. He killed the dogs along the way using them as food for the humans and the remaining dogs and leaving caches of dog meat for the return journey. He was a man with a plan. He was the first man there and he lived to tell of it.

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