The South Pole Bar Albums, Volumes I-V

This is my holiday gift to you as I put together some other thoughts about Antarctica. A lot of things happened around New Years 2003, so they will take some collating. In the meantime, I have a YouTube playlist for you. While I was bartender at Club 90 South at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, I was not it’s DJ. Two weeks into summer I walked into the bar, looked around, and saw the only available seat was behind the bar. So, I sat down and put my feet up on the beer case.

Random Polie: “Hey, get me a beer.”

Me: “Do I look like a fucking bartender?”

Random Polie: “You’re behind the bar…”

Me: *tosses him a beer from the case* “Whatever.”

Random Polie: “Hey, can you mix anything?”

Me: “As a matter of fact, I can.”

And there I stayed for the next 11 months after mixing that first manhattan.

Me, Club 90 South, Amundsen-Scott Station, 2003: Performing "The Dragon" by exhaling a mouthful of liquid nitrogen
Me, Club 90 South, Amundsen-Scott Station, 2003: Performing “The Dragon” by exhaling a mouthful of liquid nitrogen

I got to see and hear a lot behind that bar. I also became the unofficial barometer of mood for the station manager. As an honor bar, Club 90 South didn’t have a bartender like the bars in McMurdo, so mixed drinks didn’t usually happen before my tenure there; typically just whiskey and beer. Unfortunately, this also really cemented the barfly vs. teetotaler factions for that winter. Mixing between the groups was somewhat limited in the first place and got no better as the year wore on. Over the coming few Antarctica posts, we’ll discuss that a bit more.

The link to the playlist above is five CDs worth of music that I culled from our Winamp player for our most listened to songs over that year. I would like to reiterate that I was not in control of the music. I suggested many songs and as the person most likely to be in the bar at any given moment that winter, I have some honorable mention in presence of songs like Oingo Boingo’s “Insanity”, Royal Crown Revue’s take on “Beyond The Sea” and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. Ultimately, control of the music was in the hands of the person sitting next to the keyboard for the computer installed in the wall of the bar connected to the, in 2003, 2TB jukebox of the X Drive on the server. This was typically the IT guy or the belligerent heavy equipment operator that liked tequila.

NOTE: Dear MPAA auditors searching for the X Drive, you will never find it. It is normally buried in the snow. Antarctica is big and mostly made of snow. Please accept that people at the ends of the Earth would like some music and that we collectively share what we’ve all brought down.

Some of these songs may be tied to specific people. Fore example, Tenacious D’s “Fuck Her Gently” became the 2002-2003 Winterover Anthem thanks to one amazon Alaskan equipment operator/boat captain/pilot that demanded it be played for her during the summer. By the time winter hit, we had an entire drink in hand dance routine worked out for that song we loved it so. The song “Tribute” kind of came along for the ride.

David Allen Coe’s “You Never Even Call Me By Name” is the Australian telescope mechanic and former New South Wales rugby prop that could drop a sheep dead with his flatulence at 20 yards. He was also fond of the Lee Kernaghan’s “Goondiwini Moon” but that’s not included on the albums.

The Geto Boy’s “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster” may be squarely laid at the feet of the very meek meteorologist who went a bit off the rails early. She loved that song.

The Dropkick Murphy’s “Spicy McHaggis” is my favorite electrician, Mark. He comes up prominently in many of my stories. In many respects, Mark and I were the same person that lived completely different lives. We got along like a house on fire, without actually committing any arson.

Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is Drew, the other IT guy. When not in Antarctica, Drew wrangled his family’s marina in Logan Harbor, ME. He brought this nautical disaster gem to us near midwinter and we adored it. Along with the construction manager’s love for Led Zepplin’s “No Quarter”, these two songs combined were for relaxed, leaned back in the chair, contemplation of the glass of whiskey.

As you look at the song list, you might notice some trends. I can’t help but see the repetition of the topics of madness, alcohol, and murder. Of course, I’ve been listening to these songs for the last decade and the music of Antarctica never leaves me. I can only hope you enjoy them, despite the ads that YouTube inserts.