NORTH POLE, Alaska
64.755° N, 147.35° W
Stick a Tabasco Popsicle up a reindeer’s ass and he’ll haul your sled from Fairbanks to the town of North Pole in three hours. We took an RV. And would’ve gotten here by midday if we hadn’t slept ’til noon.
“O, Holy Night” or “Oh, holy shit!” could pass as the town motto. Statues of the local patron saint, Nick, lord over this evergreen village, eyes peaking over pines, he knows when you’re awake. Gigantic Santas preside over the trailer park we pull into. Treacherous elves, with their Vulcan Spock-ears and pointy shoes, are frozen in their plastic bodies, grinning maniacally as we pass, waiting for a loose child to snatch & gobble. The plastic snowmen in midsummer are fooling no one. This town is a scene Norman Rockwell would draw if you woke him from an eggnog hangover, pressing a gun to his head while screaming, Christmas now, younger-brother!
At the Santaland Trailer Park, Lot 18F is occupied by your run-of-the-mill recreational vehicle, an older model rented out of Anchorage, affectionately called “Mrs. Robinson” for her ability to seduce young men into giving her a ride. And then fucking them. She might be poised above ground, but make no mistake, this bar-on-wheels is a dive. Her stock of alcohol is bargain brand; the mixologist, a sky-scraping Portlander named Copernicus, is long-witted, yet short of both patience and proper accoutrement. His cocktails are vulgar and unintentionally gritty. Patrons pick their teeth of gnashed garnishment. They scrape their tongues of the inescapable flavor of rust. Mrs. Robinson has outdoor seating à la picnic bench adjacent to a fire pit. Seating indoors is limited as most of the interior of the RV is reserved for the bartender’s workspace and the living quarters of fellow occupants. The driver’s seat is occupied by the captain of this enterprise, Paul VanDango, who has designated himself DJ, piping tunes from his phone. Dave Mathews, Rolling Stones, Bare Naked Ladies, AC/DC are most-played on his setlist. The shotgun seat is sat-in by his wife, a Sicilian Gypsy who is napping, waking on occasion to review a bowl of olive oil & herbs she has set-out to protect them from the roaming cannibals known to wander this wood.
A young woman approaches the bar, asking if there is any more celery. She is a CrossFit trainer, or something akin to that, from Suburban Denver. Her dark hair is tied behind her head like a captive waiting to be interrogated. She’d like celery to return to the trailer park petting zoo where fenced-in reindeer subsist off the charity of passing-through residents. Copernicus, our bartender, tells her, yeah, I have celery. Enough for tomorrow morning’s bloody marys. If you want to squander that, he tells her, that’s on you. The young woman quickly forgets the reindeer. She returns to her seat at the picnic bench across from her brother, a dark & mysterious fucker, and his friend, Jago, a mischievous faun in a hooded sweatshirt. What are you guys drinking?, Vera Neverman asks them. Jago VanDango speaks first, saying, this is supposed to be a White Russian, but it is really just half-and-half and vodka. Yeah, Victor Neverman says to his sister, this is supposed to be a Black Russian, but I fear it’s only vodka poured through yesterday’s coffee grinds. Man, Vera says with a grimace, a lot of Russian. But what’s the hurry? She laughs at her own joke, unsurprised no one else is laughing. Alright, Vera says as she stands, I am going to order a Gray Russian, assuming it is an English teabag pulled out of the garbage to dip into a mug of Vodka.
It is less than an hour until midnight, yet there is still plenty of twilit light in the sky. The looming Santas on the campgrounds create an unexpected dread of a fascist Big Brother. Jago VanDango takes out his ukulele and begins strumming, he knows what you’ve been thinking, he knows when you’re awake… Stop man, Victor asks of him. You are making me anxious. Jago continues, oh, you better not jerk-off, you better not try, you better not do meth and I am telling you why… Seriously? Dude?, Victor pleads with Jago. Santa Claus is going to shake you down! San-ta Claus is going to shake you… dow-own.
This is the gayest place I have ever been, Victor says with a shake of his head. His sister Vera kicks him under the table and says, dude, you can’t say that. Why?, Victor asks. This place is gay, in that it is excessively happy. This place is way too happy. As in, I am having a gay-old time in North Pole, the gayest place on earth. Look around, sis, he says. This campground is super festive. Superbly gay festive. Overly joyful. Not necessarily homoerotic.
I beg to differ says Copernicus. He, the bartender, has left his position to descend Mrs. Robinson to smoke one of his hand-rolled cigarettes. He’s brought Vera a Hot Buttered Rum, except, he says, we are out of rum and this is more of a Hot Buttered Gin. Vera takes a sip and gags on it. She tosses the drink in the direction of the petting zoo. Copernicus watches the booze fly. That’ll bring wolves, he says, complacently. He takes a puff of his cigarette. As I was saying, I beg to differ, Copernicus says. This place is excessively homoerotic. The elf figurines, in case you have not noticed, are aggressively equipped. I am no elf expert, but I’ve read my fair share of Tolkien. I feel like these little people are anatomically overcorrected. And the reindeer don’t just have antlers… they are entirely too horny. And they are each carrying a Yule Time Log that would put any mule to shame.
Captain Paul VanDango has descended from Mrs. Robinson to announce we need to keep a night-watch. He’s got steel-blue eyes and a confidence which leads others to assume he knows the fuck he’s talking about. Paul says to us, we attracted an audience during our roadhouse diversion at Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn and I fear certain bad elements have followed us to North Pole. We’ll sleep more peacefully, he says, if there is someone on night-watch.
Night-watch?, Victor Neverman asks. More like “day-watch”. This sun never fucking sets.
Copernicus counters, those plastic elves are on “gay-watch”.
Any gayer and this place would be “Baywatch”, Vera Neverman says. She laughs at her joke and says, get it? Because the Hoff? Christina VanDango smiles, saying, the Hoff is super festive.
So who wants first day-watch, Paul asks.
I don’t know about “first day-watch”, Jago says before pointing at one of the Santa statues, but this white-bearded, rapey-Santa with the googily-eyes, he wants first dibs on a fist-sandwich. Yeah, Vera agrees, saying, that Santa isn’t as homoerotic as he is hoboerotic. Ha!, laughs Christina VanDango, the Sicilian Gypsy. You’re right, Christina says, look at those gin-blossomed rosy-cheeks, this Santa is a dirtbag hobo. He’s looking around, Copernicus adds, with those googily-eyes, wondering where the next hobo gang-bang is. Which makes him FOMO-erotic, Vera says. He is horned-up with a fear of missing out on the next hobo gangbang. Get it? Yes, Captain Paul allows, we get it. We didn’t think FOMO-erotic meant Santa was gay for rabid reindeer foaming at the mouth.
… a minute later, Vera laughs out loud. Ha!, I get it, foamy erotic.
Captain Paul VanDango can only shake his head. This wasn’t what he envisioned when he drew up the navigation charts. You’re right, he says to no one in particular, this place is pretty gay.
Victor Neverman volunteers for first night-watch and falls asleep within fifteen minutes.
Where: Mrs. Robinson
When: Between June and August
What to Order: Vodka drinks. Black or White Russians, or a Moscow Mule, but only if you do not mind rudimentary ingredients.
What not to Do: let your guard down amongst the local cannibals
Read more about VanDango-Neverman Expedition to Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn