Funk, Gerbils and Tom Whiteside

“Funk” is one of the most versatile, yet underutilized words in the English language. Like it’s better known 4-letter cousin, funk, or one of its derivatives, can be used in a great many situations, both positive and negative.

When I lived in Portland, there was a regular band at my regular bar. My regular bar was an Irish bar owned by a paddy who didn’t drink and staffed by a fat black guy named “Gerbil,” who would become one of my first friends in Portland. The bass player for the regular band was a white guy with an amazing afro. It was enormous. Like one of those “Generic ‘70s guy” Halloween costume wigs, but oh so real. He played bass as though he had 7 fingers on each hand. He didn’t. I counted. His fingers moved across the neck of the bass like a classical guitarists- effortlessly and lighting quick. They played get-up-and-dance music. They played time to boogie music. They had horns. It was fun.

That bass player was funky.

When I lived in Prague, there was a bar run by African expats, Nigerian I believe. One of the most beautiful women I saw in Prague, I saw at that bar in the center of a drum circle. There had been no rehearsal, no plan, just a couple fellows with innate sense of rhythm. They fed off each other. There was no avoiding the groove. When they weren’t in a circle, going to town on their hand drums with the token Eastern European hottie dancing up a storm in the middle, the juke box was impeccable. If James Brown and Black Joe designed a perfect “get down with ya bad self” kind of playlist, it would probably sound like theirs did. Not terribly surprisingly, they wouldn’t let anyone else pick the music.

Except one man. A skinny, ginger kid from Lubbock, Texas. He also possessed a magnificent afro. That kid was Tom Whiteside. When Tom brought in a playlist, they turned it on and turned it up. Tom was funky.

I saw him not too long ago.

Tom still gets funky.

There are three gyms in Antarctica. Right next to the helicopters is the “big gym” that houses the basketball court and climbing wall. There is a plug in for an iphone/pad/device. My playlists get a certain look, whether it’s Bad Brains or Screeching Weasel, and that look says “what the funk do you listen to???” I am not funky.

The second gym is the “fitness room” which is where the Crossfit classes, yoga, heavy lifting and grunting happen. I have yet to hear any type of music there (I also haven’t been for any of the Crossfit, yoga or heavy lifting, so I could be missing it). It has no funk. No funk one way or the other.  

And lastly, there is the “Aerobics gym” or as it’s known around station, “the gerbil gym.” The gerbil gym is a long, thin, tiny structure packed with all manner of cardio equipment. And I mean packed, both with equipment and sweaty, cardiovascularly fit people. Being that this is Antarctica, the heater is usually on as well. Clearly the windows aren’t open either.

There are two sets of doors on every building down here. Like the airlocks in space movies. Helps keep the snow out. And the smell in. That musty, sweaty stank. Coupled with a heater. And deep breathing that stems from exercising.

God damn the gerbil gym is funky.

One thought on “Funk, Gerbils and Tom Whiteside

  1. I believe ye shall acquire the funk in the course of your southern tenure. We’ll maintain the metering device so that judgment may be passed.


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