Thursday, February 25, 2016

Armageddarevolutiopocalypticafluenza


True Confession: I am obsessed with The Walking Dead. But it's not my fault, and I think once I've explained it, you'll agree. It's my dad's fault. I suppose it all started back in 1972. I was five years old, and that's about when I remember asking for a bedtime story. But having a budding science fiction writer as my father pretty much ensured that I wasn't going to get any regular, run-of-the-mill bedtime story. No way, no how. Not ever.

When my dad tucked me and my little sister in for the night, he liked to make up stories about a little girl - about my age, of course - who got lost in the woods during a family picnic, and had to survive all on her own until she was finally rescued. Every night he would make up a new chapter. How the little girl figured out how to make a lean-to to protect herself from the rain and weather. How the little girl learned which berries and plants in the forest were okay to eat. How the little girl gathered kindling and moss and learned how to make a fire using friction. How the little girl used a bobby pin and her shoelaces to catch a fish, and caught rainwater on leaves to drink, and how she learned to figure out which way was north so that she didn't walk around in circles.

In fact, I don't believe that little girl was ever rescued. But she survived.

Around that time, my dad also started taking us Ing girls on hikes into the woods, and challenging us to forage for food (rose hips, blackberries and dandelions were always in plentiful supply in Oregon). At home he'd make rose hip tea, dandelion leaf salad, and blackberries on everything. Once he even collected acorns with my little sister and baked some kind of loaf or pancake. All I remember is that it tasted like crap and gave everyone the runs. I had already started to build a healthy distrust of anything my dad whipped up in the kitchen. After the acorn incident, people pretty much stopped eating my dad's cooking altogether, and he was put on dish duty.

When I was older, and my dad was writing full time, he penned a survival novel. Not a survivalist novel; he's not a camouflage wearing, gun toting militia man living on a compound. But back in 1979 the Cold War was still going strong, and people were afraid of World War III. You remember, right? Although a few years later my father played a key role in ending the Cold War (it's true, I'm not fibbing), at the time we all thought there was a very strong chance that Russia and the U.S. were going to bomb each other from here to eternity with nuclear weapons and destroy life as we knew it on Earth.


So Dad wrote a novel about a guy who was prepared in case that happened. He was a bounty hunter with a pet cheetah who had a bomb shelter stocked with the supplies he needed to survive some kind of big event that would shut down our country and leave us without the comforts of the civilized world for awhile. This particular story was about a nuclear war, and the point was to help people be prepared to survive it, so while the first half of the book was a story about just that, the second half was a list of materials and instructions to actually build the items the main character created in his basement, like a homemade air filter and radiation meter. And just to prove a point, he gave me a set of instructions, and told me to build that radiation meter. So yeah, I did that. So easy a kid could do it, if forced to by their father. By the way, my contribution to the book, as an 11 year old, was to remind dad to include directions on how to build a makeshift toilet.

I could go on, but I don't think I really need to. You already know that my fascination with all things related to World War III, a meteor headed straight for Earth, a government meltdown, a disease that wipes out 99% of the population or a sudden, drastic climate change that triggers a natural disaster and the zombie apocalypse is all my dad's fault.  Because I am obsessed with surviving the Armageddarevolutiopocalypticafluenza.


The list of movies, books and TV shows that I love includes War of the Worlds, World War Z, Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Contagion, The Martian, 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, The Revenant (talk about surviving against incredible odds), and I'm a huge fan of the TV show Last Man On Earth. My favorite book ever ever ever is Stephen King's "The Stand," followed by my most recent pick for my book club, George R. Stewart's "Earth Abides."


"Earth Abides" is a story written in the 1940's about a virus that kills almost everybody, and what happens to civilization, animals and even crops in the years following. It's a fascinating story that muses on what the most important things are to pass on to our children if our society is basically taken back to the stone age, and how difficult it might be to interest them in learning those things.

And then there's The Walking Dead.


I am so obsessed with this show that after my initial week long binge to catch up with the first 3 seasons   (because somehow I failed to realize how incredibly awesome the program was until it had been around for a few years already), I have watched it every single Sunday night without fail, followed by the hour long program that rehashes the show called The Talking Dead. And I usually watch the episode over again at least once that week. I've also seen every episode of the spin-off show, Fear The Walking Dead. I cried when Rick realized his wife had died in childbirth, I screamed when Glenn fell off the garbage dumpster into a pack of walkers, and last week I uttered a phrase I thought would never pass my lips out loud: "I love Jesus!!" (If you're not a fan of the show, that's gonna go right over your head, I know. And I apologize for that.)

So there you have it. Biggest TWD fan alive. Or dead. Or returned from the dead.

It wasn't all that long ago that I watched The Walking Dead at my parent's house one weekend (never again. Never ever again). I had to endure my father ridiculing me, absolutely flabbergasted that I could find any redeeming qualities in a piece of total and utter dog crap on the boob tube. Flesh eating zombies? Ridiculous. Beneath me. Stupid. Dumb.

Before I stomped off to watch in the peace and quiet of the downstairs bedroom, I told my dad that he was completely misunderstanding my affection for The Walking Dead. It's not about the zombies. I would watch The Walking Dead even if there were no moaning, roaming, chomping not-exactly dead people shuffling about. I'm not fascinated with the zombies, I'm fascinated with surviving. And he's the one who instilled that in me. From the bedtime stories about the little lost girl surviving in the woods, to involving me in fashioning a survival tool for his nuclear war survival novel. From making my little sister and I participate in tsunami drills during vacation weekends on the Oregon coast and telling us exactly where to sit for the best chance to survive a plane crash while flying across the country to visit the grandparents, to showing my husband the "Elbow Bump," his alternative to the handshake to best protect yourself against catching whatever plague is currently going around.

The famous Elbow Bump
Someday, our world - as we know it - is going to change drastically. Hopefully, it won't end. Hopefully, it'll be something survivable, and hopefully I'll be one of those survivors - perhaps in part because of those slightly tortured moments I spent as a kid - who will be at least partially prepared to live through a sudden climate event, a worldwide virus outbreak, a natural disaster of biblical proportions, or a war triggered by religion, foreign aggressors, aliens or Donald Trump.

Or zombies.

Whatever the flavor of the worldwide wipeout you think has the potential to really occur someday, there's probably a song about it (and surviving it) in today's Spotify playlist. It's a biggie, but I bet you've got some songs or doomsday prepping stories of your own to add to it, and I'd love to hear your favorite apocalyptic films, books, tv shows and movies in the comments section. Maybe there's one I haven't seen (but I doubt it).

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