Holiday Greetings From the Zombie Apocalypse

For those of you looking for that special gift, might I suggest this Zombie Santa ornament from Neatoshop.com
For those of you looking for that special gift, might I suggest this Zombie Santa ornament from Neatoshop.com

We were looking for some food in the kitchen of an Olive Garden outside of what was once Durham, North Carolina.  It was supposedly December 25th – at least that’s what Earl said.  The calendar was pretty much useless by this point.  Days and nights were spent fighting the undead as they lurched and hissed all around us.  The sound of their clicking teeth took the place of sleigh bells and Bing Crosby.

I tightened the grip on my ugly stick and glanced at a zombie who was inching closer.  This one looked like she had been an obese woman in her late fifties when she turned.  Stalking the planet for the brains of the living might’ve been the one diet and exercise program which had actually worked for her.  Her clothes hung loosely on her now, she had lost one of her scuffy slippers and the remaining one was barely hanging on.  A couple of curlers hung comically from her foul, matted hair.  She wasn’t one of the fast ones.  I stole a glance at Earl.

“You telling me it’s freakin Christmas today?”

“I think so, Bobby.  I might be a day or two off, though” he replied.  “Feels cold enough to be December, don’t it?”

I shrugged my agreement to him and turned my attention back to Francine.  Earl and me took to naming them a while back.  It made things a little less tedious and could actually help if things got a little too crowded.  Housewife-looking zombies, and there seemed to be quite a few of ’em, were usually called Francine or Edna.  Younger ones were named Junior or Sally Mae, depending on their gender.  I tried to give foreign-looking ones a name that would match up with their likely country of origin.  Earl’s not all that creative so he names all the foreign ones Saddam, whether they look Middle Eastern, Asian or whatever.  A young zombie of Middle Eastern descent would be “Saddam Junior” according to Earl’s rule book.  Naming the young zombies is real important, since they tend to move faster’n the older ones.  I know that this aint politically correct, but when you’re about to take a Lousiville slugger with spikes in the end of it across their chops, you don’t waste much time worrying about pissing off Miss Manners.  I’m pretty sure Miss Manners got herself chewed up a long ways back anyway – likely ’cause she hadda hold her pinky out when she was swingin’ her lacrosse stick at the undead.

Francine was edging closer.  She’d slowed down when she paused to look at some shiny, swollen cans of crushed tomatoes on the floor near her feet.  These zombies aint exactly like the pretend ones we used to see on TV.  They’re hungry alright, but they can be distractable.  Shiny stuff, brightly colored stuff – they’re drawn to it like lake carp.  Eventually their appetites get the better of ’em though, and they start back on their quest for the flesh of the living.  Francine had lost her interest in the puckered cans and was heading back my way.

The beautiful thing about zombies is they got none of what you call protective reflexes.  They don’t flinch or duck or nothin.  They’ll walk right up to you no matter what position you’re in.  I was standing there looking like a major league slugger at the plate with the bases loaded and here comes Francine.  Her head was a far sight bigger’n a softball and moving slow.  Her arms were up though, so I switched from my Sammy Sosa stance over to a modified Paul Bunyan.  I swung like I was piecing out a sequoia and one hit was all it took.

“When you’re done dancin around with Edna over there, gimme a hand with this stuff and let’s get back to camp” Earl called.  “The girls’ll wonder where the hell we are.  You know how they worry”

“Her name’s Francine, Earl, and I don’t dance.”

I stepped around her, noticing for no particular reason that her second slipper had finally fallen apart.  I found a couple of cartons of dried spaghetti without too many mouse turds in them.  Things were looking up for Christmas dinner.

Theory vs. reality

There’s an old joke which I’ll spare you, but it involves a little boy asking his father the difference between theory and reality.  The joke is funny in an exceedingly politically incorrect way and reality ends up coming in a distant second to theory.

I thought of that joke the other day as I watched TV.  I seldom watch shows live, preferring to watch them at my leisure, fast forwarding through commercials and news bulletins about the end of the world.  The nice thing about my recording is that I can watch shows in any order I wish.  One happy coincidence is that I occasionally watch two shows back to back which inadvertently compliment each other in some perverse way.  Kind of like Hoarders followed by American Pickers, or a Paula Deen cooking show followed by  The Biggest Loser (Just kidding about that last one, I’ve only watched the Biggest Loser once, and I’m more of an Anthony Bourdain man when it comes to watching folks cook vittles).  You get the idea though – one show’s excess is another show’s bare minimum.

In one such happy coincidence of shows, last night I watched the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead (FYI: “mid-season premiere” is not my semantic choice, AMC actually calls it that – sounds like a fancy way of saying “Hey! It’s been months, so we decided to do more shows”).  Immediately following that show, I turned on for the second episode of a guilty pleasure called Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel (Known by it’s snazzy TV name “NatGeo” – mmm mmm sexxxy!).

For the uninitiated among you, allow me to give a quick description of each show:

The Walking Dead is the story of a band of survivors who are finding their way in the rural south following the oft-hyped zombie apocalypse.  There’s no shortage of gore and action, but the main storyline is about the interpersonal relationships and dynamics of the group of survivors.  This show provides me with a theoretical base of what post apocalyptic living might be like.

Doomsday Preppers is a reality show where the viewer gets to meet folks from “the-end-is-near” fringe.  These people don’t stand around on the corner with sandwich boards preaching about the coming doom.  Rather, they prepare for the end of days by stockpiling supplies and automatic weapons with plenty of bullets.  Each “prepper” we meet has their own educated guess as to what will happen to bring about chaos in the streets and the end of the world as we know it.  At the end of each segment, “experts” give the preppers a grade on various aspects of their plan.  For the record, they have yet to profile a prepper who feels that the end of the world scenario will include zombies.  Despite the lack of “reality” in reality shows, I draw from Preppers for my doses of cold, hard reality.

Now that I’ve watched and digested at least few episodes of “Preppers” and every episode of The Walking Dead, allow me to express my thoughts on theory versus reality as taught to me by my own TV viewing habits:

Theory: The people who survive will include a few handsome men and comely young ladies.

Reality: The people who are preparing for the end are largely creepy looking, and several of them appear to be storing food in the form of fat on various parts of their bodies.

Theory: Among the survivors will be at least a few noble-hero types who will try to do the right thing, despite insurmountable odds against them succeeding.

Reality: The survivors are interested in saving themselves and their families, and if you come too close, Bubba will shoot you…how’s that fer noble?

Theory: The survivors will represent a nice demographic cross-section of this once mighty, cultural melting pot we know as America, bearing something of a resemblance to the Benetton ads of old.

Reality: The survivors will have the ethnic diversity of a large white family (Although, in one of the preppers ads, there is a black guy…at least I think he’s black, he’s wearing a gas mask).

Theory: No matter how bleak things look, the survivors will always have hope.

Reality: The well-prepared survivors will have hope…until they reach the bottom of the last Mason jar of pickled eggs.

Theory: Roaming a lawless and unpredictable landscape with no master plan makes for good entertainment, but may lead you into bad situations.

Reality: Having a master plan and conducting regular drills to prepare for a massive earthquake won’t help when those countless glass jars of preserved food shake off the shelves and shatter on the concrete floor of your bunker.  None of the experts commentators on Preppers noticed this potentially major flaw – it was me (and I’ve experienced one minor earthquake in my life).

The bottom line seems to be this; even if I had never seen either one of these shows, the end of the world will undoubtedly suck.  I’m not sure if becoming a prepper would make it any better, as I would have to watch from my bunker as friends and neighbors fought for food or were attacked and eaten by flesh eaters.  The prospect of putting my life’s priorities in a drastic new order preparing for the doomsday would likely wreak havoc on an already shaky social life.  On the other hand, facing global catastrophe unprepared and riding it out freestyle wouldn’t be much better, as I know from life up to this point how little resemblance everyday life has to the fictional world of television.  Not to mention there won’t be any commercials to fast forward through as I forage for food in dumpsters while keeping an eye out for zombies.

Zombie rant

Sorry for being late with this. I wrote it to send to a few friends several months ago, before I started this blog (this IS a blog right?). At any rate, it’s just in time for the second half of the second season of The Walking Dead to start, so it’s kind of sort of topical.

The other night I finally got around to watching the season 2 premiere of “The Walking Dead”. It was 90 minutes and to be honest, that’s about 30 minutes more zombie than I usually like in one sitting. My wife and I watched the show last year and I was amazed to find zombie zealots at my job. Some of the nicest, sweetest people are over the top fans of the flesh eaters.

When we watched last year, we were drawn into the story not so much by the gory aspects of it, but by the story line. There were twists and turns, and deceit; everything you look for in entertainment. This year started out alright, but only a couple of minutes in, it’s hard not to call “bullcrap!” on the action.

The sheriff helps bring us up to speed on what’s going on by leaving a message for the “black guy” from season one. He uses his walkie talkie to do this. The last time I checked, those things need to be recharged every so often. Yet despite the lack of electricity, the sheriff makes his walkie talkie speech complete with dramatic pauses every few words. Don’t worry about running the battery down, you’ve got to make this speech as dramatic as possible.

The survivors are always cautious about zombies finding them. Zombies apparently respond to loud noises and the smell of fresh blood.  They lurched around as if they might fall over at any moment.  When the cameras weren’t looking however, they apparently climbed stairs and even fire escapes. Why a bunch of people who want to stay quiet would have a tricked out Harley leading them is beyond me.

In this episode, the survivors find themselves in a traffic jam of cars full of dead people. No one has quite explained to my satisfaction how some people become flesh eating ghouls while others keel over dead in their cars on the expressway and just decay. The group tells the kids to “be careful” as they scavenge stuff from the cars. The survivors have a fleet of cars, a Winnebego and of course for the hillbilly loner, the tricked out Harley (one has to assume his Trans Am is still up on blocks out front of his now abandoned trailer). The Winnebego has yet again failed as reliable transportation and needs a new radiator hose. The team must figure out a way to get this beast of the highway up and running again. There are hundreds of cars just abandoned on the highway – yet no one pipes up with “Hey gang! Why don’t we take two of these corpse-filled, high mileage sedans instead of tying our fate to a land-whale that gets 4 miles to the gallon of tough-to-find gas and has a perpetually failing radiator hose?

Perhaps one of them was about to pose that very question but was interrupted when the herd of zombies arrived. True to all horror genres, the zombies move incredibly slowly, albeit deliberately, and somehow manage to sneak up on people anyway. In episodes last season, we saw zombies sitting in public buses in Atlanta. They saw the approaching sheriff on his horse and disembarked from the buses in hopes of a bite to eat. Surely the vigilant cop deduced that people who look dead are sometimes just resting zombies. Yet, faced with a sea of scattered cars filled with corpses, he sends his wife and kid and everyone else out to wander around aimlessly looking for goodies. The zombies, hundreds of them, sneak up on our gang. The majority of the survivors hide under cars. Zombies may be relentless in their search for flesh, but apparently they aren’t bright enough to look under cars. Everyone has to be as quiet as they can so the zombies don’t look under the cars and find them. My wife has a cross-over SUV. I just sized it up and I’m pretty sure I would have to get greased up to fit my fat butt under it, even if I was being pursued by zombies. Yet our heroes have no shortage of handy cars to slide under. They lie there as the zombies begin walking through. Obviously the ghouls have no desire for aged meats, as there is no shortage of stiffs in the cars. Also, a quick side note, despite the rampant decay throughout the hot and humid state of Georgia, there is a paucity of flies. I get one dead squirrel in front of my house and the insect world comes to life, yet in this show, fully grown men, women and children sit decomposing in the tropical heat of suburban Atlanta and there are hardly any bugs to be seen. Back to the survivors under their cars; the zombies shuffle by the cars, hundreds of them. Each walking with the requisite staggering, lurching gait that defines a zombie (versus a drunk or someone with flat feet).  We get a worm’s eye view from beneath the cars of all the zombie shoe fashions.  Zombies come from all walks of life, some are wearing loafers, some are wearing Mary Janes, some are wearing oxfords or casual dress shoes that they might have worn for their last shift waiting tables at Denny’s before things changed so dramatically. One thing is consistent though, every zombie in a pair of tie shoes has the laces tied! Forgive me for nit-picking. I was visiting my daughter at college a few weekends ago and she must have tied and retied her shoes 50 times. They wouldn’t stay tied! I have a few pairs of shoes like that. Both my daughter and I have pretty normal gait patterns (not bragging…just sayin), and our laces come untied fairly often. It’s hard for me to fathom that flesh hunting ghouls with lurching, awkward gaits don’t seem to have the same problem. In season one, they attacked the sheriff’s horse and ate it. Implausible on countless levels, but for the sake of my original point, they attack and eat living animals and no one loses a shoe or even has one come untied?

I know, it’s science fiction. You have to give yourself over to the premise that normal folk can become zombies in the first place, and that those who don’t will be able to use a shotgun or a crossbow or a Thompson submachine gun sufficiently well to stay alive while looking for lost little girls and radiator hoses for 1997 Winnebego Open Road X-12’s (Lemme guess, you’re OK with zombie’s but you have a real problem with run-on sentences). You have to resign your common sense that a full moon can turn people into wolves. Most importantly, you have to realize that there will always be some suitably expendable character who will open that door, or take off her clothes for a nice long shower in the haunted house. I get it…but part of the reason shows like The Walking Dead have an appeal is the slim tiny chance that maybe this could actually happen. Hopefully if it did, I wouldn’t be foolish enough to open that door or let my guard down. What ruins shows like The Walking Dead is the same exact thing that makes it watchable in the first place – that no one is thinking. Usually horror genre shows have at least one sane person who serves as the voice of reason. It’s usually some wise old sage, weaker than the rest, whose voice is drowned out by the screams of villagers grabbing pitchforks. The Walking Dead appears to have no such sooth-sayer.

Then the producers and writers decided to insert some religion into the show. I would have to imagine that a world filled with zombies might not be a hotbed for Christianity (though a cynic such as myself might be tempted to draw parallels between unthinking, mindless zombies and certain aspects of any organized religion – sorry, I’ll have to stick that in a different rant). It was funny that when the gang bursts into the church, there are three zombies sitting in the pews. They’re just waiting. For the sermon to begin? For some live people to wander in and be eaten? For some delicious communion wafers? I was a little surprised that there weren’t any more zombies hidden in the confessional (bless me father, for I have sinned…I’ve eaten my family dog and my family..and I haven’t flossed in forever). The few church dwelling zombies are easily dispatched by our heroes, and then they can each have a little quality time saying their piece to the unblinking man on the cross. “Look out!” I wanted to scream at my TV “Jesus might only LOOK dead!” I must admit that part of me was disappointed when he didn’t look up from beneath his crown of thorns and bare his horrific wild animal teeth and start climbing down to eat that blond chick…you know she’s gotta be next right?

Speaking of teeth…apparently the virus or disease or whatever it is which turns people into zombies also gives them some outrageous changes to their jaws and teeth. I live and work in Jersey. I’ve spent time in Delaware, Oregon and more than a few other exotic locales…Hell, I’ve been to Disneyworld! So I’m no stranger to what can go horribly wrong in a neglected mouth. I’ve seen some snaggle-toothed folks in my time, but none of them can compare to the average zombie. It seems that when the virus gets you, there is a loss of all executive function in the brain, and the only order is to seek the blood and flesh of the living and spread the virus. To make the ingestion of flesh a little easier, and a lot gorier, the muscles of the jaws of these people must hypertrophy like Bill Bixby turning into Lou Ferrigno (Look it up kids, it’s an Incredible Hulk reference). As long as we’re on the topic, I’ll go ahead and assume that zombies with dentures can use the same fine motor skills they tie their shoes with to apply some Fixadent to keep their choppers in tight while they dine on the living. The zombies attacked and ate a horse in season one. A freaking horse!! No knives, no forks, no lobster bibs. Seriously?! If horse meat was that tender, you wouldn’t have to grind it twice before putting it in a can of dog food.

I could go on and on…like what kind of retarded 12 point buck stands motionless while an 11 year old walks closer and closer and closer to it? Spare me the argument that maybe the deer was deaf and blind and lost his sense of smell in the zombie apocalypse. If that was the case, the hunter could have skipped wasting ammo on it and just walked up and tied a leash to it and ridden it back to camp!

Got to go watch episode 2. I’m sure there will more glaring issues for me to whine about.