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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

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Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture
 

Doom Patrol

By Jeff Wilkin
Friday, January 25, 2013

Got home late Thursday night, didn’t feel like watching one of several college basketball games scattered over the Time Warner cable system. I’ll do that this weekend.

I can always count on Turner Classic Movies for a diversion, and caught a few minutes of Bob Dope — whoops, Bob Hope — and Bing Crosby in “The Road to Morocco.” They just don’t make corny buddy movies the way they used to.

I clicked around a little more. And got pulled into a rerun of “Doomsday Preppers” on the National Geographic Channel.

We used to get National Geographic, the magazine, when we were kids. Sports Illustrated and Life magazines were also delivered. I guess our parents hoped we’d prefer Geographic and become arctic or tropical explorers. An epic fail on their part. Nobody read the National in my house.

I’ve never cared much for Nat Geo’s television content, either. Reality shows on the networks are bad enough, with alleged singers, dancers and island survivors running all over the place. But NG has made stars out of the rogue Amish (“Amish: Out of Order”), people who wrestle giant catfish (“Mudcat”), guys who search the hills for underground artifacts (“Diggers”) and folks preparing for the end of the world — those “Doomsday Preppers.”

This one is a gas. These are folks who are stockpiling food, firewood and firearms and waiting for earthquakes, financial collapses, electromagnetic pulses and anything else that will cripple or cash out society. I think they’ve been watching too many TV shows and movies ... the bitter end has been front and center in TV shows such as “The Walking Dead” and “Falling Skies.” It has shown up in movies like “War of the Worlds” (the 2005 version), “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”

I was thinking how time-consuming and odd it must be, preparing for dark days that might never show up.

Then I began thinking — what if they do?

What would people do, had they never considered doomsday preparation? What would happen if you could no longer count on raisin bran for breakfast, salads for lunch, meat loaf for dinner and constant supplies of beer, chocolate milk and 7 Up? What if there was no gasoline, heating oil, electricity, telephone or Internet service?

At our magazine-friendly home of the 1960s and ‘70s, Mom always filled a small pantry closet with canned goods. If a snowstorm kept us home from school and moms and dads off the roads, it was easy to make lunches and dinners with Spam, chili con carne, soup, wax beans and tomatoes. Preparing for the worst isn’t exactly a new idea — folks who built bomb shelters during the 1950s were thinking catastrophe before it was fashionable.

I always remembered Mom’s pantry. When I moved into my Albany stronghold in 1992, I found a basement larder that has likely always been used for emergency food. I began stocking it with canned soups, fruits and vegetables, just in case.

When goods went on sale, I made my moves. I grabbed carrots at 50 cents per can. When Christmas candles were selling for 25 cents a box in late January, I stocked up. A case of bottled water for $5? Give me three or four! Tabasco sauce, I’ve got 60 bottles in the house. I also have decent supplies of ketchup, mustard and Campbell’s chunky soups. As everyone knows — or will know — they are key components for survival in the new frontier.

I discovered problems can come as you prepare for hard days yet to come. I’d visit my food pantry in the basement and notice cans of green beans were two or three years past expiration dates. I’d decide to throw them out and replace them — this time watching a little closer and opening them up when shelf lives were running out.

I’ve got about two cases of bottled water in the basement. They’re sealed in plastic and while they are a couple years old, water is water. I don’t think it’s going to go bad. If zombies start wandering around my neighborhood or the Russians take over, I doubt I’ll be worrying about out-of-date water. So next time Poland Spring or Aquafina goes on sale, I’m buying a couple more cases.

It just seems to make sense to have some extra supplies for emergencies. I’ve even got bottles of wine, never opened from past Christmas parties. I’ve never developed a taste for the stuff, but when time starts to run out, I will probably start sipping assorted reds and whites. Hope my friends have invested in good vintages.

I always have extra batteries and battery-operated radios. I have a stock of firewood and keep extra charcoal and a spare propane tank in the back yard shed. If the nation’s power goes like a bomb, I’ll be able to cook outside for a little while. So if “doomsday” ever does show up, I suppose I’ll be able to keep going for a couple weeks. And that’s with hardly even trying. The folks in the National Geographic show seem to be working on this project full-time, and even with all their supplies, maybe they’ll get a year or maybe a bit longer when things go bad. Everybody will run out, eventually.

The thing about the “preppers” is ... some of them seem a little eccentric. No surprise, eh? Like the earnest guy in Thursday’s New England segment, who was asked if he was worried about marauding bands of people who will surely be looking to salvage and steal once everything goes to hell. This fuzzy-headed and fuzzy-faced dude said he would try to win over the savages with kindness, give them a good meal and hope for friendship. If that didn’t do the trick, this street survivor said he would just poison his guests ... or cut their throats as they slept. He said it with an earnest, nutty smile.

Sometimes I thing the best doomsday prep would be buying a couple extra cases of beer and leaving them nice and cool in the basement. If society goes under and people are wild in the streets, I’ll go into my backyard, play some jazz on my battery-operated CD player and have a bunch of Coors Lights. Wait for the end with Brubeck and Coltrane.

At that point, I think my biggest problem will be ice.

 

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