Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Desert sojourn: day 5

First rays of sunlight, looking north over the desert

On my walk this morning, I started late, took an alternate route, and wound up walking along the highway for a short distance as traffic blew by at 65 mph, probably commuters heading for jobs on the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms.

Like yesterday, after my walk and my morning coffee, I spent the entire day inside, from 9:00 a.m. to just after 4:30. It's not the heat I'm hiding from as much as the sun, and aside from the back porch in the early mornings, there's not much shade around this house. After 3:00 pm it's possible to sit in a chair in front of the house in a little bit of shade, if I really need to, and I did sit out there a lot reading on Saturday and Sunday.

After logging off my job for the day, I went over there myself on a second attempt to do laundry. While the stuff was in the machines I waited at the Jack in the Box and the McDonalds, each of which held several Marines who had just gotten off work, or whatever you call it -- off duty, I guess. Man, they are young. I almost said "Marine boys." But of course any of them could take me apart like Toshiro Mifune takes apart that sub-standard shoe in "The Bad Sleep Well." All the Marines were eating copious amounts of McDonalds food. When you're 18, what you eat is what you eat. A middle-aged man who was sitting there actually said something like "That's a lot of food." The Marine answered, "Yes sir, I had no lunch, I'm hungry."

Also seen in town were a couple of degenerate-looking characters, one of them heavily tattooed and scrawny as a starving dog, the other meatier and only slightly less mean-looking. I saw them wander across the street in one direction, and then half an hour later they were in the McDonalds at the same time I was.

I came home and skimmed half of this crazy book I picked up for half price at Borders a few months ago. It's a so-called novel written by a survivalist gun nut about how to survive the breakdown of society after the U.S. economy implodes following a sudden bout of hyperinflation. Ninety percent of the book is devoted to detailed explanations of how to stock up for the great collapse, how to run your survival retreat like a military camp, and so on.

It is not a novel in any sense of the word; rather, a narrative of how a group of people would survive for several years after the collapse of society if they had properly prepared. (To his credit, in an interview the author himself admitted, "I don't pretend it's a literary masterpiece.")

What I find entertaining, aside from the unintentionally funny stuff of which there is a great deal, is the window into the mindset of the survivalist type and the unexamined assumptions he makes. Maybe the biggest assumption is that a total social breakdown inevitably and swiftly would follow the collapse of the economy. He takes it for granted that riots and looting swiftly render every city and town uninhabitable, as if everyone becomes like one of the zombies with the Rage virus in "28 Days Later" as soon as the power grid fails. This happens universally, he says. Well, if it doesn't, then there's no reason for his little stronghold, obviously. Anyway, he never tires of endless discussions of how to create a homemade cannon, and how to make your own camouflage suit, and endless near-pornographic discussions of guns and ammunition.

This is research, of course.

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