Monday, January 07, 2013

“I will survive!” (Can Doomsday Preppers release my inner Donna Summer?)

Always on the lookout for a distraction, something to divert us from the fact that our ancient building condo is at a temperature the equivalent of a meat locker, we have found a most excellent reality show: Doomsday Preppers.

As a fast-fact that came onscreen during one episode informed us, 41 percent of Americans think that it’s more important to prep for a disaster than to save for retirement. I find this pretty peculiar, given that the biggest disaster that most of us are likely to encounter is retiring with nary a pension nor a 401K of any heft. But that is, of course, just me.

Mostly, I’m intrigued by the preppers, their thought processes, their plans. (This show’s also given me the answer to ‘who wants all these assault rifles and high capacity weapons?’)

There’s the fellow in NYC who’s come to the conclusion that, if something bad happens there, most people will be heading west to NJ. So his big plan is to pick up his family and drive to Long Island. I suspect that if some unnatural or natural disaster occurs in NYC, there will be just as many people on the LI Expressway as there are attempting to get across the GW Bridge, so it’s probably wishful thinking that this prepper will have clear sailing as he heads east. More than likely, he’ll find the equivalent of the Friday before Memorial Day traffic. He is prepared with bikes, but he’ll also have a six year old in tow who, I’m assuming, may not be up to pedaling all that long and hard to get to the safe house.

A local prepper, from Somerville, Mass., met a woman from South America online. When she got to the States, her introduction to life here was a prep run to the fellow’s 10 acres in upstate New York, where she was unhappily bitten alive by mosquitoes. As with the LI Expressway optimist, the Somerville prepper operates under the assumption that, if Boston is nuked, he will be the only one who thinks about going west, young man, and that he won’t get bollixed up in traffic. He has apparently never tried heading in that direction on Columbus Day weekend. (Good luck, pal. You’d probably be better off staying in Somerville with a blanket pulled over your head.)

Many of the preppers have a very specific fear in mind.

A Virginia housewife believes that there’ll be a tsunami heading her way from a volcano eruption in the Canary Islands.

A couple in Indiana fear that the New Madrid Fault will blow, and the earthquake will create a new continental divide. They’re raising the money to buy the food, batteries, guns and ammo they’ll need to stay alive an keep the hungry hordes out of their modest home by online businesses selling adult sex toys and bearded dragons. (If I’m not mistaken, there just might be a combo business there. I just don’t want to think too long and hard about it.)

One of my favorite preppers is a business student who lives in Salt Lake City, right behind the state capitol. Her fear is that there’ll be a government takeover, and the government will be going door to door to take your rights away. And there’ll be no food. She keeps a watchful eye on the Utah State House for signs of martial law, and has recently worked with a professional sniper (?) to learn how to blow someone’s head off at long range.

Other preppers have more general, end of day fears. One guy in Florida has it all set up – an underground bunker, and a plan to grow tobacco and distill alcohol for the general store he’ll run, since if everything breaks down, cigarettes and booze will be priority items. He’s also invested $100K in an underground assembly line that lets him produce several different types of ammo.

Most of the preppers are naturally focused on saving themselves and their immediate families, but one more idealistic old coot up in Canada has created a bunker that will house 500 children so that civilization can be rebuilt.  As long as there’s room in his inn, you can drop your kids off. No adults need apply.

My favorite prepper, perhaps because he struck me as the most practical, sharp, and business-focused of the bunch, is Larry Hall, who runs Survival Condo, luxury underground condos built on a couple of old missile sites in Kansas. This guy is one thorough prepper…

Not only can the facility survive a direct nuclear hit, your condo comes with five-years worth of foods supply for everyone onboard, and plenty of guns and ammo to fend off the great unprepared. There’s a colossal water storage facility, redundant electric systems, elaborate filtration. Hall even consulted with psychologists on cabin fever, and among the other niceties of the facility are a choice of window views – nature vistas, an aquarium tank – that will give some sense of connection to the great outdoors.

These condos aren’t for those who have to support their prepping habit by selling sex toys and bearded dragons, by the way. The smaller (900 square foot) units go for $1.5M, and the larger units (1820 square feet) go for $3.0M.

Taking a page straight out of HGN, each condo comes with:

  • State-of-the-art Kitchen: Stainless steel kitchen appliances include refrigerator, dishwasher, dual-fuel (electric & propane) professional range, wall oven, professional ventilation hood. Granite or custom concrete counter-tops.
  • State-of-the-art energy efficient washer and dryer in each unit.
  • Built in recessed full spectrum LED lighting.
  • Kohler bath fixtures and jetted Jacuzzi tub in each master bath.

But wait, there’s more:

  • Organic hydroponic and aquaculture food production.
  • General Store.
  • Indoor Pool & Spa, and a complete workout facility.
  • Custom theater.
  • Custom Bar & Lounge.
  • Library & Classroom.
  • Command & Control Center.
  • Medical First Aid Center.
  • Communication Center complete with on-site Internet subset access.

Oh, and it’s even pet friendly if your pet is well-behaved and weighs less than 70 pounds.

Since banks won’t grant you a mortgage, you have to pay cash. The first silo has sold out, by the way. And you can start occupying your unit any old time.

If you want to wait for a natural or manmade disaster, your purchase price includes transportation (unspecified) to Kansas.

No word on condo fees or taxes, or how they get paid in case of emergency.

I must say, if I were the doomsday type, I’d be going the Larry Hall route, rather than try to figure out how to manufacturer my own ammo. But I’m not one of the “I Will Survive” brigade.

There’s a certain level of disaster that I would not mind surviving: Hurricane Sandy, even if it wiped out my home; a contained terrorist attack, even if it happened close by and people I cared about were killed (I think so, anyway). But when it comes to earth-shattering (literally or figuratively) cataclysm, when the world as we know it ceases to exist, count me out.

Whatever the level of stainless appliance and dog-friendly luxury, if I can’t take a walk through the Boston Public Garden on a nice day. If I can’t go to Toscano’s with my husband for GF pasta. If I can’t chill out (and drink wine) with my family and friends. If I can’t call someone just to chat. If I can’t check books out from the BPL. If I can’t push my cart around Whole Foods. If I can’t stop by J.P. Licks for an occasional cone, well then, life for me personally would not be worth living, and I’d just as soon be at Ground Zero for whatever Mayan-calendar-level disaster happens.

Maybe if I were younger, maybe if I had kids…But I think not.

If the doomsday’s that doomy, include me out. I’m just not willing to kill someone to protect a bag of freeze-dried peas.

Doomsday Preppers is plenty entertaining, and plenty interesting, but I’m afraid it hasn’t unleashed the inner Donna Summer in me. (Come to think of it, Donna Summer didn’t survive, either.)

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