Monday, June 16, 2008

Zombiecon 2008

How I Spent the Week Before My Summer Vacation Started

Surviving...
  1. cross-country torture by the employees of United Express Airlines (twice!)
  2. Zombiecon 2008
I hated one of these endurance tests more than seems reasonable or fair, and loved the other to the same extent...here's the story of the one that I loved (with a bit of bitching at the end about the one that I hated)...

Zombiecon is a get-together of (this year) about 60 members of the world's foremost non-stationary cadaver elimination outfit, Zombie Squad, that is held a few miles from the Walmart in Desloge, MO...

NOTE: to protect the innocent (along with the not-so-innocent), and because I won't remember all of the names of the people that I was lucky enough to meet last week, I am not going to use any names in this blog entry


I arrived in the afternoon on Wednesday, and hauled a couple of loads of my (way too much) crap up the hill in the afternoon heat...given the slope and lack of soil, I was glad that I brought my Hennessy Hammock to sleep in, and soon found a spot to set up my home for the week...


I drank more than my fair share of water during the course of Zombiecon...this picture shows the water facilities...Berkeley filters and jerrycans of pee-water hauled up from Manbath and some Clorox to kill off whatever the filters don't get...hauling water up the hill a couple of times during Zombiecon was easy enough, although after some of the intensive Manbath sessions, I was a little leery of the end product of the filtration system...I survived drinking gallons of the stuff though, so no worries...


I saw this coyote-poop just outside of Manbath, during one of the 6,483 trips up and down the steep nugget of pain that is the hill to Zcon Central...


Once I got my HH set up, and the rest of my camping gear/clothing stashed under the tarp, I headed down to the central canopied area to eat (very little, I'm a polar bear, and Zcon felt like the Sahara to me) and drink (too much...cold beer likes me, and the feeling is mutual) while howdying people and enjoying the sunset...


Despite the slope and height and swarms of rabid wolverines and loose rocks on the hill, almost everyone brought coolers (at least 1)...some with wheels...there was no shortage of food or drink at Zcon, and I found everyone happy to share with everyone else...there were both great and terrible food and drink items that passed my lips during the week...thanks to everyone for them all...


The canopies and tables in the central area of camp made everything easier, especially in the heat and sun of the spectacular weather that we generally had during Zcon...


This picture shows a meeting of the minds of some members of the ZS power structure...yup, Kyle is actually drinking his morning coffee from a goblet/chalice...



On Thursday morning, a bunch of us climbed the rest of the way to the top of the hill, and enjoyed an interesting seminar on (mostly) Ham radio communication...it was a super presentation, and made me dust off the downloaded set of questions that I printed out for my technical test...I'll try to get to the test sometime this summer...


Once the bulk of the seminar was delivered, we actually communicated with ham operators from all over the country...this portion of the seminar was the reason for having it hosted on top of the hill, and for the huge antenna poking the heavens in the ass...



Manbath...the name alone invokes fear and lust and shame and (strangely) thirst among anyone who has experienced Cthulhu's wading pool...it was an important part of my Zcon experience for a number of reasons: I drank gallons of "purified"water wrung from it's depths; I cleaned the slime and scum and sweat and blood off of my carcass every day in the same spot that water carriers filed the jerrycans; I drank lots of beer (and booze, including some banana liqueur some sick fuck brought to the party) while standing in its thrall, ignoring the angry Sun overhead (and the growing burns on my pink parts); I tried to ignore/forget the baleful and exultant cries and naked manparts that escaped from its gravity well...

I loved and hated Manbath...it both cleansed and sullied me on many levels...


We had another seminar up at the main gathering area, this one on 1st aid and 1st aid kits...


This was another great seminar, rich with information and suggestions about improving methods and techniques and supplies for when people get broken or spring leaks...


After the 2nd seminar, most people seemed to head back down to Manbath...enough, in fact, that they ended up holding the 3rd seminar of the day down in Manbath once it was clear that few would be able to escape its eerie pull...


The numerous waterfalls that feed Manbath may have something to do with it not becoming a toxic wasteland during the course of Zcon...there were fish when we arrived, and I saw them still swimming on my last morning swim on my way out of camp...


The application of suntan goop was an ongoing social activity (mating ritual?), and you could tell those who were unlucky or unmindful of the Sun by their bright red hides and ouchy whining the next day...


The 3rd seminar was on ZS fund-raising and charity activities, a huge part of what ZS does (since the zombocalypse is ever over the horizon, and we can focus on more immediate/likely disasters)...the original ZS chapter (in St. Louis) members had lots of great advice for people interested in starting new chapters all over the place (we had Zcon attendees from as far away as Wales) or just running a charity event to help out people in need...


Some ZSers love Manbath beyond all (readily apparent and/or sane) reason...


Yes, there was naked Manbath-ing...more than enough said...



Eventually, the sun slunk behind the hill, and people started to think about dinner (either due to hunger, or as a base for further drinking later in the evening)...Zcon cooking is all done over one big central fire (which saved me bringing my stove...yay!), and promotes a friendly atmosphere of sharing and potluck-ing...


Everyone settled into campchairs, or on top of coolers, to enjoy dinner, and the coming of cooler air as the day gave way to night, and we got ready for the movies...


Every night at Zcon, we watched 2-3 zombie movies...some good, some bad, some indecent...my favorite (to my everlasting shame) was "Special Dead", and I would have trouble picking a least favorite (although I'd rather snort hornets than watch "Wild Zero" again...ever)...


Friday we headed out in convoy and went over to Cherokee Landing to do a river float...



It took a while to get everyone and all of the boats and gear to the put-in location, but we a fun time waiting and sharing out/redistributing the MREs and components that ZS had given us for lunch (I got Chicken with Thai Sauce, and it was awesome!)...


Eventually we head off, wary and mindful of the clouds overhead, and the thunder in the distance...


We all moved at different speeds, but would occasionally pull over on a sandbar to prevent excessive spacing out along the river...


It was a gorgeous river and a fun trip, although there were numerous places where we had to get out to drag across shallow stretches or over downed trees...it did start to rain and thunder after a while, and my canoe partner and I got down to business and paddled hard to the Cherokee Landing headquarters to wait for everyone else...we surprised the outfitters with our time down, and had a bit of a wait until the last people pulled in, wet and cold and tired, but having had a fun day on the river!


It may be a law (natural, unnatural, or otherwise) that any time more than 3 ZSers get together and it's not over 95 degrees, at least one of them will start a fire...there was a welcome application of the law in this case, as it was a little cool and a little windy for the wet bodies that had just gotten off of the water and cooled off after paddling (drifting, drinking, sleeping) in the rain for hours...


Saturday was the range day, and we convoyed for an hour or so over to the range, and set up the canopies (thank God, it was blazing hot all day) in 3 areas: rifles, shotguns, and handguns...after a brief safety refresher talk, we started shooting...it was a fun time for me, as I had never seen lots of the guns there, and everyone was more than willing to teach and share and let me shoot...


It was great to not know almost anything about handguns, ask for, and get, a tutorial, and then have people come up and offer to let me shoot their handguns...I had fun with all of the firearms that I shot on range-day, but the 45-70 was a ridiculous favorite of mine (you gotta be ready for zombie-robot-trex-alypse!)...



There was no shortage of ammo or variety in the types and sizes of firearms available...


There was lots going on over on the rifle range as well...shooting and instruction...


Mil-surp to high-tech


Someone gather about 30 pounds of brass during the course of the day for reloading purposes...


The shotgun shooting was fun, a clay-thrower and various shotguns and personalized instruction from a member of the US shooting team...not too shabby...


A picture of Brash blasting away with the 45-70 revolver...


Range-day ended with a pistol match...4 zombie-targets: 2 shots into the first 2 targets (center mass shots acceptable, but headshots preferable), change out magazine, 2 shots into the next target, and 3 shots into the final target (at least 1 in the head)...


I'd never seen this type of match before, and it was cool to see people close-in target shooting and accomplish the magazine changes while being timed...


As had been the case each night, there were some cries of "MEDIC" once people got back to camp, got fed, and noticed the bloodtrail they had been leaving behind them all the while...luckily, ZS is chock full of people with the gear and training to handle most medical issues likely to come up...


The first movie of Saturday night was, "Night of the Living Dead in 3D", 60 people clinging to their drinks and the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere while wearing 3D glasses and watching such a miserable piece of shit as this movie is nothing short of awesome!


While we were watching the movie, some of the ZS board members made and delivered fresh-made popcorn for us to enjoy...it was a wonderful experience, and a nice followup to the excellent grilled dinner that they had made for us earlier in the evening...


My shoulder bag from CountyComm was a lifesaver, both at Zombiecon and in transit to and from the St. Louis airport...it kept all of my important gear and papers close and organized, and allowed me to keep my sanity while United Express fucked me over repeatedly...

A brief rant about United Express:
I was supposed to fly out (to DC and then on to STL) Tuesday afternoon, but they cancelled my first flight...they switched me to Chicago to STL, which was then delayed until it was impossible to make the connection, so they switched me back to DC to STL in the morning...I made the first leg the next morning, but the second leg was cancelled, so I had to go to Chicago and then onto STL, both legs delayed, and wait for 2.5 hours until my bags caught up with me...

On the way back they delayed my first flight for so long that it should have been impossible to catch the next leg, and the alternative they offered was cancelled, but staying true to their nature, the original second leg of the flight of the flight was delayed by 2 hours more than the first had been, and so I made it to ALB eventually, although I again had to wait for my bag to get there (even though I ended up taking the flights that I had been ticketed for...go figure)...

Lessons Learned From Zombiecon:
  1. bring less gear and clothes
  2. buy less food
  3. buy more ice for beer
  4. get Sun-pocalypse tested suntan goop, and apply it all the time
  5. Hennessy Hammocks rock, I slept better at Zcon than I do at home
  6. ALWAYS maintain eye-contact while in Manbath, looking down can only result in therapy
  7. drink more water
  8. ticks like warm and wet and crinkly pink parts, so check everyday, and then get a friend to check the hard to reach spots...Lyme Disease sucks!
  9. Canadians like Walmart
  10. if the end of the world comes, I want to go through it with a group of people like the ones who attended Zombiecon this year...nice and funny and knowledgeable and defective in the same ways that I am...
Thanks to everybody who made Zombiecon possible, fun, and also a learning experience!

Jamie - nfa