I Cannot Yet Skin A Deer
Are you prepared for the Big Collapse? Peak Oil? Rural life? Can you pickle meat and eat bark?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, July 15, 2005
Rare is the opportunity to use authentic, down 'n' dirty rural survival skills in the city. It's true.
You don't need to know, for example, how to skin a deer or pickle your own asparagus or nurture an understanding of which kind of deadwood is best for cookin' pig snouts over the fire pit, or how to shingle your roof with rocks and clay, or how to dig really large holes in the backyard for long-term storage of winter wheat and dead chickens and hoary annoying relatives.
City-bred skills and intuitions are, to be sure, unique. But there will apparently be very little call, after the Bush-branded apocalypse rains down, for knowledge of which seat in the café gets the best Wi-Fi signal or where to find the finest burrito after midnight in the Mission when you are post-coitally blissed and in need of refueling.
Very little call, after the Big Ungodly Crash, for knowledge of where to get the most amazing cheap dim sum, how much the large bottle of Astroglide costs at the local Good Vibrations, or which tiny parking spaces in my girlfriend's neighborhood I can sneak into for emergency booty calls without her uptight neighbors calling Bob's Towing.
This all comes to mind as I realize, with increasing sense of dread and alarm and a weird sense of fatalistic ennui, that if any of the dire prognostications for the world soon comes to pass, if the oil crisis strikes as violently as predicted and/or if the eviscerated U.S. economy spirals us into a new and violent Great Depression 2.0 and/or if BushCo does indeed succeed in bringing the wrath of an angry spiteful homophobic God down upon the swarming gay-lovin' tofu-sucking heathen masses, I might not be as well prepared as I'd like.
I am not at all ready for the big return to the agrarian life, as predicted by the most dire Peak Oil prognosticators. I am not at all ready to have the devastated cities plowed under, so that we may plant crops in the ravaged landscape in a desperate attempt to survive the onslaught of a world without home pizza delivery and without drive-thru dry cleaning and without instant and immediate access to supermarkets with their 47 kinds of pasta and 138 different brands of vodka, not to mention the meaty edible flesh of nearly any animal I wish to custom order from the Williams-Sonoma catalog and have FedExed to me within 24 hours in pretty decorated tins. Mmm, prosciutto.
I have no immediate escape route. I do not have land nearby, in the woods, protected by razor wire and laser fencing and large angry dogs. I do not have some place that has enormous underground tanks of propane and oil and grains and canned tomatoes and frozen elk meat and mountains of small-gauge ammunition and stores of camouflage underwear.
I do not know how to dig a water well. I do not know how to install a septic pump. I know not the best month in which to plant potatoes and corn and peas and opium poppies. I cannot knit blankets or sweaters, much less some nice handmade cozies to protect my Pyrex-glass dildo collection.
I currently own no power tools, save for a single small Black & Decker rechargeable drill which I use, of course, not for building a family shelter out of rusty car hoods and not for remodeling my nonexistent garage so it can support a family of 10 and not for cobbling together a chicken coop from scrap wood and baling wire and mesh, but rather, for hanging bitchin' shelving cubes from West Elm.
Oh, make no mistake, the city offers its own dangers and there are plenty of urban survival skills mandatory for navigating the urban jungle, such as learning how to deftly avoid eye contact with ranting homeless people and how to appear tough and muscular when you walk by those small gangs of slouchy angry hooded dudes who look at you like you're the fish and they're the dynamite.
I know how to calmly pray for a parking space a mile before arrival and which sushi joint has the freshest uni and which coffee shop makes the finest soy mocha. I know when Macy's designer stuff goes on double-markdown and who you have to know to get wholesale designer furniture and which yoga teacher has the best kirtan, and how to get a large leather chair up two flights of narrow Victorian stairs and the best place to have sex in Golden Gate Park.
But alas, this is not nearly enough.
I will, when the devolution comes and oil is $200 a barrel and we are at war with China and the dollar is worth about three cents on the euro, be relying on the talents and largesse of others. I have, for example, a wonderful brother-in-law with his own ranch-compound up near Spokane, well stocked with guns and canned goods and copious hiding spaces, and it is remote and rural and ready to be turned into a guarded inbreeding complex just after BushCo finally mistakes his electric toothbrush for the "nukular" button and hastens the end of the world as we know it, just as the evangelicals are right now pleading.
I have a girlfriend whose sister is a well-trained organic farmer, able to grow an entire meal for 25 in a shoebox, well versed in mulch and compost toilets and soil types and what sort of mushrooms you can and cannot eat when you're out scavenging for scraps among the torched babies and the smoking carcasses and the giant robotic cockroaches.
But I am merely a hanger-on. I am not trained. This much must be admitted: When it comes to Armageddon prep, the red states have us city folk beat. Sure-sure, cities are the cultural and social and economic engines of the nation; sure we have all the Ph.D.s and all the artistic talents and all the book-learnin' and progressive ideas and cool European cars and the good wine and the better sex and the polysyllabic words.
But when the economy collapses and the End is Nigh, well, most of us shall fall by the roadside, begging for scraps from the angry evangelical Idaho potato farmer in the beat-up pickup with the little flags stuck on the bumper, and he shall chortle and spit tobacco through his nine teeth and turn up the James Dobson Christian Family Hour on the AM and drive off toward the mushroom cloud, whistling.
The red states will finally rule the world. They will survive. They know how. They can eat squirrel brains. They can pickle things, including various animal parts. They have been known to marry each other. They can subsist on bad beer and cow pies and stuff they find growing in the rusty tailpipes of old farm equipment. They know how to perform home surgery using only a rusty butter knife and bathroom caulk. They eat mice.
But then again, should this all come to pass and the oil crisis strikes and the economy nose-dives and the cities crumble and our iPod batteries fail and international commerce implodes and we're all rushing back to the farmland to hump hay and steal each others' wives and ogle sheep and rediscover a life that is, all over again, nasty, brutish, and short, well, maybe I will no longer care.
Maybe then it will finally be time to throw in the karmic towel, drink the special Kool-Aid, and let the meek inherit the Earth while the rest of us go to the stars. After all, while I'd actually love to learn to work an organic farm or build a cabin from scratch or learn to distinguish species of trees by examining their leaves and then having sex under their branches, it's just not much fun anymore when we're all out of music and wine and coffee and the entire nation becomes, well, Oklahoma. I mean, what kind of joy is that? And where will I park my Audi?