Before the Seminar, After the Apocalypse

The 2012 Key West Literary Seminar starts tonight — it’s been sold out for months, sorry, but there are free sessions on Sunday afternoon.

This year’s theme is Yet Another World, which is kind of dystopia but that’s an oversimplification. What is it really? Watch this space and I’ll report back.

In the meantime, it’s got me thinking dystopically, or post-apocalyptically. Maybe it’s because we live in one of the places most vulnerable to hurricanes in the nation — and watched what happened to New Orleans. Maybe it’s The Walking Dead not to mention The Road and all the books written by the many fine writers who will be joining us this weekend. But I sometimes think about what I would do after the apocalypse. This is, of course, assuming I survive the apocalypse but hey, if I don’t then it’s not really my problem.

I use it as an excuse to hang onto our kayaks and canoe, even though they haven’t been out of the yard in years. It makes me feel a little self-satisfied about my few remaining practical skills, like knitting. I’ve operated a treadle (non-electric) sewing machine, too, though it’s been a couple decades. And I’ve always liked the idea of weaving.

So I decided my skill/niche would be knitting, and possibly making cloth. I have been hoarding yarn for about 15 years but that’s not all I’d knit. After the apocalypse, I would knit whatever I could and that’s the beauty of knitting. You can knit just about any damned thing. My friend Emalyn has a dress her mother knit out of cassette tape.

My husband, who has recently become a rum aficionado since spending time in the Caribbean, plans to distill booze. He thinks this will give him a lot of influence and bargaining power for other commodities. We have discussed the need for weapons (crossbows look good, based on The Walking Dead) to defend the booze and ourselves.

I like the idea of sloughing off all the artificial layers of stuff we accumulate, protect and worry about. I’m not just talking just about belongings — but also about intangibles like your 401(k), your social obligations, your job. After the apocalypse, who cares about your credit rating or what’s going to happen to windstorm insurance rates? And having a little extra meat on your bones could be an advantage. I have a strange attraction to the post-industrial agrarian visions like that at the end of “England, England” by Julian Barnes. This, even though I grew up in a rural area and am well aware that farming (especially without heavy machinery), animal husbandry, toting water and firewood, preserving food, making clothes, etc., is hard work. And how much harder will it be when you can’t run down to the Agway or Jo-Ann’s Fabrics for your supplies? But that’s the thing about the apocalypse. It’s not a voluntary dropping out, joining a commune, going back to the land. It’s a Big Change and if you survive it,  you have to figure out how to cope.

The other night, at a pre-Seminar gathering, I conducted an informal survey: After the apocalypse, what will be your survival skill/economic niche? I  was surprised at how many people said they had never considered the question. And I got some interesting answers.

Dara: Arranging spaces. “I could find places for people to be and improve them, so they could survive in them.”

Kathy: Camouflage expert. Blending. Camouflage warrior.

Ashley: Stress relief, coping with stress.

John: “I’m going to die in the apocalypse. Speaking German, will that be a useful skill?”

Michael: Communication skills. “I can negotiate for trading of sticks and firewood.”

Richard: “Charming everybody else to take care of me. Maybe I should grow drugs.”

Kerry: “Food hoarding and judiciously distributing to the worthy.” Also facilitating suicide for those who want to check out.

Diane: “I’ll have to garden.”

Linda: “I’m going to be the recorder of what happens.”

Cynthia: “Cleaning houses. I think I could be pretty good at that.”

Judy: “I’m optimistic. I can lead cheers.”

Arlo: Fishing

Jim: In his dreams of the apocalypse, he checks out. But he thinks he can manage it without Kerry’s help.

Miles: Potter

Alan: Make paper and soap.

Margaret: “You’re assuming a society. I’m not.” Head for the woods. Having social order is the sine qua non – otherwise we can knit our heads off or produce all the booze we want and someone will just come and take it.

Valerie: Water gathering in huge trash cans under the eaves of houses.

Mary: Build a fire.

Judith: “I’ll fish.  We have to eat.”

Peyton: “I’ll make pots.”

Items we should be hoarding now:

Sugar, yeast, mosquito netting, Skin So Soft, Tupperware, mason jars, mirrors, goats, chickens, bows and arrows, manual sewing machines, antibiotics, needles, threads, seeds, bees

Question to investigate: Are iguana eggs edible?



Filed under Literary seminar

6 responses to “Before the Seminar, After the Apocalypse

  1. Ohhh so many interesting questions! I have certainly considered the apocalypse, at least in the form of hurricane or (AHERM) hurricane evacuation (since that’s what gets us in Texas apparently) and have been smug about my relative physical fitness (I can ride my bicycle across the state with little dogs and basic needs in tow). As for a skill, I am less confident, but Husband builds things, cooks, bakes, does electrical and plumbing and carpentry and… I think I’ll just stick near him. We will need your husband’s product as well, yes please.

    Good luck with the seminar!! Can’t wait to hear reports!

  2. …he fishes and hunts and builds fires… yes, I’ll just keep the Husband.

  3. Unca Fred

    A hoarder of salt will be king.

  4. maria grannell

    Why hoard yeast; why not just keep a mason jar of sourdough starter?

  5. boneislandbooks

    apparently yeast is necessary to the distilling/brewing process. But I think sourdough starter would be good to have, too.

  6. Jill

    Nancy – Vic and I have discussed this (must run in the family) and we’d make soup from whatever was available.


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