Dead on arrival

American Movie Classics has been running its traditional Halloween scare-a-thon movie marathon, and yesterday I watched a little bit of a zombie movie.

Like everyone, I am captivated by the undead.

What makes zombies so interesting is that they move around sort of like living humans, but they’re deadly dangerous, have no sexual allure whatsoever (unlike vampires) and their existence puts survivors into all sorts of moral quandaries. It’s why The Walking Dead is so popular. While arrows to the eyeballs is fun a couple times an hour, you really can’t take a steady diet of close encounters with rotting flesh. So, like The Stand, most of your time needs to be spent on how the living cope with the apocalypse.
 photo e1e51db6-19ce-4bf3-bad5-206407bc6d6f_zps90ab24b0.jpg

Stephen King, when writing The Stand, chose a deadly strain of the flu virus to wipe out 99.7 percent of the population. Zombie movies and TV shows routinely blame a virus for “infection” and the spread of zombification of human beings. World War Z, for example, mostly occupied itself with finding the originally infected human and, for a zombie movie, wasn’t particularly scary. The scrabbling mass of CG undead humanity was awesome, however.

So when I turned on AMC I was thrilled to find the Hollywood zombie purveyors had kicked it up a notch and given us what we want: horrible zombies who eat the flesh of the living on a plane.

Flight of the living dead photo flightofthelivingdead_zps5b3751d1.jpgYes, the title of this movie was Flight of the Living Dead, which I totally wish I had made up. Actually they probably did come up with the title first and then built the movie around it. Zombies! On a plane! It’s even better than Snakes on a Plane — although, no, it didn’t have Samuel L. Jackson, so it could definitely could, by definition, have been more awesome.

As a matter of fact, why didn’t they get Samuel L. on board for this project? I mean, come on. He needs to be the go-to guy for terror in the skies.

I confess I didn’t watch more than about 20 minutes of the movie, which was billed, as I later learned on IMDB as “action horror.” But of course I didn’t have to; you know what happens. The zombies get out, bite nearly everyone, and they chase the remaining people — who not only have to fight the undead but cope with the fact that they’re 30,000 feet from terra firma, which is where all good zombies need to be. Preferably, beneath it.

I was amused by the periodic shots of the big ole jet airliner, taken from slightly above and always covered by flashing, menacing lightning. It reminded me of Airport ’75 (1974) with Karen Black flying the plane, her slightly crossed eyes locked on the instrument panel as she winged a 747 over mountain peaks and brought nuns and sick children safely to the ground.

The movie is a few years old and I might try and scare it up sometime. Even though I enjoy zombies the year ’round, there’s really nothing like Halloween to really bring the undead to life. Gives you an appetite for it, you might say.

Thank heaven writing about these undead ruminations and unsavory combinations only strike me about once a year — although if you put a corpse in some fetching footwear you might captivate me a whole lot more frequently.

Advertisements

Seize the day

Not long ago, I helped to organize the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, which brought together talented published authors, writers who wished to learn from them, and appreciative readers who sought to immerse themselves in writing at the longest running conference for women in the nation.

But I’m not going to talk about that today.

I bring it up, though, because it was this conference — and the book written by acclaimed author Bonnie Jo Campbell  — which led me to hunker by the size of a busy road yesterday morning, in the polar conditions of autumn which bore down upon the Commonwealth, and pick two giant mushrooms the approximate size and weight of my head.

cu growing photo Photo10-24-13101237AM_zps64088be4.jpg

Back in the spring, I dove into Once Upon a River, which tells the compelling story of a young girl driven by circumstance to live by her wits and considerable outdoors acumen along a semi-wild river near Kalamazoo, Michigan. The author, Campbell, was due to appear at our conference in the fall.

It was shortly after reading this book that I practically became Bonnie Jo Campbell’s sister — yes, it’s true. But that’s a story for another day.

This day, I point directly to Once Upon a River as my first exposure to Calvatia gigantea or the giant puffball mushroom, which our heroine harvests and dines upon as she literally lives off the fat of the land.

Giant puffballs growing wild. And edible? I had my doubts. But she could shoot the eye out of a buck — and attract any male who may or may not be a card-carrying member of the NRA — so I tended to trust her on the issue of free-range fungus.

Fast forward to yesterday morning.

Driving home after taking my son to school, I spied on the side of the road, two large, round white shapes which could have been:

A) used diapers chucked from a car traveling the adjacent New Circle Road (a local bypass);

B) Styrofoam blown out of the back of a pickup used for who-knows-what unholy purpose; or

C) actual, bonafide giant puffball mushrooms.

I slowed down for a closer look. And then I drove home and, like most people in 2013, posted about my discovery on Facebook.

Were they these fabled things that me, a girl raised in semi-rural conditions, had never observed, let alone ingested? Were they something that I could harvest, like dandelion leaves and poke sallet, and eat from the side of the road and call it actual food?

Or were they some other, more nefarious form of fungus, intent upon poisoning me with their plump charms — the deadly I Will Kill You in Horrible Seizing Agony mushrooms, which present identically to the giant puffball shroom?

At home, I applied mascara and pondered. I would never know what they were, I thought between eyeliner applications, unless I stopped for a closer look.

As you can see in the photos, they’d already been munched by some resident fauna, and I flicked one off before pulling them up. (A slug! Eww!)

 photo d115ea9e-0d6a-4e98-a6f3-46f7ea0033c3_zps02b36be9.jpg

They came out of the ground easily and they really are surprisingly heavy! Maybe not as heavy as my head (filled with all these brains, you know) but pretty hefty for something that goes by the name of puffball.

I put them in a plastic bag, braced myself against the buffets of passing cars, popped myself back into the Prius, and off to work I went.

But were they actually edible? I got confirmation from Bonnie Jo herself, via Facebook, that I did indeed have two gorgeous puffballs on my hands and I should prepare them with lots of butter and invite all my friends.

At this point I wasn’t sure I was going to convince a Doubting Husband that I brought something home from the side of the road that we can actually eat. But, gamely, I cooked one of the things up last night, and as I mentioned earlier, documented the whole process on Facebook for the entertainment of my far-flug friends.

Sink mushrooms photo Photo10-24-1355907PM_zps7f1517e8.jpg

Yes, from Kentucky to Rhode Island, and North Carolina to Texas, people were following  the Great Potentially Death-Inducing Mushroom Saga, hoping I presume, that I would live to cook another day.

I won’t doubt that there were some expecting I would experience violent vomiting at the bare minimum, with seizures, coma, and death a distinct possibility.

No such luck, you guys!

This is the mushroom I prepared, shown here cleaved in two on the cutting board in my kitchen:

 photo 17f3fd86-3d04-4c53-a80b-483f832b9c49_zps550fbb46.jpg

Cubed and ready for the sautee pan:

Cubed photo Photo10-24-1374656PM_zps0cbe5b0d.jpg

Cooking:

Sauteeing photo Photo10-24-1373134PM_zps7e91a1b7.jpg

I assure you I did not fail to eat some of these cubes, atop my spaghetti, but I did fail to take a picture of it. Doh!

Since nobody touched the things except me — despite the fact that they were drenched in butter, olive oil, garlic and salt — I put the remainder in a bag and tossed them in the freezer. The Internets told me I could.

I am here to report that I am in fact alive. Although for all I know I’m a zombie, Walking Dead in the wake of my mushroom induced-death, getting my just desserts for daring to eat something that wasn’t purchased at the grocery store.

And if you ever see any giant mushrooms that resemble severed heads along the road, you too can take them home and cook ’em up. They’re delicious — especially around Halloween.

Accessorizing for the apocalypse

This post originally appeared in March 2012 and is consistently one of my most popular blog entries. I’m repeating it today for Halloween. Enjoy!

* * *

When the dead rise and zombies take over the world, it is comforting to know that I am equipped with the appropriate footwear.

AMC style zombiesI’ve been, you see, watching The Walking Dead on AMC, a series now in its second season based on the graphic novels by the same name. It was conceived of by Kentuckian Robert Kirkman, who hails from Cynthiana, so zombification-wise, I’m pretty much at Ground Zero.

I never read the books, but since watching the series I’m becoming more interested in them. What preoccupies me at the moment, though — in addition to following the ethical struggles, babydaddy drama, and child-in-peril moments the show spews in abundance (and oh yeah, zombies and bullets to the head) is Frye boots.

I’m sure this comes as no surprise.

Frye and small frySince stomping onto the set in the pilot episode, female lead Lori, wife to Our Hero Rick Grimes, has been ubiquitously clad in my go-to shitkicker, the Frye harness boot. It’s even the same color as mine, so my preoccupation is justified (sort of). You go, girl.

While I’m a little surprised she’s wearing the things even in the height a hot Georgia summer, I’ve got to go hey, you flee your home with little more than the clothes on your back of course you’re going to pull on the most serviceable good-looking boots in your closet.

“Carl! Pack up some t-shirts, jeans, and a metric buttload of sunscreen, we’re hitting the road!” Lori yells, standing in the bedroom, pulling on her negative-2 size Levis and throwing all the family photos into her luggage.

“Daddy’s dead and the neighbors want to eat us, honey. Pack appropriately.”

Now of course when I’m sitting in front of the screen watching this thing, these thoughts are far from my mind. I am of course much more interested in the moral struggles these people must face, including and up to killing other living, breathing survivors and having unprotected sex in zombie-infested woods, or perhaps abandoned pharmacies. Kiss me before we get eaten!

But give me some time to reflect and my thoughts return to preparing for these conditions with style and comfort in mind.

Of course, the Frye selection is good-looking. Dansko clogs would also be a good choice if you have to plan for wearing the same shoes while squishing over rotting corpses until the year 2525. Flip-flops are right out, unless the Zompocolypse caught you out while on vacation in Myrtle Beach.

Standing in my closet, I ponder the End Times appropriateness level of my own wardrobe. Yes, these capes and shawls could be excellent protection against the elements, as extra bedding, and perhaps even camouflage if the zombies lose their sense of smell. No, I doubt the prairie skirts and  faux fur are going to be of much good. Better stick with skinny jeans, fleece and utility vests.

Wedge-heels and mules are right out, of course — who can run when you’re in danger of throwing a shoe? Running shoes (well, walking shoes in my case) could pose a problem; any length of time spent running in them results in run-down Reeboks, but I suppose in a Mad Max world, there will always be plenty of Foot Lockers to plunder.

Lori, Andrea, Carol and Maggie, our Walking Dead women, seem to favor tank tops under cute tops for their zombie-world wear, though I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s the wardrobe designers who prefer them so uniformly. Anyway, Lori’s going to have to make a run to Motherhood Maternity at some point, unless she’s got a zom-bun in the oven.

Maybe she plans on taking over Rick’s old sheriff uniforms — hey, that worked splendidly for Margie in Fargo, at least. Yah!

Ready to fight zombies at workI know there’s going to be a lot I have to give up when facing down the undead every day. Fashion just isn’t a priority when the only medical practitioner you’ve got is more familiar with fillies than impaled fibias.

But it is good to know if I’m gonna be walking dead, at least my feet are firmly planted in boots already endorsed by one of the survivors.