Les Palmer: All about zombies

I hadn’t thought much about zombies until just recently, but now that they’re lurching around pretty much everywhere, and a zombie apocalypse is imminent, I guess I should devote a column to them.


“Here he goes again,” I can hear you saying. “What do zombies have to do with the outdoors?”

Plenty, but the most important thing I can think up right now is that running for your life from a zombie horde is a good way to get in good physical shape for a summer of fishing, hunting and other skills that will help you survive the coming zombie apocalypse.

As a kid, in the 1940s and early 1950s, we didn’t have zombies, at least not in my neighborhood. My first memory of zombies is a calypso song from the Kingston Trio’s “From the Hungry I” album in 1959, “Zombie Jamboree.” The lyrics, including the catchy “Back to back, belly to belly at the zombie jamboree,” must’ve infected my brain, because I still remember every word.

After that, zombies lay dormant in my life until 1962, when “Monster Mash,” performed by Bobbie Pickett and the Crypt Kickers, came on the radio. It spread like a plague, and to this day is heard far too often.

Since then, I’ve seen bits and pieces of zombie movies, but none held my interest. Maybe it’s a character defect that the walking dead aren’t one of my reasons for getting up in the morning. They’ve certainly become popular. When I Googled zombie, I got 781 million hits.

Humans apparently have an innate need to fear something, and zombies have probably been around since the beginning. They loom large in the “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Written on 12 clay tablets, it’s likely one of the first stories ever written. Modern zombies owe their existence to George A. Romero’s 1968 film “Night of the Living Dead.” Thanks to movie-making technology and audiences yearning to be scared half to death, the undead now lurch faster and look more gruesome, making them even more scary and threatening. As if that weren’t enough scariness, the idea that zombies might infect the entire world — a zombie apocalypse — has come to be expected in recent movie or TV plots.

The good news is that, if you’re into zombies, there’s help out there for you. For fitness fanatics, there’s a “Zombies, Run!” app that’s compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Providing a reason to run, the app’s promo urges you to join more than 800,000-plus runners in an epic adventure. Here’s a taste: “You tie your shoes, put on your headphones, take your first steps outside. You’ve barely covered 100 yards when you hear them. They must be close. You can hear every guttural breath, every rattling groan — they’re everywhere. Zombies. There’s only one thing you can do: Run!”

If you thought the federal government was ignoring the zombie apocalypse, you were wrong. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: “The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen. In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way. The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder ‘How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?’” The CDC offers tips for preparing for such an event, as well as for real unpleasantries.

While researching zombies, I realized they’ve gotten a bad rap. People in any other demographic would’ve been given special attention and opportunities to better their situations. And yet, despite this utter lack of caring and respect, these corpses somehow overcome the challenges of putrefaction, and stagger on to lead successful lives. Or deaths. Whatever. Yes, zombies do scare people, eat their brains and infect them with the zombie germ, and yes, zombies leave rotten pieces and parts of themselves in their wakes, but ya gotta admire their spirit.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.


An Outdoor View: Getting along with bears

Author’s note: The Clarion first published this column on Aug. 11, 2006. It has been edited it for brevity. — LP

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