I’m in Florida for a week with my good friend and partner-in-crime, Linda. Vacationing with friends can be a double-edged sword. You obviously enjoy spending time together or you wouldn’t be friends, but do you like each other enough to live together 24-7 for a whole week? This isn’t the first time Linda and I have vacationed together. Heck, it’s not even the second or third time. I’ve spent time on the shore of Lake Michigan with Linda. I’ve lived in a tiny cruise ship cabin on rough seas with Linda. I’ve paddled past glaciers in a canoe with Linda.
You think you know somebody. You think a week on the beach is going to be cake, but then after 12 years and multiple vacations, you find a fundamental crack in the foundation of your friendship. A philosophical difference upon which all else is a house of cards just waiting to crumble.
Religion? Nope…we are of a mind on that. Politics? Nope…we’re both generally on the same side of Center in those matters.
What could divide us after all these years?
No, Linda is not a zombie. She is quite articulate, doesn’t sound like she’s hocking a perpetual loogie, and I’ve never seen her take a bite out of anybody. Well…literally anyway. I’ve seen her chew people up and spit them out intellectually. I actually like that about her.
Linda is a Walking Dead aficionado. A Walking Deadhead. She lives and dies…metaphorically…every week with Rick and Darryl and the gang.
How do I know these characters' names?
I’ve spent 72 hours in the company of people who HAVEN’T TALKED ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE!
Linda’s daughter and three of her friends are also in Florida with us. Linda’s daughter and the two boys are also rabid Deadheads. Friday night before we left Georgetown, they made me watch an episode. Saturday night after we got here, they made me watch an episode. Apparently, there has been an all-zombie, all-the-time, all-day, all-night, round-the-clock, 24-7 freaking zombie marathon on AMC. Every time the TV was turned on it was zombies. I’m having nightmares about zombies.
All of this, of course, was leading up to the season finale last night. Watching the finale was AN EVENT. It was planned more precisely than D-Day or the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. Everything from grocery shopping for JUST THE RIGHT snacks to when dinner would be served centered around when The Walking freaking Dead came on.
Being the instigator I am…Linda used a different word…I couldn’t help but mock my Deadhead traveling companions.
(I suppose I should stop here and explain that I really do get it even though I don’t watch it. To be transported by characters into another world, to be invested in those characters, to live and die with them like they are real people in the world that you know and love or hate….that is a beautiful thing. That is story. That is why I’m a writer and an English teacher. Story is everything. It’s how we make sense of the world. It’s how we define the past and shape the future. Story is EVERYTHING. And when you find a good one that you connect with, well that’s just magic right there. I’ve been every bit as rabid about other stories as Linda and the kids are about The Dead, so yeah….I get it. Zombies just don’t resonate with me for some reason. My son loves it and tried to get Bruce and me to watch with him, but it was in the middle of the second or third season or whatever, and there was just too much backstory we didn’t have. And we couldn’t get past the ever-present loogie hocking noise. We kept looking at each other, wanting to burst into laughter at the most dramatic parts.)
So if I understand all this stuff about story and connection and characters and such…why was I mocking my friends? Because I’m an instigator…or that other word Linda used. Because it was funny to watch those kids turn on me like zombies snacking on newly dead flesh.
“See? It’s not really about zombies. It’s about the people…the survivors…and how they are moving on in a lawless world. How they react in the face of terrible decisions. Who tries to keep order and who tries to create a new order? Zombies are mindless shells that just shamble along looking for something to eat. Aren’t there a lot of people like that?”
“Why, yes there are. Where was this level of analysis when you were in my class two years ago?”
Boy suddenly remembers I was his teacher, backs off and starts apologizing for contradicting me. He just really loves the show and I’m not mad at him am I? Hehe…not until you started apologizing for good analysis. Second boy and Linda do not apologize. They barrel ahead guns a-blazing.
“Why do I find vampires interesting and not zombies?”
“Vampires are about immortality….parasitic relationships…they seduce to get what they want, but underneath the illusion of beauty, they are monsters. Unless they are sparkly vegetarians, and that’s just stupid.”
“Yeah…but how is that more interesting than zombies?”
“Do I have to explain that immortality and parasitic seduction are more interesting than shambling, flesh-eating mindlessness? Then I think we’re done here.”
When I reached the point where people were actually getting pissed off, I backed off. I committed a sin that I don’t have a lot of tolerance for in others. I believe in story and clearly there is story in The Walking Dead. Freedom to tell or connect to any story you want should probably be added to the first amendment. Oh wait. I think it’s already there. I have less patience for story intolerance than for religious intolerance, so I reined it in.
I sat through the whole finale. The reviews were mixed. The body count wasn’t high enough for some. The daughter admitted she just watches it for the blood and guts. I like that about her. Others were happy that there was a sense of resolution. I like that in a story myself, so I would have sided with that camp if I cared. Everyone was in agreement that the people still with the governor were idiots for not shooting him when they had the chance. I’m always in favor of shooting the bad guy. Bad guys who open fire on their own people in a fit of childish pique aren’t generally redeemable. Although, in one of the episodes I was forced to watch on Friday, I could see that the governor had issues…keeping your zombie daughter on a leash and feeding her brains qualifies as issues in my book anyway. (I can’t unsee the images I’ve been forced to see this week.)
And then they watched an hour long talk show rehashing the episode. I went to bed.
I’ve had nightmares….actual freaking nightmares about zombies for TWO nights because of this mess. Yesterday, we were watching a guy windsurf and Linda was narrating his story. She made him a zombie windsurfer. I argued that the salt water would be highly corrosive to dead flesh and that he wouldn’t have enough left to stay harnessed to his parachute. This is the vacation conversation to which I’ve been reduced!
Thank god the finale has come and gone. Maybe now we can get on with sun and sand sans The Walking Dead.
Addendum…when I read the blog draft out loud to the gang, the apologizing boy reminded me that something called “Hannibal” comes on later this week. Lord, help us all…..