Brains!! Brains!!

An editorial
by Chris Hibbard
The Meliorist

Brains!! Brains!!

A good friend of mine spent last weekend participating in the first-ever Calgary Zombie Walk. Plastering parts of his face with a corn syrup and food colouring mixture to resemble rotting flesh, he popped in a pair of hideous plastic teeth, threw on some ratty old clothes, and joined 400 other Calgarians in shuffling, grunting, and slowly parading from Olympic Plaza throughout the downtown core.

The army of zombies stopped at a mall to shop, startling security guards into locking the doors to prevent more from entering. They disgusted diners at a MacDonald’s, leaving their greasy “bloody” finger streaks all over the window glass. Professional cleaners had to be hired to clean it off later that evening. They made the C-Train ride very uncomfortable for some riders caught unawares. Not even Halloween yet, this Zombie Walk was just something fun to do.

To my surprise, this event was not so uncommon, and actually stems from a new Canadian tradition. Believe it or not, people of all ages are organizing themselves in large groups, dressing to look undead, and making their way around urban centres in a somewhat orderly fashion, often limping and gnawing their way towards their final goal, a local cemetery.

In 2003, one of the first Zombie Walks was held in Toronto with a whole six participants. Two years later, the first widely documented Walk occurred in Vancouver one August, with over 400 participants. Since then, there have been Zombie Walks from New York City to Helsinki, Brisbane to Sao Paulo.
Promoted primarily through word of mouth and online message boards, zombie walks are considered by most participants to be an “underground” activity. Whether the pun is intended or not may be up to you.

Those zombies participating include anyone from executive management to the homeless, basically whoever wants to dress up and shuffle along. This must make for an interesting social atmosphere. All participants are encouraged to remain in character as zombies as much as possible – an over-the-top combination of grunting, screaming, moaning, crying, drooling; arm-raising, leg-dragging, and repeatedly calling out for “Brains! BRAINS!!”

When I learned of my friend’s interesting weekend adventure, I only felt one thing. Pure, unadulterated jealousy. I had spent the weekend in Lethbridge, essentially watching my toenails grow in comparison.

I grew up on horror movies. I wasn’t supposed to watch them, wasn’t supposed to be able to rent them at my age, and certainly wasn’t supposed to enjoy them. But I did. I blame my love of being scared on one weekend I barely remember, spending time with my family at my grandparents house in Victoria, having driven there from Calgary, all five of us in a station wagon. My brother and I had been sent to bed, and after settling into the basement hide-a-bed that we had to share, we sat in the dark, turned on the small T.V. and watched transfixed, absolutely horrified, as Michael Myers chased a babysitting Jamie Lee Curtis around a small town. In my memory, the movie was in black and white, but that may just be time playing tricks on me.

I should say thanks for the memories Grandma, Grandpa. Both of you are gone now, and I’m not sure that you would not entirely pleased that this moment of time at your house, spent while you were asleep upstairs, is one of most the ones that I remember the most, but I loved it. I didn’t know whether to pee my pants, cover my eyes, run away, cry, or scream – so I just sat, glued to the set, wishing Jamie Lee Curtis would not hide in the closet – don’t hide in the closet! – HE’LL GET YOU IN THE CLOSET!!

Since that fateful night almost 20 years ago, I’ve seen ‘em all. I’ve seen killer men, killer kids, killer birds, killer bees, killer sharks, killer worms, killer dogs, killer freaks, killer mutants, killer aliens, killer blobs, killer tomatoes, killer clowns, killer snakes, and even killer yogurt. I’ve seen Evil Dead, Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Dead Alive. I’ve seen vampires and experiments, werewolves and demons, ghosts and poltergeists, goblins and leprechauns. In British films, Canadian films, German films, Chinese films, Mexican films, I’ve seen decapitations and dismemberments from a multicultural perspective.

My personal favorites are those in which there is nothing but the FEAR itself – what you know is there cannot be seen, so how can you fight it? From the worst of the lot (the I Know What You Did Last Summer series) to the best (see page X), I’ve spent a considerable portion of my life immersed in depravity.

Considering that I also love heavy metal music, it makes me wonder writing this how I’ve turned out so well. I’ll likely never be nominated for the Good Influence of the Year Award, but I have no criminal record, have never tortured small animals, and have never even landed a really good punch. I’ve certainly never walked into a crowded place with a gun or a bomb. For a brief period of time I made my own small explosives when I was a teen, but that was just for fireworks, MacGyver-style, but I digress.

I have, on the other hand, developed a vivid imagination, an optimism that is unending – “it can always be worse” – and an ingrained caution when it comes to screwing around with anything supernatural, Ouija boards and the like. I also feel confident that I’d know what to do if a truly extreme situation took place, especially if it involved a psychopath or other malevolent entity. The following rules may also apply to everyday life, kind of like common sense, but it’s truly amazing how many of us are lacking that elusive quality:

First, remain calm, panicking just gets you killed. Second, avoid all the other common mistakes, such as: hiding in a car which you do not have the keys for; leaving weapons out for others to find; giving weapons to hysterical people; taking the elevator; retreating without considering the next move. I could include not letting personal feelings and emotions blind you to your own survival, or that of the group, but that one is fairly debatable.

Oddly enough, when I started writing this editorial, I was going to expound on the “truth” of zombies, that being of an anthropological, religious, and botanical nature, specifically as manifested by the indigenous followers of peoples of Haiti. But if I did that, it would spoil all your fun. I suggest you all Google the work of B.C. native Edmund Wade Davis, an anthropologist and ethnobotanist. Some of his most notable work focused on the observation and analysis of the customs, beliefs, and social relations of indigenous cultures in North and South America, particularly the traditional uses and beliefs associated with plants with psychoactive properties. One of his books was The Serpent and the Rainbow, a fascinating look at the folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, better known of as zombiefication. This book was later adapted (albeit loosely) into a pretty awesome horror movie in itself, starring Bill Pullman.

I also considered somehow tying that ethnobotanical “truth” into another kind of Zombie, that being a computer worm that burrows its way into your computer and sends spam out to all your friends, telling your little sister how she can increase her genital size while at the same time losing weight, working from home, and making a killing at real estate. Come to think of it, while I couldn’t figure out a way to tie all this zombie talk together, I suppose I just did. Where was I ?

Oh yes, Zombie Walks. The cover of this issue is a photo of last weekend’s Zombie Walk in Calgary. If anyone else thinks that dressing up like you just rose from the grave after suffering a painful death from massive head trauma sounds like fun, then you let me know. I think Lethbridge needs a Zombie Walk. Really, what better place than in the heart of the Bible Belt? We have a nice cemetery here and a popular mall. We have a transit system, and a Scenic Drive. The ever-present wind will even help keep us cool. I’m serious about this folks. But I ain’t doing it alone – no zombie is an island. So anyone interested just let me know – the first gallon of corn syrup is on me. But I’m afraid it’ll have to be BYOB. Bring your own brains. Happy Halloween everybody.

~ by Chris Hibbard on October 31, 2008.

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