Well, it’s finally happened. Zombies are eating our brains.
They’re not scooping ’em out and shoving them down open maws like they do in the movies. But they might as well: If your brain is like mine, then it’s been pretty much taken over by the idea of the living dead. I mean, it’s been two weeks since the season finale of AMC’s Walking Dead—a show that I don’t even think is all that awesome, to be honest—and still not a single day has gone by that I haven’t wondered to myself at some point: Where will I go if/when zombies take over Philly?
I’ve begun seeing the city through different eyes: Homes I once coveted for their floor-to-ceiling windows don’t look so awesome anymore. Same with my own sweet little apartment—too many doors. The Free Library has too many entrances; same, alas, with Ikea, which would otherwise be perfect. But that second-floor Superfresh in No Libs? That’s genius. We could stay there for months. This is how I take in architecture now: How zombie-friendly is it? Eastern State Penitentiary has a whole new appeal as a long-term residence. Same with the Moshulu.
This is actually not as unpleasant a stream of thought as it may sound. If it was, zombies wouldn’t be enjoying so much spotlight right now, or taking up such a large part of our collective consciousness in culture. When I pressed colleagues for more safe zone ideas, I could tell that most everybody I asked had already put some thought into this issue themselves. The ideas came flying at me: “The zoo! Lots of food and guns. And self-defense bears.” “The Zoo Balloon.” “23rd Street Armory, silly.” “The observation deck at City Hall.” One co-worker suggested North Bowl, but I think Lucky Strike would be better—there’s just the one door, and three whole levels to spread out on.
It has already been noted many times over that this modern zombie obsession—and all of the other apocalyptic-themed entertainment out there—is really just a reflection of our less-than-chipper mood about the immediate future. (Can anyone blame us? If Rick Santorum making a serious run for president isn’t a sign of impending End Times, what is?) It might be true: Maybe we just can’t stop ourselves from imaging just how bad things could get around here. But unlike the unyielding horror of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, or the slow, agonizing foreboding of Jeff Nichols’s Take Shelter, the zombie genre just has a certain je ne sais quoi, an almost glam sort of Hollywood appeal that’s a whole bunch more fun to contemplate than, say, a nuclear winter or a deadly solar flare. Zombies bring some much-needed levity to the whole doomsday obsession. Just look at Shaun of the Dead.
It was, in fact, after seeing an unending stream of movies like Shaun of the Dead (and Day After Tomorrow and 2012 and 28 Days Later) that a good friend of mine began making a game out of choosing “apocalypse buddies” from our little social group—people with whom to form alliances should something like Zombie attacks materialize. My husband, an accomplished camper, is always a popular pick for his fire-making and water-purifying abilities; another pal who bakes her own bread and whips her own butter is an obvious choice. I try to make the case that my naturally cheery outlook would come in handy, but only rarely does my skill-set seem to translate into a real draw in a zombie sort of situation. I actually worry about this.
Then again, if I have the biggest list of Philly Safe Zones when it comes to zombies, that’s got to be worth something. Right?