During holiday season I've learned to feel content with all that's in my life, no matter the true score. How can I not, when my plate is full while millions of people around the world are starving and dying, even as my existence continues on its merry way. But after witnessing the string of apocalyptic changes over the past few years (including electing Bush), I've strangely decided that I do need a few material things to aid in my struggle to stay alive, no matter how hard the times. In other words, my soul may resonate in universal oneness till the end of time, but my mortal coil needs its ass looked after when the power goes down and panic sets in. (Talk to my brother, who weathered Katrina in the French Quarter. He'll tell you how social order can break down over a candy bar.)
Here's a basic roundup of what's needed in my rucksack and pup tent just to give me a fighting change after 1) a hurricane or other natural disaster, 2) a terrorist attack, 3) a flu pandemic or 4) any Bush-incited George or Jeb funny business.
GENERATOR AND BACKUP FUEL. I'll need horsepower to run a refrigerator, lights, fans and the TV set, as I curse my electric company over and over again. Consumer Reports steers me to the 18-horsepower Briggs & Stratton Elite Series 09801 ($1,900). It weighs in heavy at 282 pounds, so I'll need manpower to move around the horsepower. Can be fitted to run either propane or gasoline for fuel. (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/safety-security/generators-1103/ratings/ratings.htm)
PROPANE STOVE AND COOKWEAR. Coleman is the king of outdoor cooking stoves and the right kind of pots and pans needed to scramble the eggs and grill the squirrels, or boil up the nuts and berries. There are tons of models and varieties to choose from, but not to be forgotten is the Stainless Steel 12-Cup Coffee Percolator ($28). Just load up that baby with fresh ground beans and pop on the 'pane. Make sure that the properly stocked emergency food pantry (detailed recommendations at www.fema.gov/library/emfdwtr.shtm) is filled to the brim with Starbucks Verona coffee beans and cream of the vacuum-packed variety. Everyone needs something to look forward to at the start of a day. (www.coleman.com, www.starbucks.com)
FIREMAKING ESSENTIALS. There are all kinds of ways that people claim to be able to spark a fire, including a crazy method using a Coke can and chocolate bar (www.trackertrail.com/survival/fire/cokeandchocolatebar). My recollections of a summer at Girl Scout camp remind me how I was cheated out of fire play, learning only how to sew up a sit-upon and how to take a smile out of my pocket and put it on my face. But I want to learn how to execute even in the rainy dark the ultimate outsider flint/steel/char/tinder/wood process that every Boy Scout learns. So send me an experienced one to run over the basics with me till I've got them down. No need to worry then about cold, lonely nights.
FLASHLIGHTS. Stock up on big ones, medium ones and little ones all shapes and sizes and colors. Save up several sets of replacement batteries to be on the safe side. You can never have enough drama-enhancing flashlights for extemporaneous storytelling and interrogation times.
WATER PURIFIER. The First Need Base Camp Water Purifier can be special-ordered and touts itself as "the only large capacity portable water filter that is certified to meet federal E.P.A. standards for chemical-free microbiological purification of cysts (such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium), bacteria and viruses!" Whatever won't be running through my water won't be running through me. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this crappy department. ($549.95; www.basegear.com/firstneedbase.html)
AM/FM TRANSISTOR PORTABLE BATTERY RADIO. Remember how, after Sept. 11, this was the low-tech but in-demand communication device because allegedly the terrorists couldn't jam the airwaves? This model sold by the Homeland Preparedness website is described for its usefulness: "Don't walk right into danger's path … keep in the car or home to find out more about the situation in your area." ($8.49, www.homelandpreparedness.com)
SHARP TOOLS. This is not a one-for-all shopping category. There are three specialized requirements. First needed, a top-of-the-line Leatherman Super Tool 200 ($79.95; www.backcountry.com) fitted with a saw, a serrated knife blade, a wire stripper, a can opener and a bottle opener in addition to the typical pliers/screwdriver/scissors stuff. Also needed: a machete. The CS97KMS Cold Steel Kukri Machete fitted with a sheath made by Cold Steel Inc. ($14.95, www.knifecenter.com) seems to get a good rap as a workhorse tool "guaranteed to bite deep with every stroke." And finally, a knife; I want a designer one, as this is as close to jewelry as you can flash in emergency times. The Christian Wimpff-designed Limited Edition Manta has a handle made from titanium with a "manta-skinray" inlay and a black pearl. Only 250 will exist in the world. ($400; www.heinnie.com)
FIRST-AID KIT. In addition to all the remedies for common boo-boos plus homeopathic basics, I'll need respiratory masks to filter out the filth ($9.95 for reusable cold, flu and allergy masks that come in frog, fish, skulls, roses and other bright patterns; www.breathehealthy.net). I'll have to pal around with someone who can write 'scripts to acquire much-needed antibiotics, anti-viral injections and lots of codeine (one of the best anti-diarrhea medication around). I may have to suffer, but there's no reason to be in pain.
.410 SHOTGUN. The extent of my experience with guns was going out with my dad in the fields of Nebraska and shooting cans during pheasant season. (He wasn't much for bloodshed.) He had a .410-gauge shotgun that didn't knock me to the ground, as opposed to the 12-gauge that my brothers fought over. Come to find years later that the .410 is still the recommended weapon of choice for women, and Saiga has a scary version that is an adaptation of the Kalashnikov-designed AK-47 that can "fire .410 Magnum shot shells, has a semi-automatic action, and comes with two magazines." It's like having the comfort of dad only an arm's reach away. ($270; www.keepshooting.com/firearms/shotguns/saiga410.htm)
STEEL-TOED BOOTS. I learned something from my mom too always wear comfortable shoes. Do I always heed her advice? No, but if the world is falling apart, god forbid I irritate my bunions or break some toes. Is it too much to ask for something stylish that feels good but wears like armor? Prayer answered: Doc Martens, 2295 series, size 8/12 wide, color "gaucho volcano." ($123.95; www.zappos.com)email@example.com
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