Monday, October 24, 2011

The Freaks Come Out at Night

In November of 1999, while walking the streets of Cincinnati at two in the morning, I saw a strange sight. About three blocks ahead of us were several dozen people wearing flashing headbands, crazy colored clothes and carrying large boxes. Being the curious person that I am, I ran ahead to see what this group was all about. As I got into the center of the group and was about to start asking questions, one of them reached into his box pulled out a handful of condoms and offered them to me. I was a little thrown off by the gift and wasn't sure what to say. Everyone in the group was carrying these boxes and they were all filled to the top. They had thousands of these contraceptives. In fact, the boxes were so full they were spilling out, leaving a trail behind them so they could later find their way home. I soon learned that I was walking with a gay rights group that was on their way to a local bar. They intended to run in, jump up on the stage with the band and start throwing prophylactics at the patrons. I shook a few hands, excused myself and hurried back to the hotel to share this story with my friends. You don't see something like this everyday.

In January of 2001, I was driving with my family in San Patricio, a suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico. As I rounded a corner I noticed a few dogs standing on the side of the road growling at something across from them. As more of the street became visible, I was able to see that there was a line of dogs, about a dozen, standing side by side. Every dog was up on all fours, hair raised, baring teeth and glaring across the road. My son, Christian, asked what they were growling at, but our view of that side was blocked by a building. I made the decision to continue on my path and drive in front of them, but had everyone roll up the windows. As we crept forward, we were craning our necks to see what had these dogs so upset. Once we cleared the building, it was like a mirror image of the other side of the road. There was a similar number of dogs on the other side, staring back and doing the same thing. Was this some sort of canine street gang that was getting ready to rumble? We drove between the opposing sides and not a single dog broke his gaze from his counterpart across the street. I still don't know if that was a turf war, a fight over some road kill, or if they were going to serve up some doggy dance moves to settle their differences, but I did know that you don't see something like this everyday.

When you see something that unusual, it tends to stick in your memory. This past Saturday night was one of those nights. I was in the historical St. Louis suburb of University City with my daughter, Kirsten, nephews Gage and Isaac, and our neighbor's kids, Manny and Bryan. Delmar Avenue has several blocks of outdoor cafes, the landmark Trivoli theater, unique stores, restaurants and pubs. The sidewalks are filled with students from the nearby university almost every night. However, the locals were caught off guard by the people out that night.

 There were zombies everywhere. Between 400-500 undead were wandering the streets, chasing civilians down to munch on their brains, and wreaking havoc over approximately a four block area. People sitting in outdoor cafes were stunned when a horde of zombies came lumbering down the sidewalk toward them. People driving on the street were rolling up their windows while others were snapping pictures. There were many mixed emotions observed on the faces of the people and children who were witnesses to this event, but one thing I knew. I loved it. This was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. I am a huge fan of horror movies and I like zombies more than vampires, mummies, or werewolves. Despite the screams of their victims, seeing them in real life like this was incredible. You don't see something like this everyday.

Zombie Crossing Guards
Despite the brain-dead appearance of the zombies, they seemed to be very well organized. They did not disrupt traffic, they used crosswalks, and even posed for pictures. One zombie even had a megaphone, yelling "What do we want?" The horde would chant, "BRAINS!" There were zombie families, zombies in wheelchairs, zombie dogs and zombie babies. They were everywhere.

This event, called a Zombie Walk, was actually organized by a few local college students. They set up a Facebook page and asked people to show up in zombie costumes. They gave a time and place and then just sat back to see who showed up. With close to 500 participants, I think they had a good turnout. This kind of event is also called a 'flash mob.' A flash mob is when a bunch of people unexpectedly show up in a common place to perform some unusual event to surprise or entertain bystanders. In this instance, it was dress like a zombie and walk down the street. It definitely served its purpose. People were very confused. Lots of bewildered looks. Just as many smiles and a lot of people pulling out their cameras to document the story that their friends will not believe when they get back home.

High Society Zombie
Back in August, I created a list of things I wanted to do before I die. You can see that list here. One of the things on that list was to participate in a flash mob. I have now done that, so I can mark it off the list.

The kids and myself had a great time and have decided that we will look for more similar events to participate in. The hard part is learning about them. The organizers of flash mobs want to keep them as quiet as possible for the surprise of the people who will witness it, however, they need to publicize it enough to get participants. It is a fine line to walk, but the results are well worth it. Flash mobs have received a lot of criticism, but when put together well, they are of little disruption and people seem to enjoy them.

I learned of this event a few weeks ago and decided to come check it out. There was no charge to participate. We just had to pay for the gas to get there, a meal to eat while on the road, and a little bit of money for costumes. The entire night cost me less than $30 dollars and we had a great time. Next year, we will plan ahead a little more to create better costumes, but do not expect the expense to be any higher.

This guy never broke character
I have included several pictures. You can click on any image to see it in full size and if you would like to see all the pictures that were taken, feel free to visit my Facebook page. The link will take you right to the pictures.
Love the contacts. Really added to the look.

Family of Zombies
Zombies were busting out everywhere
The horde that I brought
Gage had a zombie related accident