Monthly Archives: February 2012

Chapter 4 -Belt Fed Revolution

Gasoline and the ability to travel didn’t effect me as much as it did most people. I didn’t have a lot of friends or relatives that I needed to visit and most of my interests could be done online, but eventually we all felt the pinch and even surfing the internet had to be limited.

Seems like a pretty reasonable idea but it was one most people had a lot of trouble accepting. If it was daytime, you didn’t really need to have lights on to do most things yet people who could barely afford to feed themselves weren’t too bothered leaving lights on all day or keeping their desktops going round the clock.

I’d like to say that I saw all these changes coming and was the prophet that lead my small band of people through the hard times, but that’d be a straight up lie. I saw the changes sure enough and did what I could to prepare for them, cutting the excesses (as few as they were) out of my budget. I gave up on tv since I could provide my own entertainment most times, living by a quote from Anne Herbert that says “libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through  times of no libraries”.

This was one of the things that ticked me off the most about American society. My local library had dvd’s and internet access which was what most people came for. Their actual supply of books probably wouldn’t have filled my small garage, which couldn’t even accommodate a subcompact car.

The things I spent money on that weren’t absolute necessities were things like a solar charger for my e-reader and books and manuals to fill it. I can’t claim that I was a survivalist and spent every spare moment making snares and walking through the woods without leaving footprints or making a noise, but I could–and did–read. I devoured everything I could about bushcraft, weapons and tactics, gardening and identifying edible plants.

Folks have asked me in the days since the United States became an entirely failed enterprise that sent us all scurrying for cover, how it was I managed to survive. Truth is there’s nothing special about me. My gods didn’t endow me with any special powers. I can’t see in the dark and as best I know I can’t fly. And if what I hear from my body is to be believed, I can experience pain.

If anything set me apart from the other survivors –and from those that didn’t — it had to be my grandfather. From an early age I went hunting and fishing with my grandfather and learned to appreciate and respect nature. One of my earliest memories is shooting one of his rifles at a public range. I only had my grandfather for 6 years before cancer took him, but apparently those years helped form everything I would become.

I had a natural affinity for the bow, though unlike others in my family I tended to prefer recurve and long bows instead of compounds. I was an instinctive shooter and early on I discovered I knew before my arrows landed whether or not my aim had been true. Something similar occurred with the guns. While I wasn’t quite an instinctive shooter with a hand gun or rifle, I knew as soon as I pulled the trigger if my shot was good.

I learned how to be accurate with pretty much anything that launched a projectile. Atlatl’s, slingshots, blow guns, even the good old sling–though I wouldn’t have bet my life or my dinner on its use.

During the high times I had stocked up on ammunition; enough to see me through a crisis–I thought–or enough that I could defend my home in case of a bug in scenario.

As money got tighter I stuck to shooting mostly .22’s since I hadn’t thought ahead to buy reloading equipment. I always figured I could rely on my arrows and slingshot to hunt with if the worst came to pass. I was deadly accurate with a slingshot up to about 35 feet, and if I pushed it I might be able to take a deer at 75 yards with the bow if the cover wasn’t too dense.

So I practiced. I practiced shooting on the move and on the wing. I went to a little undeveloped wooded area near my house and built shelters and would spend the night in them to see what I would need to make myself the most comfortable. I learned how to make a fire with a bow drill and a few alternate means and probably most importantly, I ate the plants I was able to identify. And yes, I practiced making snares to catch the rabbits that ruled the evening and pre dawn hours of my neighborhood.

I heard a lot from tv shows about end times “prepper” families that thought they were prepared for everything.  I could only shake my head and wish them the best. I knew there was no way to be prepared for every eventuality, just ways to make it through to the next day.

Unfortunately, even with all this I was still overweight and pushing 40. I was strong, but carrying too much excess gut that my day job wasn’t helping with and between reading and practicing my bushcraft I just never found time to get in shape and I was paying for it.

Most days I walked with a limp that got worse because my job had me sitting down all day and I developed back problems. Because of this I began to modify my ruck so that Iwas carrying only the essentials. this meant that if I had to bug out, I was going to have to leave most of my guns and the ammo for them behind.

Chapter 3 -Belt Fed Revolution

The burning of Greece touched off a powder keg. People across Europe, disillusioned by the eurozone’s decision to bail out the Greeks took to the streets to protest. Even in countries where protest was usually  pretty orderly, things quickly got out of hand.

In Germany a group angered by the Greeks financial mismanagement and  their own  country’s decision to throw more money at the problem gathered outside a restaurant selling Greek food. The owner was beaten and the restaurant burned. It was later reported that the owner was an Austrian man whose closest association to Greece had been taking a holiday in Italy. The fires and rioting continued for a week. German security forces briefly gained the upper hand before some members of the police decided they agreed with the protesters and joined in the fray against their former compatriots.

England was even worse. English citizens described by the UK press as those that lived “on the dole” became enraged when the Prime Minister announced that due to the Greek governments failure the United Kingdom was going to be bringing strict austerity measures before the Parliament. Of course the first group that was told to tighten their belts were those very same poor folks who depended on their government for their subsistence. Instead of random beatings and arsons, the riots quickly took on a racial aspect. Many of the rioters had somehow decided that the problem wasn’t the Greeks, but rather the Muslims who had come to Britain in large numbers over the past few years.  Due in part to Britain’s involvement in Iraq, Muslims of all stripes quickly became an acceptable outlet for people’s rage.

Since guns had been banned in the UK for some time, the few illegal guns present were not much of an issue during the UK riots. Instead the mob chose regular kitchen knives, garden tools and when push came to shove, branches ripped from trees.

Things were slower to spread in the U.S. We sat by watching on tv or online the things these countries normally see coming from our inner cities. The German riots were probably the most shocking to Americans as the American public had built in its collective consciousness a picture of Germany as a bunch of quite, reserved engineers who lived their lives by checks with calipers and a slide rule.

People often refer what happened in America with the fallacious analogy of the frog in a pot of water that is slow set to boil to describe what took place here. Not only is that analogy false, Americans were much more like lobsters, screaming all the way to their deaths.

People grumbled when gas hit $4.00 a gallon. When it hit $9.00 and people couldn’t afford to drive to their minimum wage jobs, that’s when we started seeing robberies at gas pumps nationwide(other than the one that we all agreed to go along with)  and murders quickly following after.

Michigan was a particularly interesting place to be during this period. As a “shall issue” state, hundreds of thousands of Michiganders had been granted the ability to carry concealed pistols and according to state laws (or rather the absence of specific wording) open carry was also allowed. People with a criminal mindset were a little more likely to be extremely cautious approaching anyone at a gas station and legitimate customers at gas stations tended to be spooked by anyone approaching them as they gassed up.

While the state rushed to close the hole in the law that permitted open carry so they would benefit from the fees gained from issuing concealed carry permits, gas stations quickly became mini war zones. Criminals would often try to rush people at pumps in numbers, so that even if the law-abiding customer had a permit to carry they would be overwhelmed before they could engage their attackers.People that couldn’t afford handguns or the permits to carry them resorted to the cheaper and usually more effective shotguns and the occasional rifle.

I usually avoided the local news, but I couldn’t help laughing at one story that involved a 74-year-old woman taking care of her wheelchair bound husband who stopped to put a few gallons of gas in their aging van. As she stood next to the van she saw three young men make a bee line for her, one of them with a pistol in hand.  Without bothering to hang up the pump, she stepped around the filler hose and produced an AK-47 and begin to bump fire it at her would be attackers, killing one and injuring another while the third fled before the first rounds were fired.

Things eventually became so bad, I think it must  have been when gas was pushing the $11 a gallon point, that those few gas stations  still open hired an armed guard to check out potential customers before they even neared the pumps. Of course at that point there weren’t too many people trying to buy gas anyway.

Chapter 2 -Belt Fed Revolution

Just before my 18th birthday the news was all aflame with talk of war. The president was sending troops to liberate Kuwait from the evil Iraqi’s. To me this sounded like a chance to enact a change of scenery. With the idea of no longer being homeless making me all giddy, I joined the Marines.

I suppose a lot of folks would tell you how they were big gung-ho Marines, leading the pack, destroying everything in their path and bitch-slapping their drill instructor for having the nerve to try to tell them how to operate an obstacle. Me, I just listened to what I was told and pushed myself to the point of physical breakdown and stayed as close to the middle of the pack as I could.

My glorious military career was short-lived. As expected, I got shipped out to replace forces already on the ground in Saudi. I won’t lie and say this resembled in any way the later conflicts taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan.  By comparison there was no war here. Enemy troops were surrendering to camera crews. Most of these troops didn’t have shoes, let alone rifles.

My personal war came to an abrupt end after about six weeks in country, when I crossed paths with an errant HMMWV  and ended up with a shattered knee. Uncle Sam sent me home to recuperate in a civilian facility.

After I healed up I walked with a pretty noticeable limp for a while. The limp was noticeable enough that I was examined by the Medical Evaluation Board and separated with haste from the military without benefits.

Things at home weren’t much better than when I left. I returned to Michigan and set about trying to make a life. I didn’t really have any useful skills that I could market –since few employers needed a guy to do push ups or field strip and clean rifles–so I got by as best I could by working odd jobs, usually for minimum wage.

Americans were all supposed to have great jobs. If you weren’t the head of a business, you were at least a worker in some aspect of manufacturing with a union to protect you and ensure your wages. Doing things like picking crops and scavenging for scrap metal was beneath the dignity of the American worker.

Since our latest leader (and the one before him;there’s plenty of blame to go around) managed to steer our economy in a bridge abutment even minimum wage jobs were something to be prized and held on to. Luckily I had plenty of practice being poor long before the current fiasco caused so many people to lose their jobs and homes.

Life wasn’t all hardscrabble and toil though. I entered the great machine by accruing debt for a house and later on college loans. Turns out I’m fairly intelligent. I ended up with a master’s degree in social work. I know, it sounds pretty soft compared to where I had been. And sure, working in an office is a soft life, a life that breeds complacency. I began working for the state of Michigan as a social worker, in my own way still living off the government teat, but doing what I could to make life more tolerable for those that most needed it, seniors and kids.I couldn’t ever feel sorry for someone for being poor. I could feel sorry for people who were taken advantage of and had little in the way of defense.

As things continued to worsen around the U.S. and the rest of the world, I thought I was pretty lucky. I had a job that provided reasonable stability–after all, people were always going to need help–and my hobbies didn’t cost me so much that I was living beyond my means. However, I was like many other people in that I was living right on the edge. I didn’t have a lot of excesses to weigh me down, but I did have a house and student loans that I would be repaying for a few years yet to come.

For me the end began in Greece. Greece had been hoping for their own bailout by the European Union, a chance to get on board with the Euro and stabilize their economy. I recall reading at one point that something like 21 percent of Greeks were unemployed and nearly half of all Greek businesses had shut their doors.

Then Greece began to burn.

Chapter 1-Belt Fed Revolution

After the last time I knew I would never be homeless again. Of course, over the years my idea of homeless changed into what it is today. That old saying “where ever I hang my hat is home”? That’s me now.

I used to think that home had to involve things like walls, pre-constructed of drywall or plaster and lathe. Maybe a roof thrown in for good measure, some source of heat and water that were in some way integral to the house. Crazy stuff. I imagine a lot of people had the same idea before the bankers managed to ride the economy off its balding tires onto the rims.

The first time I was homeless I was 16. I look back on it now almost fondly, living in a car, getting free food from various social programs. Living in that old Ford with my mother changed a lot of my ideas about what makes a home.

I realized that with homelessness comes some interesting changes, especially in the way people regard you. It was also the point when I learned to stop looking people in the eye. Folks, it turns out, don’t like it when a predator stares them down. People don’t know how to regard you when you tell them you’re homeless. At least they didn’t back when I was homeless, back before it became more of a default setting.

The thing that really bothered me back then was my family. My family had never been what you would call well-off, but all of them had homes and jobs. This was in the days of prosperity, before the Invasion of Kuwait. Family was willing to help, so long as it didn’t put them out too much. We could sleep on the floor–poor relations that we were–take a shower,and occasionally use the washer and dryer. We just couldn’t stay more than a couple of nights in a row.

Mom traded our Toyota corolla for a Ford LTD and some cash. Sure it got terrible mileage and was one of the dinosaurs that showed Detroit’s unwillingness to acknowledge that the gasoline supply was dwindling, but for us the car was a crushed velour covered palace.

We bounced around from the church people who would to take us in,and sleeping on the floor at my aunt’s house, but most often sleeping in parking lots of truck stops. As long as you can move your car every day, truck stops tend not to care if you’re there.  Truck stops as it turns out are also decent places for people like me to hang out. From the relative safety of the Ford, I could watch people without them being aware of my presence. Sure, they knew they were more or less in public and tended to act as such, but it was still handy for me as it taught me how people interacted.

Interacting with humans had always been a problem for me. Anyone with a sliver of self-awareness usually knew that I wasn’t “quite right”. I can’t say that people knew I was a predator, or even that they knew they were in danger if I was near them, but there was always a certain holding of tension that people displayed when I was around.

I distracted myself by doing everything I knew how to appear normal. Being a teenager I had an interest in cars, something I was aware people considered normal behavior. It was also a good way to drive people off since I appeared to have a one track mind. My reality was far different, but if it kept people from being tipped off, then it was worth it to play the game.