A theater marquee in Austin, Texas, ponders the latest apocalyptic trend. (Jay Janner / Associated…)
Today is the last day on Earth. Then again, if you're reading this, maybe not.
Doomsday, predicted by Mayan cycle adherents for Dec. 21, didn't come after all. Well, not yet anyway. Depending on when you picked up this story, there may be hours to go.
But if you're still with me, civilization as we know it hasn't collapsed and Los Angeles is still standing. This is good news, especially for me. Imagine my frustration on awakening to find that, instead of lolling on the beach, I was grinding out a column as the wandering planet Nibiru/ tsunami/ hyperinflation was fast approaching.
You might think members of the Los Angeles Based Survival Community, who have been stockpiling food and supplies in anticipation of this day since June, would be feeling a twinge of regret. Especially with the guff they took for staying in L.A., by general consensus the worst place on Earth to wait out the apocalypse, zombie or otherwise.
But apparently not. There's always another cataclysm around the corner, the group's organizer told me.
"It might be something incredibly different: a supervolcano eruption or even a major earthquake," he said.
The organizer, Tony, is a security consultant and private eye with a military background. He asked me to keep his full name, location and other identifiers out of this column. He doesn't want to tempt the masses.
"Within days people determined to feed their family — your neighbors — will come knocking on your door asking for help," Tony said. "It won't be your TV set they want, it will be your food. Some of them aren't going to be nice about it."
I visited Tony's home, and I can vouch it would be the place to be if we run out of food. A flesh-colored stucco house in the San Fernando Valley, it's several doors down from a looming freeway overpass.
Two trailers are parked at the curb — getaway vehicles to the group's "bugout" locations and temporary homes upon arrival. An old U-haul truck in the driveway is stuffed with food and supplies: water filtration devices, gas masks, sleeping bags and tents.
In the kitchen and spilling into the living room are racks of food, including soy milk ("lasts almost a year"), canned chicken, mac and cheese and an alarming quantity of mayonnaise. The chickens out back are being kept for eggs. Buckets of dehydrated meals labeled "2,100 calories," 400-pound bags of pinto beans, flour and rice, 500-pound bags of salt and a carton with thousands of vegetable seeds also crowd the house.
A row of barbecue sauce jars takes up one shelf. "We want to make sure food tastes good, with the different wildlife we might be eating," Tony explained.
The layout cost Tony thousands of dollars, but he said it's not wasted. With each apocalypse averted, he will eat the old supplies and rotate in new ones.
Tony, who dressed in a Mission College sweat shirt and backward baseball cap, said he never bought the Dec. 21 Mayan end-days prophecy, anyway, and I could tell he was telling the truth. A snowman knocker hung on his front door, and he was part-way through trimming the Christmas tree when I arrived.
But several of the group's 65 "preppers" — the term preferred to "survivalists" — were convinced the end was nigh, he said. Tony found most of the preppers on the Internet and vetted them for useful "skill sets" like carpenter, electrician and doctor. A professional clown didn't make the cut, he said.
When catastrophe hits, the 65 members, their spouses and significant others will be notified, by ham radio if necessary, to gather at one of five secret locations, mostly in the mountains around the L.A. Basin, Tony said.
"Let's say there's a supervolcano, the location is underground," Tony said.
Some of the redoubts are on private property and some are on public land. Preppers in Glendale and Burbank also have their spots mapped out, he doesn't know where; hopefully they won't trip over each other.
Backup hideouts have been chosen in case the primary ones are destroyed. Wells have been dug, and all the shelters have access to fresh water. Pets and farm animals will be transported in collapsible cages, he said.
But if outsiders show up, they will be turned away by the group's "security forces," Tony said. Even if they include children.
"Our group has made it a very key policy that those who have joined are welcome. Those who have not joined and follow us will be rejected at the location," he said. "We don't have the resources to help others."
Tony said he first became concerned about the world ending with Y2K. Although nothing happened then, earthquakes and tsunamis in Haiti and Indonesia and a power outage in Canada convinced him it was just a matter of time.
We weathered those disasters without setting up armed camps, I pointed out. Why not again?
"Once you have massive power outages, you lose the ability to fuel trucks and you can't supply the stores. Then you have no food," he said.