August 2, 2016: Apocalypse Now!

WE INTERRUPT THIS COLUMN FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: THE APOCALYPSE IS COMING, and none of the Presidential candidates—not even THAT one—is the Antichrist. Nonetheless, it’s on its way, and this man, the Common Tater, knoweth both the day and the hour: Saturday, August 6, from 10am to 6pm in Cynthiana, Kentucky, 22 miles northeast of Lexington on KY 353. HEARKEN UNTO THE SOUND OF MY VOICE, YE READERS. 

I had wanted to wind up my gun control essays with the story of my old grandma and the time she lost a fight with her front door and a .32 Smith & Wesson double-action revolver, but I guess that’ll keep till next week. After all, it’s kept for forty-odd years already. For the present I have a story to tell about my work abode of nearly every weekend, Cynthiana, home of 3M’s Post-It Plant; the Kentucky’s Best Cigarette Factory; the E. D. Bullard company that makes industrial strength hard hats; a great many tobacco and horse farms; Harrison Memorial Hospital (finest rural healthcare gig I ever worked, too: quality patient care, a Board of Directors and Management attuned to the needs of working professionals, and best of all, no blatant eastern Kentucky-style nepotism); and, as I found out only recently, the genuine birthplace of the pop cultural phenomenon known as The Walking Dead. 

That’s right. The Walking Dead. And the whole thing got its start in, of all places, the Bluegrass State. Tony Moore, the original artist of The Walking Dead in its pre-American Movie Classics Network days as a comic book series, happens to be a native of Cynthiana, and he set the beginning of the great and notable Day of the Zombie Apocalypse in Room 251 of the very hospital that graces his dear old home town—and where I work. Even Moore’s sketches of the outside of the hospital building and the grounds in the comic’s first issue are true to real life. And so this coming Saturday the city of Cynthiana, in conjunction with Harrison Memorial, will host its very own Walking Dead Festival with the theme of “Where It All Began.” I’ve already heard that every hotel and motel in Lexington, Georgetown, Paris, and Cynthiana itself is booked solid by eager fans of both the comic and the television series. It’s possible that we could see a crowd of as high as ten thousand this weekend, though it’s a daunting prospect to think of the majority of them dolled up like rotting corpses for their tour of the fateful Room 251 at the hospital and through the rest of the city. I have to admit to my own particular dread at the possibility of hundreds of cases of heat exhaustion, along with the aftereffects of however many impromptu fights between avid fans, flooding our Emergency Room, and the idea of seeing teeth marks on scalps is—well, let’s just say if that occurs it’ll really put us hospital workers in the genuine spirit of the thing. Especially if some joker gets too far into his roleplaying and decides he wants to try out the flavors of OUR brains. But I’ve already told you in a previous column: the essence of life in any hospital is its unceasing and consistent absurdity, so I’m ready to ride along with a big smile. For one Saturday, at least. 

Should the city of Cynthiana be this eagerly supportive of an artist who has so deftly exploited his own hometown to begin the tale of a science fictional world disaster? Well, why not? After all, no publicity is bad publicity and if Samuel Johnson was correct, anyone who writes for any other reason than money is a fool. I myself cherish my tiny royalty payments and even the little dab that the good folk of Around Town pay me for Commontatering. By Johnson’s definition, Tony Moore and his original partner in the Walking Dead venture, Madison County native Robert Kirkman, are thus as eligible for a place in Kentucky’s literary pantheon as Jesse Stuart and Robert Penn Warren. Besides that, I prefer out-and-out over-the-top sci-fi to a great deal of the fiction-posing-as-fact scribblings I’ve seen lately from from so many Appalachian, including Kentucky, authors. A. J. Offutt always could write better than that son of his anyway. I think Moore and Kirkman have done great by themselves. So if you’re into the story line of The Walking Dead, this weekend hit the Parkway, set the GPS, and enjoy. Fresh apples in Paintsville the first weekend of October, fresh brains in Cynthiana the first weekend of August. What could be better? Come on down!

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