Saturday, October 1, 2016

We Walk into a Bar in Minnesota

“Look what I found!” Amanda exclaimed. She’d discovered a forgotten collection of brain shaped gelatin molds.  

Who wouldn’t be excited by such a discovery? Brain shaped strawberry gelatin might be just the thing to distract a zombie, allowing one to escape having your own brains eaten. Escaping from zombies, killing zombies, making one’s own death by zombie a less gruesome undertaking -- these topics are never far from the mind of customers at Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den, a bar in downtown Minneapolis.

weapons in the Gentlemen's Room, Donny Dirk's Zombie Den, Minneapolis, MN
I should make it clear that Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den is NOT a safe haven for zombies. Rather, it’s for those who seeking safe haven during a zombie apocalypse. Pop culture is fairly saturated these days with all things zombie. The Walking Dead is, by some measures, the most popular show on television. Zombie films are produced at an amazing clip, including (over the last year) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and  Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. There’s even an exercise app (Zombies, Run!) which encourages fitness through zombie phobia. So it isn’t exactly surprising to find a zombie themed bar, but that doesn’t make Donny’s any less delightful.

Donny Dirk's Zombie Den, Minneapolis, MN
The exterior of the bar has nothing that would attract attention, which as just as well. It might attract the attention of the undead if it were too shiny. The interior, on the other hand, has all kinds of grotesque knick knacks and memorabilia. Of course, there is plenty of weaponry available if ghouls come a-knocking, including a chainsaw in a glass case. The Gentlemen’s room has a collection of shanks that also provide ideas for weapons of your own (“Hey, I could whittle my toothbrush into an instrument of death!”)

undead Frank lives at Donny Dirk's Zombie Den, Minneapolis, MN

The music playing wasn’t strictly thematic, though I did hear The Ramones’ “I Want to Be Sedated,” which seemed apt. The TVs played a variety of horror related offerings; I saw the animated British series Duckula (Count Duckula was a recurring character on Danger Mouse who got a series of his own), as well as the adaptation of Stephen King’s It (the scene where the asthmatic boy is attacked by public school shower heads).

The drink specials are, of course, horror themed. I had a Slackjaw, and Mindy had a Dead Russian. The cocktails aren’t cheap, but they have a healthy pour and make use of good liquor  and fresh produce. Our drinks were very tasty, and several other drinks on the menu also looked appealing. On the other hand, the night we were there various Red Bull shots were being promoted; with each purchase, one would be entered in a drawing for tickets to the upcoming Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl, sponsored by Red Bull.

Tammi and Laura Palmer, Donny Dark's Zombie Den, Minneapolis, MN
Because of the unique setting, we decided to ask questions other than our standard two (“What makes for a good bar?” and “Whether you go or not, what might make for a good church?”) Instead we asked, “During a zombie apocalypse, what might be the advantages of going to a bar?” and “What might be the advantages of going to a church?”

Tammi, the bartender who made our drinks, was the first person we asked. She noted the advantages of being in Donny’s: there are double doors at the entrance, which would certainly be helpful for getting people in and keeping zombies out. She noted that with the wide array of weaponry available (including machetes), “this would be one of the safer bars.” She also noted that they have MRE*s available. As for why one might want to go to a church in such a disaster, she said that a church might have “a lot of food if they help the homeless.”

Kelly, another bartender who’d recently relocated to the Twin Cities from Portland, thought Donny’s would be a good place to be if the worst should happen. He said the bar was “probably a safe haven from the streets.” As for the advantages of a church, he noted the possible presence of holy water and crucifixes. We agreed that really, those things are more of a protection from vampires than zombies, but you never know what might come in handy. The architecture of a church might make cathedrals safer than the usual bar. He thought of another advantage, too: “maybe if you have faith, you know, getting together with your peeps.”

Two friends, Evan and Hannah, were sitting at the bar. They told us they attend the University of Northwestern -- St Paul, a Christian college in nearby Roseville. They’re both majoring in Public Relations, and they’d given quite a bit of thought to procedures during a zombie apocalypse.

Evan cited the advantage bars have in having “flammable liquids” available; he felt it would be very useful for fighting zombies with fire. He also mentioned that bars are generally easily fortified, and they’ve got a lifetime supply of booze.

Hannah said, “If you’re doomed, you’re not going to survive, you could get super drunk so that the end wouldn’t be so terrible.”

In the discussion of a church as a zombie shelter, Evan mentioned that some churches have a lot of doors, which isn’t an advantage. Then he said, “My church has underground, easily fortified space” and many churches have a lot of tools.  And, he added, a church building could be turned into a sanctuary from which radio messages could be broadcast.

Hannah said it would be could to be in a “place of comfort in an otherwise uncomfortable state.”

As we talked, Evan said, “If I could choose how God would end the world, it would be with a zombie apocalypse.” We all speculated about whether there was room to interpret the Book of Revelation in such a way. Nothing was determined for certain.

We asked Amanda, the finder of jello molds and a manager, our two questions. As others had, she also noted that Donny Dirk’s was a particularly good place to be if George Romero’s vision should take place, “this building is an old structure, it’s a safe haven. Once the doors are locked, you’re safe.” She noted that though they don’t have a lot of food, they do have food. She also said that people who choose to get real drunk would be zombie bait, which might come in handy. She said she thought bartenders would do well in an apocalypse because they’re used to multitasking in chaotic situations. “You’re able to handle it longer.” She did worry about whether the lack of roof access in the building would be a good or bad thing.

As for a church, she noted it would probably have food and supplies. She thought an “old building is going to hold up,” but she had less confidence in newer structures. And “I feel like churches have  more windows. Stained glass is extremely fragile.”

Then we got talking about the ongoing concern of zombie apocalypse theorists about whether we would be dealing with the slow, lumbering zombies from films such as Night of the Living Dead or the quick zombies in 28 Days Later. And no, we don’t need to be alerted to the fact that we give such things far more thought than they merit.

We thought we were ready to go, but Tammi said there would be a light show at 11:00 pm. That gave me time to ask a couple of guys sitting at the bar, Apollo and Adam, about the relative merits of going to a bar or a church in the face of undead destruction. Apollo advocated (as others had) the advantage of drunkenness in the face of certain death, and he also mentioned the possibility of finding defensive flame in a church.

Adam said that it might be worth going to a bar to get a drink or two to limber up before fighting zombies. Alcohol might provide liquid courage, “but I’d probably just get drunk and die.” He said he hoped he wouldn’t spend time in a bar, but would instead spend time looking for weapons. As for a church, he said it might be a good place to build fortification. “Also, you might find people with a common ethos, so you could work together. But it would probably be fruitless. Same thing in a bar.”

At different times during the evening, I was remembering an October when, as youth leader at a church in Healdsburg, I organised a high school Zombie Night, with undead costumes and games. Kids posted pictures on Facebook, which led to a woman, not from our church, chastising  me for exposing children to the evil of zombies. I responded that we’d used the night to discuss Ephesians 2:1, where Paul writes that we were dead in our sin. Paul seems to be using imagery of the undead to present the new life to be found in the resurrected Christ. The woman didn’t write back.

Oh, did I say the 11:00 light show was awesome? It was. It looked like there were lasers coming out of the eyes of the mounted deer heads. You sure won’t find that at the bar at Applebees.

*Meals Ready to Eat, available for $5.00 behind the bar. Free popcorn was also available.

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