This is not quite what I think of when I think of a commuter vehicle. No, it’s not, but it’s way cooler than a Prius. Totally. It’s the end of the world… or at least it feels like it. The word apocalypse comes up frequently in conversation. Whether because of global politics, environmental issues, or economic uncertainty, America is haunted by the idea of its own demise. But there are some people who relish the idea. A national movement of dystopian events is cropping up, where Mad Max enthusiasts play out the fall of man… or what comes after. The biggest? Wasteland Weekend, an annual event in the California desert that draws thousands of people from all over the world. But new post-apocalyptic parties are popping up across the country for those who never want Wasteland to end. Ares hasn’t just wastelanded her clothes, she’s wastelanded her life. Three years ago, she moved out to the middle of the desert to a home with no address with her husband Spud, whom she met and married at Wasteland Weekend. Where am I? Where is this place? You are at Little Chaos on the Prairie. Little Chaos on the Prairie. Which is my happy little home. I broke Malibu Barbie. Yeah. Malibu Barbie? I married Malibu Barbie and then brought her out here and broke her. You used to be… …super Barbie doll with curly brown beach girl hair. And like, I talked about shoes a lot. Like, oh my god. He makes fun of me for it, perpetually. There’s nothing wrong with being Malibu Barbie, but Ares is clearly happy she traded in pink party dresses for combat boots. Can you tell me about what Wastelanders are? Wastelanders are a surprising mix of individuals. You have the crew that are like Spud and myself, that they live off-grid, you have people that work HR. It’s that mindset of, “Who would I want to be at the end of the world?” You can be the best version of yourself. You can be somebody entirely different. When the world ends, you can reinvent yourself, and that’s exactly what Ares and her husband Spud have done. They’ve become the people they’ve always wanted to be. Would you say you created a utopia here? I have definitely created a utopia. To move out to the middle of nowhere, so that I wasn’t ever beholden to anybody except for Ares. Whatever she needs, I give that woman. I love her to pieces. I will do anything for her. Without any hesitation. At all. Does it ever feel lonely? Not really. I’ve gotten very good at keeping in touch with my friends. And my girlfriends are all pretty good about keeping in touch so… Ares’s friends aren’t your average girls next door. Beans, Bam Bam and Sunshine. They met years ago at Wasteland Weekend and take every excuse to get together, work on Wasteland clothes and have a drink. So what does it mean to wasteland something out? Think of it, if recycling was a sport, it’s ultimate recycling. You find something, and instead of throwing it away, you make it into something else. How much of this stuff do you wear on a day to day basis? She wears a lot of it all the time. I do. I always manage to find a little bit of my Wasteland gear to throw into an outfit. For these ladies, the end of the world didn’t end. I wanted to experience the end of the world for myself. I’m in Alabama. Want to party post-apocalyptic style. Middle of nowhere seems like as good as place as any. Huh. Hey, you want to do something fun? Aftermath is kicking off at a family farm. Rather than a Mad Max metropolis, this is more like a family reunion… at the end of the world. An unofficial offshoot of Wasteland Weekend, Aftermath was started by friends hoping to live out the end of days a bit closer to home. And while it seems more organized than the anarchy I was expecting, the event is drawing scores of people, some of whom drove 15 hours to be here. Aftermath is a full immersion event. Which means, the point is to feel like you’re in another world. Within post-apocalyptic communities, there are three rules– no politics, no religion, and you have to dress up. Enter Larry, the unofficial Aftermath fashion designer. So you know how to make things, I’ve heard this term like, ”wastelanding” things. Basically what wastelanding is, is when you take a lot of junk and make it wearable and make it look good. So the shoulder pads are a hard hat I cut in half, go kart tires, steel breastplate, chains, the whole nine yards. What if I want this umbrella wastelanded? I can smear paint all over it and make it look appropriately distressed. Go ahead and open it for me. Alright. You know I’ll tell you what we’re going to do… …just to go ahead and get rid of some things. This is fine right? Ok, like… I paid $3.99 for this! Oh man, now I do feel bad. This will help me survive the nuclear storm? Oh no, you’re hit, you’re done. I’m done with this? You’re going to die. I have my outfit, but in order to fit in at the end of the world, there’s one more thing I need to finish my look: makeup. Sora? Hi! I was told that you are the beauty queen. Do you think you can help me out with this? I can totally help you out. Well I’m really wanting to tease your hair out, make it kind of big— Great. It’s already a little big but I can go bigger. Throw some grass and dirt in there. Grass and dirt. Yeah, yeah. So we’ll start with that. For a gathering based on the apocalypse, an idea that’s so rooted in religious lore and political anxiety, to exclude the two things that the apocalypse is most often connected with feels incredibly ironic. But maybe that’s part of the draw. I don’t want to say this because I haven’t seen everyone here yet but I might be the only woman of color here. Why do you think that is? Well I feel like a lot of the people that we draw to our community are part of your local punk rock scene, and that’s kinda caucasian too for the most part, I guess. We certainly don’t mean to be that way. All are welcome here. Seriously, we would never turn anyone away. I know from Facebook that not all of Sora’s friends at Aftermath share her politics. Imagining a situation where people with radically opposing viewpoints hang out together is hard for me. But, it’s happening here. Without the constraints of society, this is a safe place to experiment, meet people, and try something new. Got to listen some of the old world tunes, keep us going in these dark days. So Wastelanding is all about immersing yourself all the way and part of immersing yourself all the way I guess is camping, something I really, really despise, but in the spirit of community I will set up my tent. Here we go. What’s this thing? It keeps your rain fly up. The what? I made a home! Now I need a drink. I don’t know how I’d fare if the world were to end tomorrow, but these guys seem to have it figured out. A doomsday plan, fast friends and the best way to escape? A stiff drink. Even I know that. Would you like a refill miss? I would like something, yeah! I brought my cup. It seems like wastelandering happens after the sun goes down, like this is when the good stuff happens… Yeah unless you ask Charlie. He’s been hammering making stuff on his
anvil making shit all day. Can I make a toast? Bad decisions! To bad decisions! Yeah! It’s easy to be disillusioned by the state of the world. Though there’s a certain kind of relief that comes from leaving it behind, and just dancing and drinking with friends who get you. Why not celebrate being alive? After a long night, I’m going to take advantage of my tent. Good Morning… kind of. It’s the end of Aftermath. I’m not sure what happens after Aftermath. It’s 9:30AM. And to my surprise, almost everyone is gone. Someone needs to get me coffee. The impending doom that I’m feeling could be that I’m alone and it’s time to pack, or let’s be honest… a gnarly hangover from that green stuff I was drinking last night. Good morning! How are you doing? Oh, you know. I feel great considering. Your hair is still kinda big! How does it feel to be going back to pre-apocalypse? So we call this the come down. It’s literally like a come down, you know? Because you get high being around all these people that you love all weekend. And then you got to go back to the real world. How are you feeling Larry? I don’t think any of us wants the weekend to end. What does real, real life mean to you guys? What does it look like to you? From here? Boring. No debauchery. Sadness. Delusion. Post-apocalyptic life, is it a utopia or a dystopia? That’s all a matter of opinion, I guess. It’s my utopia. Might be your dystopia. Post-apocalyptic events are more than a great party, they’re a lesson in community. Surviving the end of the world means surviving together. No one can make it alone. If these guys are right, when the world ends, value won’t be measured in dollars. Things that are dirty, destroyed and discarded will find new life and purpose. And maybe, so can people.