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The Camassia Profile with Marlene Cohen – A Camassia Courier Column

This issue’s Profile gives us Ryan and Darius Quinn who introduce us to the world of prepping and survivalism.

The other week, I ran into a friend after dropping off groceries at my dad’s house. She happens to be his neighbor, and we got to talking about how our hobbies and interests have developed and changed during this pandemic. I bemoaned not being able to meet with the people I interview, and she complained good-naturedly about her brother trying to turn her into a survivalist.


I think most of us have heard of doomsday preppers. They’re the strange people who build bunkers under their homes and prepare for the zombie apocalypse.


My friend laughed and dared me to say those words out loud to her brother, which brings us to this edition’s Profile. She volunteered both her elder brothers for me to interview, and I can tell you it wasn’t the easiest! While the outgoing and social Ryan Quinn logged on from his San Francisco home and juggled one of his children and my questions with practiced ease, Darius Quinn didn’t even want to download Zoom. But after some convincing from his sister, my dear friend, I finally got to see the brothers for an online coffee date.


Ryan appeared on the screen with a charming smile and his toddler son bouncing in his lap, and Darius popped up with a frown and a tin mug of coffee, their backgrounds vastly different. Ryan sat in his home office, the wall behind him covered in family pictures and drawings. There were plenty of pictures behind Darius too, but he certainly doesn’t live in a Victorian condo in the middle of San Francisco. You’ll find Darius and his family here in Camassia, up in the woods of Westslope—well, if you can locate his address. He lives remotely for a reason.


By the way, he wasn’t amused when I tried to break the ice with my assessment of doomsday preppers.


“As you can see, Darius is the funny guy in the family,” Ryan said.


“I’d laugh if JJ bit off your finger,” Darius replied dryly, referring to the cute little boy on Ryan’s lap.


Ryan chuckled and kissed the top of his son’s head. The boy was happily occupied, playing with his father’s fingers.


Then Ryan got the ball rolling for us. “So, Elise threw us under the bus and wants us to teach your readers about prepping? I’m not a prepper.”


“Neither am I.” Darius scowled. “I’m a homesteader.”


“She warned me that you’d both get into semantics,” I said, withholding my amusement. “But that’s the gist. I want to write a piece on survival and how to more easily cope in a quarantine.”


Darius shrugged. “I’ve been warnin’ people for twenty years. It’s never until the eleventh hour they’re willing to listen. And by then, it’s too late to prepare. You’ll be one of the panicked hoarders, rushing to the store to buy toilet paper.”


“He’s the charmer of the family too,” Ryan supplied.


I grinned and did my best to hide that Darius unnerved me.


At this point in the interview, someone piped up in the background in Darius’s home, and it changed everything. A man told him to remove the stick up his butt and be nice—though not in such polite words—and Ryan laughed and hollered out a thanks to the man he later referred to as his brother-in-law.


I was thankful too!


“I’m gonna give the survivalist floor to Ryan,” Darius stated. “We both come from a background where we had to be able to act fast, but he’s turned it into his life philosophy.”


I flicked my gaze to Ryan.


He cleared his throat and reached for something, a sippy cup, that he handed to his son. “Getting away from the danger and assessing the risks from a safer distance is my philosophy,” he elaborated. “I mean, sure, our pantry’s full, but it’s nothing we keep an inventory of. Food is the least of one’s concerns in an emergency. With shelter and water, you can survive for a few days, at the very least.” He paused. “I’ve made sure each member of my immediate family has a to-go bag, that’s about it. A backpack with things we need to survive for seventy-two hours. Realistically, I don’t think I need anything else—so long as I have a place to bring my family, which I do.”


I made some notes next to my keyboard.


“Here in California, the most common emergencies would be water shortage, power outages, wildfires, and earthquakes,” Ryan went on. “That’s what our bags are packed for. Quick escapes. Water, batteries, meal bars, first aid, shit like that. And it’s what we used when this pandemic broke out too. We took a few days off work and got out of the city to regroup and put our heads together.” He smirked a little. “We did end up hoarding a fair amount of toilet paper along with all the other schmucks on the way back home.”


Darius snorted. “Of course you did.”


“Difficult to escape from a pandemic,” I agreed.


Ryan nodded. “That’s the type of disaster Darius prepares for. Well—when it comes to survivalist gear and supplies anyway. For us, a fully stocked kitchen won’t get us far if we can’t pay the mortgage, so financial prepping is important too. My bar’s been closed for months, and without savings…” He trailed off with a slight shrug. “But that’s our choice. We wanna live in the city until our children are a little older. Self-reliance will have to wait.”


It shifted the focus to Darius, and I asked him if he and his family were self-reliant up in Westslope.


“Not yet,” he replied. “I’d say we’ll be completely self-reliant within a year.”


“But you have more supplies than just a few seventy-two-hour kits,” I prodded.


He let out a chuckle. “A bit. But unlike Ryan, my plan isn’t to leave—unless I have to. We hunker down. We grow our own crops and make trades with nearby farms. Which…I mean, I get it. It’s not for everyone. It takes a lot of time and effort to build. But on the other hand, we don’t have much to worry about right now. We homeschool our boys, there’s always food, 75% of our electricity comes from our land—solar and water—and it didn’t wreck us financially when I had to close my restaurant temporarily.”


I nodded in understanding and added more notes. “Is that the advice you give to others? To be more self-reliant?”


“Well, yeah.” He furrowed his brow. “I’m not gonna pretend I understand other people’s priorities—or even my own brother’s—but I accept it. So I tell people to do what they can, whether it’s to put away a few bucks for a rainy day or to keep more food and water at home. That’s prepping. Back in the day, it was just common sense, but we’ve grown comfortable in our modern society. We buy what we need right at the moment—or shit we don’t need at all. Even grocery stores do that today. They buy on demand, because nothing else makes sense financially, and it’s partly because we run with wider variety now. When I was a kid, you found one type of ketchup at the store, and now you find at least ten. So the stores buy a little bit of everything, and if something happens, they run out in five minutes. Water, batteries, candles…”


“Toilet paper,” Ryan said with a smirk.


Darius smirked and shook his head. “Our stores ran out of flour and yeast too.”


“Same here,” Ryan laughed. “It’s better now, though. We adapt fairly quickly.”


Thankfully, Darius was on the same page as Ryan there, so he hasn’t lost all hope for humanity. “We always do,” he said. “We’ve survived much worse. We bounce back. Being prepared is just about making that transition period as easy as possible.”


“It’s about thinking ahead,” Ryan agreed.


It was a good time to ask my next question. “So, fellas. If you were to put together a survival kit, what would you say are the ten most important items to keep at home?”


“Depends on the living situation,” Darius said, scratching his nose. “Ryan’s survival kit looks a lot different from mine.”


“Let’s go with urban living,” I said. “With no immediate danger for earthquakes. So…ten items for someone who lives in a city.”


“A ticket outta there,” Darius said.


Ryan and I laughed.


Darius shrugged a little. “You need clean water. There’s no getting around that. You can’t make compromises. So, a seventy-two-hour supply of water—minimum. You can also get a water filter or tablets that purify contaminated water. A solid first aid kit too. A good folding knife.”


“A couple power banks,” Ryan supplied.


“A couple?” Darius grinned. “We have fourteen.”


“Most people aren’t like you, thank fuck,” Ryan chuckled. “So that’s four items. You need a flashlight too—and preferably a lantern that’s solar-powered.”


“And heat,” Darius said. “You burn more calories if you’re cold.”


“Which brings us to food,” Ryan went on. “It’s a minimum of eight hundred calories a day, innit?”


Darius nodded. “Bare minimum. I wanna say twelve hundred, unless it’s only a few days. Meal bars that are high in carbs and energy.”


“Three more items,” I requested, writing it all down.


The men squinted in thought, looking so similar that I’d almost think they were twins.


“I wanna say cash,” Darius said. “A credit card is useless if there’s no power.”


“Do you even own a credit card?” Ryan joked. “I thought your preferred currency was silver and gold.”


Darius scratched his eyebrow with his middle finger.


I shook my head, amused by the two. “Is having a seventy-two-hour kit your general suggestion for people?”


While Ryan said yes, Darius said no. Firmly.


He frowned. “A seventy-two-hour kit is a bug-out bag. Good to have if you gotta leave quickly. But my general advice is for everyone to have enough supplies at home to make it two weeks without going anywhere.” He coughed. “And, uh, the means to defend your supply.”


Ryan merely smirked and let his brother have that one.


“I reckon it’s best if we leave the last two items personal,” Darius decided. “For me, it might be a rifle and maybe noise-canceling headphones for my youngest. For Ryan, it’d be diapers, both for himself and his twins—”


“Hilarious,” Ryan drawled.


Darius continued, undeterred. “Someone might prioritize a toiletry bag, someone with diabetes would go with their insulin, and another would pack binoculars or a repair kit for their bike. Bottom line, get what’s essential for your situation and your needs.”


“Night vision goggles are essential to me,” Ryan mused. His son was running out of patience on his lap and started climbing on Ryan. “You think so too, don’t you, JJ? Daddy’s night vision goggles are cool.”


The boy babbled, whereas Darius snorted and muttered something about antivenom for rattlesnakes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to dig deeper on that one. This article was already going to be a lot different from what I usually published. Hell, the last Profile had been about a man who crocheted socks for dogs.


“I wanna thank you both for meeting with me,” I told the guys. “Or maybe I’ll thank Elise for bossing over you.”


Darius huffed a laugh.


Ryan grinned. “It was fun. If you have any further questions, I can give you Darius’s address, both his numbers, his email, and—”


“Oi!” Darius sucked his teeth. “Go play with your goddamn goggles.”


The brothers’ banter escalated a bit after that, before I managed to wrap things up with another thank-you. So there you have it. Whether you want to prepare for a quick escape and only keep the essentials packed and ready by the door, or you want to think long-term and be able to shut out the world for weeks or months, prepping is a hobby—or a lifestyle to some—that is worth some consideration. I don’t know about you guys, but I think I will actually order some extra supplies to keep at home.


Because you never know when zombies will show up.


Until the next edition of the Camassia Profile!

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