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A body full of processed food, unprepared to meet the apocalyptic challenges of the future. From a Vita-Mix Corporation advertisement AFTERWORD Fear and Flatulence in Mesquite BY KAREN OLSSON Earlier this fag a survivalist trade show called “Preparedness Expo ’98” set up camp in a flagging shopping plaza-turned-expo hall in Mesquite, and for three days, anyone with seven dollars to spare could learn all about “Self-Reliance Health Freedom,” as the banner above the doors said A bunch of rather odd vendors hawked everything from composting toilets to Israeli gas masks; one of the oddest was a somewhat bewildered-looking old man in a pastel blue suit, whose fliers identified him as Dr. Jesse F. Partridge, D.D., D.M.T., R.Sc., and Arch Bishop of the Church of Universal Knowledge. An expert in forty-four major healing arts and forty-two major religions, and in particular a practitioner of Magno-Therapy, Dr. Partridge stood behind his booth’s display of various elixirs in small bottles, while his assistant \(“I’m not his wife,” was the first thing she told heads was a poster explaining that thanks to self-administration of his rejuvenating healing techniques, Partridge “at age 74, has the body of a teenage athletic, muscles like steel and skin like a baby’s cheeks, except where the sun’s radiation touches and rapidly ages it.” Off to one side was a smaller sign advertising for a new assistant. With his hand-lettered signs, his secret remedies, and a certain air of having just stepped out of a Flannery O’Connor story, Dr. Partridge lacked the polish of some of the other participants retired Phoenix police officer Jack McLamb, for instance, who edits a newsletter on Constitutional Issues for Lawmen, or Dr. Leonard Horowitz, author of Emerging Viruses, AIDS & Ebola Nature, Accident, or Genocide? These two were more telegenic, standing tall at their posts with embryonic smiles at the ready. Their photographs beamed out of the conference program, which treated them like the celebrities they may in fact be among the millenarian set \(and which was noteworthy for its allaround biographical flair, e.g., John Trochmann’s entry: “Co-founder of the Militia of Montana, John has been instrumental in networking American Patriots together for years … and has been a guest on 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER numerous national and international television programs including CBS 48 Hours, Dateline NBC, and as a guest analyst on But McLamb and Horowitz and Partridge and Trochmann all had their place at the freakshow that was Preparedness Expo ’98, with its smorgasbord of backwoods lifestyle promotion, right-wing propaganda, and basic hucksterism. A freakshow, not because of the alternative healers claiming that “colloidal silver” is the ticket to perfect health, or the lectures on mind control and “reverse speech: voices from the unconsciousness,” or the special guest appearance by Randy Weaver and his daughter Sara \(who pledged to tell “for the first time, in their own words, what really happened to their family during the government assault of their home in steady tide of preparedness consumers: white-bread types who filed past the booths and sat through the lectures and tossed back free samples of rehydrated survival food. A dismally mechanical spirit of self-education reigned over the hall, as sweatsuited matrons paged through their programs to decide which lectures to attend, and small crowds clustered around a salesman demonstrating the many uses of the “Vita-Mix Super 5000 Total Nutrition Center” an apparatus selling for $399 \(special show price, dry cona lot like a blender. The scene at Big Town Expo Hall was pretty depressing \(though let it be noted that this reporter’s sour mood may have resulted in part from eating a few too many samples of Vita-Mixed power soup, survivalist’s banana chips, and self-reliant Hoppin’ John, not to mention a particularly miserable specimen of “burrito” from the expo hall snack bar which precipitated a mild case of what you might call Emerson’s Revenge. Should the worst-case scenarios of the Self-Reliance set come to pass, the next millennium is going to be hell on the ctual projections for the future were left pretty vague at Preparedness Expo ’98. As one woman ahead of me in the long line to get in the hall re marked, “There sure are a lot of people who’re gonna be prepared!” What exactly we were being prepared for wasn’t entirely clear. Trade-show apocalypticism seemed a little like local TV news: bad weather and unexplained violence drifting by, and then another advertisement. A few broader con cerns did surface the New World Order, for instance \(they’re coming from the U.N. DECEMBER 4, 1998