"Give me your hand," Chrissy says from behind her pickup's steering wheel. When we pause at a stoplight she pulls a bottle from her purse, opens it, and starts dabbing Band-Aid-colored liquid latex on me. She twists a wisp of tissue paper and lays it on the putrid-smelling latex, then dabs more over the paper. My newly rotting flesh will have to dry.
I've just flown in to my former home, New Orleans, and we're driving to Goodwill for zombie costumes, preferably comfortable stuff that we can dance in. This is the third year that Christina Duggar, a 32-year-old grad student, has headed the Thrilla Guerillas, a flash mob that performs Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance on Halloween night. Last year, 57 of us, including Americorps volunteers, Tulane professors, a civil-rights lawyer, and a cook, donned zombie gear and, with a tricycle-mounted mausoleum cobbled together from repurposed building materials and fitted with marine battery-powered speakers, thrilled the French Quarter.
New Orleans is natural "Thriller" territory. There are the above-ground cemeteries, of course, the vampire tours. While historic preservationists fight efforts to make the St. Charles streetcar line handicapped-accessible, homes abandoned after Hurricane Katrina are collapsing into their foundations. The education system remains in a permanent death grin, and headlines in the Times-Picayune reveal that BP's shoddily constructed Deepwater Horizon drilling operation, which spewed nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf, was from the beginning rigged for death.