Livin' for the Apocalypse

Gidget Rose and her roommate Jackie Brittain (not their real names) live in the Southwest (in an intentionally unspecified location), where they can meat, stockpile water and weaponry, and raise guinea pigs for cash, all in preparation for the apocalypse. They are two people profiled on TLC's very entertaining, very eye-opening and very... TLC special Livin' for the Apocalypse (Sunday, 10/9c).  Below, Rose tells us about apocalypse planning, why she'd consider cannibalism, her arsenal of weapons, and if she and Jackie face bigotry in the Southwest over Jackie's transgenderism. Clearly, Gidget and Jackie's story is one that's been dying to be told. Kudos to TLC for that.

What makes you think that the world is ending next year?
Gidget Rose: Well, I don't think the world is ending, but "apocalypse" means "unveiling" or seeing a different thing. I feel that I need to prepare. I'm on a limited income. Gas is sky-high, even though it's come down a bit, it's going to come down again. Food is expensive. Meat is outrageous. I can hardly afford to buy meat anymore. We're talking hamburger at several dollars a pound. I just got in my gut that I need to start storing up food. I have SSI [Supplemental Security Income]. If the government quits it, I have no money for nothing. I'm just trying to think ahead. I seriously feel that we're going to see times change rapidly. At least by 2015, we're going to see our nation become something different, if not going to war with the Middle East. All the countries are so unstable, you don't know what's going on. It's like they're all going down, down, down, down, down — get rid of the leader, and I'm wondering what's next here? I think maybe we're gonna start having a civil war. Obama hasn't done a real good job. The other presidents haven't either, but he hasn't made it better.

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Are you generally marked by anxiety? Is this something you spend a lot of time thinking about?
Rose: I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, not as much as I had. I'm pretty well [stocked]. I was quite anxious six months ago. I hadn't gotten as much prepared as I wanted to. At this time, I only have 1,000 gallons of water. Living in the Southwest dessert, water is going to be like gold. I want to get another 1,000 gallons, but the containers are like $126 [each]. I'm just trying to get this and that. My car broke down and I'm trying to get it fixed. A filling for my tooth. The copier won't work. [Laughs] Everything hits at the same time.

Are you still raising guinea pigs?
Rose: Yeah, but I'm not having real good luck with 'em. We were trying to save budget money for air conditioning and it just got horribly hot for my rabbits and guinea pigs. I only have, like, four little females left, no males. They have fans with frozen water bottles on them, but they just haven't had good luck. Same with the bunnies. We think we're just going to go ahead and butcher them all out and can them up. We have about eight of them left, and we had 15. I think we're just going to stay with our chickens. I was hoping to get a hold of the big [guinea pigs] they have in Peru, but they're really not available in this country that I'm aware of. They do eat them in Peru. They're cheaper to raise, and between two of us, one little guinea pig, which would be a couple of pounds, would still be enough meat. When I can up my meat, I can it up in a pint jar, I can get four meals out of it in a pinch.

Elsewhere on the special, someone suggests that canning meat is dangerous. Are you being safe?
Rose: Oh yeah, you pressure cook it. It'll last a couple of years. Before eating, you check your jars real good, you want to make sure it doesn't press down on the top or that it isn't discolored on the inside. People have been canning meat for years, and not that many people have died from it that I've known in my family. [Laughs]

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At one point in the show, you discuss resorting to cannibalism, and you just mentioned eating your guinea pigs and rabbits. Is everything a potential source of food for you?
Rose: That was more of a joke, the cannibalism. We were talking about shooting guns and I said that my dad always said, "Whatever you shoot, you gotta eat. So why waste the meat? Can 'em up." I'm serious about that in a sense. I'm not a nutcase and I don't want to have to shoot anybody, but if I have to — to protect what's mine or keep some looter out — I will. And if you have so many, what are you going to do with the bodies? If you're starving and you don't have meat, you'd be foolish not to go ahead and use the meat. I mean, the Donner Party did. People looked at them kind of weird, but you'd be foolish not to. I'm not digging no graves. That [cannibalism comment] went on the TLC news things and everyone went, "She's a nut," but you have to hear how I said it.

Do you face bigotry living in the Southwest with a transgender woman?
Rose: Actually we do not, including from the church we're joining that accepts her wholeheartedly. In Arkansas, where she lived, it was constant. She hadn't had her surgery, so everyone there knew her as a man. She's [since] had her surgery, and she's had complete surgery — more than Chaz Bono. I'm probably more sensitive than she is, because I know better and I've only known her as a female, never as a man. She still has a lot of boy ways, which she doesn't mean to. It's just the way she was raised. Her dad was pretty hard on her to make sure she was a boy and acted like a boy and not act gay or anything, which she wasn't. She knows a lot of guy stuff, cars and stuff, but I keep telling her, "I don't care what the wheels on the truck are over there, you should just say, 'Isn't that a pretty red truck?' like a girl does." [Laughs]

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At one point in the show, Jackie mentions a fear of zombies. Was that a joke?
Rose: That was all just poking and fun. My daughter was out one time that we were filming and she was talking about a zombie apocalypse, and we were laughing. There's no such thing! My daughter was convinced after talking to some boy she knew that his parents worked for the government. Oh, please. We'd have a better chance of having a landing of a UFO.

What do your children think of your apocalypse planning?
Rose: My son is beginning to understand that mom's not so crazy. I've done this a lot of times before, and sometimes we've had real hard times and had to live off our food storage. He thinks two years of time is excessive, but he's changing his attitude now. My daughter thinks about just living for the day and doesn't even look ahead to next week. She's a hard worker, but she doesn't save a penny.

Is apocalypse planning fun?
Rose: It's kind of fun! If I had $4,000, I'd be a lot happier and could get a lot of things done. I'd like to get a solar generator. I'd like to have 10 tanks of propane and some charcoal. One thing I think that's going to happen that the scientists can't prove is the solar flares. If they knock out the electricity even for a couple of weeks, this whole nation will go nuts. There will be looting, you can't get gas, you can't get into the grocery store because it's locked. You can't get to the bank. No phone service, no computer service. We'd be back to the Dark Ages real quick. I want to be prepared for something like that. 

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Have you amassed weapons?
Rose: Yes, I have a few of them. I don't like them — I had never shot a gun in my life — but I decided that we needed to get a gun, and so far I've got about three, one I haven't shot yet and Jackie has one. So we probably have plenty. There was a sports store that had a nice shotgun for $189, but I don't know if I'll have the money to buy that.

Are you happy?
Rose: Yeah! I don't just live for the moment, but I'm enjoying every moment that I have. I feel like I've got insurance. You buy insurance for your car and your house for "What if?" And so I've got food, storage and water for "What if?" You never know, neighbors might need help. I would be happy that I could feed them and make sure they're taken care of. I'm not into gas masks, I'm not into bunkers. No. 1, I don't have the money or the place for a bunker, and No. 2, how long do you stay down there before you go batty? If you do come out and everything's gone, I'm 60 years old and Jackie's pretty disabled. What are we gonna do to rebuild the community? Not a heck of a lot. I can show you how to do things, but not much else. I figure that's for the young people. Let them rebuild. I just take my chances with nuclear stuff. I was a duck-and-cover drill kid. You just get under the desk and hope for the best.