interview with the author of evasion
interview by Ricky Powell
The author of Evasion (Crimethinc) has a few stories to
tell, a few things to brag about. Writing one of the most
widely reproduced zines ever. Sneaking backstage at more than
a few prestigious concerts and events. Getting his story of
petty crime and vagabond travel into a 5-page feature in the
worlds largest book magazine. Negotiating rights to a film
based on his story. And this avowed scam artist has pulled
the greatest scam of all - turning his stories of scamming
and hitchhiking into a counterculture phenomenon. His book
Evasion has sold 12,000 copies to date, bringing more than
a few kids to quit their jobs and hop a freight train out
of Springfield forever. A few things to brag about, yes, but
you’ll never hear him do this. In fact you’ll
never hear him say anything. No one knows who he is. Crediting
his writing only to “Anonymous”, until recently
he has remained largely just that. After a year and a half
of mystery, “Mack” - the only name you’ll
get out of him - has agreed to come out for this interview.
A conversation with the mystery man...
Amongst DIY/punk/activist circles in which Evasion
circulates, thee is a lot of mystery and speculation surrounding
you as an author. Why did you decide to author the book as
“Anonymous”, and why are you only now coming out?
Truth is, I’m not “anonymous”, in the sense
of avoiding recognition as an author. It’s just that
no one never asks. I have friends who know of Evasion, know
me, and don’t know I wrote it. They’ve never asked.
I would do more readings, or interviews, but I’m never
invited. The image of me as an underground recluse has no
clear origin. There is really no aversion to readership-contact,
my personal contact information is in the back of all 12,000
Evasion books. I’ve done two book tours and read to
over a thousand people. The original goal of Evasion’s
“By: Anonymous” choice was a sort of “he
could be anyone” mystique. I think this remains for
the most part intact. While I do “come out” in
public forums on at times - like interviews - I’m still
one of those top secret writers, largely out of the social
circles and largely still anonymous. My girlfriend has yet
to wear her “I’m With Evasion Author” at
You’ve found yourself thrust into the eye of
a storm of criticism amongst activist/anarchist circles for
your promotion of “traveler culture” - dumpster
diving, hitchhiking, shoplifting, and scams. On one hand I
feel these can be valuable tools for self-liberation and escape
from monotony of “nine to five” life, but Evasion
also has been criticized for encouraging hedonistic pursuits.
Do you advocate “lifestyle activism”, or can Evasion-style
tactics compliment more pro-active effort for change?
All the noise about Evasion can be quieted by understanding
what Evasion is: A personal narrative. So it’s not a
revolutionary program. There is no proselytizing in the pages
of Evasion. It’s a personal account of my life as a
(voluntarily) unemployed 20-something vegan straight edge
kid. It is, essentially, the story of one person who developed
a critique of this culture, a responsive course of action,
and went for it.
Understanding this, if Evasion has any significance beyond
literature, it’s this: something to offer direction
(one direction, of many) to a person who wishes to work less
and live more. To the artist, this means having more time
to practice their art. To the activist, more time for activism.
We all know that any activism work is done in spite of a day
job. To get things done, we have to be “off the clock”.
Is anyone arguing for more dehumanizing jobs, more toil to
make the rich richer in return for a few crumbs? To get more
done - activism or otherwise - we have to reduce working.
And if possible - eliminate it. So I want “Evasion tactics”
to serve as a starting point, a foundation on which people
can build a life of doing what moves them - from skateboarding
to terrorism. Not paying for groceries is a start.
I often refer to on this subject to a conversation I had with
a friend. He told me that when recruiting soldiers for the
Zapatista army, they teach them two things. First: how to
make tortillas. Second: how to shoot guns. First we must eat,
everything else comes after. Evasion is the tortilla.
For shooting, well, I’d suggest a Paladin Press catalog.
Or their dumpster in Boulder - it’s full of books!
For a small press book with no advertising, Evasion
has done surprisingly well, even receiving some mainstream
coverage. What has “success” done to your life?
Do you still eat from dumpsters? And how did you finesse your
way into a 5-page feature in Book Magazine?
Oh god... the Book Magazine article... I always wondered
if anyone saw that. If I’m proud of anything in my life,
it’s getting the story of a cross country road trip/book
tour/crime spree into a magazine with a one million + print
run. And the succeeding issue’s “Letters To The
Editor” page was hilarious. The author later gave me
the inside story that Book Magazine received many angry cancelled
subscriptions after my article...
If anything, authoring Evasion just means I’ve become
the go-to person for every punk kid on the planet who has
a new scam s/he wants to run by someone. I hear some good
ones. Just this week a kid shared a free air-travel scam that
has some very profound implications. Because of this general
flow of knowledge my direction, and having a few more friends
now, life has gotten “easier”. Whether this is
a curse or gift, I’m unsure. I’ve seen many kids
Evasion in an almost religious way, as a text by
which to live their life. Since it’s release - the book
and the zine before that - we’ve seen in the DIY subculture
a surge in things like dumpster diving, and shoplifting, as
well as a wave of “traveler kids” inspired in
part or whole by your writing. What are your reflections on
the role you’ve played in these things? Are these positive
First, I think I’ll fall under attack if I didn’t
point out there was Iggy Scam before me, and Aaron Cometbus
before him, and we could trace the lineage of Evasion back
to Abbie Hoffman before both. Prankster/outlaw/vagabond memoir-literature
Traveling continues to be important to me. But I have not
ever, nor do I now identify with “traveler kid culture”.
I was never involved with the anarcho/crust/pseudo-activist/scenester
cult many would identify me with. When it comes with dreadlocks,
a bandanna in it’s back pocket, and holds a 40 oz, I
run. It’s just a basic feeling this scene has nothing
to do with my life. I’m speaking of most every traveling
punk I’ve met when I say the traveling culture is focused
on “hanging out”.One thing about my early writing,
something that remains important to me, is that much of my
traveling was done alone. The emphasis was on the experience.
I still choose to travel alone at least half the time. But
for many of the kids I meet now.... It’s a social scene.
Hopping trains from punk house to punk house. Great I guess,
but.... I don’t really stay at punk houses, or eat Food
Not Bombs, or go to “radical” conferences. I support
those things, but they are not stimulating to me. So, I’m
not really in the circles you describe.
I wouldn’t doubt maybe a few kids have read Evasion
and decided to model their life from it. Is this positive?
Dumpster diving reduces consumption, so I feel good about
that. I like the idea of people maybe taking a shortcut to
their dreams via a little “reallocation of goods”,
like the kid in Louisville who told me his passion was music,
and after reading Evasion walked into one of those chain music
stores and walked out with a guitar! I can say I’ve
hardly had a bad day since I quit my last job 8 years ago,
and I think most people would be better for doing the same.
I’ve gotten several “Read Evasion, went vegan”
letters, and those are the greatest. Then there are Evasion
readers who come away just knowing better tactics for stealing
beer. You take the good with the bad.
Throughout the book you make frequent reference to
being vegan and straight edge (no drugs or alcohol). Why I
can see how this ties into the books broader message of self-liberation,
I found the delivery at times condescending. Why did you see
a need to work this into the narrative? Is there a need for
harsh moral judgement over a personal choice?
Absolutely. The largest holocaust in the history of the world
is taking place right now, and it’s caused by the consumption
of animal products. I think I owe the victims of animal exploitation
my voice of opposition. Not only to “the system”
directly responsible for their deaths, but also the culture
which tolerates this, and on down to the consumers who consume
them. If to call it wrong is to be insulting, well then people
need to look at why someone would feel strongly enough about
it to say this. 99% of the suffering on this planet would
vanish with the end of animal agriculture and biomedical research.
I burn for the day when eating meat, drinking milk and wearing
leather isn’t a “choice”, when culturally
it just isn’t tolerated the same way rape and lynching
of blacks is today. It’s all the same. The Master Race
mentality of the animal abuser in all his forms (meat eater,
dairy farmer, etc.) Is not just analogous to Nazism, it is
directly congruent. We will soon view the slaughterhouse with
the same shame we view the gas chambers, the drinking of milk
with the same contempt as rape. The urgency of mass animal-slaughter
is too great for “tolerance”.There is nothing
“condescending” in condemning the eating of animals
or drinking of their milk. Once made aware of the horrors
behind these “foods”, all who continue are despicable
in my eyes. If we’re going to call the murder of animals
a “choice”, well then let’s be consistent
and also call it a “choice” when the tables turn
- and all such heartless, sadistic people are also hoisted
up butchered alive. Violence breeds violence.
Straight edge is a personal choice. I’m really not interested
in debating the merits of intoxication because I don’t
care, it’s easy for me to simply ignore those people.
I’d like it to be understood this is not a position
of arrogance, there’s just nothing enriching about the
company of someone who chooses drunkenness or getting high
(beyond extreme moderation). It’s indicative of a gross
lack of creativity, of a submissive, slave-like sheep mentality,
and I don’t like to be around it.
Last great thing you dumpstered, favorite town, and
best arrest story.
Dumpster: Internal Amtrak data regarding a little known detail
of their ticketing issuance policy. I’ll say nothing
more on this but that Amtrak Inc. would want me dead if they
knew what I know. Was this better than another recent dive
yielding blueprints to the state prison? I’m undecided.
Favorite Town: Boulder, CO; Santa Barabara, CA; or Town X
- where I lived for six months last year. Name to be revealed
in the next Evasion.
Arrest Story: None. It’s never happened.
Evasion was released in the fall of 2001. Bring us
up to date with your doings - writing, traveling, and rent-free
living arrangements - in the last year and a half.
Since the book release I’ve been on two band tours,
two book tours, ridden in a stolen car, almost got arrested
a few times, hung out backstage at the Blink 182 concert dressed
as a pizza man, etc. etc.And, a lot of writing for the next
Evasion..It’s almost done. 50,000 words of my life living
in a broom closet on the campus of a prestigious university.
An account on the daily comedy of poverty in one of the nations
wealthiest communities. Sun, sand, surf, free food, and having
to dress really nice all the time to avoid a fifth thing -
jail! I’m forgoing the short stories this time for a
true saga, with all the crucial elements of Evasion - having
nowhere to sleep, eating garbage, being totally homeless and
laughing it off, etc. It’s going to be epic.
I’m also currently in “contractual negotiations”,
or something, with an NYC film producer for rights to the
Evasion film. This may or may not pan out. My demands are
pretty unreasonable. In the nearer future: a new house closer
to the beach, and hopefully never having to use the handcuff
key taped to my belt - inside rear.
I’m leaving on an epic cross country trip soon, write
if you can help. Or write just to write. I’m also looking
for a publisher for my next book.
Evasion is available at:
Evasion c/o Crimethinc
2695 Rangewood Dr
Atlanta GA 30345.
note: this interview originally appeared in issue #22 of
republished with permission.