an 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 Hardcore shows...

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 latching onto

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 trends?

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 is timeless.
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.

Say goodbye.

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 clamormagazine, republished with permission.

 
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