Confessions of a Down and Outer

No matter my security measures, a current trend has now breached the research facility, and it has me eyeing fellow patrons while wondering, “Does this one have satisfactory documentation?”

Surely, you’ve noticed the hordes edging closer, their eyes narrowed in acquisitive lust. One may have brushed just a little too close to your own private place, mindless of your discomfort, justifying the invasion with facile excuses of common good and homeland security. Maybe you handed over a few bills or an array of official-looking documents; maybe a copy of your property deed, or even (shudder) of your “rental agreement” to slip free of the invaders’ clutches, for a time — but for how long? How much will it cost you next time? Will your documents be enough, or will you have to disappear into the brush, covering your trail with the detritus of unfinished dreams and plans?

Of course (though this may be obvious only to that tiny minority who’ve been there, done that), I am speaking of the recent trend that raises a bar of documentation to an undocumented, lightly documented and intentionally vague underbelly of the red-blooded seasonal-workforce of American commerce. Some wash dishes. Some cook and serve. Others sweep and stock, while a lucky few figure out how to qualify for a coveted occupation that comes with cachet (and an increased chance of getting laid): backcountry and river guides, liberal arts students, poets, writers, soldiers, etc.

All are citizens (though some of some country other than the “Amurrica, Love it or Leave it!” “My country ‘tis of thee…” “…home of the brave” fantasy of a compliant citizenry of the sedentary empire), many are a bit unreliable in their personal chronology, some are deliberately evasive while trying to build a present unsullied by past indiscretions, and only a very few are of any danger whatsoever to anybody but themselves. When minions of sundry agencies and authorities ask for documents, some of these citizens are likely to get a “deer-in-the-headlights” look, and next be seen heading for the exit door.

Confession time here. For certain periods, at uncertain points in my checkered history of seasonal occupations, I have on occasion (for justifiable reasons and with no evil  intentions, I might add) found it expedient to fill in the “current residence” blank on application forms with a reasonable-sounding, if very temporary, location that established a sense of well-being in my interlocutor. Recently, while conducting routine maintenance on some necessary trappings of my current status as an ever-aging citizen of the empire, I was taken aback by a request for proof of residence (aforesaid deed and/or rental agreement). Another official agency demanded two forms of ID from my dearly beloved, with one being a credit card. I now read that the Colorado Secretary of State is trying to clear the chaff he calls “inactive voters” by refusing to allow counties to mail ballots to anyone who didn’t vote in the 2010 elections, leaving me asking if the biggest danger to participation in the noble experiment called “these united states” may be that amorphous demon, fear.

Fear of what, my friends? Of this and that — and of  “the other”; but if we succeed in eliminating a free-thinking fringe, what will the future look like? I imagine teeming masses crouched in political and behavioral knots, all afraid to move to the edge. Gone will be the scruffy, aromatic iconoclasts that test boundaries for a safety-conscious majority. The ones who’ll tackle an expanse of mid-summer desert with bad shoes and a water bottle, a 5.-next-to-fucking-impossible pitch with worn rope and bleeding fingers, a Class VI-rated river with paddle and personal choice of flotation device or the wilds under bridges and behind bushes in the midst of gentrified cityscapes. Some will not make it, but the survivors can remove boundaries, and maybe even alleviate nagging fears among those who will come along behind.

[Further reading on the many ways of being down and out can be found among the writings of Orwell, Tantric, Barnum-Reece, Dorworth, Welch and your humble correspondent, to name but a bit of available grist for consideration — and of course the edge is still out there awaiting all who dare to taste of the nectar for themselves.]