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going to New Mexico

My friend sent me this article, on a Wisconsin man whose body went unnoticed in his house for four years, after committing suicide.  It is a grim thing, a person whose passing was so unremarked.  But I admit, that isn't where my mind first went, or at least not where it settled.



It's easy for a person to stay unnoticed on a social level.  Too easy, for some.  It's harder to stay unnoticed on a societal level:  there's usually a bill, or an ID, or a run-in with the law.  Vanishing permanently is difficult, if there's someone who actually wants to find you.

I grew up on twenty acres; about a third of it wooded riverfront.  I ran around half-feral, collecting clamshells, creating crop circle-like trails and alcoves in the taller unmowed grass uphill, and vanishing into the trees whenever I saw a fisherman or anyone else within my stomping grounds.  For a kid, twenty acres - surrounded by similar parcels of land - was huge, made larger by my ill-formed understanding of trespassing and land ownership.  It was a great childhood - and one I can never reproduce:  I will never again find a plot of land that is as much mine and as much home as that place was.  It isn't just my adult mind and its narrowed thoughts:  there just aren't that many empty lands anymore.  There's public land - usually hunted - and there's parkland - usually regulated by fees and hours, and that's pretty much it, unless you are able to buy your own slice of privacy.

(Well, there are slices of the West where the empty spaces are wide enough that one could be properly lost.  I've been to a few of them.  Most are pretty harsh, but some of the wooded mountainous areas have potential.)

Back when most of my preferred reading was science fiction, I went through a Heinlein phase (yes, girls can go through a Heinlein phase).  The Heinlein quote that sticks in my mind is "When a place gets crowded enough to require IDs, social collapse is not far away.  It is time to go elsewhere."  A very libertarian statement, but it ties to that basic feeling people have these days of never being able to get away from it all.  There are official records of my brother, even though he's lived on the street for well over a decade.  These days, you can always be found.

Or so I thought.  Poor Mr. Carter's story gives me a strange sort of hope:  it is theoretically possible to "get away from it all", in terms of the government caring enough about your lapse in standard obligations to actually do something about it, for a few years at least.  Of course, if your intent is to stay unnoticed and alive, then things get trickier.  I'm still pondering that bit, but it's on my list of potential retirement plans.  Trying to re-capture some of that lost youth, perhaps.

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