Get local news delivered straight to your phone

Let’s face it: Your life sucks. A plethora of pissy creditors—goons from Visa and Amex, a disgusted student-loan officer, and sociopathic bookies the Shnuggie Bros.—leave threatening messages on your answering machine night and day; unfortunately, your bank balance says you couldn’t buy a Kit Kat bar without bouncing your mortgage payment. As a result of financial and carnal stupidity, you’re engaged to a wealthy older woman who doesn’t want kids yet continue to date a poor younger woman who is expecting twins—your twins. And sure, being a manager at Rollo’s Ribs doesn’t require you to wear that ridiculous uniform, but once the Man finds out you’re sneaking $20s after count-out, well, you’re probably going to be wearing a ridiculous uniform of a much crueler kind.

On top of all of this dreck is the usual misery: Your parents are disappointed in you; your friends think you’re a two-faced heel; and your brother suspects you of sleeping with his wife—which, of course, you are. The bottom line? It’s time for a life change, partner. And a pretty damn drastic one, at that.

We can't make City Paper without you

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Many of the steps—legal and otherwise—necessary to create that freedom-bound brand-new you can be found in the slim and straightforward The Heavy Duty New Identity, a do-it-yourself witness relocation program written by the decidedly suspect John Q. Newman and published by the decidedly delirious Loompanics Unlimited. (Some of Loompanics’ other publishing credits include The Outlaw’s Bible, The Policeman Is Your Friend and Other Lies, Cop Killers, and The Rape of the American Constitution.) Stepping out of a shitty existence crammed with bad checks and gambling miscues is a far cry from beating it out of town before the cops find the body, but Newman, in an unintentionally humorous disregard for moral responsibility, is more than happy to help out all takers.

First things first: Your duffel bag is stuffed and the family is sleeping. Now you need a place to go. Newman is very much against bolting for foreign locales—”There are too many people and systems dedicated to apprehending fugitives crossing the border”—but he does suggest a multitude of U.S. cities where transients will have an easier time vanishing from the radar: Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Seattle, and San Diego, to name just a few. (Washington, D.C., does not make the list; apparently, sooner or later, everyone gets found out here.) If none of the aforementioned urban escapes sound sufficient, Newman offers up a warning flare when going off the board and becoming your own travel agent:

A great hideout should also offer opportunities for casual employment, and be large enough so that a new face does not attract a lot of attention. A city that has a large transient population is an excellent idea.

The worst hideouts are small towns. In a small town, a new face almost always is the subject of conversation and curiosity. In a small town, police officers are also known to many people, and are not the faceless strangers they are in a big city. Also, many of the people you meet may interact with police officers, and mention that a new face is in town.

After choosing to go where absolutely nobody knows your name—your old name, that is—you have to burn that pesky trail of bread crumbs. No matter how much you love your Spider-Man tattoo and unwashed pony tail, you’ll be better off settling for a nondescript appearance, making changes to hair length, weight, style of dress, regional accent, and personal mannerisms. When erasing hard evidence of your former self, Newman advises that you be stealthy, meticulous, and, most importantly, smart (a tall order, I imagine, for the myriad folks looking to leave it all behind for one shady reason or another):

The day you leave, burn up your old wallet and all your old identification. You will take public transportation out of town. You will purchase a bus or train ticket to a distant city in an assumed name, and upon arrival in that city, you will purchase another ticket to your true destination. Upon arrival in your new location, you will maintain a very low profile for at least a month….

Never telephone your old city, or write to any address there. Your connection must be 100% severed….Lay low. Get up in the morning and go to the library. But until this month is up, don’t look for a job or anything else. Just practice being invisible.

Yes, “lay low.” That seems to be the key, common-sense guideline for making it in your new home. Chapters 14 through 16—”The Problem of Mental Stress,” “Bonding With Your New Identity,” and, naturally, “Bonding With Your New Identity II”—don’t offer many psychological tips for how to cope with seeing yourself on Unsolved Mysteries, but they do list several anecdotes about less fortunate newbies who didn’t play by Newman’s rules.

Take Mr. and Mrs. “William Doakes,” for example: After William witnessed a shootout between federal police and Florida drug runners, the young couple moved thousands of miles from their original home and were well on their way to safe and happy new lives. But one fateful Thanksgiving, the Doakeses just couldn’t resist making a quick call to the fam back in Podunk. The price of that long-distance reunion was costly: Five days later, William’s body was found riddled with bullets. Lesson learned: You can’t go home again (and you most certainly can’t call there).

“What happens if you meet someone in your new identity and you want to get married?” Newman asks. Well, the author is not exactly a romantic. He strongly advises against falling in love, but he does allow:

I certainly would not recommend you get married in a new identity if you were, and still are, married under your true name. If you have never married and are living productively in a new identity, you might consider it the ultimate step in “becoming” the new you by taking on a life partner for your new life. Years later you may then wish to tell your spouse the truth about your background.

New-identity love: Ain’t it grand?

Throughout this modest reference for the wannabe recluse, Newman reminds the reader that if the newly lost is serious about not being found, he will cease his wayward ways—killing, gambling, carousing—and play it straight and law-abiding. But something tells me those folks desperate for a new life were never very good at taking advice anyway, and it’s simply a matter of time before the Shnuggie Bros. finally collect their costly vig.CP