CENSUS MISSED 1.5 MILLION DEADHEADS
"On the road" population moves under federal radar
By Mike Weaver and Neil Ribald
Baltimore Times-Sentinel Investigations Team
Does Uncle Sam know who I am? A record number of mostly young,
mostly white followers of the Grateful Dead rock bank and its
many offshoots are asking that question of federal authorities.
Now an independent review of federal Census data conducted by
the Times-Sentinel's investigations team suggests they could
be right: The government may have failed to enumerate more than
1.5 million tie-dyed citizens.
In response to complaints from hundreds of Beltway-area residents,
the Times-Sentinel analyzed U.S. Census results from Maryland,
Virginia and the District of Columbia. The undercount apparently
stemmed from the Deadheads' constant travel and lack of interface
with the record-keeping systems of mainstream society. The joint
investigations team, working in conjunction with sociologists from
Baltimore State University, developed customized software based on
the international standard for counting refugee migrations.
A useful point of comparison for researchers proved to be Athens,
Ohio, a college town where the caravans of roving Deadheads set down
for predictable seasonal visitations. A local radio station there
had echoed a call posted on the band's website (www.deadheadcentral.com)
for Deadheads to make sure Census would "Count Every Head!" Last year,
1,768 self-proclaimed Deadheads presented themselves to be counted
at the federal building in Athens. As a result, notes Mayor Ken
Schweikert, Athens' total population surged into a new, and
more favorable, lending category for developers.
The Grateful Dead themselves had long predicted that the official
head count would not catch up with their peripatetic extended family.
Lyricist Robert Hunter told a Rolling Stone reporter in 1998 that
Census takers would "need a miracle every day" to reach every bead
stringer and grilled cheese sandwich chef in the endless migration.
Not every member of the parking lot community is happy with the
campaign to make the census include Deadheads. Several older
fellow travelers expressed emotions ranging from dismay to anger
at younger fans' eagerness to be noticed by the federal government.
"I didn't go through natural childbirth in an unheated cabin
without drugs so she could turn around and do this," groused
bead vendor Yvette Wynotte. "The next thing I expect to hear
is that she's gone and gotten a damn Social Security number."
"Once they're off the road, it's all over," agreed Angela Motorman,
who described herself as the founder and driver of the 27-year-old
Great Coastal Axis Liberation Army and Permanent Floating Caravan.
"My sister's kid got it into her head she wanted a "traditional"
wedding, and for that she needed a marriage certificate, which meant
she had to get a birth certificate, and before you could say
"Casey Jones" she's walking into court and asking some judge
to change her legal name to Jennifer. Like Astromeda isn't her
true name anymore!"
Dr. Sybil Fawlty, head of the sociology field program at Baltimore
State, had unusually harsh words for the U.S. Census effort to count
itinerant hippies, calling director John O'Reilly's original plan
"preposterous." Dr. Fawlty continued, "O'Reilly's men never finish
the job. They're so clueless they can't even find the door."
Commerce Department spokewoman Avril Phoule defended O'Reilly's work,
and denied that the Times-Sentinel study reveals anything new. "These
individuals were already reported to have been missed," she said,
referring reporters to a press release last week that confirmed
3.2 million people throughout the U.S. were overlooked by Census takers.
"You don't really think we have a million and a half people living
completely off the grid in this country, do you?" asked Phoule. "It
stands to reason these are weekend hippies who take off their beads
and tie-dye Sunday night, and put on Dockers and a tie Monday morning."
Yet the thousands of young neo-Rastafarians converging on the
parking lot outside Baltimore's Kurt Schmoke Arena contended that
Ms. Phoule has no idea what their world is like. One earth-toned
twenty-something man with an oversized candy-striped top hat,
introducing himself "Shane from Long Island," protested that he
and his "buds" have a right to be counted as Americans. "Man,
just because it's a long, stange trip, I mean, sometimes
you don't know where you're at, you know? That don't mean nothing.
I got rights, too."
Observers of the vagabonds agree that the majority of fans following
the Grateful Dead spinoff tours really do not have any fixed address.
"How can you be in two places at once, when you're really nowhere at all?"
asked Dr. Philip Proctor of Baltimore State. "Still, we need to know
how many bozos there are on this bus, so to speak."
A spokewoman for the band's Census campaign web site (www.deadreckoning.org)
vowed yesterday to continue the push for full recognition. Connie Anjan
promised to bring their encampment to the suburban doorsteps of individual
federal Census officals if necessary. "We're really well-practiced at
being mobile," she said, "and we're tired of being invisible."
As the aging children of this ephemeral city packed up their pachouly,
glass pipes and embroidery for a move to the next concert site in Buffalo,
one thing seems certain. However many they may be, these hippies will get by.
With or without a touch of gray, with or without the federal government,
they will survive. "No matter what," says Angela Motorman, "we keep on
[PHOTO CAPTION/Credit Liz Estrada, CMI] Grateful Dead fans gather
in the parking lot at Kurt Schmoke Arena in Baltimore, sharing hand-rolled
Mound Builders brand cigarettes from southern Ohio while waiting for
grilled cheese sandwiches to finish toasting atop itinerant poet Lance
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