Saturday, October 4, 2014

Daniel Suelo Leads Eccentrics Chronicler Into the Utah Wild

It's impossible not to think of Into the Wild's Christopher McCandless when considering the similarly bold life choice made by Daniel Suelo. As a new feature documentary is about to remind, Suelo in 2002 chose Utah as his moneyless-existence destination and has mercifully been more fortunate when it comes to the consumption of exotic wilderness food.

Here's how Suelo answered in 2009 after welcoming Details writer Christopher Ketcham to the Moab-area mountain cave where he lives, without money or any other modern-age encumbrance, and being asked if he had ever become seriously ill:

It happened once, after eating a cactus he misidentified — he vomited, fell into a delirium, thought he was dying, even wrote a note for those who would find his corpse. But he got better. That it's hard is exactly the point, he says. "Hardship is a good thing. We need the challenge. Our bodies need it."

Suelo (pictured) is one of a half-dozen eccentrics profiled in Oscar-winning Canadian filmmaker John Zaritsky's documentary A Different Drummer, world premiering October 8th and 10th at the Vancouver International Film Festival. There's also a woman who pushes ducks around Vancouver in a stroller and a San Francisco man dedicated to, among other things, the memory of eighth U.S. President Martin Van Buren.

Every once in a while, Suelo visits the Moab Public Library to blog about his existence. His last dispatch is dated September 22nd:

Since I last blogged almost a month ago, our "tribe" has, again, fluctuated: people coming and going - some returning, some new arrivals. Right now, our "tribe" consists of Daryl, Julia, Jake, and me... I am pleased with our "tribe" of eclectic drop-outs, drop-ins.
Daryl is a playright and general writer, comedian, and a very articulate radio companion with a keen eye for spiritual truth. Julia is an extremely independent feral feline who understands wild plants, edible and domestic, and basic wilderness survival, as well as being an artist and published author of a couple books. I'm half-way through her excellent The Edge of Sanity under her pseudonym. So far I'm really impressed, and will see how I feel about it when I'm done reading it, maybe push the book here. Jake is our youngest family member, recently turned 21.

The "radio companion" reference reflects the fact that Suelo also hosts a weekly Sunday night two-hour program on 90.1 FM/106.7 FM Moab Community Radio titled Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out. He was also able to help out Zaritsky (unconventionally, of course) with the music for A Different Drummer.

Appearing throughout the documentary to help Zaritsky make sense of it all is Scottish clinical neuropsychologist Dr. David Weeks, author of the 1995 book Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness.

[A Different Drummer: Celebrating Eccentrics]

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