Mark Baumer was way better than me on our baseball team growing up in North Yarmouth, Maine. He was a better athlete. He was a more ambitious writer than me. He was unfiltered. Authentic. Back in high school he was quirky and fun but hadn't grown into the full weirdness he later embraced. Back then, JD Seeley held the undisputed weirdness crown for the Greely class of 2002, but Mark clearly wrested it from him later in life. Mark was a man who never grew out of the inner boy and channeled his childlike curiosity in every hour he lived.
He was a fearless writer, artist and activist. His fearlessness led to his death and his fearlessness has led to the inspiration of thousands of people across the world who are now discovering his art online. He was a prophet of our times and also of his own death. His last video has over 26,000 views as of last count and his fundraising goal of $10,000 stands at over $20,000. Click below to donate in his honor:
Mark liked doing things. So he did things. He chose not to live within the comfortable middle class social boundaries than 999 out of 1000 people restrict themselves to. Why bother? That life didn't inspire him. Spontaneity, adventure, travel, and constant, constant creation were the trademarks of his inspired minimalism, self-experimentation and stubborn refusal to conform to a bland life of full time employment that is incumbent on most people.
I haven't kept in close touch with most of my high school classmates and Mark was one of the few who I tuned into. If you knew Mark, you couldn't help but tune in sometimes. He was constantly posting, writing, making videos, books, poems, wild crazy experiments, writing in the squirrely neon script of a child experimenting with life itself. He was mesmerizing.
Death makes us honest. And to be honest, and I'm embarrassed to say this, there were times over the years when I checked out his creations and then tuned out because it seemed to me that their poetic incoherence bordered on madness. I'm more of a non-fiction reader and I didn't get some of Mark's projects. Maybe I was jealous that he wrote 50 books in 50 days when it took me five years to write one. There were times when I really thought he might have gone crazy. As I began to pay attention to his barefoot journey and watch his videos I woke up to the realization that Mark was a genius.
First of all, his video editing, his rapid jump cuts, his constant stream of consciousness are addictive. Each video has moments of belly laughter, joy, weirdness and spontaneity. His videos are brilliant, well edited, and speak powerfully with his unique style and voice. They are raw, authentic and amazingly somehow edited on whatever mobile devices he could charge at gas stations and use under a tarp in the rain.
I began to identify with Mark again. I identified with his journey, with how his mind was working. I've been on long endurance hikes and marathons when my internal monologue stepped in to fill the boredom and pain of putting one foot in front of the other. Mark was talking to himself and talking to others at the same time. He created a fascinating window into his journey, his beliefs and mind through his art. He invited us all to walk with him. Barefoot. Across America.
Finally, after being out of touch with Mark for years, I posted link to his 99th video on Facebookand urged people to support his efforts. I meant to donate but didn't. I should've made that gift when he was alive but I didn't. I made my donation the next day when I heard the tragic news and my stomach sank. Too late.
Mark wrote me a short, simple and nice comment the day he died. It had weird emojis of course.
As I neared the end of writing this tribute to Mark, it occurred to me that his reply to my post might have been the day before he died. It wasn't. It was the morning of his death. It was at 9:56am. Fear suddenly shot through me. Was it possible that Mark had been distracted by writing to me? Could he have wandered near that white line as he looked down and typed to me? I pictured him smiling at an old name suddenly popping up after years of silence. I saw him walking in the sunshine, typing to me, momentarily oblivious to his surroundings, not looking up as an oncoming driver used their phone. Could I have been inadvertently responsible for killing my friend? I Googled articles with shaking fingers until I found one. Mark died three hours and nineteen minutes later.
Mark lived on another wavelength. He danced the line between genius and weirdness and blended both into a unique vegan smoothie of his own creation. His vision was prophetic in many ways. Like many great figures, it now almost seems like he had some premonition of his own passing from the Earth. After all, his site is literally https://notgoingtomakeit.com/ and the day before he died, he encountered a yellow post by the roadside with the word "killed" scrawled on the asphalt. In classic Baumer fashion, rather than avoiding this ominous sign, he embraced it and made art with it. He slapped that sucker on his blog. Now his bare, authentic, poetic feet announce his passing in characteristically bizarre style.
Mark was prolific, poetic and passionate. I'll be discovering more of his art over the coming weeks and years. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of a person who just constantly made fascinating things. He created so much in his 33 years and set it all up to be shared, commented on and discovered. I have no doubt he'll be inspiring people from all over the world to be weird, to act on their beliefs and to be creative for a long time to come. I hope you'll take the time to read, watch and listen to more of his creations. It hurts a lot to lose Mark, it still feels unreal, and I can't really accept that Mark is totally gone. Per one of his last videos- I like to think that Mark filled out the proper paperwork to become an owl and now he's an owl.