Peace for Little Joe

Rockbottom sounds like a hole, but really it’s a pile of all my old problems. 
– Joe Bauman, November 2, 2009

In October 2020, Little Joe Bauman passed away from drug poisoning in his room in the temporary modular housing building in Maple Ridge. 

Joe had not lived in the mods for long; only a few months. And, after many years of life unhoused on the streets, mostly carrying just his oversized backpack day in and day out, often with some ridiculous outfit on, rarely taking a break in a shelter, you would think that he would have blossomed with a roof finally overhead and a door to close. But his friends say that’s not what happened.

Joe’s friends say that when he moved into his tiny, dark room, without a door that really locked, he slipped into a depression. The sarcastic, smiling guy who sang NOFX songs and spent nights outside in the rain to stay with others too young or too loud to be allowed in the shelter — he wouldn’t leave his room. The last time I saw him he was on his BMX with a strained shopping bag overloaded with cans of pop slung over the bars, on his way back to hole up in his room again.

I remember Joe from Anita Place tent city. He was one of the first to move in and when the bylaw officers came through at the end of the first week, tearing down tarps and seizing tents that happened to be empty, Joe ran around and woke and roused couples up, directing them like a general on a horse in battle: one into each empty tent to weigh it down against the City’s storm. We published an interview with Joe about this for the one year anniversary of the tent city. 

When we first elected a camp council Joe was one of the most nominated, but he didn’t want to come to meetings. He preferred to stay in his compound at the northwest end of camp, uphill somewhat. More than a tent, Joe’s shelter was a labyrinth of tents, passages cut through their sides, joining kitchen to bike part storage to living room to his bed tent. Before meetings I would always go ask him about dynamics in the camp: who was being left out, who was getting out of control, and we’d talk about how to reach out to bring them all together. 

There were two terrible storms each spring that we spent at the tent city. The first one was a real surprise. The storm drains flooded and jammed and the covers blew off the sewer access in the street just outside camp, and a river of water rushed suddenly through — carrying tents like little paper boats out towards the highway on the other side of camp. There was an elevated storm drain cover at the foot of the little hill that Joe’s compound sat above. And Joe and me and two others, with snow shovels and garbage can lid, stood in the hip-deep, silty, moving water, and bailed into that drain. Joe, laughing and joking the whole time.

I also knew that dynamics were bad at camp when Joe wasn’t around. He left a few times during those two and a half years. Sometimes he said it was because of relationship troubles with Jody, and sometimes he wouldn’t say why. He’d lower his head and look up out of the top corner of his eye with a subtle shake of his head. 

I wish I could say that Joe died laughing, but I guess he was sighing deeply at the dark little suspicious world of the government’s most institutional housing, looking out of the corner of his eye, shaking his head.

Joe’s mom submitted a beautiful eulogy to the Maple Ridge News, and mailed us a collection of his poetry, along with some Tim Hortons gift cards for his friends. I’m glad we can publish some of his poetry here. 

We wish you peace Little Joe.

Selected poems of Joe Bauman (August 10, 1975 – October 28, 2020)

Joe Bauman, rest in peace

I’ve lead a dope life

I’ve lead a dope life
and I don’t mean that
I got a Gold rope
and tats on my throat

Thats right I been
on the floor with a blacklight
scramblin to get my crackpipe
let me tell you just
what a life like that’s like

Sittin in the dark
hiding from the phone
I fuck myself slowly
when I’m all alone

I’ve seen my friends come
I’ve seen my friends go
I’ve seen myself hurt
I’ve seen myself grow

If I had my choice
I’d never take it back
There’s a lot to give
From a life like that

K.D. in the pan
A couple ichiban
I’d sell my final meal
if I could get another gram

Life like that
was only getting worse
Waiting for the day that
I’d be riding in a hearse
I Just Stole a Fifty
Out my granma’s purse
You think thats bad
I’m shootin up dirt

We keep schemin cheques
from the welfare system
damn I hate my worker
cause She’s a bitch ‘n

If I ever payed the hydro
I coulda cook in the kitchen
Dollie’s on the left with the meth and
Bill was the wican on my right

If I had my choice
I’d never take it back
There’s a lot to give
From a life like that

I’ve seen my friends come
I’ve seen my friends go
I’ve seen myself hurt
I’ve seen myself grow

If I had my choice
I’d never take it back
There’s a lot to give
From a life like that

Untitled (Nov 6th, 2011)

I believe in the things
That I see when I dream
That old monkey
Boy can he scream
I mean to be me
butHe won’t let me be
He feeds my beliefs
He plants evil seeds

These things that I speak
Are not for just me
We learn from each other
When we share our feelings
I’ve tried to make peace
With the demons in me
They reach from within
They have there own beat

You have no idea
What it’s like to be free
It’s just an illusion
Or is it a dream?
So we reach for the stars
Dive deep in the sea’s
We struggle together
It’s called community

Together we are strong
United we can be
Separate we are failing
Why don’t you all see?
It’s falling around us
It crumbles beneath
The lies all around us
It finds home in the streets

We waste away in our ways
The days fade into grey
You reap what you sow
From the seeds that you lay
I’m doomed by my past
If I don’t live for the day
precious is the present
if its sunny make hay

But it’s easy if you look
For reasons to find
Distractions from life
If you got weight on your mind
So live like I do
One breath at a time
Pure and uncutNo breath of a lie

Ode to Unibomber (10\08\97)

Uni is a guy I got to know
Used to drink a lot and snort some blow

Uh huh yeah… that’s right!

Came to Crossroads, sure’s a nice guy
Gotta change his life before he dies
“No more drugs for me!” he loudly declared
Sittin in his chair he blankly stared

Uh huh yeah… that’s right!

We think we’re going crazy, we’re not to sure
Gene says the promises will give us the cure
Aerobics time, its 4:15
I’d rather choke on a junkie’s spleen

Uh huh yeah… that’s right!

Dino came down from the sky above
He brought with him a whole lotta love
28 days we have to spend
Can hardly see the light around the bend

Uh huh yeah… that’s right!

Curfew time it’s eleven o’clock
Gotta hit the sack and stroke my cock
If you drink like Uni, everyday
Hope to see your ass at the next A.A.
Have to see the light to find your H.P.
If you havn’t yet, it’s in you and me
So listen to Uni he’s got a lot to say
If you stay sober from day to day
You’ll be O.K.

A peace to believe

I see a heaven without any hippies
Gimme peace beneath the tree’s

The honey’s so sweet
When it’s made by the bee’s

You hear the music
It’s soul in the breeze

So hard to believe
It’s all the people need

Live life & laugh
Just go with god speed

we plant these seeds
Please teach them to be free

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