21 Oct Mark Baumer – Interview
Mark Baumer is a writer who caught my attention when I read his novel Yachts in consideration for The Metatron Prize this past year. I personally felt very connected to his work, as it was going well-beyond its (successful) humour and absurdity and operating much more on the level of deep human understanding. This, was an empathetic writer. A ‘woke’ individual. Someone who seems to understand the struggles of being a human, a struggle that binds us all together somehow: the struggle against greed and ego and money.
I started following Mark on social media and was quite curious about this new project of his, which is to walk barefoot across America. So I reached out to see if he’d be interested in answering some questions I had. He’s currently on day 9 of his trek. You can follow his journey (and cheer him on!) on Instagram and YouTube. It’s a truly fascinating thing he’s doing, and is a very entertaining and endearing thing to witness.
Metatron: So why run across America barefoot? What are the inner workings of this journey?
Mark Baumer: My ultimately goal is to defeat climate change. I’m not sure how but when I complete this journey I will know better. Deep down I wanted to do something I wasn’t sure I could do. There isn’t a single day I don’t have doubts. In some ways I’m fearful of what might happen. But all these fears, doubts, and worries tell me I’m on the right path.
I notice you are also raising money. What will the money be used for?
I’m raising money for an organization called FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas). They are located in Providence and are currently fighting a number of environmental harmful situations both locally and nationally. They are fighting against a proposed power plant in Northern Rhode Island. They are fighting against a liquid natural gas facility that wants to get built in South Providence. They’re fighting National Grid’s proposal to increase rates for customers in order to pay for new pipelines. They have been doing a number of actions in solidarity with the NoDAPL fight in North Dakota. Just yesterday FANG had two people lock down to the doors of a TD Bank in Providence because TD Bank is financing the pipelines getting built in North Dakota through Indigenous lands. I’ve worked with FANG. Earlier this year me and two other people from FANG did a nonviolent direct action where we locked down to the world headquarters of Textron located in downtown Providence. Textron at the time was the only US manufacturer of cluster bombs which the US government was selling to Saudi Arabia. Because of public outcry Textron has stopped making cluster bombs. So that campaign by FANG was successful. I’m confident FANG’s other campaigns will be too. The reason I’m raising money for them is because they do great work but they also are all so overworked. A lot of their work is voluntary and unpaid. They’re putting in thousands of hours of free labor to go against these massive corporations who have all the money. These corporations can pay lawyers thousands of dollars to find ways to get environmentally destructive infrastructure built. My hope is to raise as much money for FANG as possible and maybe level the playing field.
Where do you plan to end up? And what happens when you get there?
I am planning to go to Los Angeles. When I get there I will probably spend a little time with friends and then return to my job. I took an unpaid leave to do this trip. I’ll probably take a bus back to Rhode Island.
How many hours a day are you typically walking/running for?
I run/walk for about eight hours right now but I want to increase this. It’s difficult because a lot of my time each day goes to making the video and other things I post online.
Any plans to stop for a pedicure on the way?
Before I left a doctor told me I should stop and use a sensory deprivation tank along the way. I see a lot of acupuncture businesses. I’m always tempted to stop.
You’ve been using Instagram stories to share what it is you are consuming. From what I can tell, you are a vegan? What is your all time favourite fruit, veggie and nut?
I went plantbased/vegan over a year ago because of environmental and health reasons. I like to post everything I eat on the instagram stories as a way to promote the plantbased lifestyle. My favorite fruits are dates and cantaloupe. My favorite veggies are greens like kale or arugula. Cashews are probably my favorite nut. I wrote some about my reasoning for being plantbased on this trip here.
What do your friends and family think about this endeavour of yours?
My family has been very supportive. I think I’ve conditioned them. At this point they know I’m going to do what I’m going to do. My dad usually emails me every day. My mom and cousin are always sending me encouraging texts. My other cousin sends me a lot of snapchats. All the friends and family posting things on facebook has been a huge boost.
Do you have a mantra to help you work through the day?
I usually stop and meditate in the middle of the day. Late in the day when I’m getting tired I usually listen to a podcast, audiobook, or spotify.
Who are your idols?
Whenever I feel like giving up I think about Terry Fox. He was the Canadian who lost his leg to cancer and then decided to run across Canada one-legged to raise money for cancer research. His legend inspires me through a lot of difficulties.
Is the physical or emotional strain harder?
It’s a mix of both. Last night I began crying for no reason. It felt good and pushed me forward. I think I enjoy crying in general. It always feels like a good day if I cried a little.
Any chance of giving up?
I think there’s a chance I give up every day. So far the trip is way behind schedule and way over budget. I feel like I’m one of those Hollywood blockbusters that bombs and loses all kinds of money. Luckily this isn’t about money (besides the money I raise for FANG which all goes to them). If time and money are the only things roadblocking me from completing this journey then I’ll find a way. Deep down I still hold out hope I can convince someone to give me a book deal for this. I don’t know if I’m supposed to think that way or be honest about it but I’ve kind of thought this way my whole life. I keep doing things imagining they will lead to book deals and then I don’t ever get book deals. Part of the problem is I don’t know how to play the book deal game or I have no interest in playing it the way they want it played. I’d rather just call agents and leave long voicemails they never respond to. Anyway sorry for going on a tangent about book deals. I feel a little embarrassed and ashamed.
Feelings about acorns?
I like acorns. I support a world with even more acorns. But they hurt to step on. I called my grandfather the other day and he said there seem to be more acorns this year. I guess it’s the year of the acorn.
Fuck America. I’m crossing America to hopefully save it. It seems insane to think one person can save America but it’s not my fault. These delusional thoughts were created by America itself. My whole life I’ve been fed hero journeys by the culture. This more than anything is a hero journey. It’s also a journey into myself to feel alive. In some ways I should be thankful for America for creating a structure that propelled me to do what I’m doing in the same way Luke Skywalker should be thankful for the death star. But I don’t want to compare myself too much with Luke Skywalker because he was a terrorist of death. I don’t want to kill any living beings. I want to defeat things like climate change, America, fast food restaurants, the meat industry, and automobiles because in their destruction life flourishes.