Joe Bageant, author, blogger and class warrior, died yesterday after a short bout with cancer.
The financial success of Joe's first book, Deer Hunting with Jesus, shocked and, I think, embarrassed him. He tried to give away as much of the money as he could, as fast as he made it, but felt compelled to hang onto at least some of it because he figured sooner or later, his drinking and smoking would catch up with him and he'd be at the mercy of the American healthcare system.
He was right.
I don't think I ever felt so comfortable, so fast with anyone like I did with Joe. We were fans of each other's work, and corresponded back and forth for years. I still remember our first phone call, which lasted a couple of hours and covered everything from class stratification to the consciousness-raising wonders of LSD. I always intended to visit him, either in Winchester, Virgina where he was first born and returned decades later, or in Belize and then Ajijic, Mexico, where he'd been spending a lot of time and was trying to lure his many friends down to form a community of like-minded ex-pats. But I never had a reliable car, or enough money to pay for gas.
And then he got sick.
After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died yesterday following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas.
According to Joe's wishes, he will be cremated. His family will hold a private memorial service.
Did I mention that Joe was, in fact, an actual socialist? He wrote so powerfully about the tyranny of owning things, but also had a deep well of compassion for his fellow Americans who were caught on the wheels of the economic machine.
He was my friend, my mentor, and my hero. He was no doubt easier at a distance, but really, aren't we all?
I have a review copy of his latest book, Rainbow Pie, sitting on my desk. I haven't gotten to it yet. But I will.
Bless you, Joe. See you on the other side.