The man we call Joefire.com died Thanksgiving Day. If you knew him, count yourself lucky. If you didn’t, odds are you will never meet anyone quite like him. Joefire.com had a real name…. Eric Allen Bass. Born October 23, 1969, he died just weeks past his 35th birthday.
Joefire.com the person is gone, the website isn’t. It was last updated on Wednesday, November 17, about a month ago. I hope nobody goes and tears it down. The archives section stands as a remarkable, certainly unplanned, tribute to a person who was clever, sweet, kind and one of San Francisco’s most passionate advocates for what he believed.
Unlike few others, describing Eric and his Joefire.com identity with a cool, third party detachment seems both misdirected and a waste of time. In a flash, he could draw almost anyone into a life or death debate on the most trivial or most lofty subject. What made him so incredibly special was the determination and force which he placed behind his demand to be treated
It was against this zeal for consciousness raising that a wonderful smile would quietly rise to the surface. There are people in this world capable of transforming landscapes with a smile. I treasure the days he produced those sunshine smiles for me.
And then there was the attack. From the Gold Rush days of Joshua Norton in 1849 through this past election cycle of ranked choice voting, no San Francisco political season ever experienced the fresh, precise, lethal and very devastating political assaults, which emerged with microscopic accuracy
from the person and the website, named “Joefire.com.”
Any candidate sensing insulation from the attacks of Joefire.com might have felt lucky. The more believable truth was Joefire.com simply found them boring…. much more offensive in the Joefire.com political handbook.
One morning about a year ago, some of the most blasphemous vulgar copy against then mayoral candidate Angela Alioto appeared on his Joefire.com website. Even the coolest of black folk, it would seem, knew coming too close to the fangs of the mother Alioto simply wasn’t wise. Most believed retribution would not be pretty. How wrong everyone was. A few hours later, our hero Joefire.com was drinking a carefully prepared cocktail aiming that smile of sunshine like a laser missile at the heir to the Italian political throne.
Eric Allen Bass loved Glide. And Glide loved him. Of Douglass Fitch, who with Cecil Williams, keep Glide safely on a sort-of Methodist track, Joefire.com said, “Pastor Fitch led us all in prayer before finding my candy-ass and pointing out: ‘I’ve missed you at Sunday services’ (one of the problems
with sitting in the VERY FRONT ROW is that when yah ain’t at church, it gets noticed). I tried using the foot as an excuse (this foot – as an excuse – works wonders: miss anything, need anything, want anything – just mention that you’ve
got a 3 inch deep hole in your foot……I should have thought of this years ago). He was having none of it! He replied, ‘Well, you seem to be getting around again, I’ll look for you on Sunday’. Got it.”
It was thus Tuesday morning when the Rev. Douglass Fitch presided over the funeral service for Eric Allen Bass at the McAvoy O’Hara Mortuary in San Francisco’s Richmond District. In death, something wonderful was starting to happen. Piecing together many stories I found a tale of hope and compassion began to emerge.
I learned that with his death, Eric Allen Bass seemed to have few visible roots. San Francisco General staff had limited success filling those hospital-designated blanks calling for family, home, burial needs and the perpetually popular, “Who pays for all this?” There is sufficient reason to believe he was headed for the moment when decisions, many very unpleasant, were about to be made.
Then clues began to emerge. A voice here, a message there, an
acquaintance in one place leading to a friend in another. Things started to happen.
Then one man chose to use his power. He determined that San Francisco was not about to let Eric Allen Bass, our Joefire.com, leave without a proper sendoff.
He assigned his confidential secretary to finalize details. Ten months earlier she had been introduced to his readers with the declaration: “Ladies and Gentlemen – Introducing the incredibly talented (and single) Ms. Malia Cohen, she’s perfect for the job, as this woman can keep a secret!”
Another twist revealed Ms. O’Hara of said McAvoy O’Hara Mortuary was politically active. Raising things another notch, it seems before his death Joefire.com and Ms. O’Hara were friends. Not only that, it seems both were Republicans. At least now there was a reason why so many couldn’t agree with them.
Somehow most could expect the undertaker to be a Republican… Joefire.com….never!
Yet, Tuesday morning, December 14, a gathering of San Francisco’s most important and its most powerful political leaders were coming together out in the Richmond District. For example, among the women were Kamela Harris, Angela Alioto, Malia Cohen, Myrna Lim and Rachel Gordon.
I honestly don’t know where Eric Allen Bass lived. I know nothing of his personal life. I do believe, however, he struggled like so many others in San Francisco. At the end of each day, victory was the simple act of survival.
Tuesday morning the Mayor’s limousine was positioned as the lead car in a yet to move funeral procession carried a strong symbolic message. The Mayor of San Francisco cleared almost two hours from his day to be part of this funeral service.
What it all means isn’t quite clear to me. There is change, dramatic change going on in this city and it has its roots, I believe, at the bottom, not the top of the political and social structure. Tuesday, San Franciscans saw their mayor invest a substantial amount of time caring about someone who, by
most standards, would not have merited the time. That caring must be acknowledged and encouraged by the people of this city.
We may find Eric Allen Ross is responsible for a level of change he could only have imagined….and certainly hoped for. There is something very refreshing to be able to send a message to the mayor of San Francisco which simply says, “Thank you.”