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I had just missed my bus home last night when a booming voice drew my attention. “Real Change paper here, folks! Brand new issue! Ink still wet!”
I bought a copy from the street vendor and we chatted about the publication. With great pride, he told me it was an award-winning newspaper, something I just happened to know from reading this story by Maureen O’Hagan a few days ago.
I told him I worked for a newspaper too and his eyes lit up. I said I’d like to draw him for this blog and he was thrilled. Because I was pressed for time and needed to catch another bus, he suggested meeting today. I managed to do a quick sketch of him doing his signature sales pitch but I also took him up on the offer. We met again this morning by the Starbucks near Westlake Center.
His name is Norm Terry and he told me the secret of selling newspapers: “I have a big mouth, people can hear me from three blocks away.”
Norm was born in Rochester, NY, 58 years ago. His dad was Italian and his mother was “a full-blooded Indian Mohawk,” he says. “I had a beautiful childhood,” he adds, choking up with emotion.
After dealing with mental illness and drugs, he got his life back on track. He has been selling the newspaper for eight years. It’s not a very lucrative business. “My brother is a patent attorney in Sydney, Australia. He makes $10,000 a week,” he said. “On a good day, I make $30.” But he is really grateful for Real Change. The newspaper has been helping the poor and homeless in Seattle since 1994.
Norm calls himself a former hippie. “The pretty girls who pass by tell me I look like Mick Jagger, you think so?” he asks me.
Yeah, I really do! And we both laughed.