The Pacific Northwest has been Buddy McArdle’s home for more than 15 years, but when he speaks what comes out is pure New England. He can’t shake the Boston accent, nor would he want to. Removing the hometown from McArdle’s timbre would be like trying to remove salt from the ocean, or nitrogen from the atmosphere; some things just belong, even if they drift around a bit.
The first time McArdle moved to Seattle was in 1996 and he did very well. Then he drifted back to Boston to be with his wife and six kids. Then luck changed, and he got laid off. He decided to head west and give Seattle another try. That was in 2002.
“Well, I have always had good luck out here,” he told his wife before heading west. “you stay in Boston and take care of the kids. here is some money … I will send for you when I get set up.”
McArdle wasn’t expecting the high unemployment rate in Seattle at the time. He had left behind his wife and kids. He didn’t want to bring them out here because he didn’t know a soul in Seattle. While he was trying to find work, “somewhere along the line, my mother-in-law got involved, and the housing that showed up in Boston, that was going to be our house as a married couple, didn’t pan out. My wife ran off with someone else and I never got to see my kids again for like eight years.”
That’s how McArdle came to start selling Real Change. “While I was stuck out here, not knowing where my kids were and not knowing what the hell was going on, I decided to start selling papers.”
He has held down his spot selling Real Change at the Leschi Market for nine years. “I sell the paper because I have a lot of fun doing it. If you are in a bucket of shit that day or your life and everything is bullshit, you have to have a good attitude,” McArdle said. “It’s a lot easier for them to walk by you than to pull a buck out of their pocket, and if you want someone to stop and pull a buck out of their pocket you better have something nice to say.”
Since McArdle has been selling at Leschi Market for so long, he has seen how it has changed, “I am starting to see my customers’ kids grow up and go to college, or even start to work at the market.” Building a positive relationship with customers is important to McArdle. “When you’re out there on the streets, there is a lot of negativity, and people will give you a hard time for a lot of different reasons. So, when somebody takes a few minutes out of their time to come up and talk to you and figure out how things are going and how they can help, it’s nice. It can get hard out there.”
"When somebody takes a few minutes out of their time to come up and talk to you and figure out how things are going and how they can help, it’s nice. It can get hard out there.”
McArdle is content with how he lives now. Living in a tent and not planning on getting housing anytime soon, he realized that it’s not socially acceptable to be homeless. That is why McArdle’s kids all still live in Boston. While he has tried to persuade his sons to join the military like he did, and his father before him, he hasn’t had much luck. “People are just a different person when they get out of the military. They’re grown up,” he said. He still considers himself a big kid who likes to have fun.
He talks to his children every once in a while, but he is in the process of rebuilding his relationships with them. He hasn’t even addressed the fact that he is homeless with them. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about them, though. “It’s hard to go through life at some point without some goal ahead of you. One of the great things about this organization is the network of people that you are able to get introduced to by selling the paper.” McArdle’s goal is to be able to leave some sort of business for his children before he dies. He wants them to have things that he didn’t have.
"One of the great things about this organization is the network of people that you are able to get introduced to by selling the paper.”
Even though this 58-year-old veteran has been experiencing homelessness for years, it hasn’t dampened his ability to put a smile on people’s faces. “The sun will shine again no matter what. Thanks to all my customers for all their support and great attitudes. The people at the market as well, for being some of the greatest people I have ever met.”
Buddy is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles.
Check out the full Oct. 17 - 23 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.