The New Year marks the 25th Anniversary of Real Change. This is a fact that I struggle to get my head around. Here’s another: We recently did the math, and the 1,000th issue of Real Change will publish on Nov. 6, 2019.
Just, wow. I was 33 when I moved here from Boston to start this paper. I’m now 58. The Buddha once asked, “Days and nights are relentlessly passing; how well are we using our time?” I feel fortunate to mostly have a good answer.
And so, I’ve been hanging out with the archives lately. Most of those newspapers are preserved in our basement, sitting in eight file cabinets as silent witness to the years. Starting this January, we’ll republish something each week to celebrate the anniversary.
I look for pieces that strike me as memorable. Stories that speak from the heart and feel like enduring truth. But all those newspapers. All those stories and poems and opinions and voices. Where to even begin?
So, forgive me for a little nostalgia. In the November 1994 issue, we published three pages of art by a guy named Max Chandler. I met him at Street Life Gallery — the same place I met Dr. Wes Browning — a block from where Real Change began in Belltown.
Max moved from New York to Seattle in 1988, and as a result of job loss and eviction became homeless for six months. He credits that with his development as an artist.
“Being homeless puts you into a different kind of time,” he said. “When I draw, I sometimes become so focused that everything goes black around me. When I come out, I have to go through this painful process, almost like getting back into the world after being homeless.”
“I was able to use homelessness as a positive thing. Unfortunately, the street is taking care of people who should be taken care of. Many homeless people have much more serious problems than the fact that they’re homeless. Sometimes they can’t ask for help. That’s the essential problem, I think.”
Max landed on his feet, and became one of the original staff at Speakeasy Café. Back when mass use of the internet was new, and we hissed and sputtered our way through file downloads with our 14.4k modems, people went to these places for faster connections. Thanks mostly to our connection to Max, the Real Change editorial committee used to meet there.
It was Max who signed me up with my first internet account, director (at) speakeasy.org. When he asked me what I wanted for a password, I probably looked at him blankly, as in, “What is this “password” that you speak of?” To say I was a newbie would be putting it mildly.
He assigned one himself. “You’re Ozymandias.” He wrote it on a napkin for me.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias is the personification of great works come to naught.
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Max, perhaps a bit passive-aggressively, may have been putting my ego in check.
I thought of this last week while I was getting blood drawn. The phlebotomist was making conversation and asked what I do for work. I told him.
“Wow. That’s really cool,” he said. “When I was a kid growing up on Capitol Hill, my mom would always send me over to buy from the vendor.”
I did the math and thought about who might have been most visible then.
“Linda Baer? Blind Indian woman?”
I watched the memory return. He smiled in amazement. “YES!”
The Buddha also spoke of impermanence, but I think even he’d agree that Real Change matters. None of this would have happened without you, our readers, supporting our vendors, or without your generous contributions.
As of today, Real Change needs another $147,216.40 in reader support to meet our $170,000 year-end fund drive goal. Every gift matters, and our gratitude is infinite. Thank you.
Tim Harris is the Founding Director Real Change and has been active as a poor people’s organizer for more than two decades. Prior to moving to Seattle in 1994, Harris founded street newspaper Spare Change in Boston while working as Executive Director of Boston Jobs with Peace.
Read the full Dec. 26 - Jan. 1 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.