On July 23, 1933, James Garrett was born in Douglass, Arizona, a little town on the Mexican border. He was the son of a Mexican immigrant and a Dublin-born and New York-raised policeman. In his youth, he spoke both Irish English and Mexican Spanish; and to this day, almost three quarters of a century later, his accent is still some mix of the two. Bagpipes in a mariachi band.
Did he miss Arizona, I wondered?
“I miss the rattlesnakes,” said Garrett, “and the scorpions.”
I just kind of looked at him — had I heard right?
“And the howling coyotes.” I nodded until Garrett’s mouth split into a smile — it took me a second, but then I realized that James Garrett had been giving me a hard time.
Garrett’s path to Seattle started in 1952, when he began his service in the Korean War as an Army private. In 1956, he returned a staff sergeant, “glad to come out alive.” But the traveling bug had bitten him.
Shortly after his return, Garrett saw Montana and the Dakotas by train; then, Wyoming and Colorado; then, he figured, might as well, and toured Texas, Utah, and New Mexico; eventually, his travels led him through Mexico and down to Guatemala’s Temple of the Gods.
And, more or less, that’s what brought him to Seattle. Though he’d initially planned to move on to Alaska for work, a friend introduced Garrett to Real Change a decade ago and he’s been selling papers ever since. You can find him on Sixth and Union.
“I only receive Social Security,” said Garrett, “so Real Change helps supplement my income… I also like meeting people — and I meet quite a few.”
When the interview had finished and we’d shaken hands, Garrett gave me a half-nod and said, “Be sure to include the coyotes.”
This time, I got it.