Marvin Gnad wears a big, all-weather kind of grin that shows both sets of teeth, top and bottom. He has a soft, drawling voice, a thin frame that doesn't quite fill the chair. Born in Dodge City, Kansas, he remembers the year they proved Kansas was literally flatter than a pancake. I think of that endless stretch of buckwheat and corn, a couple million glaring, cud-chewing cows, and believe him. He's one of the last links in a chain of 11 children. A twin sister, too, in Colorado.
So passes the first part of our interview: flat and smiling as Kansas.
After a couple tours of duty in the armed services, Gnad came to Seattle via just about every city in the American West, in search of work or something like it.
Simultaneously, his health began to fail: fibromyalgia, kidney stones, acid reflux. A bad back. Oh yeah, cancer.
So Real Change became for him, when the illnesses had passed and left only dull aches and medical bills, a kind of therapy.
"I couldn't do anything else," remembers Gnad. "I'd get out there and hop around."
So he sold faithfully around Seattle, built up customers and friends, became one of the paper's top-selling vendors. Then one day Gnad replied to a classified posted on a Real Change message board-- a chef's steward, decent money, 32 hours a week. He sold papers a little less, did that job as faithfully as he had once done this one. He's now being trained for Chief Steward: a union job, 50 hours a week, and a pay raise.
"I know a buck doesn't sound like a lot," says Gnad, "but thanks to you I got a job. I got a chance."
When he isn't working, you can find Gnad at his First and Western turf.