Vendor of the Week Umar Wiggs grew up in Seattle at a time when, as he so eloquently put it, "kids rode bikes instead of playing video games." This was the 1970s. And it was more than just the decade of Disco, of Fear and Loathing, of the Partridge Family -- to Umar Wiggs, 1970-1979 was the decade that wedged itself between Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and George Lucas' The Empire Strikes Back.
Not a bad time, in other words, to be a sci-fi freak, and Wiggs read with a vengeance. When he'd finished Isaac Asimov's Foundation, he read the author's trilogy of the same name; when he'd finished that, Wiggs read everything Asimov had ever written. A pattern developed: after Asimov came Frank Herbert -- first Dune, then everything. Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.
His mind whirred with phrases like photon torpedoes and chrono-synclastic infundibula -- unsurprisingly, when it came time for Wiggs to pick a career, aerospace technology seemed like a pretty good choice. As though gazing at a distant star, Wiggs dreamed of a degree in physics.
He didn't have trouble with the law or his health or drugs. Nothing like that. When he graduated high school, Wiggs went to work. He fished in Alaska, worked in an Illinois slaughterhouse, returned to Seattle and did day labor (selling Real Change on the side). In that subtle, irresistible way, a decade passed.
But there's still plenty of time; Wiggs, who's in his 30s but looks like he's just cracked his 20s, just completed an associates degree of science at Seattle Central Community College. He plans to earn the rest of his BA in physics beginning this fall.
"Keep the faith," says Wiggs, who sells at the Trader Joe's on Madison and 17th. "Be considerate of your fellow man.