I could be wrong, but as we begin our interview, I'm not sure that Vendor of the Week John Patrick wants to be Vendor of the Week. It's not shyness, I think. To sell the paper -- to sell anything -- requires a gift for gab; John Patrick sells plenty of papers. So I assume he can chew the fat.
But his answers to my questions are mostly monosyllabic, and even when they aren't they're charged with something I can't quite put my finger on -- it's like his words have shadows.
He is a Tacoma native, though work of a few different kinds brought him north on I-5. He explains with something akin to embarrassment that he doesn't remember, exactly, how it was he got involved with Real Change.
He reflects aloud on his favorite places to sell, adds that people are friendly in the city, and that it's a big city, with plenty of people and plenty of places to go.
But he's stayed mostly around Ballard and Queen Anne. You must like the water, I say, trying to draw him out.
"I'm a Pisces," he says, as though telling me my shoes are untied.
A couple minutes pass, and then, out of the blue, it comes.
"I like selling the paper," he says. "I'm selling a product, so it beats panhandling."
And just like that, it hits me: He's a modest man in a world of people like me.