It took a while to get James Wade to talk about himself and his work as a Real Change vendor. He wanted to express thanks to his neighbors in Ballard, and he especially wanted to talk about Roscoe.
Roscoe is the chubby little black and white dog who goes everywhere with Wade. He’s friendly with strangers and snoozed under my chair during our interview.
“I knew Roscoe for seven years before I got him. He and his father belonged to a friend of mine, another Real Change vendor.” But the friend died, and the dogs needed new homes. Roscoe got a home with James Wade. “My friends knew I was good with animals.”
“Roscoe saved my life once,” Wade said in the interview. He had eaten too many edibles, Wade told me, and “Roscoe licked my face and scratched my legs until I woke up and got help from a neighbor.” He’s been more careful with edibles ever since.
Wade was born in Brooklyn, New York, and left in 1989 to travel with Amusements of America, a company that provides carnival rides, games and food stands for fairs and carnivals all up and down the East Coast. He was based in Florida, and, while he enjoyed his time with the company, his life wasn’t all good. He was involved in four automobile accidents, which left their mark on him in knee and hip injuries. He says he also “got into some trouble and served some time.”
He came to Seattle in 2005. He’s done a lot of jobs, mostly in construction and food preparation, in spite of the trouble he has with his hips and legs: “They won’t let me stand up for more than four hours at a time.”
He likes selling Real Change because, he says, “It’s comfortable. I can sell papers and then take a rest.” He used to sell out in front of the Bartell Drugs at 15th and Market. Since the Bartell’s has closed, it’s been hard for him to find a consistent place to sell. “I walk around to the restaurants and the bars, and I go to the farmers’ market on Sunday.”
But he says the people in his Ballard neighborhood (“my playground”) have been very supportive, especially during the pandemic. He particularly praised the management at the Shingletown Saloon and Rachel’s Bagels for their support. “They’ve given me so many chances to better myself.”
What does he want readers to know about him? “I want to thank the people who know me in Ballard, and everybody else who has supported me.”
James Wade is a Real Change vendor. His badge number for Venmo payments is 10880.
Read more of the Aug. 2-8, 2023 issue.