David C., better known by his pseudonym “Clinecasso” (yes, inspired by Pablo Picasso), is known by his customers for his friendly personality and vibrant artwork that often appears in the Vendor Submission section of The Contributor. He sells the paper at Kroger in Inglewood, where he takes time to pray for each of his potential customers. His wife, Ellie, takes the morning and early afternoon shift at the spot; he sells the paper there after 1 p.m.
Originally from Murfreesboro, he experienced homelessness nearly 25 years ago. He found his way into housing, then came to The Contributor in August 2010 as a way to make extra money on top of what he receives from his disability benefits.
Clinecasso is also heavily involved in Poverty and the Arts, a Nashville nonprofit that provides creative opportunities to artists overcoming homelessness. His original drawings have been featured and sold at many of the organization’s events.
It’s been four years since we featured Clinecasso in a Vendor Spotlight, so we checked in with one of our most-published artists.
After being a vendor for many years, what would you say about The Contributor?
It’s a mighty organization because they help out people who used to be homeless and right now are in transitional housing, like a hotel. It helps people like us put money into our pockets to help us pay our bills, our rent, our cell bill.
What do you enjoy about selling the paper?
I enjoy talking to people and blessing people. Right before I sell papers, I say a prayer, “Heavenly Father, I thank you for giving me this beautiful day. I ask you Lord to bless everyone who is inside Kroger to choose their groceries wisely and help them save money. If you want them to buy a paper off me, help them roll down their window and buy it from me for 2 dollars, plus tips.” If they don’t want to to take the paper, I tell them my artwork is in the paper.
What do you like about being an artist?
It releases my stress and calms me down. It calms the savage beast – anxiety and anger.
Have you always struggled with anxiety and anger?
Yes. I see a therapist every week at Centerstone (after) my wife told me that I needed to see a therapist. I’m so glad my wife loves me so much.
How did you meet your wife, Ellie?
I’ve known her since 1997. I met her on Murfreesboro Road at the Murphy Court apartments. The first day (I met her), she hired a lot of people to help her clean up her apartment. I told her, "Have everybody leave and you don’t have to pay me a dime." After I did that, she fell in love with me. It’s hard to know at the time if you’ve found the right one; it was like she landed in my lap. I told everybody that "Ellie and I are going to be living together for the rest of our lives."
When did you experience homelessness?
A long time ago – 23 or 24 years ago.
How did you end up in that situation?
Laziness and irresponsibility. At first, when I was homeless, I called my mom and let her know what was going on. She said, "What do you want to do in your lifetime?" I said, "I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to work." That was the David of 23 years ago. Now, I’m 50 years old. I’m glad I’m still alive. My work ethic now is stay busy. I have to be responsible; I learned it the hard way by being homeless.
When I was homeless, what helped me get from day to day (is) I had to donate plasma twice a week. When I got paid the money, I went to Nashville Rescue Mission and I chose somebody at random and would take them to the movies – my treat. We’d walk all the way from downtown to the movie house.
That was very generous of you.
I’d give away my last $5 if I could.
You turned 50 last month. What are your hopes for the next part of your life?
I hope to live to the year 2067 – I’ll be 100 years old. I can’t wait to see the advances of technology. I’m a sci-fi fan. I love Star Wars, Star Trek. I like anything that takes place in space.
You’re also a huge fan of the Tennessee Titans.
Right now, I like Marcus Mariota. I hope he heals up fast. I hope we make it to the Super Bowl. I love football; I used to be a football manager at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to your customers?
I want to thank all my returning customers. I appreciate it and I hope you and your families will have a blessed week and weekend. I pray that the Lord will bless you and keep you.