Vendor: RANDY M.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Alabama.
How’d you end up in Nashville?
I lived in Utah for 10 years, and decided on coming back south — came here! I’ve been here since 2014.
How do you like it so far?
I love this city. I’ve been all over the United States. Nashville, to me, is the coolest and most beautiful place to be.
Are you a country fan?
Country—I like country. I’m mostly old school – AC/DC, KISS, Van Halen, Ozzy, Black Sabbath.
How long have you sold The Contributor?
I’ve been selling since August 2014.
How has your selling experience been?
At first, it was going great. I was doing well, then last year—I started struggling. I don’t know why. I sell in front of the McDonalds by Broadway in the afternoons and at night, but all of my customers have gone away. So sometimes I’m working 12, 14 hours trying to get my customer base back up. But I got to do what I got to do. Sometimes I’m out there all night long trying to sell the paper.
Do you have any repeat customers?
Sometimes. People come through and say, “I don’t have the money.” I might see them again, they might buy a paper. It all depends.
Are you in housing right now?
Yes. Since I’ve been here — 2014, a bunch of street kids call me “Dad.” I tell them — one of them that works for The Contributor, him and his wife got a place. They let me move in with them.
That’s so nice! When was your first time being homeless?
First time? That’s when I was about 25. So, mid-80s.
Do you mind if I ask what happened?
What happened? Got fed up living at home. Mentally abused. Got tired of it.
And that was in Alabama?
Then from Alabama, you went to Utah?
No, I started traveling. I’ve been to California (something), Georgia, Kentucky, Green Bay, etc.
Then you settled in Nashville?
Yeah. You might take the redneck out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the redneck. [Laughs.] Came back.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
[Points to his hat] Notice by my hat, I’m a big Alabama fan. Alabama rocks. I also love to read. Adventures, mysteries—Patricia Cornwell, she’s a good author. James Lee Burke. He lives in Louisiana, he’s a good author.
Do you ever write things of your own?
My writing’s like a second grader. [Laughs.] I’m awful at writing.
What did you do for work before selling The Contributor?
I used to be a custodian a long time ago. But I love doing this.
Have you made a lot of friends doing this?
I have. Mainly vendors. There’s one repeat customer I have who comes to the McDonald’s late at night. He’s about the only one I do have.
Do you read the paper?
Of course. I like the vendor spotlight and the articles in it. I mean, when I get the new one, I’ll read the articles each time I buy it — “Check this author out, they’re pretty good.”
It definitely helps to know what you’re selling!
Some of those photos—I have tattoos. Some of them would be great tattoos.
How many tattoos do you have?
I have two. One is a skull and crossbones and the other is a skull with a snake going through it.
Any particular reason behind those tattoos?
[Shrugs.] I like skulls.
As good a reason as any! What do you think people don’t understand about poverty and homelessness in Nashville?
Like I said, I’ve been all over the United States. I’ve seen a lot of homeless people who have skills but don’t have a lot of experience. Get passed over. Because you know, a lot of people think we’re drunks, do drugs—I’m a recovering alcoholic. Haven’t had a drink in over 15 years. I don’t even have the urge to drink. And I don’t do drugs. But when I started selling the paper down on Broadway, I had people come up and try to give me a beer — I’d tell them, “I don’t drink.” I have people in front of McDonalds ask me about buying beer. I tell them “Nope, sorry, I don’t buy beer.”
What are your hopes for the future?
I’m just going to live it day by day. See what the Lord gives me when I wake up the next day, because tomorrow’s not even guaranteed.
Are you a religious person?
Yes, I am. I grew up Southern Baptist. Old fashioned Southern Baptist. I may not go to church, but I thank God every day.