Vendor Geoffrey has two slogans when he sells the paper – one that he says to himself and one that he communicates to potential customers:
Outward: Hello, would you like to buy a Contributor?
Internal: Gotta sell them all, gotta sell them all. (Sung to the popular Pokemon tune.)
The quiet vendor has a shy smile, and you can feel his kindness and warmth in just a few moments of being in his presence.
He also has a great sense of humor, like when he asked to include his age in this spotlight: “42, and I still look good.”
Geoff has been selling The Contributor since 2009, after another vendor, Dr. John, introduced him to the paper.
“When I first came to Nashville, I found (Dr. John’s) camp and he was a vendor. He told me a bit about it and showed me the ropes,” Geoffrey said.
Since that time, he had been selling The Contributor downtown by Demos’ Restaurant, and he recently changed locations to sell in front of McDonalds on Gallatin in East Nashville.
“I depend on the kindness of strangers,” he said. “Sometimes there are people who don’t buy the paper but they see it in their heart to (give). It does help me out.”
Geoffrey, a Tennessee native, is currently living in a tent, and has been since he moved to Nashville in 2009 after getting out of prison.
“It has it’s ups and downs. When it gets cold, it’s cold. When it gets hot, boy does it get balmy.
That doesn’t compare to the thunderstorms. I have to put layers of tarps over my tent, cover the seams; (the water) will bleed right through,” he said.
Geoffrey explained that, following his time in prison, rebuilding his life over the last eight years has been a very difficult process.
“Every time I get my birth certificate or picture ID, someone steals it or because of the rain it gets destroyed. Every time I get something of value, people just steal it. I have nowhere to put it.”
Geoffrey added that having something on his record has kept him from being able to secure housing, but said that he will enter Room In The Inn – a supportive housing program – this fall.
A lack of family support has also hindered Geoffrey’s rehabilitation; he briefly connected with his family last year after his father died, but has since lost contact again because he does not have a phone.
“Sometimes I go to the downtown library and try to look them up. I don’t know if it’s accurate or right. I have no way contacting them,” he said. “Before (I went to prison), it was easy to do what I wanted to do because I had the (family) support. Being here, I’m all by myself trying to do all these things.”
His goal right now is to secure a permanent, good paying job. He has previously worked a variety of jobs including making valves for water heaters, landscaping, custodial work and in the food industry.
In his free time, he likes to play video games and read sci-fi or fantasy books.
For now, he’ll continue to sell The Contributor on Gallatin and hopes to soon build up a new customer base.
“(Selling) is a nice way to meet people – that’s what i like about it,” he said.