"Real Change, sir?" The phrase rolled off Edward McClain's tongue with the ease of familiarity. "You want to f*** with me?" The stranger replied threateningly. In the palm of his hand nestled a grenade. McClain watched the implied violence in silence. Security poured out of Safeway and the stranger escaped down the alley "like a bat out of hell."
"They have acts here, in front of this door, that Hollywood can't reproduce. I've seen it all at this door."
For 16 years McClain has witnessed the actors on the doorstep cinema of Brooklyn Avenue Safeway. He gives directions to travelers, smiles and a compliment of "cutie pie" to the youngest, and exchanges words with strangers and regulars alike.
In his home in the quiet, residential area of Lake City, he cooks. He rewrites recipes with an experienced eye, to eliminate the "fine print" that is redundant to a cook of his experience. Trained in France and the kitchens of American restaurants, he knows how to prepare good food. Despite the quality of his jambalayas and pies, he doesn't enjoy eating them.
"Once you go through all that preparation to make it, then you come to eat it, you've lost your appetite."
Around the holiday season, he gives his cooking away. To Real Change. He fills our refrigerator to the brim with culinary wonders. For McClain believes "you have to give something back. You can't be like the cemetery, only take."
McClain gives in other ways too. To the vendors he donates 100 papers a week. "I do real well, the way I am, so I try to spread it. If you give, it will come back to you, you know what I mean?...When I donate 100 papers, I get that back a thousand times."
McClain's message to his customers:
"You only go around one time in this life. Live it to the fullest. When I die, I don't want them to say I didn't do this, I didn't do that. When I die I want them to say, he didn't leave a rock unturned. Life is so fragile; you don't know when it is going to end, so enjoy your life. 'Cause you won't go around twice. Once you pass 14 you'll never see 14 again. I wish for the whole world that they get a chance to enjoy their life. So that when they get to be 60 or 70 years old they can say, well, I did this, I did that, I achieved this, I achieved that. That's what I'd like to wish my customers: The very best of everything."