As he’s selling Real Change, Jay Clark likes to make people laugh. “I say funny things as they’re walking by: ‘If you smile on Monday, your whole week is good to go!’”
Jay used to be a tile installer. “I could do it blindfolded,” he said. “I love it. It’s an art, because none of the tiles are square. They might be a minute little distance apart in size. If you don’t understand that, your lines will be all crooked.”
Jay prefers not to talk about how his own life got off course. He grew up in a “good Christian home” in Lake Stevens, just outside of Everett. His father was a captain for Foss tug boats, doing runs as far away as Africa. Before he died, Jay’s father was offered the position of quartermaster of the harbor, one of the most prestigious jobs that a skipper can be offered, Jay said.
Jay’s mother ran a 35-chair hair salon in Everett called “The Navigator.”
Jay played football in high school. “I did a little running, I did a little throwing. From twenty yards, I was deadly accurate; over that and there was a fifty-fifty chance I might get it there.” He’s a big Seahawks fan and has been ever since a family friend took him to a game in 1978. Instead of saying “Happy Friday,” he says “Happy Blue Friday.”
When people ask him what “blue” stands for, he tells them, “Seahawks!”
Jay is also into heavy metal. In high school he had long hair. He likes “everything from Metallica to Pantera.” He doesn’t play music himself, unless you count air guitar.
Jay spends part of his mornings playing Batheo, a war game set in ancient Greece. He’s “decent,” at it, he says. In the afternoon he sells Real Change and then, if it’s a game day, hustles down to a job in Sodo doing parking lot security.
At night, he sleeps outside. “I prefer to be outside. I don’t get along well in a situation where there’s a lot of people,” he said. “I’ve just got too much anxiety. Even in the winter, [when] I wake up with four inches of snow on me, I’m happy.”
But that’s temporary. He plans to get his license and go back into construction. He figures it could take a year.
In the meantime, he sells the paper. “My customers, I value them because they are so kind and respectful. People say to me, ‘Oh, you’re my favorite.’ People have a set time. If I’m not there, they get upset with me. So I really respect and thank them.”