January 22, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 4

Vendor of the Week

Vendor Profile - Steve Gomez

By Mike Wold / Contributing Writer

“In Nashville it’s really tough. They say, if you want a guitar player in Nashville, throw a rock. If you want a drummer, order a pizza”

Steve Gomez sells Real Change at the Olympia Food Coop

Photo by Jon Williams / Arts Editor

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Steve Gomez was into music from early on. After his high school graduation, he skipped the beach party and went to a jazz dance. There in New Haven, Conn., he found good music where you’d never expect: “We used to sneak into Yale mixers. They hired great blues bands: Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy Waters.” After high school, he studied drumming with Art Blakey Jr., son of the famous jazz drummer.

Like most musicians, Steve had a day job. He worked at the post office for 27 years. “Everybody asked me, ‘Aren’t you afraid you’re going to go postal?’ But before I went postal, I retired!”

He drove a truck for a year and loved it. “I got to every state I’d never been to. Montana in the winter is gorgeous. And I’d never been to Flagstaff. You come over the hill and see the desert: It’s beautiful. I had my FM radio, my drumsticks [for] when I got stuck in traffic. I would stop at casinos, hear bands on my down time.”

He found a girlfriend in Jackson, Tenn., but it didn’t work out. “I didn’t like [Jackson] too much. The only thing there is the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. So I said, ‘I’m going to Nashville.’”

“In Nashville it’s really tough. They say, if you want a guitar player in Nashville, throw a rock. If you want a drummer, order a pizza. I did a lot of playing, but not making a lot of money.” Steve started selling the Contributor, the Nashville equivalent of Real Change.

Steve’s sister had moved to Olympia. “Olympia’s perfect for her. She bought a house like our parents used to have. She painted it yellow like when we were growing up.” Steve moved out to Olympia, too, and started selling Real Change at Evergreen State College. But he says only the professors buy the paper there, not the students. So he switched to the Olympia Food Coop. “I’m very appreciative of all the customers and the [staff] inside. I had bronchitis a couple of weeks ago, and they’d bring me hot tea and cookies. One girl comes out with this organic mushroom immune system thing. It must have cost $20, but she goes, ‘Here! Put this in your tea!’ [It tasted] horrible!”

Steve’s main regret about Olympia is that there isn’t much of a music scene. “I was alternating with another drummer in a blues band, but they closed the bar. That was the only place for blues in Olympia.”

Meanwhile, he’s aiming for a job with Intercity Transit in Olympia by volunteering as a van driver for the agency. “Everybody treats me like I work there — they have my picture on the wall, I have an email address, they give me a monthly bus pass.” What he’ll do once he’s got the job? He’ll be coming up to Seattle more.

“There are a lot of clubs [here] with live music. That’s good!”

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