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I Hate the Real Change

God, but I hate the Real Change.

You may not be familiar with it. It's Seattle's homeless newspaper. There are papers just like it in large cities all across this great land of ours. It costs a buck and is sold by frumpy, sad-eyed homeless folks on street corners everywhere. These street people usually strive to be a bit more dignified and less insane than other people on the bottom rung of society. This, I must admit, is to their credit.

But the paper itself. Ye Gods. It mainly contains poignant, bitter essays from the unreconstructed hippies who work there, angry rants from the homeless about the injustice of The Man, and, of course, poetry. Thick, moist, earnest wads of poetry. Nothing that contains poetry is worth reading, even if it was written by Jewel.

And this is my main problem with the Real Change. This paper is not worth a dollar. Nobody pretends it's worth a dollar. Even if it was worth a dollar, there are much better weekly papers for free. Even my friends who buy it admit that the Real Change is recycle bait pure and simple.

Someone selling the Real Change to you is begging. Not even modest "Spare change for food?" begging. They want a whole dollar, for nothing. Well, not quite nothing. Sure, they give you a newspaper (of sorts) to lay a sort of respectable, capitalist veneer on the whole process, but, at the heart of it, it's basically no different from the kid on the Ave with three bolts through his lip asking you for nickels

But I am, in all modesty, wise beyond my years and helpful and empathetic to a fault. I dare not criticize, unless I, personally, can make some valuable suggestions for improvement.

How about this? Instead of selling the Real Change, they sell old magazines. Last month's Newsweek, or the previous September's Juggs. Frankly, a ragged old issue of On Our Backs would do me a lot more good than a thousand issues of Real Change, and would easily be worth my dollar. Plus, there would be no more Real Change, and this would result in a valuable decrease in the amount of poetry in the world.

But I doubt that this idea would be accepted. The people who run the Real Change have their soapbox, and they aren't going to let even a selfless soul such as myself take it away from them.

So how about this? True story. The other week I was in line at the University Ave. post office, and there was this homeless guy in front of me, muttering silently and angrily to himself as he waited to buy his stamp. As I left, I saw him using that single stamp to mail a thick sheaf of paper, densely covered with his scrawled rantings about, well, I know not what.

Hey, Real Change people! I would gladly pay a buck to see what was on that guy's mind! I would, in all seriousness, shell out good money to read the deranged cries of souls in torment. It could be a weekly column. If the Jews planted robot bugs in some old guy's brain, well, that's news worth printing.

One last idea. Maybe this one is a little edgy, but my quest is for the undiluted truth. The Real Change already has photographs in it. Perhaps those photos could have a more, ummm ..., marketable, Internet-type content. I won't go into this any more, except to say that some of those chicks begging on Broadway are kind of cute. And we already know that they don't have any dignity. The pictures would sell like mad.

After all, making the Real Change a good seller would only help the homeless. It would put more money in their hands, which they could then use to avail themselves of Seattle's limitless affordable housing. And sure, my suggestions involve the mockery of the insane and the exploitation of the powerless. But then, what doesn't? It works for Fox television, and everyone loves Fox! All I can say is that, if good money is to be made from doing awful things, it should be done by the poor and powerless. And that, my friends, is a Real Change worth making.

Oh, and Real Change people? You're welcome.


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