"Reggie Thompson" Drawing by Jonah Uyyek
When Reggie Thompson writes a book, it will be about working in Alaska.
“I was living back in Virginia. Looking at a book about Alaska, I saw all those big fish and those 200 pound halibut and I said, ‘I want to get up there and see the real thing.’ When I got up to Anchorage, I asked somebody where I could get a good fishing job and they said, ‘You want to find some fishermen, go to the bar.’ I talked to some guys and they said, ‘You want to find fishing, come back here at nine in the morning.’”
Reggie got a job right away on a factory trawler going out in the Gulf of Alaska. “I’ve been in the Bering Sea and out in the King Cove, Dutch Harbor and Naknek and up to the northern part of Alaska, Nome. The Bering Strait is real cold.”
It was hard work, and it took its toll: “I was working 18 hours, seven days a week. I thought I would be doing nothing but fish, but when I got hurt that changed the whole game. My arms just gave out and my back, so I couldn’t do anything.”
Reggie got stuck in Seattle, where he had a friend who sold Real Change. “He said, ‘Why don’t you do something you like, be your own boss?’ It sounded good to me, just being able to do something on your own time.”
“I been with Real Change for three years, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in three years: They moved into another building, and now we’re getting that raise, which is a good upgrade – I’m eating ramen noodles right now, and I’ll eat some macaroni and cheese!”
Reggie sells near the Starbucks at Fourth and Union, sometimes showing up five or six days a week. “I get here early in the morning, take a break round about 2, 2:30, and then back at 3, till about 6, so I’m here for the crowd after they get off work.” He’s there for the morning people and the lunchtime people, and he catches folks who want a paper to read on the way home. “My customers help me out any way they can. They buy me coffee and donuts and stuff like that.”
Real Change also gives Reggie flexibility to pursue art and music. “Most of my growing up I played guitar, everything from the top 40 to rock and roll and jazz. I played in North Carolina, a lot of beaches there. We played at military bases, played Apollo in New York City. I got a guitar now, I’m going to start by working on that again.”
Reggie’s been taking classes in painting, poetry and singing. He’s been in a couple of art shows. And he’s still got that book about Alaska to write.
Watch for it.