August 25, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 34
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Tuesday, Aug 11, 2020



Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
Spare change
by Beau Burriola - >SGN Contributing Writer

"Change?" the guy said holding up his cardboard sign and using one dirty hand to scratch behind the ear of the puppy sitting next to him.

If I sometimes respond, I didn't this time, and kept on walking in silence. Three skateboards in quick succession whizzed by me, their riders a blur and the sound of wheels on concrete lingering long after they had passed. Pike Street was crammed with summer crowds, the Blue Angles shot overhead, a car with heavy bass boomed along to the dancehall reggae Sean Paul anthem "when ya gonna give it up to me&"

There was a time I believed that to be a reasonably well-adjusted and happy Gay man, I'd have to live right smack in the middle of the big, Gay city. The bustle and liveliness of a place full of people from all walks of life wasn't just a preferable backdrop; it was the only bearable scene I imagined I'd ever be able to live in after growing up in a tiny Texas town. From those first wild nights in the middle of adventure and excitement, I became a proud city man.

Back then, when all I could see was the opportunity and adventure, I sure couldn't have guessed how Jason would spiral into his tweaker world, how Holden would go crazy depressed and disappear, how I'd get HIV, or how the people in my life who I put all my time and energy into would change with such frequency that I lost track of time. I made a lot of mistakes, watched the mistakes of other people, and over time, the big Gay city lost some of the luster. I turned more inward. I found myself hiding and withdrawing more.

"You got some change?" the pale girl asked, her purple shaded eyes looking at my shoes as I walked by. Like the city person I've become, used to all this, I just walked on by.

I can remember what it was like to live among the slow, assured predictability of the life I grew up with, surrounded by uncomplicated people. I wonder if the misery of the small town was really so awful. I wonder if being near my family was really so suffocating. When I don't always find it as easy to talk to people in Seattle, where sometimes people seem more foreign and cold, I remember people "back home" that seem warmer and friendlier. I wonder about the qualities in me that make me like those people and what has changed.

"Real Change," the lady I call Emily called out from her Fourth Ave. corner post, selling the paper the same way she has for the last five years. A man in a suit bought a paper from her and continued along his way. A bike messenger flew out from in between two cars and into a dense line of traffic. I wonder what real change means for Emily, the man in the suit, or the bike messenger.

If I'm not ready to pack everything I have into a pickup and head for the prairie to rediscover myself, I'm sure not the same kid that came to this city looking for something. The years have changed the way I look at the world and at what makes me feel truly happy.

"Spare some change?" one of the three kids leaning against the mailbox asked.

I walked on without looking up, figuring I didn't really have the change to spare.

Beau Burriola is a Seattle Texan, searching for balance in the extremes. E-mail him at
visit Beau at

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