INSP Advent Calendar: day two

Count down to Christmas with #INSPadvent! Each day in December, we have messages from different street paper vendors. Come back each day to open a window in our celebratory advent calendar.

Donate to back INSP’s work supporting street papers and their vendors here.

Richard Fowler, 61, is a former vendor for Lowcountry Herald in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

I have been homeless intermittently since the early 90s but since my move to Charleston in 2010, this has been the longest recurring bout of homelessness for me.

I’d say I’m making do the best I can with what I’ve got. It’s been better but it’s certainly been a lot worse. I am determined to survive, and that’s half the game right there.

What is the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

Mr. Machine when I was five. I puzzled over it because you had to put it together — that seemed to be the whole point of the thing, really. I was slowly working it out but my impetuous father came to the ‘rescue’, elbowed me aside and put it all together himself.

He beamed as the plastic gears moved and this monstrous quasi-humanlike thing (with a top hat) rolled across the living room, but I was pretty bummed out. I was robbed. It was my present and putting it together, no matter how wrong, was a part of that. It kind of set a tone, especially as it was reaffirmed on so many other occasions; my “helpful” parents doing for poor pitiful helpless me. I’m still struggling with that mindset.

Mr. Machine was the best gift because it remains in my memory as a solid, archetypical symbol for so much that followed. It’s a distasteful symbol but its effect continues to spur me on to rise above all its implications.

How do you plan to spend Christmas this year?

Preferably not in jail.

Do you have a special Christmas message for your customers?

If I was still selling the paper, I’d tell them try not to trample anyone on Black Friday or Xmas Eve. It’s really not the sort of thing Jesus would do.

What is a traditional Christmas greeting in your area?

Have a nice day! (But with feeling.)