I got the nickname Shorty about 28 years ago; I just had a lot of tall friends. I don’t mind it. And don’t get me wrong – I’ve been called a hell of a lot worse!

My childhood? The short answer is up and down. More downs than ups. I came not from a broken family, but a shattered family. Foster care by the age of ten. On my own by the age of 16, quite literally fending for myself – on and off the streets for a good 14, 15 years. Not to mention a lot of addictions. I was basically what you call an alphabet addict: you name a drug from A to Z and I was on it.  Anything from acid to Xanax and Zoloft, I was on it.

With addictions now, I’m doing pretty well – it’s safe to say I’m off them, except for cigarettes. But as far as my health goes, I’m worse for wear. I’m 46, I’ve got emphysema, depression, anxiety, bad joints, I don’t know what else is wrong. But I thank goodness that every morning I wake up alive. Thank goodness I’ve got somewhere I can go home to now after a long day of selling The Big Issue, where I can chill and have a cup of coffee.

I found out about The Big Issue through a couple of old friends that were doing it at the time, years ago now. For myself personally, it was a way to avoid relying on charities to get something to eat. I just reconnected with The Big Issue about 18 months ago, after taking some time off to do some other work and to be a carer for a friend for a number of years.

With the money from The Big Issue, I can pay to go somewhere and have a sit-down meal, like at Hungry Jack’s or something like that. I’m saving up because I want to get a tattoo of my old cat Ozzy. I also used to have a cat named Sharon, who was just like Ozzy Osbourne’s wife in real life.

When I’m not selling The Big Issue, I love watching my rugby. My team is the North Queensland Cowboys in the regular season, and when it comes to the State of Origin, go the Maroons! I love my horror movies. I love my heavy metal music and, since February, I’ve been a fan of Japanese Buddhist punk music. This band called Buddhadatta were here in Adelaide for the Fringe Festival, and I got to see them and they were…unusual.

I’m moving forward. I just gotta keep going one day at a time. Having to go out and sell the magazine helps, meeting different people helps – but the cherry on top of the ice cream sorta thing is the staff here at vendor support. They’re great.

Ruth, who sells The Big Issue near me at Rundle Mall, she’s a real laugh. We’ve hit it off. She calls me her Big Issue son, and I call her my Big Issue mum. We can pretty much say anything to each other – within reason – and get away with it!

My regulars come past and say “Hey Shorty how you doing?” and bring me a cuppa coffee. It’s great, especially here in winter. I’m from Townsville originally and a hot drink warms me up – it’s like bloody Antarctica here!

Shorty sells The Big Issue in Adelaide CBD.

Interview by Mel Fulton
Photo by Ben Liew

Published in Ed#715