Young, Poor, Lucky

A Tunnel, an Elevator Shaft, and Living on the Edge


This guy should write a novel. He has the gift to grab the attention of the reader and brings to life memories that would otherwise probably never resurface.
Beautifully written photo....

and we should all be So lucky to have similar indexes of commonality in the stories we tell about name and birth recognition myth and reality and friends who mark our time periods.
i found this article inspiring. reminded me of my homeless phase. amazing charles!
I normally don't care for what you do, but this one stood out.

I liked it.
Great story Charles. Well done.
Charles, you are wonderful. Never listen to the reactionaries that say otherwise.
thanks Charles, that was great
best thing i've read all day.
Excellent writing, Charles.
really beautiful story. couldn't stop reading.
I usually zone out when I see a first-person narrative in The Stranger, expecting indulgent nonsense.

This was stellar. You've got a novel or two in ya.
You take a lot of shit for some of the things you write on this blog Charles, but this was excellent. Suck it haters.
In a paper whose best writing usually resides in the 'I Saw U' section or next to Annie Dillard and company, these words shine.
I agree with BombasticMo - usually don't care for your articles, but this one was wonderful. You really should write a novel.
that was very well written, it takes you back to a time that most of us forgot or pushed away in the back of our heads. awsome story.

keep up the good work
Well-written and interesting. Keep 'em coming, Charles!
Excellent feature.
Why oh why when I posted this story to FB was there a picture of a smiling white hipster girl with a Save The Earth T Shirt?! The picture of Charles at the top of the story is so much nicer.
Yes, we need a full book of this from you, sir. This just wasn't enough. But it was wonderful.
Thanks for writing this. Your story really resonated with me. I've never been as happy as I was at my poorest, and having nothing to loose and nothing to protect really does free you up.
Another thing you don't mention is that poverty makes relationships more genuine- people spend time with you because they want to. In a middle-class setting they might be doing it because of societal norms or work relationships.
It's interesting how this week's theater reviews illustrate everything that's wrong with your writing, and this piece illustrates what a fine writer you are.

I think it helps you to have a story tell, almost as much as it hobbles you to be limited to making arguments or providing commentary.
Incredible! thanks. I agree with Silvie's comment.. Please write a novel!
Charles Mudede remains one of the few flickers of light in the overarching grayness of Seattle.
Thank you, Charles. I'm glad you wrote that.
What I liked most about it is that people who are interested will now have the opportunity to ask themselves, whatever became of that amiable risk-taking Mudede that made him into such an implacable Marxist, so insistent on the material conditions of life, so impatient with what the rest of us find cozy and comfortable? I like that possibility very much--that people may read something in this trajectory that they have now had the pleasure of reading.
thanks charles. once again, you have taught me something.
Great writing. Great ideas. At age 51, totally drowning in consumer debt and student loan debt, yet owning very little and trying to raise a child as a single mother, I dream of that freedom you describe. Practically everything I acquired with credit and spent money on has been stripped away little by little as I've moved 12 times in the last 13 years... each time losing more and more possessions yet still owning the debt of having acquired them. And all for what? Maybe we'll all be living in poverty soon and something will reawaken in our collective psyche.
I wish you'd write more like this and less like the asshole critical theory profs that kicked me out of grad school.
Great essay. Should've been part of last week's "Economic Survival Guide". Recessions have their beauty.
wonderful, freedom is, when you also have the freedom of being without children or other dependents. Your life, indeed, was full of incipient luxury.
Nice article, Charles. Thanks for bringing me back to Pioneer Square in the early 90s. Almost makes me wish I could be staggering from the Red Front Tavern to my room in the Alps Hotel again.
thank you, charles. i needed that.
Awesome and true.
You're a terrific writer. It's always a pleasure to read your stuff.
Mr. Mudede, thank you for articulating the far reaches of your experience in such an evocative manner. I agree that if you haven't already started a novel, you oughta give it a think.
Love the photo. I met you at Radio Free Leroy's @ The Pioneer Square Hotel, in the early nineties, your head lowered as you sat at the table, big black saucer eyes glancing up. You then read from a part of a novel you were working on and it had something about Michael Jackson. I read some prose, nervously. You found my number and we met up, you wanted to make films, it was burning in you. After I knew you some time, you announced you were getting married. I said, "but you are a novelist, a writer, you can't get married!" You now have two lovely children and a wife. You write, make films, teach, and here it is, your true voice. Keep going, this is the rich stuff and is damn good. I want to hear more, the attorney's place you lived in that beautiful treehouse of a place in N. Seattle, it seemed so incongruous, and yet you always were lucky; your trajectory as a journalist/editor, filmmaker, father...
I have, at times, skipped over your slog contributions, but this piece was amazing. Keep these coming!! Thanks Charles!
Wow, that was one of the most thought inspiring pieces of writing I have ever read. That article was really captivating and intense.
It felt as if I was actually inside the basement.

Agreed, the author should write a novel. :)
Wow - outstanding.
Wow - outstanding.
This was absolutely fantastic! It made me appreciate the nothingness of right now - where broke college student has a whole new meaning to it, bring it on then! :]
I never read the lead stories in the Stranger. For some unkown (to me) reason I picked on this one and was totally hooked. I have been through the "possesive" phase, for many years and now live with a guy in Sicily in a small village on the slopes of the mountain. I own nothing but he works at a job he doesn't really like but which allows him to interact with people. His pay is small but about four times the allowance he arranged for me from the Italian government. It is a very good life with absolutely no stress, living among people who commonly live to over 90. Because of the family traditions here, the old people are cared for by non-live-in family or by Rumanian girls who are the biggest import into the village!

I agree with Charles that the non-ownership society is good, but, if you can control it, the ownership society is also good. I spent a coulple of years living on a small sailboat with my sole income being the SSI from the American government. It was just enough to pay the moorage and electricity (a 24ft boat doesn't use much) and buy the cheap food in the village and the food banks in the town.

People could not understand how I could be happy in this situation. Americans cannot be happy without endless aquisition of "things."

Now they envy me with no obligations.

Thank you Charles for bringing this back to my mind. I will pay more attention to your writings in future.
that was a damn good piece!this is good writing.please please please,stay away from the hip hop reviews!stick to more stories like this.this is great.
This is the best article I've read in a long time. Couldn't put it down.
Good stuff, Charles
It was a well written article of an appropriate topic to a captivated audience. Bravo!
Mudede is WAY too good to be writing for The Stranger. This is the best thing I've read in this rag in a LONG time.

Great story. I'm a fan! Once my friend was visiting from out of town and we wandered into that tunnel. We thought it was abandoned. It looked so old, how could it not be abandoned? After we wandered out, perhaps a minute after, a train came barrelling through. We looked at each other.

I'm about to lose my unemployment checks. Being poor (in America) has a dual sensation of powerlessness and possibility. One may as well embrace it, but it's like embracing a live wire. Last recession I had to get so bored and disspirited that it seemed like clocks had stopped. Only then could I embrace the vast opportunities of now. Currently after five great earning years I'm still locked up in the straight word of budgets and externalized hope, I'm afraid. Six more weeks and the money will stop.

Your fan,

a joy to read. bravo.
fucking brilliant, charles. inspirational. took me back to a very similar point in my life, perfectly. that freedom from ownership & the future taught me things i can never forget.
Makes me want to leave my life as a married law student and go live in an elevator shaft. Maybe then I would figure out who, and what, I really am.
Great piece, Charles. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing your story. Made my night!
I knew crossed paths with this guy back in the day. One of his cousins had tried to screw my girl. A lot of this is probably fantasy, but what it lacks in truth, he makes up for with imagination.
I will acknowledge it is well written and kind of fun. But come on. Upper class, wealthy kids slumming. A far cry from a real homeless person just trying to get by. go ask a homeless person who just had his stuff thrown away by the city how romantic or great it is to not own anything.

the author had the wits and werwithal to get by, and could make a phone call and get out any time.

but a decent read.
ahhh.. "reet," partly true, and well said, however I must say, you miss the bigger point. Yours is implicit. Charles' family wealth is not equivalent to America's, nor is his presence here. He equivocates the cultures in his existence as an artist in the world today, shedding light on a subculture that did and still does exist.
How old are these commentators? My god, you have a gift for the overly-romanticized hyperbole. I promise you that if there was some nuance to your recollection, the story would shine so much brighter. I have a feeling that you're on the edge. Consider reeling it in, just a tad. Honesty yields good things.
sounds like a a liberal becoming a conservative charles
This is nonsense. You say you "know the value of owning nothing, making nothing, doing nothing" but if that is the point of this article then you've only illustrated how much you truly do not.

American Poverty offers the things that you romanticize so long as they are chosen. You chose to live underground and reject the future you knew was waiting for you while the world of adulthood and responsibility pulsed above your head. You needed to prove to yourself that you could have made it in this country if you weren't born of a well-off family, so you convinced the people around you that you were just an immigrant living with the rats in Pioneer Square.

Into a tunnel and out a changed man?

You know the value of privilege, and not much more.

I´m a mexican who lived in seattle for about a year back in 1996-1997. attended high school at Bush... Now and then i read the stranger (i used to pick the printed version every weekend).. most of the times i just browse the pages but don´t read the stuff.. Luckily i started to read this article and found it beautifully written and catchy..
Amazing. It reminded me of my druggie years in Seattle- they were awesome and terrible at the same time. But I'm thankful to have experienced it, which if you haven't had a time in your life like that, you probably can't understand. Really, really great.
Hm. Thank you for taking me to so many places I will never see. The shape of my day and my thoughts have been unexpectedly altered.
Great article man.
This was a good article. I agree with thelyamhound; write about yourself, not others. Please abandon the police beat stories, in particular.
A very thoughtful meditation on freedom, Charles! A tremendous article.
Cultural production mobilized by everyday conditions = politics (of comparison).
Terrific story and great writing. I read it twice.
This guy is an idiot. He was homeless and poor by choice and writes about it like he is some kind of hero. Fuck him and his loft apartment. The real brave people are the one's struggling to find work and money and get out of their situations. He was just being lazy and stupid and young. That article was a waste of time to read and a waste of ink.
So what was the point of this? That he was lazy and young and was homeless by choice?. Not a very noble story. the people that struggle to get out of their homelessness or poverty are real. This guy only told us that he was lazy and did drugs when he was young. BFD. What a waste of ink. If you liked this article you are stupid.
Charles I have you listed under "religious beliefs" in my facebook profile. I think that captures how i feel about your work.
This is piece is fabulously written. However - and i know this is knit picky - but i see a distinction between the priveldge of choosing poverty and a life without obligations, and being born into structural violence. I know that I'm preaching to the choir. I guess i just get frustrated with the glorification of poverty by those that have a safety net.

The bottom line is the piece was phenomenal and I so appreciate your work.
Your evocation of that time felt true. I returned to Seattle in 1989, and the Seattle I found had a feeling of young poor (often by choice) people collectively forming tribes. Your description of the tunnel and its metaphors was especially insightful.
It's a well-written piece, I'll give you that. But I had more than a moment's pause dealing with your central thesis, which I would boil down to "the freedom of owning nothing," when I realized you never actually owned nothing.

I would submit that you were a tourist in that world, and that despite the readability and great storytelling in your piece, it lacks the true experiential aspect it pretends to have.

You were never truly poor, because you had a ready avenue of escape--your family offered you a way out whenever you chose. There was no risk for you, really. True poverty, in my view, is characterized by the LACK of escape options. You might not have found the whole experience so profound and romantic if living that way was your only possible choice.

Or maybe you're saying that American poverty is always by choice? I hope that's not what you're saying...'cause it ain't.
He really made me understand the appeal of being a vagrant...very moving story
Absolutely beautiful. I was completely engulfed when I reading this. Really, really lovely. It touched a place in me that few things do.
muh dik
Wonderful Henry V-like story
lovely story. One of the rare homeless by choice people out there.
This situation was almost exactly like the one I encountered when I was 19/20.
Except I didn't have a choice.
wow. this is really beautiful.

i don't really know what else to say. my mind is blown.
Started reading this story randomly at the gym, and even though I wanted to put it down, I couldn't. Loved it.
Brilliant, beautiful story... knocked it out of the park, and the haters out too I hope.
That was a great article. Wow. Your funk guitar player has been my bass player, so funny!
That was probably the best thing I've ever read in The Stranger.
Tremendous. Excellent. Thanks, Charles.
Wonderful piece. Takes us there.
great story. a cold hand on the diseased heart of america.
I liked this story and I don't think it's about how homeless, marginalized, and doomed people should feel lucky to have nothing.

It's about appreciating the opportunity to experience anything other than inevitable middle-class mediocrity.
I remember this basement and those times well. Your story is a true snapshot of a city, and time, now gone. I am sad that J ended his life--I did not know that happened until I read this.