By Gretchen Crowe
There’s a mystery in the air when Mack McLaurin walks in the room. The well-groomed, smiling man was born and lived most of his life in uptown Manhattan, near 45th Street. He always shows up with a good attitude and enough professionalism to run the program. Mack vended for around two months a little over a year ago, and recently came back through our doors.
In New York City, Mack and his brother were raised by his mom who worked in a major grocery store chain. He tried the “street thing,” but that didn’t really take. He went to high school at Charles Evans Hughes, and left early to start working. Over the years, after many jobs, Mack found he had a knack for cooking. When asked his favorite restaurant or palette to cook, it was the food at Bennigan’s, since he truly enjoyed the food and he cooked there right at their height of their popularity. Mack tried a lot of jobs, but found cooking and sales his strong suits.
In 1979, at age 20, Mack traveled for the first time. His brother, now a minister, went into the military and Mack followed him to Topeka, Kansas. It was complete culture shock for this New Yorker, but he stayed for six months. He returned to NYC with the bug to travel. That same year, Mack met his soon-to-be-wife and they were married two years later, having six children including two sets of twins. They lived both in Kansas and NYC.
During his divorce, Mack began researching more cities and moving around the country, staying in places based on the jobs he found. In Phoenix, he cooked for a restaurant and in Las Vegas held several jobs, including sales. When asked the roughest city he’s ever lived in, “it was definitely Vegas.”
We met Mack a little over a year ago, when he came to vend. He said he found the VOICE when he spotted vendors on the street. “I saw a guy on the street and he broke it down,” Mack said, “and I thought, ‘I do sales anyway.’ I had a good impression [about the VOICE]. It was really helping people and it was a true opportunity.”
Mack had moved to Denver to stay with a friend, but found that didn’t work and ended up in the shelter system. He moved back to Vegas to work as a “club pass” vendor, getting tips for passes that negated cover charges at clubs for Vegas partiers. “The party scene will run you down. It’s good money, but good money isn’t always good for you, especially if you aren’t grounded.” So, Mack returned to Denver to vend the VOICE.
Mack says of the VOICE, “I like what it does. The stories are about us, not some person on Wall Street.” He is currently staying in a shelter, working to get into permanent housing and hopes to continue with the VOICE even if he gets another job. “I’m having some issues with the move [from Vegas], but I do see the benefits.”
Mack stays involved with church and loves to go out to eat. He stays fit by playing basketball. He often takes the bus to the mall and likes to walk around. You can usually find him vending on the 16th Street Mall.