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Spreading the news

By PHILIP EIL  |  October 16, 2014

A few minutes later, we pull into Davol Square and Suchmann rolls down his window to hand a paper to the guy in the glass booth. The wooden arm rises to let us into the parking lot. Inside one of the buildings, he leaves a stack in a nondescript spot near a row of mailboxes. People know to look for it there, he assures me. “It’s sort of like a bird feeder — once you put the paper out, they come by.”

From there, it’s on to the Spot on Richmond Street; the Marquee Café, at the Providence Performing Arts Center on Weybosset; a red Phoenix box near the Johnson & Wales quad; the 7-Eleven down the street; another box outside the Arcade Garage; and the Corporate Café in the first floor of Textron headquarters.

 As we drive and stop, drive and stop, he tells stories of cops yelling in his face like drill sergeants when he parked in the wrong place; frigid winters days when he’d invite homeless guys to ride the route with him for a few hours to warm up and make some money dropping papers. He tells me about shop owners who hassle him when the paper isn’t there early enough and customers are clamoring for it. “It’s a free paper, dude,” he says. “Chill.”

After Textron, we make a sharp left and head up Westminster, where Suchmann parks and leaves the back gate of the van open while he scurries to Symposium Books, Small Point Café, Craftland, Eno Fine Wine, Queen of Hearts, and URI’s Providence campus. Then he hops back in the car and swings back to Chestnut Street to drop me off.

As I get out, he calls through the window to say that if anyone — Lou Papineau, the longtime managing editor; Bruce Allen, the veteran sales rep — wants to keep the paper going “just sort of as a labor of love . . . without the pressure of having to make money,” he’s in. “I’m down,” he repeats.

“I don’t care. It’s not the money. . . It’s just keeping something out there that’s a voice,” he says. He mentions the “vacuum” that will be left in the paper’s absence.

“It’s scary,” he says, before rolling away to finish his route.

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