Don Grubb commands few pretensions. His quiet, friendly smile and shaved head don’t easily lead on to the fact that, in a few short years, he has seen more places outside the United States than most people see in a lifetime.
“I try to live life peaceful and do the right thing,” says Grubb, whose year and a half in the Navy took him to Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Sicily and the United Arab Emirates. Of them Italy was his favorite country.
Beyond his time in the military, Don has lived in a half-dozen cities across the United States. He was born in Baltimore, Md., but grew up in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. He lived in Lansing, Mich. for a while and also Great Lakes, Ill. He has seen the East Coast, the West Coast and a smattering of states in between.
Don has now lived in Portland for two months, though he previously lived here for six years. He moved back after spending four years in Las Vegas. “I got tired of Vegas and just wanted to come back, get a fresh start, possibly get an apartment again and a full-time job,” says Grubb.
In Vegas, he says, “It’s just a lot of oppression, a lot of rich oppressing the poor, it shouldn’t be that way. A lot of gambling. Not a lot of jobs. It’s pretty much like that economically everywhere.”
The football teams Grubb follows reflect the states he has lived in. He has been a fan of the Baltimore Ravens since before he can remember, and he follows the Philadelphia Eagles and remains a huge fan of the Chicago Bears.
If he could have any job in the world, Grubb would own a landscaping business — an industry in which he has seven years experience — or his own restaurant. He says he would enjoy, “cooking delicious food for people at an affordable, reasonable price to the point where I can make a profit, and they can still enjoy themselves.” His signature dish would be a “quadruple, three-cheese, bacon, avocado burger with a side of fries and onion rings.” That means four ground beef patties glued together with three different types of cheese topped with bacon and avocado. Homer Simpson would be proud.
When selling papers at the Starbucks on NW 23rd Avenue and Overton Street, Don is pragmatic. “I just pretty much plead my cause,” he says. “I don’t like to approach them (his customers) in a begging style or anything like that. I just pretty much kindly ask them if they can help out a homeless veteran by buying a copy of Street Roots. I joke with them sometimes and make them laugh.”
If he could go anywhere in the world, Don would love to return to Italy. Although he doesn’t know the language fluently, he can speak enough Italian to get by. He would also enjoy returning to Ontario, where his family spent a few months during his childhood while his stepfather went bear hunting. For now though, he’s content in Portland. “I’m trying to be in a position where I can help other people and also make myself more improved by stepping up, getting off the streets and getting an apartment,” Grubb says. “That’s basically what I look forward to, being in a position where I can reach out and help other people after I get myself established.”