Twenty-four-years-old, Rob has been on the streets for a month and a half. He's from Vorhees, NJ, a 30-minute drive from Philly, but his family has gone back to Puerto Rico without him, "They got sick of me. I went bad for three and a half years. I was on heroin."
Rob has found a girlfriend, so it's a little less cold sleeping outside. He wants to go to Ohio where he has a friend, but when I asked him which town, he couldn't tell me. He didn't even know which city it's near.
Rob confirmed that black women are most generous at giving the homeless money. An old black woman gave him $20. As we were talking, however, a white woman gave him a bag from Dunkin' Donuts. Inside was a hot chocolate and a chocolate chip muffin.
A block from Rob, I talked to a Vietnam vet in his late 60's. Two years ago, I had asked him if I could take his photo, but he said no, "It's like you Orientals, I don't want to lose face." Talking to Ken this time, I found out he spent the Vietnam War shuttling back and forth between Vietnam and Okinawa, where he was based. In Da Nang, Cam Ranh Bay, Qui Nhon and Saigon, Ken's job was to unload supplies from ship, "I love Vietnam, because I was never in combat. Many Vietnam vets get nervous around Vietnamese because they can't tell if you're Viet Cong or not, but I don't have that problem."
Ken has been living in his car and has a girlfriend. Intriguingly, he declared himself a political prisoner.
"Since I was in Vietnam."
"Wow, man, you have to tell me more!"
"If I tell you more, I'll have to kill you!"
When I kept asking him to explain, Ken said, "Are you with the FBI or CIA? Lots of Vietnamese worked for the government."
I changed the subject, but before leaving Ken, I said, "One of these days, you're going to tell me why you're a political prisoner."
"What? Are you going to torture me?!"
"No, that's your job!" I laughed. He laughed.