How many of us can name the birthplace of Benjamin Franklin? Or the true location of the Hannah Duston Monument? What about the museum where the Ticonderoga now rests? Shortly after arriving to meet Robert Sawyer, he drills me with facts and trivia. He is, after all, a true history buff. He challenges willing customers to match his skills -- one reason he loves his new selling turf on Capitol Hill. College students are the perfect competition for Robert's vast knowledge. And his own story is in itself a diverse and fascinating glimpse into America's past sixty years.
During the Vietnam years, when he was only 17, Robert joined the military. He served from 1963 to 1969. Upon returning home, he set out to truly discover the country he'd been fighting for. He left his New Hampshire home and spent the next four years hitchhiking across every state in the lower 48. He worked odd jobs during the day and camped out at night. When it came time for the adventure to end, he found himself in Seattle, thousands of miles from his New England starting point.
Within two weeks he had found work, laying stabilizing timber at mining sites. He spent the next 30 years in the industry, timbering mines everywhere from Russia to China to South America.
When the work ended, it didn't take long before he discovered Real Change.
"I was bored to death," he tells me. "I'm one of those guys who can't sit around looking at four walls and a ceiling. I have to move. I have to do something."
And so he started selling the paper, eventually finding a community outside M Street Grocery, where he sold for over a year. Recently, when the store closed its doors, Robert was faced with the challenge of finding a new location and starting over. He landed at Caff