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(2/2) “Before I left Miami my friend gave me an old Puerto Rican driver’s license. There was no picture back then, just a name: ‘Ramon Alvarez.’ So I decided: ‘My name is now Ray from Puerto Rico.’ In Miami it was warm like heaven. But when I arrived in New York it was snowing.

Outside the bus station there was a Jewish guy selling coats for $14. I told him I only have $7, and he says no problem. He hands me a coat. I zipped it up and felt like a million dollars. I walk into a place called YMCA. I tell them: ‘I’m homeless.’ They ask me: “Are you Christian?’ I tell them: ‘Definitely. God bless America.’ And they give me bed to sleep. I go to every bar, every restaurant. I tell them: ‘I need a job.’ Everyone says: ‘No, no. Get out.’ But then one of them says: ‘You are now a pot washer.’ Every day I had to wash 150 pots. But every night the chef gave me a pot of rice. He says: ‘Lock yourself in the closet and eat this.’

Beneath the rice there was steak, and pork, and shrimp! I began to get fat. America, beautiful. One day I walked by an employment agency. I went inside and said: ‘I am Ray from Puerto Rico. I want to be waiter.’ The man tells me: ‘You are now waiter at something called country club in place called New Jersey. You will sleep there. You will eat there. You can use swimming pool, tennis club. And $5,000 a year!’ Oh my God. America, so beautiful. For two years I work at country club.

I save every penny. The number in my bank account go up to $10,000. But the manager he has a drug problem. He tells me: ‘Ray, give me $5000 or I call immigration.’ I had no choice. I had to do it. But no problem. America still beautiful. I found a new job parking cars: $5 tip, $2 tip, $1 tip. I spend nothing. I sleep in Volkswagen camper. One day the number in my bank account says $33,000. At the time I had a dream to buy Italian restaurant. But the only restaurant for sale was a place called Andy’s Candy Shop. I knew nothing about candy. But I could learn. So I walked inside, and told the man Andy: ‘I’m here to buy your store.’ He looked at me like I’m crazy. But then I showed him my bank book. And that’s how Andy’s Candy Shop became Ray’s Candy Store. America, beautiful.”

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