Monday, January 30, 2017

897 Unhappy Women, and other Postcards from the End of America

Unhappy Women, and other Postcards from the End of America

Postcards from the End of America will be published in January. This
book by Linh Dinh, a Vietnamese American, documents America's economic
and social unraveling. You can pre-order it now.

Newsletter published on 17 December 2016

(1) Postcard from the End of America: Unhappy Women
(2) Postcard from the End of America: Brooklyn
(3) I want to document America's economic and social unraveling - Linh Dinh

(1) Postcard from the End of America: Unhappy Women
by Linh Dinh

December 13, 2016

Years ago in McGlinchey’s, a Philly dive, I overheard a female voice, "I
don’t know how anyone can get married, I don’t know, before they’re 45.
I mean, hello!" The woman was in her mid-20’s.

In 2014, I was at the Golden Cicada in Jersey City when a karaoke
session broke out. The participants were a group of three gay guys and
two single women, plus a straight couple. In metropolitan New York, one
often hears women complain about the dearth of straight men, so it’s no
surprise to see these young ladies enjoying a night out with their gay

As for the couple, she was Indian and he, Italian. We talked. Staring
lovingly at her boyfriend, she cooed that they were engaged. He showed
no emotion.

As the increasingly boisterous singers howled, "No one knows what it’s
like / To be the bad man / To be the sad man / Behind blue eyes," I
thought of India-born poet Reetika Vazirani. She had a child out of
wedlock with Yusef Komunyakaa. I’ve had dinners with Yusef in Philly and
New York, but I never saw Reetika face-to-face. We exchanged some emails.

On October 15th, 2002, she sent me:

After a long time. Wanted to say hello and say where I am with little
Jehan who is nearly two. We are well. Sending you the best. Reetika

On March 25th, 2003, she wrote:

Dear Linh, It has been so long since our dialogue in The Literary
Review. I would like to stay in touch. Here is my number: 757-565-1810.
I’ll be moving at the end of April. Can we speak before then? My best,
and many thanks for the messages, Reetika

This request for a phone chat was a bit odd, I thought. Emailing back, I
explained that I was in Italy. Though I was warm and solicitous enough,
I never phoned Reetika. I dislike talking over the phone.

I received one more email from Reetika in May, then in July, words came
that she had stabbed her son to death before committing suicide. Reetika
and Jehan never lived with Yusef, but rented a house near him in
Trenton. During her final months, she reached out to many people. Surely
someone could have said something to save the 41-year-old woman and her

One should recall that Jehan is the name of that man who loved his wife
most enduringly, for after she died, he commissioned 20,000 artisans
over two decades to conjure up that "dream in marble," the Taj Mahal.

Since the poetry world is small, I know another of Yusef’s girlfriends.
Savvier, she didn’t expect too much from their relationship. In her
mid-40’s, this poet wrote a humorous newspaper article about online
dating, then managed to get married soon after.

Though you can’t count on sampling endless partners before settling down
at 45, this culture dopes us into thinking we can be young forever, with
all options open until that cremation chamber. Just before we turn to
ashes, we can have that last botox implant, face-lift and buttock
augmentation. Men ape Hugh Hefner, and women, Madonna. Bring on the
fresh meat!

A young Augustine bargained with God, "Give me chastity, but not yet."
We of the 21st century don’t care for checks to our appetite. Just give
us protean sex! Chastity still comes, however, as too many of us find
ourselves unmarried, loveless and compulsively molesting our forlorn,
nether parts while ogling chaturbate. Boy, that felt good!

In 2013, I met three women in Oakland. They were in their early 30’s,
cool, smart, attractive and fairly miserable. Three or four nights a
week, you could find them sipping cocktails outside the Make Westing bar
on Telegraph Avenue. It’s a hipster hangout, with two bocce courts inside.

Let’s call our three graces Splendor, Mirth and Good Cheer. Raised in
Oklahoma, Splendor moved to San Francisco to have better access to art,
knowledge and decadence. She lived in the Tenderloin, where a whore
climbed through her window via the fire escape. Relocated to Oakland,
Splendor was teaching 6th grade history and English in a public school.

After marrying without much conviction or a wedding, Splendor found
herself mostly alone. "We have an open marriage. Charlie leaves when he
feels like, and comes back when he feels like. He can disappear for
months of a time. I don’t want to stand in the way of my husband’s freedom."

Mirth was finishing a PhD in biology at Berkeley. For nearly three
years, she was in a relationship, but each time her man proposed
marriage, Mirth said no, thanks. It felt enough like marriage since they
were living together and even bought a car together. When Mirth won a
six-month fellowship to study in Paris, she finally agreed to get
engaged. This way, her boyfriend could be assured she would come back
and not shack up with some French beau.

Settled in Paris, Mirth decided she would jog each one of its streets,
so for a month, her map filled up with red lines. She would conquer
Paris, alley by alley. Her giddiness was torpedoed when friends in
Berkeley emailed to say her fiancé was regularly seen with another
woman. Mirth flew back to confront him, but the cad refused to meet.
Dodging Mirth, he even left their apartment when she moved her stuff
out. He kept their Chevy. Just like that, their relationship had turned
into a public joke.

Trying to get even, Mirth kept raw fish in a jar on a balcony, in the
sun. She planned on pouring the rotted slime into her ex’s carburetor.
"That car would stink forever!" All that happened, though, was Mirth
getting on all fours to clean up the shattered, splattered mess after
seagulls knocked the jar over.

Good Cheer was also doing a Berkeley PhD, but in literature. Since her
live-in boyfriend was a star poet among her crowd, Good Cheer cherished
all of his intense emails. She was his muse and confidante. An aspiring
poet herself, Good Cheer would be a Sylvia Plath to his Ted Hughes, but
minus the suicide. Without hints or explanations, however, he dumped
her. Good Cheer took it in strides and still considered her boyfriend of
three years a close friend.

When I met these lovelies, they were certainly alluring enough to score
transient boyfriends or at least bed partners. Sadness was creeping in,
however, and Splendor even admitted, "I have two cats because, well, it
gets lonely." She showed me self-made ceramics that resembled mangled
uteruses, frankly. Resisting a primal urge to sniff them, I merely
grunted, "These are nice."

Two months ago, I profiled a young Philadelphia woman, B.B. Growing up
in post-industrial and crime-wracked Camden, she suffered through a
turbulent childhood spent mostly in foster homes and even jail, simply
because the state had nowhere else to house her. Her dad died from work
exposure to asbestos. Her stepfather sexually molested her.

At 32, B.B. got engaged, only to break it up when she found her man
cheating. They fought. After B.B.’s fiancé accused her of stabbing him,
she was jailed for 10 days, but the charge was tossed.

Again, B.B.’s life was in turmoil, with the only stability her
two-days-a-week job at the Friendly Lounge, my local dive. Since B.B.
said she had always wanted to write, I gave her tips and even an
assignment. Tailored for B.B., it’s a 1,000-word story called "Creeps."
As an attractive bartender in an old man’s hangout, she certainly didn’t
lack material.

Welcoming this challenge, B.B. thanked me repeatedly and gave me a
drawing of a rabbit, with thread stitched into the paper. She promised
me another rabbit, personalized. "You’re my only audience," she confessed.

I showed B.B. a poem, published in Harper’s, that’s derived from my
years as a house cleaner. It begins, "Belonging to the lower class,
you’re expected / To cater to the upper class’ lower bodily functions."
Her work experience matters, I kept telling B.B., and of course her
layers of wounds. She has overcome so much.

Each Thursday, I brought my laptop to the bar so B.B. could type out a
draft, but there was nothing. She couldn’t focus. I read in her notebook
an old account of a dream with a dead goose.

Listen, I have no illusion about writing as a career or vocation. As a
public overture, it’s mostly pathetic, if not bathetic. So futile, most
writers are lucky to have one attentive reader, counting the writer. As
a meditation on self and the world, however, it can never be useless,
for writing is just thinking made concrete. Writing is a deed to one’s

B.B. texted me:

it’s difficult to articulate but, it’s as though despite all i have and
want to say, all I can see, all i can think about or even write about,
are the issues I’ve been going through an trying to deal with in my
personal life.. i know I need to get past it if iam to go anywhere with
my life, let along my writing. i just don’t know how to go about getting
past it all, it’s as though these problems have consumed me, and there
is not even a "me" anymore… in the vacancy of where i was, are the
problems and heartache that caused me to disappear.

Most alarmingly, B.B. spoke of suicide on two occasions. She said she
didn’t know how to live, and just wanted to end it all. I tried to
comfort B.B., cheer her up. I told her she needed time to heal, and
surely she would heal.

Since suicide is the ultimate blasphemy, many of those who failed at the
attempt speak of experiencing the darkest terror during their brief
death. It is a paradox that one of the most devouts ever, Simone Weil,
was a suicide, but of course, so was Jesus. God killed a third of
himself. He also had a get-out-of-hell card. We don’t.

On Thanksgiving, the Friendly was closed, so B.B. lost half of that
week’s wage. She ended up dumpster diving. Hunger-weakened and with
carpal tunnel syndrome, B.B. had to strain to lift each heavy lid.

This week, along with my laptop I brought B.B. a story I published in
1997. Since it has a bar setting and a character from Camden, I thought
she might be inspired by it. One of the dialogues is lifted straight
from a conversation I had in McGlinchey’s. "You hear crazy shit like
this all the time, so use it!" I was going to tell B.B.

When I opened the door, I saw a brand new bartender, however, and the
place seemed darker than usual. It was dead. There was but one customer,
a middle-aged woman with wiry, uncombed hair and a shabby jacket,
hunched over an ashtray and her High Life.

"B.B. is not working today?"


"Do you know when she’ll work next?"

"I don’t think she’ll be back."

"She got fired?!"

"I don’t know."

Home, I texted B.B., then called to make sure she was OK. Receiving no
answer for two days, I feared the worst.

One of B.B.’s tattoos is "XXIII," meaning she only found love, sort of,
with her 23rd boyfriend. Sex hounded B.B. constantly. Men of all ages
propositioned her daily with dinner, cash, coke or weed. Of course, she
longed for love. Another ink of hers is "DIE BITCH."

Many people talk of killing themselves, but how many have it etched into
their skin? Years ago, a Friendly Lounge bartender became a massage
therapist, then got busted twice for prostitution. Boozing in Friendly,
she flirted with Don, its owner, then slurred that she wanted to off
herself. Calling her bluff, Don laughed, "Can you lend me $50 first?"
The 42-year-old overdosed on Seconal within a week.

Editor Frank Wilson told me he spent three long evenings talking a
friend out of ending her life. The night she finally did it, this smart,
accomplished woman had a dozen close friends over. The dinner was a
feast. An hour later, the lonely woman was dead. "If they really want to
do it, there’s nothing you can do."

In the early 90’s, I served in Philly’s City Hall Art Council with Ella
King Torrey. She would rise to become President of the San Francisco Art
Institute. Ella was tall, well-liked, never married, childless, in a
field she loved, financially secure and with a spectacular career
trajectory. In any room, Ella always had the biggest smile. She
collected African-American quilts, drove long distance to see Cher’s
Farewell Tour. Hillary Clinton invited Ella to the White House. At 45,
she killed herself.

 From Cleveland, Elizabeth Hayes sent me a most harrowing account of her
attempted suicide, "Why I Jumped off the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge." The
key reason, in my mind, is her ill-considered marriage. Elizabeth:

When I was 19 somebody asked me, "But don’t you want to get married?" I
said, "If I’m gonna get married, it will have to be 1) some autistic guy
and 2) someone who is gone a lot." By autistic, I meant somebody who
would leave me alone and be incapable, and disinterested, in figuring
out what I’m up to, as long as I’m fairly discrete. At 33, I decided I
really wanted to have a child, so should find someone to marry, and none
of the guys I’d been hanging with would think of having a child with
anything but horror, and would have gotten pissed at me even bringing
the matter up. And don’t give me this nonsense about how single
motherhood is the way to go.

Then I met Malvin, appropriately named as it turned out (bad wine, get
it?), a jazz musician (flute and sax) who had a steady job as a
bureaucrat at Welfareland. At 45 he wanted to finally settle down, and
get this, beyond his stupid bureaucrat job, he gigged at least three
times a week! That fulfilled criterion number two, and Mal’s mood
variations were nil, any intuitive powers lacking, which fulfilled
criterion number one. Therefore, I decided I’d get a baby out of him.

In 2014, there were 41,143 American suicides, as compared to 16,108
murders. We hate ourselves and each other more than the citizens of just
about any other First World nation. We are also the champs of drug
taking and porn watching.

In practically any other place or time, a woman like B.B. would be a
wife and mother, but here, now, sex is divorced from love, and we
wouldn’t have it any other way. In this context, declarations of love
are often cynical ploys, but better love sans sex than sex sans love,
I’d say, though perhaps not yet. Soixante-neuf, mon chéri?

The ultimate poem, the marriage vows should outlast all others, "I take
you to be my lawfully wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from
this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in
sickness and in health, until death do us part."

Declared at a wedding, in front of practically everyone one knows, the
vows are made not just to one’s spouse but the entire community that one
will be a responsible adult, at last.

For a century, we’ve been reeducated about the evils of marriage,
however. In 2013, youngish Canadian feminist Meghan Murghy reminded us:

Marriage has been an institution within which women have suffered abuse,
rape, murder and forced reproduction. It’s an institution that
guaranteed men a maid and someone to bear and raise their offspring.

That’s why Murphy wanted no part of it, although she’s interested in "a
monogamous, love-type relationship" with, eventually, "a life partner."

Most Western men born after WWII actually welcome such a rejection, for
it means many booty calls and intimate relationships that can be ditched
at will, even without pretexts. Feminists’ disavowal of the traditional
family means much more variety for these horndogs.

Growing up among "church mouses," my drinking buddy Marty was liberated
by feminism to pounce on 140 sniffable, lickable and squeezable
trophies, while blowing up five marriages along the way.

Encouraging heartlessness and dishonesty, this freedom to fornicate
breeds cynicism, wrecks home and traumatizes children, but who wants to
hear that? Sex is fun, rejuvenating, soul shaking, revenge, raid,
exploration and carthasis, dude, while marriage anchors and delimits.
Since husbands and fathers can be such tyrants, let’s just have playas.
Pork and run is cool.

In my defense of marriage, I raved to the three Oakland graces, "To love
is not to embrace a beautiful body but a decaying, aging person,
practically a corpse." Invite me to your next party, eh?

Alas, B.B. is not yet a cadaver. She just texted me. Like many among us,
she will put on a brave face and slog forward. Tailed and cornered by
creeps, she may even pretend that she is loved.

Linh Dinh’s Postcards from the End of America will be published by Seven
Stories Press in January of 2017.


Diversity Heretic says:

December 14, 2016 at 5:14 am GMT

Readers of Chateau Heartiste will easily see in this story the
consequences of women riding the alpha cock carousel, and the
civilization-destroying consequences of feminism. Most women with
children, even in unhappy marriages, are better off than these wretches.


Greg S. says:

December 14, 2016 at 6:44 am GMT o 300 Words

Feminism is destroying women and destroying society. This is not
hyperbole, I actually believe this. Feminism lies, it tells women that
they are just like men and can do anything a man can do. This is a lie,
yet countless women are goaded into education and careers in things that
make them miserable.

Feminism tells women that men are useless and good for nothing, and so
women treat men like dirt, and deny men a masculine protector role in
their relationships, which then fail. It also turns these women into men
– they are not caring or nurturing, they are "power women." This makes
them miserable but they don’t realize why. They are usually complete
stress cases who can never be idle otherwise they would have to think
about how miserable they are.

Feminism has launched women into the upper echelons of boardrooms and
high places, where they (often, not always) proceed to make terrible
decisions because they lack the innate strategic thinking many men have.
I work at such a place and the decisions from my female superiors are
laughable and they have no concept of leadership.

Feminism has ensured that government now takes care of women and
children, who no longer need men to provide for them, so women have
"families" without men. Feminism has also given men little incentive to
form families, as the man takes on huge risks to do so. The man can
literally lose everything he has in a marriage.

An ex- girlfriend called herself a feminist. I thought I could convert
her but failed. At the end, she was broke, in debt, expected me to
support her and eventually take on those debts, and said I had no right
to influence her decisions or tell her what to do because she was "still
a feminist." So I told her she could support herself and her bad choices
on her own. Another potential family averted by feminism.


Rod1963 says:

December 14, 2016 at 6:57 am GMT o 200 Words@Diversity Heretic

There is always a price to be paid and what looks like freedom isn’t
freedom at all but another Faustian bargain.

That’s what feminism was and is for women. What’s quite sad is that
women know even in high school that males view sex entirely different
than they do and they will if given the chance screw anything with a
pulse. And again in college the differences in behavior is there for all
to see. And of course these budding free spirited feminists all make a
bee line for the alpha cock, who in reality is a total douche bag and

Yes they could find a mate who isn’t a douche nozzle but they aren’t fun
guys nor sexy, they probably have a icky job like a plumber or code
monkey. Not someone they can show off to their cool friends. Highly
educated women being extremely class conscious just won’t lower
themselves so they naturally limit themselves to some of the worst males
in their social circle.

It’s nothing new.


jacques sheete says:

December 14, 2016 at 7:40 am GMT o 100 Words@Talha

Wow – just – wow! I had no idea there were so many women hurting this
bad. Thanks for sharing their stories Mr. Dinh.

Hell, I’m no psychiatrist or psychoanalyst, and I’m really pretty dense,
but it’s apparent even to me that there are tons of men that are hurting
bad, too. The extensive use of mood altering drugs including alcohol
probably means something.

Years ago in McGlinchey’s, a Philly dive, I overheard a female voice, "I
don’t know how anyone can get married, I don’t know, before they’re 45.
I mean, hello!"

I myself have often said that I’m glad I’m not female. For women, there
is not only a dearth of straight males but a dearth of decent ones as well.

LD, this is another dynamite article. Good stuff.


Greg Bacon says: o Website

December 14, 2016 at 9:23 am GMT o 100 Words

Gloria Steinman and her ilk of family destroying feminazis should be
proud of their plan coming to fruition. Yes, us men are so yucky, better
to have a house filled with cats and a large rubber dildo for
companionship, that will teach those men, who only have one thing in mind.


Kyle McKenna says:

December 14, 2016 at 10:10 am GMT

Granted, I only skimmed the second half of the article, but I do want to
mention that if the epidemic of suicide among middle-aged white
people–men in particular–were happening to any other group, the MSM
would be on it 24/7. Look up the stats if you dare.


JackOH says:

December 14, 2016 at 12:56 pm GMT o 100 Words@SteveRogers42

Yeah, agree. Toss together man-bashing feminist ideology and the
corporations’ gaming of affirmative action to favor White women in
employment, and what did people think they were going to get in the
markets for dating and marriage? We’ve had a half-century of both at
work. Anyone really think we’re better off? Blend in the "alternative
lifestyles" lobbies for added social distortion. The single, middle-aged
women I’ve known are often . . . scary desperate.


jacques sheete says:

December 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm GMT o 200 Words@Greg S.

Feminism is destroying women and destroying society. This is not
hyperbole, I actually believe this.

You are correct to believe it and it is not hyperbole. Tearing down
society to "remake" it while not necessarily a bad thing in itself, has
been a goal of some real crackpots and the sad thing is that they are

One of the goofiest and most rabid of the Red utopian nutjob Bolsheviks
was Alexandra Kollantai. No one should ever forget that the Bolshie cats
(among other degenerate perverts) were and probably still are considered
avant garde and fashionable in high New York society, that the miserable
money bag set supported them to the max, and no doubt also got some sort
of sadistic pleasure by sacrificing countless millions in the process.

But even if housework disappears, you may argue, there are still the
children to look after. But here too, the workers’ state will come to
replace the family, society will gradually take upon itself all the
tasks that before the revolution fell to the individual parents. Even
before the revolution, the instruction of the child had ceased to be the
duty of the parents.

Alexandra Kollontai, Communism and the Family, Komunistka, No. 2, 1920,
and in English in The Worker, 1920; Source: Selected Writings of
Alexandra Kollontai, Allison & Busby, 1977; Translated: by Alix Holt.


Marcus says:

December 14, 2016 at 2:37 pm GMT

In a lot of ways women are doing better than men, the new economy favors
them, and they wanted to be independent careerists anyway, so no tears
from me.


Buck Turgidson says:

December 14, 2016 at 3:17 pm GMT o 400 Words@Greg S.

An excellent blast, and all true! Women are gullible, and stupid, and
have been sold a false bill of goods w the big lie of feminism (others
here have noted the same). These stupid women are pathetically moronic,
thinking that they can will themselves into men. All these feminists
want to be men, until they don’t. I think most of them need a punch in
the face to welcome them to the fraternity. Have you ever worked with or
for these women? They are the worst. they are bitschy and indecisive and
incompetent, and never will step up and show leadership and let people
know that they will be willing to take heat and blame if something goes
wrong. They have no business being in any kind of leadership in
government or the private sector. Oh, also, they *never* are wrong. How
can anyone work with such arrogant meatheads? they turn a 10-minute
meeting into 2 wasted hours b/c they can’t make a decision and they
cannot get to the point but they have to talk and blather and waste
everyone’s time. They are so useless, they want to be men but they can’t
shingle a roof or unclog a toilet or catch a varmint or go up on a roof
and clear the snow, or mine, or clean out a sewer system, or even pound
a friggin nail. Without men, the world would come to a grinding halt by
COB today. But women don’t need men. Their stupidity and entitlement
mentality is mind boggling.

Many men want nothing to do with them, understandably, and these women
can’t figure this out b/c they have been told how awesome they are.
Men’s job prospects are diminished and salaries lowered b/c of all the
women in the work force, and men also have been hammered by all the
immigrants coming in here and depressing everyone’s wages. Then women
wonder why men don’t want to hitch themselves to a life with them, where
everything costs more and you can’t afford kids unless everyone is
working 90 hours/week and sitting in traffic 3 hours/day, doesn’t that
sound like an exciting and rewarding 25-year proposition?

then we are told the answer to a stabilizing/declining birth rate is ….
import more third worlders! This country is so f’d, the only way of
turning this around is to stop immigration dead in its tracks and deport
all illegals. There is a lot of fixing to do.


The King is a Fink says:

December 14, 2016 at 3:25 pm GMT o 200 Words

Recently heard a story of a late-thirties jobless guy who lived on and
off with two different professional women, both of whom were so
desperate that they put up with his two-timing crap. They paid all his
expenses while he spent his days lounging around their houses, playing
computer games and generally being a slob. If one of them challenged his
behavior he simply threatened to move back to the other.

Feminism has unwittingly taken power away from women. Men for the most
part aren’t interested in kids or relationships; for men, traditionally
the only routes to sex was marriage or prostitution. Sex gave women
control over men and any women in a long-term relationship with children
had a degree of status in society that single childless women didn’t have.

Now that men can get sex pretty much at will there is little motivation
for them to commit. Why bother? As many comments here have said, men
have been made redundant and this is contributing to their lack of
interest in putting up with all the other stresses of a long-term
partnership. By giving it away for free, woman have removed their single
point of leverage over men. I’d be pretty sure this is also the primary
reason for collapsing Western demographics. On a side note it would be
interesting to see if sliding sexual norms in Western societies have led
to a decline in prostitution.


nsa says:

December 14, 2016 at 3:49 pm GMT o 100 Words

THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH…..everyone knows this 2000 year old aphorism.
40% of the adult US population has some kind of VD….probably closer to
90% among sexually active singles…..and maybe 150% among middle aged bar
skanks (some have more than one flavor). You bang a couple of these pus
pots after 10 beers, and you got something that won’t wash off no matter
how many rubbers you use. But then the author is more concerned with the
spiritual VD infecting most the population [...]

(2) Postcard from the End of America: Brooklyn

  By Linh Dinh

May 10, 2016

I spent a week in New York with a handful of Japanese writers and
editors. They were in the States to promote Monkey Business, a
Tokyo-based literary journal. That Friday, we had a reading in Brooklyn,
so I decided to spend the entire day there.

I first heard of Brooklyn through Welcome Back, Kotter. It was 1975 and
I was learning American culture mostly through a black and white
television. I became very fond of Shirley Temple, Jimmy Snuka, Donny and
Marie Osmond, Bugs Bunny and The Beaver. Since this was Tacoma,
Washington, I also started to worship Slick Watts.

Welcome Back, Kotter featured a Jewish teacher and his wife, and among
the students, there were a black, an Italian, a Puerto Rican Jew and
another kid, Horshack, who was likely Jewish. This ethnic mix meant
nothing to me, for I had no experience of American types nor knowledge
of stereotypes. All three Tacoma schools I went to were majority white,
with just a few blacks. Love Like Hate: A Novel Linh Dinh Best Price:
$0.01 Buy New $3.68

I visited New York for the first time in 1979, then went there somewhat
regularly after settling in Philadelphia in 1982. As a wannabe painter,
I was drawn to the Soho galleries. Most of my more ambitious friends
also moved to NYC. One, Phong Bui, became the publisher of the Brooklyn

Phong’s parents had a lunch truck selling hoagies and cheesesteaks at
UPenn. He was so broke at the University of the Arts, he slept on a cot
in a classroom, with a hot plate next to him. Since Phong was a popular
star student, the college looked the other way.

Though knowing no one in NYC, Phong was determined to go there, so a
small group of us sent him off at a Lebanese restaurant with belly
dancers. It was 1985, and Phong and I had just finished our summer jobs
teaching art to inner city kids. Next thing I knew, Phong was hanging
out with Meyer Shapiro, Willem de Kooning and Francesco Clemente, etc.

Now that he has some cash, Phong’s always buying everyone food and
drinks, and before he got married recently, he’d yield his bed to any
visiting friend and sleep on the couch. Phong is always attentive to
your needs. At the Brooklyn Ale House in 1995, he introduced me to my
fiction publisher, Dan Simon.

Whether an immigrant or native-born, there are those who try their best
to fit in, those who resist integration but bother no one, and those who
don’t give a flying rat’s ass.

Crossing the Williamsburg Bridge, I kept pace with two Hasidic men, then
saw many more in Brooklyn. In Philly, I’ve never spotted anyone with
sidelocks or a shtreimel. Save for the constantly expanding Chinatown,
the Dominican-dominated Washington Heights, central Harlem and still
smallish Koreatown, Manhattan’s ethnic enclaves are history. Brooklyn is
more heterogeneous.

In Williamsburg, the invasion of yuppies and hipsters are driving the
Hasids half mad, but these newcomers only got in because Hasids
themselves were selling real estate to cash in on the skyrocketing
prices. One of the weirder battles between old and new involves bike
lanes, for the Hasids object to so much female flesh rolling through
their outwardly chaste neighborhood. Hasidic women are not supposed to
show their hair and legs, much less cleavage.

Oi, just think of all the wondrous Old World traditions and mores one
must give up to fit into the United States of America! Everything from
honor killing, to female genital mutilation, to cockfighting, to dog
eating, to thinking that male and female are distinct genders! Brit
milah is fine, for it hurts no one to suck blood from a baby’s penis
right after circumcision. If a mohel has herpes, however, he can give it
to the newborn and even kill him. It has happened.

Those who think borders shouldn’t matter ignore the fact that in all
American cities, borders are constantly being maintained, guarded and
renegotiated, if not, literally, fought over. This is only natural, for
every individual, everywhere, is always making decisions about who he
wants as his neighbors. Where should I eat? Drink? Send my kids to
school? Everyone is always drawing borders.

In Williamsburg, Hasidic Jews have a 50-men "shomrim" police patrol, as
well as a "hatzolah" ambulance fleet. In 2010, a black teen attacked
three Hasids over a two week period, leaving one with a broken face,
including a broken eye socket. In 2013, at least five Hasids jumped a
gay black man at 5AM after he had gotten off a party bus. They punched,
kicked and stomped until he was permanently blinded in one eye. Across
New York, blacks have assaulted Hasids in "knockout games."

Walking south, I soon crossed into Bedford-Stuyvesant. It is 53% black,
down from 70.1% of just six years ago. On its sidewalks were many
African, Middle-Eastern, South Asian and Latin American immigrants, and
no Hasids. I saw a bunch of men under a taqiyah, several cheerful women
in colorful hijabs, and one shrouded in a black burqa. I strolled past
Jamuna Bangladeshi grocery store, Ali’s Trinidad Roti, Original Soldier
Jamaican restaurant, Le Paris Dakar bakery, a Korean-owned fried fish
takeout, several Vietnamese nail salons and the decaying Slave Theater.

Suddenly, I heard a Muslim prayer call, which made me think of my recent
trip to Istanbul. Its source was the Masjid At-Taqwa, where the imam,
Siraj Wahhaj, was the first to intone an Islamic prayer to open a U.S.
Congress session. Founded in 1981 with just 25 members, all native-born
blacks, Masjid At-Taqwa now has over 1,300 worshippers each Friday, with
at least two-thirds immigrants. It can also boast of eliminating 15
crack houses from the area.

I grimaced at a baffling sign for a body guard service, "Natures Finest
Security," then perused a poster in a dirty shop window, "A Community
Discussion. The Way Forward… REPARATIONS AND THE PLEBISCITE. Real
Choices in 2016. Chairman Fred Hampton, ‘10th Point of BLACK PANTHER
PARTY 10 POINT PROGRAM… We want land, bread, housing, education,
clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a
United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black
colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to
participate, for the purpose of determining the will of black people as
to their national destiny.’"

Trump: The Art of the ... Donald J. Trump, Tony ... Best Price: $4.86
Buy New $5.14 On Nostrand, I chanced upon David’s Brisket House. Though
serving mostly Jewish sandwiches, as its name implies, it’s run by a
Yemeni Muslim. A sign said the owner was at Friday prayer, and would be
back at 2PM. When I returned just after 2, however, all I saw was an
impatient group of customers, all black, frowning on the sidewalk. An
old man sighed, "He’s often late." Bypassing Bombay Curry, I ended up
eating pork stew with rice and beans at a Dominican joint down the street.

Heading west, I stopped for three pints at Outpost in Clinton Hill.
Here, I entered yet another world. Hot drinks included tangerine sencha
and maté, Ommegang and Krombacher were on tap, and the light fixture
behind bar was cleverly crafted from drain pipes. Each patron was trim
and smartly dressed in an offhanded way, and the music was Ella
Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing Gershwin. Having not heard that
in decades, I was actually moved to tears, and who cares if the
bartender found me ridiculous. It’s striking how far this culture has
sunk from such elegance and beauty. Just look around you, all we have
left is rage and sneering idiocy.

Though our president is a mere figurehead for the entrenched military
banking complex, it would be more than apt should the crass Trump become
our next public face.

(3) I want to document America's economic and social unraveling - Linh Dinh

Postcards from the End of America

by Linh Dinh

I want to visit as much of the United States as possible, to document,
in photos and texts, its economic and social unraveling. This is a
continuation of a project I started in May of  2009. For this, I’ve been
maintaining a frequently updated blog, State of the Union, with, so far,
over 3,100 photos and 50 1,000-plus-word essays. Without any
institutional support whatsoever, I’ve managed to visit over 20 states.
I’d travel by bus or train, and often sleeping on them to save money. At
each city, Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, New Orleans, Atlanta, etc., I
simply walk for miles and miles through unfamiliar neighborhoods. I’ll
talk to whomever would talk to me. I’ve photographed the homeless living
in tent cities or lying on sidewalks, as well as peddlers, protestors,
public preachers and prostitutes. I’ve photographed casinos and
abandoned factories. I see myself as a contemporary Dorothea Lange,
except I have no WPA behind me.

Interspersed with my photos are sketches and essays that I’ve also
published in many leading political webzines such as CounterPunch,
Common Dreams and Dissident Voice, as well as The Guardian newspaper.
Though the response from readers has been tremendous, I’ve been paid for
none of my pieces. On reader comments, "This guy makes more sense than
almost anybody else I read these days." Another, "Yo, once again, to
Linh Dinh! The man is a master political polemicist. He is precious, as
we need such writers more than ever. Because our predicament, political,
financial, environmental, moral, and societal, needs to be discussed
openly and with no censorship."

My essays and photos will be compiled in a book,  to be published by
Kaya Press in the Fall of 2012, but this will not be the end of my
project. I intend to track our deteriorating socialscape for years to
come. I have so much time to think about the under-employed or the
dispossessed because, well, I’m one of them. Before my brief and already
defunct career as a pseudo professor of creative writing, I was a house
painter and a window washer. My wife makes less than minimum wage, right

Whatever support I get will be used to buy as many 15-day rail passes as
possible, at $389 each. When a place is not reachable by train, I'll go
Greyhound. Money is also needed for hotel rooms, around $80 a night,
when I’m not sleeping on a train or bus, and for meals and other
incidentals, around $60 a day, at each city and town visited. Also, I
will give money to some of the people I photograph, as I've often done.
Occasionally, I'll buy them food or drinks.

I came from a losing society, South Vietnam, and I’m experiencing a
collapsing culture right now. We will all lose, but there’s also dignity
and strength in losing. Despite all the evidence, mainstream media
continue to trumpet daily that the recovery is here, but all I see is an
accelerating collapse. I believe that my project is important, and
deserving of support, because it is an unflinching diary and analysis of
this monumental collapse. It's a tall order, sure, but at this stage in
my evolution as a writer, artist and citizen, I'm more than ready for
this paradoxically life-affirming challenge.

         August 24, 2014 Chan Phuong

         Awesome photos for a thoughtful socio-cultural project! Dear
DL, plan a trip to Boston; I will reimburse your train or bus ticket.
Crash at my place and share my food. We may also set up a fund-raising
event in Dorchester and visit the local VN- American community . Chân

         October 01, 2011 Edmund

         I know that most people in this country do not want to face the
reality you are documenting. Those who are suffering as a result of the
economic, political and social decline of the U.S. live this reality,
but have no real voice. Hopefully, you are that voice. Ideally, those in
postions to effect change in our direction as a nation will at least
take notice. My sense from looking at your blog is that you honor and
resepct the people whose situations you are recording. There is nobility
in that. Every person has worth, every person is an expression of a
universal source, every person has dignity. Thank you for honoring that.

Postcard from the End of America: Philadelphia

Linh Dinh

John is 46 but looks twenty years younger, with not a single white hair
or whisker. His grungy style also suspends him in early adulthood. His
mom was a registered nurse, then secretary at a garage. His dad sold car
parts and drove a mail truck from Philly to Harrisburg in the evening.
"I’m not doing as well as my parents, but I’m not trying as hard
either," John confided as he sat in McGlinchey’s, a pint of Rolling Rock
in front of him. It was late afternoon, and the place was still quiet,
with the jukebox interfering only intermittently. On four televisions,
golf balls sailed or skated around cups.

I had come in after recording a segment for Press TV at a nearby studio.
Seeing me in suit and tie, Shelley, the bar owner, grinned, "Coming from
church?" On Iranian television, I had assumed a serious face to talk
about China and the US, how China will try to muscle the US away from
the Western Pacific, and how it is moving to supplant the US Dollars,
first by trading with various countries (including American allies such
as Japan, France and Australia) in their own currencies, then eventually
having a gold-backed Yuan, at which point game’s over. I pointed out how
China is intertwining itself with Europe through increasing trade and an
extensive rail network completed or in progress. Already, freights can
be moved by rail from Holland or Belgium to China. The US is still top
(bull)dog thanks to its military and control of the world’s banking
system, but China is gaining status and leverage through manufacturing,
increasing trade ties and infrastructure improvement and linkages.
Unlike the USA, it has a long term economic vision, and soon enough, may
flash its claws and fangs and show itself no less of a bully, as is
already evident by its belligerence in the South China Sea. With the
decrease of cheap oil and gas, global economic growth is over, in any
case, but certain countries may still chug along fine in the near
future, but the US won’t be among them.

We’re so passive, we’re doomed! We watch our rights being systematically
stripped away with barely an eye roll, and with each passing day, we are
becoming poorer, with our wages steadily decreasing and more of us on
food stamps than ever. While fixated on sports, singing contests and
network news, we’re being lowered into our degradation. NSA, FBI,
Homeland Security and CIA spooks shadow us for evidence of rebellion and
espy nada. After inconsequential Occupy and Tea Party twitches, all is
quiet. Those sign waving assemblies merely served a carthatic function,
and even wore us out, without threatening the status quo at all. Too
easily, they funneled our discontent into the Democratic vs. Republican
sewage, with too many of us excited to line up, again, to rubber stamp
our defeat.

Underemployed and malnourished even, John is ahead of the curve in our
collective stumble towards destitution. A maverick screwup, he’s a
pioneer of sort, a Neil Armstrong, so let’s examine this man a bit more
closely. Three days a week, John scrubs and mops at this lowlife bar,
and each day, he also goes to Shelley’s house to twice walk the dog. In
between, he can relax on his boss’ couch and stare at the TV.

"Yo, John, how much do you make a week?"

"Ah, I don’t want to tell you, but most of what I make goes towards rent."

"I can’t see how you make enough to eat!"

"I don’t eat that much. I drink beer, and I get my beer here for free.
This is also food, you know."

"How much do they give you?"

"Two pints."

"Two pints! That’s not enough! How can you stop at two pints? Once I
have had two pints, I must drink more. Why won’t they give you four
pints, at least?"

"Maybe you can say something to Shelley about that. You can be my lawyer!"

"Yeah, I’ll say something to Shelley. Cheap motherfucker! But you
haven’t explained how you manage to eat on almost no money? How do you

"I already told you, man, I don’t eat that much. I haven’t eaten in
days! Actually, yesterday, I had three ounces of spaghetti."

"You count your ounces?!"

"I know because on the package, it said six ounces."

"Frozen shit?"

"No, man, I don’t even have a fridge. It’s this moist, microwavable shit."

"OK, OK, but how do you stop eating at three ounces? Why didn’t you eat
the whole damn thing if you were that hungry?"

"I don’t need to eat that much. Look at your beer. Can you knock that
down in one shot?"

"Yeah, sure."

"But I can’t do that. My stomach wouldn’t be able to handle it. I don’t
need to eat or drink that much. Some weeks, I only spend five bucks on

"That’s ridiculous! What do you buy for five bucks?"

"You can always buy rice. Rice is cheap."

"You’re right, rice is cheap, especially when you buy a huge bag, but do
you ever shoplift, you know, like shove a can of tuna down your pants?"

"No, I have never done that."

When writing about someone, I must make sure I get everything right,
down to the last detail, but with John, I don’t have to fret as much,
because he doesn’t know how to use a computer. John won’t be able to
read what I’m writing. A man who can barely eat is not someone who will
pay for wifi. There, too, John’s ahead of the curve.

"How do you not know how to use a computer? What is there not to know?"
And I made some typing motion on the bar.

"Ah, man, I just can’t figure it out, but I don’t miss it. Who cares. I
don’t have any tattoos either," and he showed me his untinted arms.
Nodding towards a waitress sitting nearby, bent over her laptop, John
continued, " Once she spent twenty minutes trying to teach me the
computer, but I couldn’t figure it out."

"She can’t get off the computer, and you can’t get on!"

After his two pint allotment, John slunk out of the bar. From Shelley, I
then found out that he lives at the Parker Spruce, a residential
hellhole that charges $250 a week, plus an extra 10 bucks since John
owns a microwave. His bathroom, he shares with another tenant. This is a
bum deal, obviously, but John has no choice since he has never been able
to cough up enough for the security deposit of a regular apartment. A
certain lethargy is also in play here, but it’s hard to have initiative
on three ounces of mushy spaghetti coated in some dodgy "meat" sauce.

Just to visit a Parker Spruce resident, you must pay six bucks at the
desk, though condoms are free, thanks to the city’s health department.
After riding up the musty elevator, you enter a moldy hallway redolent
of urine and clorox. If taking the stairs, you might step over a dime
bag or two. Whole families take refuge here, not just hurting singles,
drug addicts and whores, and though pets are banned, you can hear a
caged canary as you walk past this door, and inside this cell is a black
cat. At the end of each hallway, bars are placed on windows to prevent
jumpers from diving, permanently, into hell, the final one, but if you
go straight to the roof of this 12-story building, where the view is
indeed spectacular and the air fresh, nothing will stop you from flying
for a second or two before splashing onto the adjacent row house’s tar
roof, which must be fixed every few years, after yet another corpse is

Casey’s Room at parker Spruce Hotel, Philadelphia, PA

Before Shelley hired John to walk his dog, he employed Casey, and she
also dwelled at the Parker Spruce. In her dresser were bread, peanut
butter, jam and pop tarts, and in winter, cans of Bud Ice could be kept
cool in a plastic bag hanging out her window.

"So you trust John, huh?" I asked Shelley. "He doesn’t steal like Casey?"

"You know about that too!" Shelley smiled. "Casey only stole small
things from me. I went to her place once and saw all these little things
that looked very familiar, like salt and pepper shakers that I used to
own. Everywhere I looked, there were little things that I used to own."

"Yeah, and she stole from me! I was talking to Casey at Frank’s one
night, and it was her birthday, so I bought her a couple of beers, but
when I went to the bathroom, she stole one of my camera lenses. It’s
very expensive, you know, more than 500 bucks, but then Casey returned
it, because she felt bad, I guess. When I called Frank’s the next day,
Sheila said, ‘Hey, we found your camera lens!’ I knew it had to be Casey
because I never took the lens out of my bag."

"Yeah, it was Casey."

White Bearded Homeless Man, Berkeley, CA

Soon enough, everything that isn’t nailed down will walk. It’s telling
that many of our homeless still leave relative valuables such as a
newish jacket, belt or pair of shoes unattended as they sleep. This
means we’re not quite Third World, hurrah!, for if we were, even a pair
of unwatched prescription glasses would take wing within seconds. Of
course, stuff here already disappear often enough. In Berkeley, I met a
white haired man who had been robbed by another homeless man four times.
His coat and shoes he managed to recover in nearby trash cans, "but the
photos of my wife and children are gone." As we talked, a young woman
gave him some leftover from a restaurant meal. "But I can’t eat it," he
lamented, "I don’t have any teeth."

"You can eat it," she smiled. "It’s only rice."

Without fork or spoon, he then scooped the brown rice with the carry out
container’s plastic top.

The big guys will steal big, including your youth, mature years and old
age, your entire lives, in short, sometimes even your sanity or parts of
body, while small time crooks will try to relieve you of everything
else, including your salt and pepper shakers. The biggest guys will
steal the earth from right under you.

Casey’s Sneaker, Philadelphia, PA

I never hinted to Casey that I knew she had stolen from me, but after
that incidence, I kept my distance. I have known her for a long time.
Adopted, Casey has never been able to find her Puerto Rican birth
mother. On each of her sneaker is scrawled "ESPERANZA" ["HOPE"]. Casey
has worked as a cook and as a waitress, including here at McGlinchey’s.
The last time I saw her, she said she was getting married, so I waved at
her bride, a laughing woman standing across Broad Street. They had found
an apartment in Point Breeze. Idyllic sounding, it’s a neighborhood best
known for flying bullets.

Once, a balding, middle-aged dude saw me talking to Casey, and so
advised, "You know, you shouldn’t talk to her. She’s ugly. You make
yourself look bad by talking to such an ugly woman." This guy looked
like crap himself, I must add, and so do I, even on my best days. Ugly
and uglier, we will slog forward, for sure. The current waitress at
McGlinchey’s is only 23, however, and so not ugly. She’s pretty, in
fact. Let’s meet her.

"I never went to college, because I don’t like school, and I also can’t
afford it."

"But you said you’re into languages?"

"Yeah, I studied French for five years, and the other day, when I met
some French students, I could speak to them, maybe because I was drunk,"
she grinned, "and I can pronounce Russian words. I read Camus’ The
Stranger five times in English, but when I finally read it in French, it
was so much better."

"You read it in French from beginning to end?"


She also knows scraps of Sanskrit and Japanese, which have proven useful
at SugarHouse, Philly’s very first casino, opened less than three years
ago. Playing roulette, she has won up to $100 while chanting "sa ta na
ma," thinking it meant, "all one none sum," although it really means,
"birth, life, death, rebirth," as I would find out later, after
googling. Sometimes she mumbled "nam myoho renge kyo." On full moons,
people win more at casinos, she informed me. Perhaps this Pisces should
also use a Magic Marker to scrawl "HOPE" onto her sneakers.

Magic incantations are as good as any, for we have no other plans.
Desperate people will plead to the unseen and unprovable. Give us this
day our three ounces, at least, and lead us not onto the no-fly list. In
2010, I witnessed a religious procession at San Francisco’s Civic
Center, with supplicants carrying this banner, "Praying the Rosary for
America… As human efforts fail to solve America’s key problems, we turn
to God, through His Holy Mother, asking for His urgent help."

As we’re making no efforts to solve any of our problems, we’re muttering
or shouting words that mean less and less. Amen. ==

You can pre-order Postcards from the End of America now.

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