Unhappy Women, and other Postcards from the End of America
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
(2) Postcard from the End of America: Brooklyn
(3) I want to
document America's economic and social unraveling - Linh Dinh
Postcard from the End of America: Unhappy Women
by Linh Dinh
Years ago in McGlinchey’s, a Philly dive, I overheard a female
don’t know how anyone can get married, I don’t know, before
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
the increasingly boisterous singers howled, "No one knows what it’s
To be the bad man / To be the sad man / Behind blue eyes," I
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.
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,
This request for a phone chat was a bit odd, I thought. Emailing
explained that I was in Italy. Though I was warm and solicitous
I never phoned Reetika. I dislike talking over the phone.
received one more email from Reetika in May, then in July, words came
she had stabbed her son to death before committing suicide. Reetika
Jehan never lived with Yusef, but rented a house near him in
her final months, she reached out to many people. Surely
someone could have
said something to save the 41-year-old woman and her
recall that Jehan is the name of that man who loved his wife
enduringly, for after she died, he commissioned 20,000 artisans
decades to conjure up that "dream in marble," the Taj Mahal.
poetry world is small, I know another of Yusef’s girlfriends.
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
augmentation. Men ape Hugh Hefner, and women, Madonna. Bring on the
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.
us protean sex! Chastity still comes, however, as too many of us
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,
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
moved to San Francisco to have better access to art,
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
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.
Cheer was also doing a Berkeley PhD, but in literature. Since her
boyfriend was a star poet among her crowd, Good Cheer cherished
all of his
intense emails. She was his muse and confidante. An aspiring
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
When I met these lovelies, they were certainly alluring enough to
transient boyfriends or at least bed partners. Sadness was creeping
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
At 32, B.B. got engaged, only to break it up when she found
cheating. They fought. After B.B.’s fiancé accused her of stabbing
she was jailed for 10 days, but the charge was tossed.
B.B.’s life was in turmoil, with the only stability her
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
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
an old account of a dream with a dead goose.
have no illusion about writing as a career or vocation. As a
overture, it’s mostly pathetic, if not bathetic. So futile, most
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
it’s difficult to articulate but, it’s as though despite all i
want to say, all I can see, all i can think about or even write
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.
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.
suicide is the ultimate blasphemy, many of those who failed at the
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
1997. Since it has a bar setting and a character from Camden, I
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?"
know when she’ll work next?"
"I don’t think she’ll be back."
"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
One of B.B.’s tattoos is "XXIII," meaning she only found love,
with her 23rd boyfriend. Sex hounded B.B. constantly. Men of all
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
friend out of ending her life. The night she finally did it, this
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
the matter up. And don’t give me this nonsense about how
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
variations were nil, any intuitive powers lacking, which
criterion number one. Therefore, I decided I’d get a baby out of
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
The ultimate poem, the marriage vows should outlast all others, "I
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
however. In 2013, youngish Canadian feminist Meghan Murghy
Marriage has been an institution within which women have
rape, murder and forced reproduction. It’s an institution
guaranteed men a maid and someone to bear and raise their
That’s why Murphy wanted no part of it, although she’s
interested in "a
monogamous, love-type relationship" with, eventually, "a
Most Western men born after WWII actually welcome such a
it means many booty calls and intimate relationships that can
at will, even without pretexts. Feminists’ disavowal of the
family means much more variety for these
Growing up among "church mouses," my drinking buddy Marty was
by feminism to pounce on 140 sniffable, lickable and squeezable
trophies, while blowing up five marriages along the way.
heartlessness and dishonesty, this freedom to fornicate
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.
defense of marriage, I raved to the three Oakland graces, "To love
is not to
embrace a beautiful body but a decaying, aging person,
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
Diversity Heretic says:
December 14, 2016 at 5:14
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
Greg S. says:
December 14, 2016 at 6:44 am
GMT o 300 Words
Feminism is destroying women and destroying society. This
hyperbole, I actually believe this. Feminism lies, it tells women
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."
them miserable but they don’t realize why. They are usually
stress cases who can never be idle otherwise they would have to
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
Feminism has ensured that government now takes care of women
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.
December 14, 2016 at
6:57 am GMT o 200 Words@Diversity
There is always a price to be paid and what looks like freedom
freedom at all but another Faustian bargain.
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.
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
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 myself have often said that I’m glad I’m not female. For women,
is not only a dearth of straight males but a dearth of decent ones as
LD, this is another dynamite article. Good
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
companionship, that will teach those men, who only have one thing in
Kyle McKenna says:
December 14, 2016 at 10:10 am
Granted, I only skimmed the second half of the article, but I do want
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.
December 14, 2016 at 12:56 pm GMT o 100 Words@SteveRogers42
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
jacques sheete says:
December 14, 2016 at
1:12 pm GMT o 200 Words@Greg S.
is destroying women and destroying society. This is not
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
But even if housework disappears, you may argue, there are
children to look after. But here too, the workers’ state will come
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.
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
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
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
working 90 hours/week and sitting in traffic 3 hours/day,
sound like an exciting and rewarding 25-year
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
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
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
the only routes to sex was marriage or prostitution. Sex
control over men and any women in a long-term relationship with
had a degree of status in society that single childless women
Now that men can get sex pretty much at will there is little
for them to commit. Why bother? As many comments here have said,
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.
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.
first heard of Brooklyn through Welcome Back, Kotter. It was 1975 and
learning American culture mostly through a black and white
became very fond of Shirley Temple, Jimmy Snuka, Donny and
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
of stereotypes. All three Tacoma schools I went to were
with just a few blacks. Love Like Hate: A Novel Linh Dinh
$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
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,
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
Crossing the Williamsburg Bridge, I kept pace with two Hasidic men,
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
In Williamsburg, the invasion of yuppies and
hipsters are driving the
Hasids half mad, but these newcomers only got in
themselves were selling real estate to cash in on the
prices. One of the weirder battles between old and new involves
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
Those who think borders shouldn’t matter ignore the fact that
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
Walking south, I soon crossed into Bedford-Stuyvesant.
It is 53% black,
down from 70.1% of just six years ago. On its sidewalks
African, Middle-Eastern, South Asian and Latin American
no Hasids. I saw a bunch of men under a taqiyah, several
in colorful hijabs, and one shrouded in a black burqa. I
Jamuna Bangladeshi grocery store, Ali’s Trinidad Roti,
Jamaican restaurant, Le Paris Dakar bakery, a Korean-owned
takeout, several Vietnamese nail salons and the decaying Slave
Suddenly, I heard a Muslim prayer call, which made me think of
trip to Istanbul. Its source was the Masjid At-Taqwa, where the
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
Choices in 2016. Chairman Fred Hampton, ‘10th Point of
PARTY 10 POINT PROGRAM… We want land, bread, housing,
clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political
United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the
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
old man sighed, "He’s often late." Bypassing Bombay Curry, I
eating pork stew with rice and beans at a Dominican joint down the
Heading west, I stopped for three pints at Outpost in Clinton
Here, I entered yet another world. Hot drinks included tangerine
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.
want to document America's economic and social unraveling - Linh Dinh
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
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
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
incidentals, around $60 a day, at each city and town visited.
will give money to some of the people I photograph, as I've often
Occasionally, I'll buy them food or drinks.
I came from a
losing society, South Vietnam, and I’m experiencing a
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
August 24, 2014 Chan Phuong
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
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
resepct the people whose situations you are recording. There is
in that. Every person has worth, every person is an expression of a
universal source, every person has dignity. Thank you for honoring
from the End of America: Philadelphia
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
I had come in after recording a segment for Press TV at a nearby
Seeing me in suit and tie, Shelley, the bar owner, grinned, "Coming
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.
sewage, with too many of us excited to line up, again, to rubber
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
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.
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
"I don’t eat that much. I drink beer, and I get my beer here for
This is also food, you know."
"How much do they give
"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?!"
because on the package, it said six ounces."
man, I don’t even have a fridge. It’s this moist, microwavable
"OK, OK, but how do you stop eating at three ounces? Why didn’t
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
"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."
right, rice is cheap, especially when you buy a huge bag, but do
shoplift, you know, like shove a can of tuna down your pants?"
have never done that."
When writing about someone, I must make sure I get
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
read what I’m writing. A man who can barely eat is not someone who
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
continued, " Once she spent twenty minutes trying to teach me
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
certain lethargy is also in play here, but it’s hard to have
on three ounces of mushy spaghetti coated in some dodgy "meat"
Just to visit a Parker Spruce resident, you must pay six bucks at
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,
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."
White Bearded Homeless Man, Berkeley, CA
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
"You can eat it," she smiled. "It’s only rice."
fork or spoon, he then scooped the brown rice with the carry out
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
else, including your salt and pepper shakers. The biggest guys
steal the earth from right under you.
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
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
and uglier, we will slog forward, for sure. The current waitress
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
"But you said you’re into
"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
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
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
"birth, life, death, rebirth," as I would find out later,
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.
incantations are as good as any, for we have no other plans.
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.
You can pre-order Postcards from the End of America