Postcards from the End of [the] America[n Empire]

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Sunday, January 14, 2018


Drug corner--San Leandro

Fixing hundreds of old images, I stumbled across this never posted drug corner, taken in April 14th, 2013.


Friday, January 12, 2018


Nickels--South Philly 2

Nickels. That's Jennelle's hand. Later, she put on Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy."

$3.50 for the roast beef sandwich, with all the extras. $4 for the Lagunitas.



Nickels--South Philly



Monday, January 8, 2018

Postcard from the End of America: Point Breeze

As published at OpEd News, Unz Review and TruthSeeker, 1/8/18:

Southerner Fred Reed writes about Yankee hypocrisy, “You’ve heard about white flight. In nearly about every city in the North, white people streak for the suburbs so’s not to be near black people, and then they talk about how bad Southerners are for doing the same thing […] Fact is, you can see more social, comfortable integration in a catfish house in Louisiana than you can in probably all of Washington.”

As of 2010, Philly was 41% white, 43.4% black and 6.3% Asian, and I would guess there are more whites and Asians now, thanks to obvious gentrification in several neighborhoods. See what I just did there, equating gentrification with fewer blacks? But that’s just how it is in contemporary America, where fewer blacks in any neighborhood means fewer crimes, better schools and rising house prices. Even Spike Lee can’t refute this.

I live in Passyunk Square, a white, Asian and Hispanic neighborhood that’s adjacent to Point Breeze, a gentrifying ghetto. Broad Street is the dividing line, and for the longest time, it would not be wise to cross into Point Breeze, unless you were begging for a mugging. I know one white guy who was relieved of his wallet, at gunpoint, and a white woman who was punched and kicked by a bunch of black teens, just for the fun of it.

Just before Christmas, a black acquaintance had his apartment burglarized, with the thief breaking in by taking out the air conditioner from a window. He took that, plus the television and a Michael Kor watch. “It’s weird he knew where it was. I kept it in a drawer. I think he’s a friend,” or a lover of this gay man. With 24,137 people, Point Breeze had 112 burglaries in 2017.

With its cheap rent and proximity to Center City, Point Breeze has lured many non-blacks over the years, however, and the first group to move in were poor Asian immigrants. In 1984, I visited an overcrowded house that had people sleeping in the living room. I remember a tiny pregnant woman, lying on the floor. By 2000, there were 900 Vietnamese in Point Breeze, or 12% of the population. Now, Point Breeze has Indonesian groceries and restaurants, an Indonesian storefront mosque, a Chinese Buddhist temple, and a Laotian one. At St. Thomas Aquinas, a magnificent church founded by Italian immigrants in 1885, there are Vietnamese and Indonesian services each Sunday.

Rocky marries Adrian in this church. From its website, “St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Community, through our cultural diversity, united in our expressions of faith, lives the Gospel message in our neighborhood through worship, education, service, and advocacy.” Inside, there’s a beautiful shrine to the Vietnamese Catholic martyrs of the 18th and 19th centuries. For following the Western religion and, in many cases, supporting the invading French, at least 130,000 were tortured and killed by Vietnamese authorities.

I know all you lovers of diversity can’t wait to move into Point Breeze now, for it has every color in the rainbow, but by the time you get here, there won’t be too many African-Americans left, I’m afraid, so let me give you a quick tour of black Point Breeze. Our first stop is Scotty’s Bar, famous for its Obama shrine. Our handsome, half-white 44th president is seen smiling inside an oval, blue background frame, with tinsel and colored string lights all around him.

Other black men are honored throughout Point Breeze for, well, being shot. Walk around and you’ll run into their wall portraits, such as that of “FAT CAT.” Seen holding his daughter, he was killed in 2005 at age 23. In the bay window of a well-kept middle-class home, there are two colorful banners with purple stars and red roses. Under the message “ALWAYS AND FOREVER” is the face of a young soldier in uniform.

Nearby, there’s a framed print of a black Jesus.

Since it’s just around the corner, let’s stop in Sit on It, my favorite black bar in Point Breeze, and it’s dirt cheap too. Here, the bartenders are Miss Cynthia, Miss Mary and Miss Rose, all old ladies. Fifty-four, Rose is divorced and has four grown kids, “They’re doing OK, except my boy. He’s giving me a bit of trouble.”

Rose works three days a week, and is also a home nurse. Although Rose lives five miles away in West Philly, she still comes here to drink on her days off.

“You don’t get sick of looking at the same people?”

“No, no, I love the people here. I’m a people person!” She certainly is. Rose remembers every name and is always cheerful.

“Yours is easy. I just think of Ding a Ling!”

“That’s right!” I laughed.

Since it’s the afternoon crowd, the patrons are all old heads. With so many young black men dead or in prison, those who make into old age tend to be exceedingly mild and pleasant. The worst of the tribe cull themselves. When I walked into Sit on It on January 2nd, several strangers shouted, “Happy new year!”

In North Charleston, South Carolina, I chanced upon a ghetto bar that was owned by a South Asian who wouldn’t allow anyone younger than 35 to enter his establishment, “They cause too many problems,” he smiled. In Trenton, a Middle Easterner who owned a liquor store told me he had set up a bar, “But it wasn’t worth it. Too many fights.”

Point Breeze was home to John Blake and the Heath Brothers, but since this is 2018, you’re not going to hear any jazz in Sit on It. Even for those with white hair, it’s mostly rap, varied by a bit of rhythm and blues, soul and rock oldies.

Across the bar is an 86-year-old Korean War vet. Like us, he’s eating two small pieces of fried chicken, free of charge. It’s a bit salty, yes, but damn good! In Jackson, Mississippi, I wandered into a black bar in a frightful neighborhood littered with burnt out houses and, what do you know, they gave me a free plate of food, since it was a barbecue day. Like Sit on It, it was filled with older folks, nattily dressed.

As with many black neighborhood bars, Sit on It is actually not black-owned, but neither are most ghetto grocery stores and restaurants, and one can only conclude that blacks generally can’t compete with non-blacks in running small businesses. Even the black barbershop, that social institution, is being undercut by Asian barbers. On YouTube, there’s a hilarious commentary by Jay Love, a Philly homeboy, on black vs. Asian hair cutters:

Y’all sitting there, criticizing me, because I didn’t get my hair cut at a black barbershop […] Y’all got some motherfucking nerve, saying that shit. You goddamn right I don’t like going to black barbershops […] I don’t go to black barbershops because they’re not professional. The Asian barbershops don’t cut hair as good as the black barbershops. If you get a baldy or low fade, you go to the Asian joints, that’s all good or whatnot. I mean, they cut you down […] If I was getting a hustler two or three, I would basically have a black barber shape me up, because the Asians don’t know how to shape up for shit.

So for a basic haircut, Jay Love prefers the Asians:

I’m not gonna go to no black barbershop. They’re unprofessional […] You don’t conduct yourselves like businessmen. Every time I go to a motherfucking black barbershop, y’all motherfuckers up in the air. Instead of doing my hair, it takes you 45 minutes to do anybody’s hair, because you’re busy leaving out the barbershop, answering your cellphone in the middle of cutting somebody’s hair, leaving out the barbershop, talking to your girl for 15 minutes. I guess you must have forgotten that your client was in the chair, and maybe you think he don’t got nothing better to do with his day […] Y’all talking about Floyd Mayweather, the latest fight, this sports event or gossiping about how many bitches you fucked […] You know, nobody wants to hear that.

Providing a quicker service, Asian barbers also charge less than half of their black peers’ prices. At Da’ Thairapist Hairquarters, a haircut by Skeet da Barber costs $25, but it’s $30 if you want an appointment, which must be made at least 24 hours in advance. If not, it’s $35.

It’s curious that socialist, universal brotherhood types are usually quite militant about supporting multiculturalism, when it’s in fact a capitalist tool to drive wages down and squeeze the most from each worker. More insidiously, it can often turn him into a caricature, for in any multicultural society, each ethnic group is forced to become more specialized in its working, and thus social, roles. Just think of all the Latinos in the kitchens of American restaurants, serving whatever food.

With my chance of becoming a professional athlete near zero, I might have to paint finger and toe nails for a living. Others with longer limbs and a much better vertical leap may decide to shoot hoops all day. Before integration, there were many more black business owners, for they had to provide not just their own bars, restaurants and barbershops, but also banks, insurance companies and car dealerships, etc. Though meant to blur racial differences, integration actually accentuates them.

James Howard Kunstler dissects:

The Civil Rights victories of 1964 and 1965—the public accommodations act and voting rights act—created tremendous anxiety among African Americans about how they would fit into a desegregated society, so the rise of black separatism at exactly that moment of legislative triumph was not an accident. It offered a segment of the black population the choice of opting out of the new disposition of things. Opting out had consequences, and over several generations since then, the cohort of poorer black Americans has grown only more oppositional, antagonistic, and economically dysfunctional—with the sanction of America’s non-black “diversity” cheerleaders, who remain adamant in their own opposition to the idea of common culture.

Ah, but race, ethnicity and border are but reactionary social constructs, designed to keep us apart! Though dwelling on this resource-depleting population time bomb and babbling 7,000 languages, we are all kin. Those who think such may consider moving to, say, Equatorial Guinea, where they can decide for themselves if border, ethnicity or race matters. Most of us are bred to function reasonably well within one society only. Expelled for just an hour, most would freak. At the very least, home is where they speak your language.

At Sit on It, there’s a curious sign, “Grab Your Passport All Abroad / Cynthia’s World Travel To China / BIRTHDAY Celebration.”

Miss Rose, “Cynthia is not going to China! It’s just a China-themed party, right here!”

Cynthia has worked at Sit on It for two decades. Thoroughly at home in Point Breeze, she doesn’t really want to go anywhere, and hasn’t. The world, though, is coming right at her, and with the cut throat competition intrinsic to multiculturalism, Cynthia may even find herself evicted before too long.


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Saturday, January 6, 2018




Thursday, January 4, 2018


STREETCAT--Point Breeze

STREETCAT--Point Breeze (detail)

STREETCAT--Point Breeze (detail 2)

[Point Breeze]



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Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Mancuso's--South Philly

Mancuso's, open since 1940.

"So how much longer will you stay open?"

"Until I drop dead!"



Popeye's--South Philly



World Travel to CHINA--Point Breeze

Sit on It Bar in Point Breeze. Cynthia is not going to China. It's just a China-themed birthday party for the long-time bartender. For $20, you can also hop on a bus to go to Sugarhouse Casino, 5 miles away, and gamble for three hours.

Cynthia has worked at Sit on It for two decades.



Sit on it  BAR--Point Breeze


Monday, January 1, 2018

A comment at Unz

by MEFOBILLS, in response to my latest article:

The U.S. is following finance capitalism. China is using Industrial Capitalism.

Industrial Capitalism WAS used in America prior to Federal Reserve Act. In those days, it was called the American system, and was led by Peshine Smith and Henry Clay. China’s banks are predominantly Chinese state banks, with a smaller mixture of foreign private banks. America got rich using Industrial Capitalism.

Industrial Capitalism was used by the Kaiser, and was led by Frederich List. Japan figured out that American Finance Capitalism was defective, and this was confirmed when Peshine Smith went to Japan and became native. Smith further influenced Japan onto Industrial Capitalism pathways.

China is not doing anything that wasn’t done before. Belt and Road initiative is the same concept as Baghdad Berlin railroad, which was intended to go on to cross the Bosporous, and finally connect to Russia – thus creating an Eurasian connected land economy. Today’s China is an echo of Kaiser’s Germany.

Finance ((Capital)) maneuvered to start war world war; that is to fight Industrial Capitalism. England’s Oligarchs especially felt threatened by Germany. Finance also got rich though ownership of military goods production, so it was win-win. Kill the Germans, remove them as a threat, and get rich while doing it.

In modern times, China was able to dupe Wall Street by recycling dollars won in mercantile trade to buy finance’s debt instruments. Buying of TBills (debts) held up the TBill price, and lowered interest rates, which then was a major factor in causing finance housing bubble. So, finance was happy as the bulk of their debts are issued against property (about 70 percent), meanwhile the deplorables had their 401K’s go up in apparent value while simultaneously their job were offshored.

True nationalism is only possible with Sovereign money (not private “international” bank credit). True nationalism requires Industrial Capitalism. Industrial Capitalism requires that State “credit” channel into industry instead of finance debt paper shuffling. Industry makes things and creates real wealth.

The argument is not communism vs capitalism, it is about the nature of money and how it channels. Millenials are shilling for communism, but they are confused because they don’t understand economy or history.

The true nature of money is law, and it is to channel within a nations borders, and more so into the commons and industry. Communism is a dialectic invented by our ((Friends)) where they retain the levers of power. Both finance capitalism and communism are pyramid schemes. The former funnels usury to the top of pyramid to then fund usurping the state, and latter uses the state for top down control to benefit the few.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Practical Vietnam, Imploding America and China as Beacon

As published at OpEd News, Unz Review, LewRockwell, Intrepid Report and TruthSeeker, 12/29/17:

At age 18, Theo volunteered for the Marines and was sent to Vietnam. Based near the demilitarized zone, he saw much fighting and lost most of his left arm in 1968. Post war, Theo learned karate, opened a dojo, married, fathered three children, got his college degree and became a high school teacher. The Philly native settled in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Yesterday, Theo was in sub-freezing Philly to see his two sons, other relatives and many old friends. Around noon, he dropped into Friendly Lounge to meet his cousin, Felix, and me. I thought we would just chatter over a few Yuenglings, but Theo insisted on lunch, his treat, at the rather fancy Anastasi, a seafood eatery down the street.

Soon after we were seated, Theo showed me a newspaper clipping on his smart phone, “This is what happened exactly 50 years ago.” The article’s title, “48 Marines Killed, 81 Wounded by Reds in Battle for Village.”

“Wow, man, and that’s just one battle. Nothing like this happened in Iraq.”

“In Fallujah, it did.”

“But it was never that high, not 48 Marines in one day.” Later, I checked to find out that the deadliest day for Americans in Iraq ended with 37 deaths, with 30 from a helicopter crash.

“Yeah, you’re right. In Vietnam, we fought in closer proximity. In Afghanistan and Iraq, they fought from a greater distance.”

At age 69, Theo appeared at least a decade younger, with no beer belly or bad posture, and his demeanor was calm, his words measured. At the table were also his two sons, Aaron and another whose name escapes me, for he was so silent and inconspicuous. Both were in their 30’s.

Scanning the unfamiliar menu, I saw that pan seared dry scallops were $27, pasta with clams, mussels, shrimp, lump crab in a marinara sauce was $22, but the shrimp platter with fries and slaw was only twelve bucks, so I chose that.

A year and a half ago, I interviewed Tony the cook, who worked at Anastasi. Six months later, Tony got fired for allegedly stealing while working Anastasi’s parking lot. The security camera kept catching Tony turning his back as he counted the Federal Reserve notes. To keep Tony from starving, many of us at Friendly then lent or gave money to the scrawny, hard drinking and lottery ticket addicted man. I chipped in $40, a sort of belated payment for his being so generous with his life’s details. Stories nourish. With his gas bills unpaid, Tony’s apartment, whom he shared with his sister, was also freezing. The cranky, aging lady’s a bipolar, pot puffing and wine swilling waitress who’s probably fired by now. Skipping out on all his debts, Tony then went home to Bucks County, only to die, I just found out yesterday. Tony, “I’ve been with a lot of women. I love women. I’ve been with 138, and I’m working on 139. Any day now. I ain’t dead yet.” He was 56.

Depending on how smug or sheltered you are, Tony is either a freakish outlier or quite typical of our despairing working class. Underpaid, overworked and forced to compete with an endless supply of immigrants, legal and illegal, they’re increasingly blighted by every social pathology. Whenever they complain about anything, they’re jeered by our condescending media as being reactionary, racist or just plain losers who are more than deserving of their dismal lot. For 2017, drug overdose deaths in Philly are around 1,200, up from 900 of just last year. Nationwide, the 2016 drug body count was 65,000, more than all the American deaths from the Vietnam War. Is Fentanyl from China a payback, with interest, for the opium trade of the 18th and 19th centuries?

Theo went to Vietnam because he believed in fighting Communism. Aaron, however, believes his father was definitely on the wrong side of history. Capitalism is imploding, he’s convinced, because it is inherently unjust, and China is the future. Unlike Western countries, China doesn’t exploit lesser countries but help to develop them, through respectful cooperation.

“We’ll see,” Theo said with a bemused smile.

“China is about China,” I added.

Aaron, “Unlike the US, with its many wars and bases all over, China has never invaded anybody.”

“Actually, China has invaded and absorbed quite a few nations,” I said. “There are many nationalities within China.”

“China hasn’t invaded anybody since 1949,” Aaron countered.

“Even Vietnam has invaded and absorbed other nations. Everybody does this. And Vietnam’s eternal fear is to be absorbed by China. If you go to Vietnam, you won’t hear Vietnamese talk badly about Japan, France or the United States, all of whom have caused a lot of suffering there, but China is different, because China is right there! My cousin is half Chinese, but you should hear this woman. She’s insanely anti-China!”

A successful Saigon businesswoman who’s fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, with several trips to China, Lan has raged to me about Chinese invading Nha Trang and Da Nang, Chinese clothes with toxins or even leeches, and Chinese noodles and rice made of plastic. The Chinese are trying to kill the Vietnamese, Lan is convinced, and to show how barbaric they are, she told me about Chinese eating fetuses.

Aaron, “I think Vietnam should learn how to cooperate with China, and not lean on the US in any way.”

“Vietnam is working with China, and emulating it, but it also doesn’t trust China. That’s why it’s working militarily with the US, and buying American weapons.”

“I think that’s a big mistake.”

“He’s giving you the Vietnamese perspective, Aaron,” Theo interjected. “You don’t know how people in Vietnam think.”

Just by offering an alternative to Western styled capitalism, China is already giving hope to the rest of the world, the young man insisted. China is the future. Tall, clean shaven and square jawed, Aaron never smiled and was often irritated. Earnestly proselytizing, he spoke of “objective economic realities that cannot be debated.”

“So what do you think will happen to the United States?”

“It can’t go on like this. A revolution must happen.”

“How can this be put in motion?”

“The working class needs to be educated to overthrow capital.”

“But what’s the first step?”

“A conversation like this.”


Aaron was suddenly speechless. I prodded, “Do you envision this revolution happening in ten years?”

“No, that’s too soon.”


“Before then.”

“Do you see the US as staying in one piece?”

“I support self-determination for everyone, including the first nations. If the Navajos want to establish their own country, I’ll back that.”

“But how will you break up, say, Tucson, Arizona?” I half grinned, as did Theo.

Aaron, “If the people of the Southwest want to form their own country, join Mexico or stay within the US, I will support it, as long as it’s done democratically.”

Theo, “Hey, why don’t you eat your food! You’ve been talking so much, you haven’t even touched your sandwich!”

Way overpopulated, China has been exporting people and importing jobs for decades, while the US did the exact opposite. Chinese immigrants send money home and open new markets for Chinese goods, so it’s great, from China’s perspective, that Chinese are flooding into the Russian Far East, Europe, North America and Africa, although many have decamped from the last for greener pastures. No traffic is going in the other direction, mind you, for China has the lowest percentage of immigrants in the entire world.

It has been pointed out that China can accomplish much because it’s not bogged down by bipartisan politics, unlike the US, but the real reason is that the Chinese leadership still has a nation-first mentality. They’re protective of Chinese identity and values, and feel, in a Confucian sense, that they can only justify their hold on power by doing what’s best for the Chinese nation. They’re nationalists, in short. Moreover, China doesn’t send its sons to die for a foreign power and/or arms manufacturers, and the Chinese media don’t mock and corrupt ordinary Chinese.

In the US, nationalism is reduced to waving the flag and mindless support for the troops, wherever they’re sent, on whatever pretext. As for the college indoctrinated, nationalism is just a shameful concept. Within such a context, it’s no wonder this nation is deformed, drugged and dying.


Sunday, December 24, 2017







Saturday, December 23, 2017





About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.