Postcards from the End of America

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SUPPORT THIS PROJECT--Over 7,900 photos of Philadelphia, Albuquerque, Allentown, Atlanta, Atlantic City, Austin, Baltimore, Battle Mountain, Bellows Falls, Bensalem Township, Berkeley, Bethlehem, Bolivar, Boston, Bordentown, Boulder, Brooklawn (NJ), Buffalo, Burlington (NJ), Cambridge, Camden, Carbondale, Carlisle, Carmel, Cedar Rapids, Charleston (SC), Charlotte, Cherry Hill, Chester, Cheyenne, Chicago, Claymont (DE), Cleveland, Collingswood (NJ), Columbus, Cupertino, Daly City, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, El Cerrito, El Paso, Emeryville, Ewing Township (NJ), Fremont, Gary, Glassboro, Glenside (PA), Gloucester, Grinnell, Haddonfield (NJ), Harpers Ferry, Harrisburg, Hoboken, Houston, Jackson, Jersey City, Joliet, Kansas City (KS), Kansas City (MO), Kennewick, Knoxville, Lancaster, Langhorne, Laurel Springs (NJ), Levittown (PA), Lindenwold (NJ), Los Angeles, Marcus Hook, McCook, Media (PA), Milpitas, Minneapolis, Mountain View, New Orleans, New York, Newark, New Harmony, Normal, Norristown, North Charleston, Oakland, Old Forge, Omaha, Orlando, Osceola, Overland Park, Palmyra (NJ), Pasco, Penndel, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, Raleigh, Redwood City, Reno, Richmond, Richmond (CA), Riverside (NJ), Rutland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Bruno, San Francisco, San Jose, San Leandro, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, San Xavier del Bac, Sausalito, Savannah, Scranton, Somerdale (NJ), South San Francisco, Springfield (IL), St. Louis, St. Paul, Steelton, Stratford (NJ), Sunnyvale, Taylor (PA), Trenton, Tucson, Union City (NJ), Ventnor, Vineland, Washington, West New York, Westmont (NJ), Wichita, Williston, Wilmington, Wolf Point, Woodbury (NJ) and Youngstown, etc.

Monday, April 20, 2015

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Midway-airport-in-4-15--Chicago-2











Midway-airport-in-4-15--Chicago-2-(detail)








Part of a memorial to the Battle of the Midway. The airport itself is named after said battle.



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Midway-airport-in-4-15--Chicago









4/10/15 at Midway Airport. Before this trip, I hadn't flown since 2010, and the last time I was at Midway Airport, I was trying to get a job as a baggage handler, a story I've recounted in my Chicago Postcard.



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Sunday, April 19, 2015

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Speech-champion-trophies--Fremont








These trophies belong to my friend Giang's sons. Nicholas was a California speech champion one year, and Ryan got 2nd place another year. I just sent Giang an email, "I don't get it. Your sons are so articulate and you can barely talk." I've written about Giang in a 2012 article, "Dire Train," and here he is in a 2013 photo, with his then girlfriend, Lan. Since then, Giang has found a new job, and has also reconciled with both of his sons, but he's still very much divorced, to his deep dismay. Though Nicholas, his oldest, has moved back home, father and son must now sleep in the same bed, since Giang is renting two rooms of his house to make ends meet.

Nicholas went from California speech champion to being nearly speechless when he suffered a nervous breakdown when his parents divorced. During my recent visit, however, the young man looked fine. Handsome and outwardly confident, he's regaining his bearings.

With his new job, Giang is also doing much better, although he's fantasizing about finding work in Vietnam so he can escape the Bay Area. He has too many bad memories there.

In late 2012, I gave a reading at the University of Pittsburgh and forgot to turn off my phone. Giang called. Here's an account:

Dear Linh,

As a young writer, I deeply admire the playfulness and originality that you bring to your work. Even after three years of non-stop reading and writing at the University of Pittsburgh, I still enjoy "Prisoner with a Dictionary." The piece breaks many of the "rules" of writing with its lack of setting details and physical descriptions, but I never felt lost or confused. Moreover, the story crosses into genius with its tight focus on the prisoner, inventiveness of plot, and brevity.

Beyond the story, I remember and appreciate your visit to the University of Pittsburgh. You read from Blood and Soap one weekday night in the Cathedral of Learning. The reading captivated me, but I will never forget that you stopped at one point to answer your phone. After a couple of minutes you put the phone down, told us that it was a friend contemplating suicide, and kept reading. The night still stands as one of the most unsettling and weirdly fascinating experiences of my life, or a very successful evening from your perspective. Thank you for all of your work as a poet, photographer, and fiction writer.

Sincerely,


John Simons



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Man-protesting-outside-of-Planned-Parenthood--San-Jose








Outside Planned Parenthood. Protester, "ISIS and Al Qaeda hate us because we're immoral. They see us as the Great Satan. Muslims are very moral. I'm a Christian but I respect their devotion. They don't want to be contaminated by us. This country doesn't have morality anymore. We don't want to admit that abortion is genocide. We don't want to admit that anything is wrong."

He said that some passing drivers would yell at him while others would honk and give a thumb up. As we talked, a man shouted, "Go away, asshole!"


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American-Legion-Post--Santa-Clara-2










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American-Legion-Post--Santa-Clara










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Coliseum-Bart-station-in-4-15--Oakland-2










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Saturday, April 18, 2015

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Coliseum-Bart-station-in-4-15--Oakland










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Larry--San-Franciso








That's Larry Livingston, majority owner of The Basement.



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Lieu--San-Franciso








Lieu, co-owner of The Basement, a hip, happening new bar in the Tenderloin. Lieu and I went to the same high school in East San Jose, and he's roughly my age, 51 or so, although, with my white hair, I look like his granddad next to him. The Basement used to be occupied by Club 222, with the legendary Black Hawk jazz club next door. (It's now a parking lot). Musicians from Miles to Coltrane used Club 222 as a green room before they exited its back door to enter the Black Hawk.

At The Basement, all the beers are microbrews, with nothing under $5. Lieu doesn't want the Tenderloin's riffraff to wander in to order a can of Bud or Miller. "This neghborhood is moving up," he said.

"Ah, man, won't you miss people defecating on the sidewalks?"

"Get that shit out of here!"

This night, there was a comedy open mike. I asked Lieu if the poetry slam crowd had approached him.

"Yes, but I turned them down."

"Why?"

"Poets don't drink enough."

Man, that's a sure sign of a collapsing society! The two bartenders were young, pretty women, with one white, one Chinese. The Basement also has a hunky Swedish guy to attract the ladies.

There are a lot of Vietnamese in the Tenderloin, by the way, and my stepmother even had a restaurant here two decades ago. She made most of her money as a sports bookie, however.



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Turk-and-Hyde-on-4-7-15--San-Francisco










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Friday, April 17, 2015

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Woman-flashing-on-sidewalk-of-Tenderloin-in-4-15--San-Francisco








Yuppies, hipsters and Twitter headquarters have moved into the Tenderloin, and with continued gentrification, scenes like this will gradually disappear from this part of San Francisco. If the economy collapses, however, and it will soon enough, you will see this spread all over.



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Les-Belles-Antiques--Fremont











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The-Florence--Fremont-3








Man watching the Wendy Williams show inside the Florence. Before walking in, I asked an old guy on the street which bar was open, and he pointed me to the Florence by saying, "Charlie is outside, so it should be open."

The Niles District of Fremont was the Hollywood of the silent film era. Charlie Chaplin made five films here.



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The-Florence--Fremont-2











The-Florence--Fremont-2-(detail)








[The Florence tavern]



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The-Florence--Fremont











The-Florence--Fremont-(detail)








[The Florence tavern]



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Patriotic-quilt-in-window--Freemont











Patriotic-quilt-in-window--Freemont-(detail)








[Niles District]



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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy and England. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), 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 Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (2006). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. 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, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.