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Saturday, February 18, 2012

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Carnegie-Library--Camden









Ruins of the Carnegie Library in downtown Camden, on its main street, Broadway. Across the street, there was a Black Muslim man, about 40-years-old, who was selling socks from a little wheeled cart, so I said to him, "That was a beautiful building once!"

"I hear they're gonna fix it up."

"Really?! But the city is broke. Camden is broke."

"Camden is broke?"

"Yeah, man, Camden is broke. Philly is broke. The whole country is broke! Didn't you hear about all the cops they laid off?"

"They got money." He then read from the inscription on the building. "Nineteen-O-four. Man, that building is old. How old is that? Thirty, forty years?"

"It was built in nineteen-O-four, so it's over a hundred-years-old."

"Really?"

He told me about a cop who had given him a ticket for selling on the street, "The judge will throw it out, though, because I was sitting in a restaurant when he busted me."

"Yeah, but you'll still have to waste your time in court. What an asshole! Doesn't he have better things to do than to bust people trying to make a living? This city is so fucked up and he's busting you, and you're not hurting anybody."

"There is a lot of complaints about this guy."

"Is he an older guy?"

"No, a young cop, a young, white cop."

There is actually a plan to fix the Canergie Library, but since it was announced in 2004, nothing has been done, and the city's budget crisis has gotten worse, much worse, since then.

As I took this photo, I heard from behind me, "Taking pictures. You with the pole lease?"

I turned around and said to this unsmiling teen with a neck tattoo, "Say what?"

He just walked away.




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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.