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Wednesday, November 12, 2014



57-years-old, Dean is from Holland, MI, but has lived in Ohio, Louisiana, California and Oregon. A ex-junkie and life long con man, he has been jailed for 10 years altogether, and when I met him on the train going through Iowa seven weeks ago, Dean had just been released from a Michigan prison. He let me in on some of the intricacies of barcode, check and credit card frauds, and said he's a kind of Robin Hood, "I give money to the poor. I'm stealing for Jesus."

"So how come he lets you go to jail?"

"Because sometimes it's good to go to jail."

Traveling on Amtrak, Dean would buy a ticket for the shortest ride, but stay in the lounge car or steal seat tags to ride for as long as possible, and he's almost never caught and kicked off the train. This time, he was going to Northern California to see some friends, then his 13-year-old daughter in Portland. Born in jail, Chelsea had never seen her dad and was living with an aunt.

"Have you stayed in touch with her?"

"I've never seen or talked to her, but I sent her presents a couple of times."

"Is she angry at you?"

"I don't know."

"Does she know you're coming?"


Dean called a California girlfriend, "You always had the prettiest face, and I sure did look at it. I just got out of jail, yahoo! and I'm coming to play with you!"

When hungry, Dean would go to the dining car and beg the kitchen staff for food, and they'd give it to him, "Good stuff too. They'd just throw it away anyway."

Dean counsels, "You've got to use your brain. I've always used my brain. They steal too, so I steal, but I don't rip off the little guys. I'd never steal from you."

Dean's take on the current situation, "We're coming to the End Time. We have the anti-Christ as the Pope, and an African as the President."


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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 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 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). 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, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.