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Friday, January 9, 2015



[Photographed from the sidewalk.]



Chuck Olroski said...


I suppose its natural to look at your photos and have memories sparked.

On January 10, 2007, two days before my 55th birthday, my haz-mat company assigned me to "supervise" a blood cleanup inside a South Side apartment where Sidney Davis committed suicide. (Note: The apartment is located downhill (west) from Bacwal's, on Pittston Avenue)

Arriving on scene with two other workers, a Moosic policeman, owner of the apartment, met us at the door and explained how Sidney lived alone, was mentally ill. The cop prepped us for a shocking scene.

Apparently, no one checked-in on Sidney Davis, and when I entered the apartment, the scene looked like the room depicted in your photograph, but 100 X's worse; filthy, cigarette butts piled high on parlor table, junk all over, human waste found in unexpected spaces, stomach turning odors, Sidney's blood splattered on kitchen wall and floor, and of course, unused handgun ammunition upon Sidney's bedroom night table

The apartment owner told me "he (Sidney) didn't have much family, Mister, and I'm really sorry my tenant did not take better care of his health and my place."

Four hours later, the apartment rendered clean, disinfected, ready for new inhabitant. All of Sidney's remains were placed inside red bio-bags and boxes, sent for bio-waste disposal.

Your picture alarmed me. Where am I in that setting? I look at my bedroom now, messy, books and loose paper strewn about, carpet needs cleaning, trash bucket over filled, crooked painting of "Road to Emmaus" on wall which belonged to Carols, deceased Aunt Jeannie... but no firearms at hand.

Late last night after the unfortunate school bus scrape, discouraged, I read C. Milosz's poem "To Jozef Czechowicz." One line struck as a lament for Sidney Davis, "You were set apart by a flaw in your blood, you knew about fate... nobody knows your sorrow."

Thanks for opportunity to look into the Philadelphia window and see what you saw, Linh.

Mr. Sidney Davis's name is written inside my old Russian Orthodox prayer book's section, "For the Departed." Who in troubled America can say for sure the room depicted in your photo is not the future? Departed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing that, Chuck. The theme of loneliness appears and surrounds us constantly. Another excerpt from Alice Miller's, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware. Here she's looking at Kafka's personal life and his story, "The Metamorphosis."

"'The Metamorphosis' describes, among other things, the sensibility of a neurotic person who feels isolated, does not speak the same language as other people, is dependent on their full understanding, which he never finds, can never formulate his tragedy and must remain silent, is hated and scorned by others as soon as they recognize his true self. Indeed, just a short time before, it is true, when he was still his false, accommodating self, living the part of the good, well-behaved son, the others treated him as one of their own, without ever asking themselves who he really was. It is no surprise, of course, that people prefer to remain the good son Gregor Samsa and, in their fear of the isolation Kafka describes, never overstep the boundaries of what is expected of them."

Who can imagine Sidney's desperation, the anguish he faced by lack of support and understanding, and his loneliness? Who can imagine the rejections he faced? Maybe he did extend his hand out for help, but was met with shocking indifference.

It is tragic that the governments of the world prefer to hate life, and to invest in mass machinery of death and destruction, instead of spending resources to help the many men and women who are Sidney. It is tragic that people generally prefer to worship the power of hate and destruction, than to be with the power of love, kindness and gentleness. It is tragic that that we don't get as upset at injustices like these as we do with what happened in Paris.

Je suis Charlie? Non, je suis Sidney.

Linh Dinh said...

Kafka is one of the great poets of loneliness, obviously. Do reread "Bachelor's Ill Luck," "Rejection" and 'Unhappiness." Seen but not touched and entirely out of sync with life's rhythm, "The Hunger Artist" has literally lost his appetite. As for the trapeze artist in "First Sorrow," he refuses to come down from his perch and lies on the luggage rack while traveling! Though pompous, garrulous and married to a chimpanzee, the ape in "Report to the Academy" is also an isolated figure.

Chuck Olroski said...

Dear Anonymous:

Thanks for expressing goodwill for Sidney Davis. While cleaning-up his bloody suicide and messy apartment, a young, intelligent and comical 6' 4" co-worker made fun of Sidney's end, and actually made me feel worse.

If I live long enough, I'd like to read Kafka and absorb what mature learning both you and Linh have experienced and matured from. Thank you very much.


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.