SUPPORT THIS PROJECT--Over 9,300 photos of Philadelphia, Albuquerque, Allentown, Ann Arbor, Ardmore, Ashland (PA), 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, Centralia, Charleston (SC), Charlotte, Chelsea (MI), Cherry Hill, Chester, Cheyenne, Chicago, Claymont (DE), Cleveland, Collingswood (NJ), Columbus, Cupertino, Daly City, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Dexter (MI), Dupont, El Cerrito, El Paso, Emeryville, Ewing Township (NJ), Fort Indiantown Gap, 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, Los Gatos, 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), Palo Alto, Pasco, Penndel, Pittsburgh, Pittston, Portland, Providence, Raleigh, Redwood City, Reno, Richmond, Richmond (CA), Riverside (NJ), Roebling, Rutland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Bruno, San Francisco, San Jose, San Leandro, San Mateo, 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, Stockton, Stratford (NJ), Sunnyvale, Taylor (PA), Trenton, Tucson, Union City (NJ), Ventnor, Vineland, Washington, West New York, Westmont (NJ), Wichita, Wilkes-Barre, Williston, Wilmington, Wolf Point, Woodbury (NJ) and Youngstown, etc. Outside USA: Batam, Berlin, Brighton, Budapest, Burgazada, Certaldo, Dresden, Frankfurt, Gorlitz, Grimma, Halle, Istanbul, Johor Bahru, Juarez, Kiev, Kinaliada, Leipzig, London, Luban, Markkleeberg, Prague, Reykjavik, Rivne, Singapore, Wegliniec, Wurzen, Zgorzelec.
If you have a PayPal account, you can save me the fees by sending money directly to my email address: . Thanks!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015



Friendly Lounge, a block from my apartment. 59-year-old Robert has worked for Aramark for 21 years. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Aramark specializes in food service for institutions, including schools and prisons. Robert used to make $25 an hour, but is now only bringing in $16.10 an hour, "And they fuck you up the ass too!" He said while clutching the bar and pushing his buttocks out. "I got so sick of it, I applied at just about every restaurant in Center City, but who would you hire, me or some 19-year-old?"

I told Robert many people would kill to be making $16 an hour. Paying $400 a month, Robert shares a house with four other people.

"How big is your room?"

"The size of this napkin!"

"And how are your housemates? Are they clean?"

"Hell no, they're filthy! When I go into the bathroom, I'm afraid to step on the floor. The ceiling tiles are falling down. The wall tiles are falling out. It's gross in there!"

"How's the kitchen?"

"That's gross too! I never use it. I have a little refrigerator in my room."

"No one washes the dishes?"

"Never! That's why I'm looking for a new apartment, so if you know of anything, tell me. I can't afford much, though. I used to live on South Street, that was nice, but it's gotten way too expensive."

South Street is popular with people from the suburbs and tourists. Six blocks of it are filled with restaurants and bars. Robert recounted, "I lived next to the sneaker store. One day, I came home late and saw these black guys. I think they were trying to break into the sneaker store."

"But there's a steel gate. How do you break into that?"

"I don't know, but they were climbing all over it. They were really chimping out, you know. There were maybe twenty of them."

"Twenty?! You must be exaggerating! I still don't understand, though, what they were trying to do. I mean, how do you break through a steel gate and then glass?"

"I don't know, but they were just black people acting like black people. It was like the Philadelphia zoo! They were niggers, basically," and he whispered as he said the taboo word. "Sorry to be using the N word, and my best friend is black too, but these guys were niggers. I didn't want to open my door and have them fuck me up the ass, so I called 911."

When his dad died, Robert inherited an old car which he didn't need, so he just parked it on the street, "I didn't even keep it locked because I didn't want anybody to break into it. I knew people slept in it, though, because I found condoms."


"Yeah," and he made a jerking motion with his hand.

Seeing my wedding band, Robert said, "You're lucky to have somebody to go home to. I always had a lover, a boyfriend, but I haven't had anybody in ten years. And it's not the," and he suddenly dipped his head down near my crotch, "but the support, you know. I can't just go home and say to somebody, 'Bitch, I love you!'"

Robert told me and the bartender, Don, about The Purge, "In this movie, you have twelve hours once a year to do whatever the fuck you want. You can kill or rape anybody you want!"

"Even people I hate, I wouldn't want to do physical harm to," I said.

"I don't hate anybody," Don said. "I have no enemies, and I'd say that if some people don't like me, it's because they don't really know me."



Chuck Olroski said...


Architects of the Globalized economy have created an entire array of US working class wrecks, but your portrait and tale about Robert and-the-middle-finger belongs in an Edsel pantheon.

Soon after reading, I summoned Carol to our computer screen, and she cracked-up while reading Robert's apartment size description, a "napkin." Asked her for a comment on the tenacious break-in attempt, and Carol wisely said, "hard times and store's extra security gadgets make for reverse Houdinis."

Linh Dinh said...

Yo Chuck,

I really like Carol's "hard times and store's extra security gadgets make for reverse Houdinis."

Encapsulating Robert, I forgot to write that he also said, "I'm so tired of it all that I wouldn't mind having the bomb explode tomorrow!"

"How about tonight?" I asked.

"Yes, bring it on! Blow it all up!"

Isn't it odd, Chuck, the prevalence of this gleeful anticipation for some major or even final catastrophe?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm a bit slow but is he referring to a bomb that will take his life?

Chuck Olroski said...

Linh: On the day airplanes struck Twin Towers, I attended a weird Safety-Kleen Inc. sales meeting, where and all were advised to wear N.F.L. jerseys. I did not own one, and that made me suspect.

During the meeting, my fellow-managers and Branch Manger watched the Towers smoke on T.V. The guy to whom I was accountable, said aloud, "goddamn Muslims, nuke them all!" Later in his company car, we rode to Williamsport sales-turf, and I told him that a catastrophe like today's was inevitable. He got so angry thereafter and became an ENEMY ever since.

I was gleeful that he might have understood something about my understanding and blowback anticipations.

Linh Dinh said...

He's talking about the nuclear bomb that will take out every life.--Linh

Linh Dinh said...

Yo Chuck,

That's very weird, the detail about N.F.L. jerseys. It's assumed that to be a regular guy, to be "one of us," you must spend $100 for a football jersey.


Anonymous said...

I dare say his desire for a catastrophe is much influenced by his loneliness. His desire for a lover, and his emphasis that it's not so much for the sex but for the support, is very telling. There is only so much loneliness one can take; after a while, it poisons the soul and reduces one's desire to live.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Anonymous,

We're really the loneliest of societies. Our infants are immediately removed from their mothers, many of our adults live alone and many of our old people spend their last years apart from families. It really is unprecedented, this societal arrangement.


Linh Dinh said...

P.S. I have so many friends in their 50's who are divorced or never married, and I'm sure you know many people like that also.

Anonymous said...

The frustrating thing is, if we're all lonely, and if we need each other to not be lonely, then the solution is exceedingly simple! I wonder why we just don't turn to each other.

Is it because to be seen as lonely is humiliating? Frankly, I am surprised by his courage of admitting that he is lonely and that he wants a lover for support. Clearly the sex is important too, but I don't think sex without love is sustainable or fulfilling.

Linh Dinh said...

Beth, whom I wrote about in my last Postcard, once said to me, "With a committment, you can love anybody, but without a committment, you can't love anyone. It's just emotional chaos."

One reason why we're so lonely is because we're greedy, I think. Many of us don't just want a lover or spouse, but many lovers, so we dump the one we already have. In Oakland, I met a woman in her mid-30's who was in an "open marriage," which means that her nominal husband would disappear for weeks at a time, to be with other women. She also took lovers but mostly lived alone, and still thought of herself as married. Though very attractive and still young, she was already lonely, and it will only get worse with each year.

You're right, though, about the shame of being lonely, though many people have openly admitted to me how lonely they were. Decades ago, I was sitting in Dirty Frank's when this woman propositioned me not through flirtation but by simply admitting that she was "so lonely, it hurts."

Anonymous said...

Linh, I agree so much with what Beth said. I guess I have felt that way intuitively for a really long time, but after reading Erich Fromm's The Art of Loving, and Alain Badiou's In Praise of Love, I really understood how I felt, about love being a kind of practice, something you commit to.

Fromm, for example, criticizes the language of "falling in love" and when, according to him, it should really be "standing in love." I do agree with him.

(And yes, I am profoundly lonely too and I refuse to seek refuge from places like Facebook.)

The bit you wrote on greed and having multiple lovers sends many shivers through my spine.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say I refuse to seek refuge IN places like Facebook, with the constant noise and often insincere mutual admiration.

Anonymous said...

As you mentioned how infants are removed from their mothers, I feel compelled to paste the following (long) excerpt. This excerpt appears in Alice Miller's "Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child." However, the following is not written by Miller. She, in turn, excerpts Jean Liedloff's "The Continuum Concept."

Even though it's long, I paste it here in case it helps someone, somewhere, who happens to read the comments here.

In the maternity wards of Western civilization there is little chance of consolation ... The newborn infant, with his skin crying out for the ancient touch of smooth, warmth-radiating, living flesh, is wrapped in dry, lifeless cloth. He is put in a box where he is left, no matter how he weeps, in a limbo that is utterly motionless (for the first time in all his body's experience, during the eons of its evolution or during its eternity of bliss in the womb). The only sounds he can hear are the wails of other victims of the same ineffable agony. The sound can mean nothing to him. He cries and cries; his lungs, new to air, are strained with the desperation in his heart. No one comes. Trusting in the rightness of life, as by nature he must, he does the only act he can, which is to cry on. Eventually, a timeless lifetime later, he falls asleep exhausted.

He awakes in a mindless terror of the silence, the motionlessness. He screams. He is afire from head to foot with want, with desire, with intolerable impatience. He gasps for breath and screams until his head is filled and throbbing with the sound. He screams until his chest aches, until his throat is sore. He can bear the pain no more and his sobs weaken and subside. He listens. He opens and closes his fists. He rolls his head from side to side. Nothing helps. It is unbearable. He begins to cry again, but it is too much for his strained throat; he soon stops. He stiffens his desire-racked body and there is a shadow of relief. He waves his hands and kicks his feet. He stops, able to suffer, unable to think, unable to hope. He listens. Then he falls asleep again.

When he awakens he wets his diaper and is distracted from his torment by the event. But the pleasant feeling of wetting and the warm, damp, flowing sensation around his lower body are quickly gone. The warmth is now immobile and turning cold and clammy. He kicks his legs. Stiffens his body. Sobs. Desperate with longing, his lifeless surroundings wet and uncomfortable, he screams through his misery until it is stilled by lonely sleep.

Suddenly he is lifted; his expectations come forward for what is to be his. The wet diaper is taken away. Relief. Living hands touch his skin. His feet are lifted and a new, bone-dry, lifeless cloth is folded around his loins. In an instant it is as though the hands had never been there, nor the wet diaper. There is no conscious memory, no inkling of hope. He is in unbearable emptiness, timeless, motionless, silent, wanting, wanting. His contiuum tries its emergency measures, but they are all meant for bridging short lapses in correct treatment or for summoning relief from someone, it is assumed, who will want to provide it. His continuum has no solution for this extremity. The situation is beyond its vast experience. The infant, after breathing air for only a few hours, has already reached a point of disorientation from his nature beyond the saving powers of the mighty continuum. His tenure in the womb was the last he is ever likely to know of the uninterrupted state of well-being in which it is his innate expectation that he will spend his lfietime. His nature is predicated upon the assumption that his mother is behaving suitably and that their motivations and consequent actions will naturally serve one another.


Anonymous said...

[continued from earlier]

Someone comes and lifts him deliciously through the air. He is in life. He is carried a bit too gingerly for his taste, but there is motion. Then he is in his place. All the agony he has undergone is nonexistent. He rests in the enfolding arms, and though his skin is sending no message of relief from the cloth, no news of live flesh on his flesh, his hands and mouth are reporting normal. The positive pleasure of life, which is continuum normal, is almost complete. The taste and texture of the breast are there, the warm milk is flowing into his eager mouth, there is a heartbeat, which should have been his link, his reassurance of continuity from the womb, there is movement perceptible to his dim vision. The sound of the voice is right, too. There is only the cloth and the smell (his mother uses cologne) that leave something missing. He sucks and when he feels full and rosy, dozes off.

When he awakens he is in hell. No memory, no hope, no thought can bring the comfort of his visit to his mother into this bleak purgatory. Hours pass and days and nights. He screams, tires, sleeps. He wakes and wets his diapet. By now there is no pleasure in this act. No sooner is the pleasure of relief prompted by his innards than it is replaced, as the hot, acid urine touches his by-now chafed body, by a searing crescendo of pain. He screams. His exhausted lungs must scream to override the fiery stinging. He screams until the pain and screaming use him up before he falls asleep.

At this not unusual hospital the busy nurses change all diapers on schedule, whether they are dry, wet, or long wet, and send the infants home chafed raw, to be healed by someone who has time for such things.

By the time he is taken to his mother's home (surely it cannot be called his) he is well versed in the character of life. On a preconscious plane that will qualify all his further impressions, as it is qualified by them, he knows life to be unspeakably lonely, unresponsive to his signals, and full of pain.

But then he has not given up. His vital forces will try forever to reinstate their balances, as long as there is life.

Home is essentially indistinguishable from the maternity ward except for the chafing. The infant's waking hours are passed in yearning, wanting, and interminable waiting for rightness to replace the silent void. For a few minutes a day, his longing is suspended and his terrible skin-crawling need to be touched, to be held and moved about, is relieved. his mother is one who, after much thought, has decided to allow him access to her breast. She loves him with a tenderness she has never known before. At first, it is hard for her to put him down after his feeding, especially because he cries so desperately when she does. But she is convinced that she must, for her mother has told her (and she must know) that if she gives in to him now he will be spoiled and cause trouble later. She wants to do everything right; she feels for a moment that the little life she holds in her arms is more important than anything else on earth.

She sighs, and puts him gently in his crib, which is decorated with yellow ducklings and matches his whole room. She has worked hard to furnish it with fluffy curtains, a rug in the shape of a giant panda, white dresser, Bathinette and changing table equipped with powder, oil, soap, shampoo, and hairbrush, all made and packed in colors especially for babies. There are pictures on the wall of baby animals dressed as people. The chest of drawers is full of little undershirts, slumbersuits, bootees, caps, mittens, and diapers. There is a toy wooly lamb stood at a beguiling angle on top, and a vase of flowers -- which have been cut off from their roots, for his mother also "loves" flowers.


Anonymous said...

[Continued from earlier]

She straightens baby's undershirt and covers him with an embroidered sheet and a blanket bearing his initials. She notes them with satisfaction. Nothing has been spared in perfecting the baby's room, though she and her young husband cannot yet afford all the furniture they have planned for the rest of the house. She bends to kiss the infant's silky cheek and moves toward the door as the first agonized shriek shakes his body.

Softly, she closes the door. She has declared war upon him. Her will must prevail over his. Through the door she hears what sounds like someone being tortured. Her continuum recognizes it as such. Nature does not make clear signals that something is being tortured unless it is the case. It is precisely as serious as it sounds.

She hesitates, her heart pulled toward him, but resists and goes on her way. He has just been changed and fed. She is sure he does not really need anything, therefore, and she lets him weep until he is exhausted.

He awakens and cries again. His mother looks in at the door to ascertain that he is in place; softly, so as not to awaken in him any false hope of attention, she shuts the door again. She hurries to the kitchen, where she is working, and leaves that door open so that she can hear the baby, in case "anything happens to him."

The infant's creams fade to quavering wails. As no response is forthcoming, the motive power of the signal loses itself in the confusion of barren emptiness where the relief ought, long since, to have arrived. He looks about. There is a wall beyond the bars of his crib. The light is dim. He cannot turn himself over. He sees only the bars, immobile, and the wall. He hears meaningless sounds in a distant world. There is no sound near him. He looks at the wall until his eyes close. When they open again, the bars and the wall are exactly as before, but the light is dimmer.

[The end]

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for the above quotation. It's a mostly ignored issue. Also ignored is what happens when the toddler is tossed into childcare, to be reared by underpaid and mostly indifferent strangers.

About a decade ago, there was a scandal about small children being abused in an Italian daycare center, and this only came to light after hidden cameras were installed by the government.


Linh Dinh said...

Searching for articles in the Italian press about that daycare incident, I found a listing of eight daycare abuse incidents in Italy from 2009 to early 2013 alone. They speak of children being slapped, kicked, pulled by the hair, yanked by the ear or forced to wipe other kids' urine off the floor. Some kids were just a few months old, and their abusers included nuns.

Linh Dinh said...

Without being kicked or yanked by the hair, however, all children are already abused just by being institutionalized just weeks outside the womb. In our modern world, even a 2-week-old infant can be placed in a daycare, but since the role of mother has been subjugated to that of wage slave or corporate drone, this systematic abuse of our youngest has been twisted into a declaration of economic independence for women!

Chuck Olroski said...


Am happy to make comment # 20!

To answer your question above, yes! Safety-Kleen management expected all managers to wear an NFL jersey to the monthly sales meeting which happened to be September 11, 2001. The idea was to transmit one's enthusiasm for their favorite team into lust for making sales,and consequently increase Safety-Kleen's monthly billing.

When bidding upon either new aircraft carrier or maybe a Tactical Jet Fighter, D.O.D. corporations probably make their salesmen dress-up as Curtis LeMay, Rumsfeld, and maybe Obama in order to get military sale-juices going. .

(Note: At time, 9/11-'o1, replica NFL jerseys could be purchased for < $50.00, and only a couple star salesmen had the real enchilada, costing over $100.00)

Finally, look for a "Veterans for Peace" email in your inbox, they are running a peace pilgrimage to Hanoi. You'd make an excellent tour guide for war alumni, but the communist government will insist upon restricting your saloon movement and thought.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting what you said about the role of the mother. It reminds me of the first comment in this article:

But let's not forget the fathers. They, too, have become corporate drones and wage slaves!


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.