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Friday, February 6, 2015

Postcard from the End of America: Bridesburg, Philadelphia

As published at CounterCurrents, Information Clearing House and Intrepid Report, 2/8/15:

Wait till you hear this one. So an Italian, a Pole and an Irish woman were sitting in a bar when a Vietnamese walked in.

“There he is!” the bartender, also Irish, yelled.

Ignoring the strange greeting, the Vietnamese guy sat down two stools from the cheerful Italian, “We knew he’d come!”

Grinning somewhat uneasily, the Vietnamese merely said, “Uh, I’d like a pint of Rolling Rock.”

Acting surprised, the bartender blurted, “He’d like a beer too!”

With the entire bar looking at him, the Vietnamese finally asked, “Who did you think I was?”

“The guy who sells DVDs,” the Irish woman jumped in. “We’ve been sitting here talking about ‘American Sniper,’ you know, the new movie, so when we saw you walk in with that bag, we thought you had DVDs to sell.”

“No, no.”

All over Philadelphia, there are itinerant peddlers who enter bars to sell pirated movies. In Frankford, one neighborhood over, I’d seen a Chinese woman do this. That day, I was in Bridesburg for the first time. Triangular, it’s hemmed in by a river, a creek and a freeway, so Bridesburg’s rather cut off from the rest of the city. You can easily live in Philadelphia for decades without ever straying into this poor yet very neatly kept, graffiti-free and nearly all-white neighborhood. Neither the elevated train nor the subway stops there.

From afar, a metropolis is always reduced to its iconic skyline downtown, but close-up, every city is a city of neighborhoods. There is nothing distinctive about this claim. If Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, so is Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and even Atlanta. A city dweller, then, is one who merely inhabits a village or town within a city. It is on this much more intimate scale that humans can truly feel a sense of belonging, if at all.

In Bridesburg, all the houses have two stories and few are detached. Most have no lawns, only a concrete porch, if that. Aluminum awnings shade doorways and windows. Flags droop here and there, including from utility poles. On Richmond Street is the second Veterans of Foreign War post in the entire country. Here, the bars are called What’s Its Name, Post Office, Ozzie’s, O’Rourke’s, Bridesburg Pub and Blue Moon, which was the one I stumbled into, and weaved out of. It doesn’t even have a sign. Bridesburg’s motto, “A Family First Community.” On a door, “FREE SNOW. HELP YOURSELF.” The Real Life CafĂ© has gone out of business.

The bartender turned out to be 42-year-old Matt, “I hadn’t seen a movie in a theater in 15 years, but I couldn’t wait to see this one. I was outside at 8:30AM on the first day!”

“What time was the show?”


“So how was it?”


Chris Hedges writes of this record-breaking box office hit by Clint Eastwood, “‘American Sniper’ lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a ‘Christian’ nation to exterminate the ‘lesser breeds’ of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression.” Ah, if only Hedges could be at the Blue Moon to watch this American classic with the locals! I’ll bring the DVD.

One of the oldest white settlements in the Philadelphia area, this bend in the river was populated by Swedes, Germans then Poles, who came in the early 20th century to work in the tannery. It was shit work, literally, for dog shit was used to cure hides. Rohm and Hass and AlliedSignal, two chemical companies, then moved in to add cancers and birth defects to the stomach turning aroma. In fact, for several years Bridesburg was ranked as the most toxic zip code in all of Pennsylvania. Locals could also make bullets or forge steel for a living. Mike, a 57-year-old Pole, recounted the good old days, “With the Arsenal, Rohm and Hass and the Foundry, you didn’t have to leave the neighborhood to work. You could walk to work!”

With all of its factories gone, the people of Bridesburg now toss pizza dough, sling beer, become cops or join the military. Law and order is big here.
At the Recreational Center, there’s a large mural of Gary Skerski, a 16-year police veteran who was shot and killed at age 46 by a robber.

Not feeling adequately safe with the regular police and Neighborhood Watch, Bridesburg even hired a private security firm, with each house chipping in $20 per year. These keystone cops didn’t even last a month, however. Bridesburg’s siege mentality is understandable if you consider that it’s squeezed by two high crime neighborhoods, Frankford and Port Richmond, with Kensington, Philly’s heroin bazaar, just two miles away.

Mike, “We’re friendly to everybody, as long as you’re a low life!”

“But you have to be the right kind of low life!” I suggested.

“Yeah, if you take care of your kids and your house and don’t cause trouble, you’re welcome. Basically, we don’t like niggas,” and he did say “a” and not “er,” a distinction Raychel Jeantel once took pain to explain to Piers Morgan.

It’s clearly no endearment for Mike, however, “In Germantown and Upper Darby, you have decent black people. Notice I’m not calling them no niggas. It’s the niggas we don’t like, and anybody can be a nigga. You can have black niggas, white niggas, chink niggas and pollock niggas. It’s the niggas we don’t like. Before we had Section 8 Housing in Bridesburg, kids could leave their bikes out, but as soon as the niggas moved in, they all got stolen!”

After a black woman moved into a Bridesburg apartment in 1995, someone broke her windows. Whites taunted her on the streets with racial slurs and her teenaged sister was even roughed up by a white. Though she appealed to the cops for help, for law and order, her sister’s assailant was never found. As for the slurs and hostile looks, there was nothing they could do, frankly, for social attitudes cannot be regulated. A mugger or rapist can be arrested, indicted and found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but not someone who mutters a slur or spits on the ground as he walks by you. After six months of Bridesburg hell, the woman moved out.

In the early 90’s, I’d occasionally stop by this breakfast joint because it had great scrapple, but the white waitress always gave me the coldest service, tight lipped and brusque. The first time this happened, I simply thought, maybe I’m catching this woman on her worst day, for as a minority, you can’t assume racism each time or you will lose your mind. Finally, I stopped going to that stupid place, though, twenty plus years later, I still remember exactly where it is, for a person is wired to register, very deeply, all acts of irrational hostility against him. Self preservation demands this. Believe me, I’ve experienced much, much worse. I’m bringing this up merely to show that it doesn’t take a whole lot to convey to someone that he’s not welcome.

To bypass racial aggravation, many people simply retreat into their own ethnic orbit whenever possible, with whites hanging with whites, blacks with blacks and Asians with Asians, etc. Beyond these divisions, there’s also an infinity of sub groupings, moreover, because many people can only love themselves, that’s all. Any sort of intolerance, then, is just an expression of narcissism.

In 1996, another black woman, 32-year-old Bridget Ward, rented a rowhouse in Bridesburg for $650. On her first morning there, the registered nurse woke up to find “nigger” spray painted on her door. Ketchup and some brown liquid, resembling blood, were also splattered onto her front and back walls. After news got out, some white residents did send her welcome cards and Easter candies, but a letter also arrived that threatened to kill her two daughters, aged 3 and 9. That was the last straw. Needing to spare her kids from such a miasma of hatred, Ward moved out after only five weeks, “I don’t want them to grow up mean and hateful. I don’t want them to feel that it has to be like this. I don’t want them to hate anyone.”

News reports from that time mention a Bridesburg man who unfurled a confederate flag at his house to greet Ward’s arrival, and snooping around the neighborhood 18 years later, I discovered this flag was still there. Although the Southern banner can’t be reduced to a single idea, here it’s clearly meant as an anti-black talisman. Ignoring the bad publicity, this man and others like him are determined to keep Bridesburg as white as possible, and though a handful of blacks have managed to move in eventually, it’s still the whitest working class neighborhood in the entire region.

Seen as a village, Bridesburg harks back to a time when nearly everyone within the community was of the same race, if not related by blood, and as a foundation and model for what a community is, the village was always exclusive. Normally, you weren’t allowed to move in, but even when you could, it took forever for your surly neighbors to warm up to your annoyingly alien presence. In a traditional Vietnamese village, an outside family had to live there for three generations before the locals granted it partial citizenship. In southern Europe, innumerable villages and towns were built like fortresses on top of hills to defend themselves against people from nearby settlements. Assisi and Perugia, for example, attacked each other constantly. It was like Bloods vs. Crips, only more vicious.

One village vs. another, town vs. town, these local allegiances and conflicts find modern expression in organized sports. At the high school level, the athletes are really local, but it is much less so with college teams and not at all with the professional squads that somehow provide civic pride and sense of community to the socially adrift city dwellers. The growth of professional sports coincided with rapid urbanization worldwide. Uprooted from villages and towns, those who have lost their organic and enduring ties to other people and this very earth must find consolation in purchasing over-priced cap, jersey, pennant, pajamas and blanket of the right colors and logo. On selected days, they can scream, curse or even weep, in joy or despair, at a television. Whereas the professional athletes are merely grafted onto a city, its gang members are truly grass roots, however, for they arise from its various communities.

When civilization declines, warbands proliferate as economic and security solutions. They also appear wherever central authority is weak or lacks legitimacy. In slums across America, warbands already operate, though we merely call them gangs. As the economy sinks, our social fabric will turn to shreds and crimes will explode because hungry, desperate and angry people won’t equivocate too much before they blow your brains out, especially if you’re alien to them, or seen as the enemy, for whatever reason. Even with foodstamps, violent muggings are daily occurrences in each American city, so imagine what will happen when our bankrupt government can no longer maintain its already inadequate Access Card soup kitchen?

War breaks out when there’s scarcity, and this is true not just between rival nations but gangs or warbands in your city, and remember, nearly all gangs are racially or ethnically homogeneous. There are no pan-Asian gangs but Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian or Hmong ones, and even when people speak the same language, the gangs are either Mexican, El Salvadorian or Columbian, etc. Yes, the Latin Kings includes a number of Hispanic groups, but it’s essentially Puerto Rican or Mexican, depending on the factions. As for whites and Jews, they share leadership in a most sadistic gang called the United States of America. Their foot soldiers are of every color, however, so that’s a heart warming triumph of integration and multiculturalism. Absolutely anyone can die for them, even you. Their current spokesman is also half black. If you think about it, the job of White House Press Secretary is totally redundant, since our so-called President is already a White House Press Secretary.

When all is well, racial differences can be somewhat ignored, though many people struggle to do just that, but with tension or disagreement, much less life-and-death competition, the tribal angle comes out. Notice how often insults are prefixed by a racial or ethnic signifier. It’s not enough to call someone a “piece of shit,” you must brand him a Polish, Italian, Jewish, black or Korean piece of shit. Responding to one of my articles, a commenter writes, “Long Duck Dong or whatever his name is, can go suck a bag of hot dicks.” The truth is, all differences are registered, stored away and used as bullets if needed, for we define ourselves oppositionally.

During the Occupy protests, the “99%” became a rallying cry for the supposedly unified masses, but there is no such 99%, not when Americans are rabidly divided between North and South, urban and rural, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, etc. As Paul Craig Roberts points out, “The great mass of people cannot evaluate what is said or written without first classifying it into a prevailing ideological box. If what is said fits their box, it is correct. If not, it is wrong.”

Though many Americans fancy themselves independent thinkers, most are merely slavish adherents of some cartoon version of a political philosophy they haven’t bothered to research, for why read history when a slogan or two is good enough? Recently, when I voiced my objection to “Communism, of the dictatorship of the proletariat variety,” a reader responded, “Ah maybe Linh Dinh is revealing some of his middle class baggage here […] Why did u leave Vietnam Linh? Did you’re family not want to pull its weight and help with the revolution?” Ignoring my objection to “dictatorship,” this person is framing me as somehow a bourgeoisie who’s antagonistic to the proletariat! Judging from his millennial orthography, my accuser has many decades ahead of him, so perhaps he can take a few days to slowly read 1984. Studying Orwell’s frightful expose of any totalitarian system, whether left or right, perhaps he can reflect on how often a revolution betrays its most selfless, ardent or idealistic supporters, not to mention the lowly proles. Though fiction, the ruthless strategies depicted have been repeatedly confirmed by history, and since many millions have suffered, one shouldn’t so blithely endorse what killed or shackled them.

In many parts of the world, people still have fresh memories of traumatic societal upheavals, but Americans have never been subjected to nonstop terror from an alien control apparatus, sent to hard labor or reeducation camps, or made so desperate, they head for the open sea in flimsy crafts, knowing they might drown, starve to death or be raped or killed by pirates. Having no experience of totalitarianism, not quite yet, Americans can glibly wear it as a conceit. Also, there is a Western tradition of militant evangelism that stems from an arrogant conviction that whatever you supremely believe in, or just kinda like, sort of, must be the guiding light for the rest of the world, so if it’s not Communism, then it’s Catholicism, Capitalism, Neo-Liberalism and so on, all Western belief systems. If a nominally Communist country like China has been able to revive itself, it’s due to its people’s deeply ingrained qualities of tremendous industry, single mindedness, stoicism, eagerness to learn and shrewdness in business. From Singapore to San Francisco, Chinese everywhere have these traits.

Any global solution requires global policing and enforcement, so enough, already, with universal diktats, for in their names, villages everywhere have been devastated. To globalize you, they’ll make you unrecognizable to yourself if not turn you into a slave. It’s fine if you disagree, for that only proves that humans tend to differ, just as groups of people will always remain distinctive. Born different, we also live differently.

In The Chronicles of Bustos Domecq, co-authored by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-Casares, there’s an account of the “Brotherhood Movements.” Mankind, it is explained, is made up of an infinity of secret brotherhoods, and here I quote from Norman Thomas di Giovanni’s translation, “Some of these societies are more enduring than others--for example, the society of individuals sporting Catalan surnames, or surnames that begin with the letter G. Others, inversely, quickly fade--the society of those who, at this very moment, in Brazil or Africa, are inhaling the odor of jasmine or, more culture-minded and studious, reading a bus ticket.” These brotherhoods are constantly in flux, since “the most trifling act--striking a match or blowing it out--expels us from one group and lodges us in another.” With so many commingling cliques, conflicts are inevitable, thus “the person wielding a spoon is the adversary of he who brandishes a fork, but very soon both are at one over the use of the napkin, only to split again over their Postum or Sanka.” Just as in real life, small differences can turn deadly, “the man getting off a train will pull a switchblade on the man who boards; the incognizant buyer of gumdrops will try to strangle the master hand who dispenses them.”

Telescoping both distance and time, oil has shrunk the world and created a crude illusion of a global hamlet. As the age of petroleum winds down, however, the local will make a fierce come back, and it may take a warband just to reach the next village.

Since we’re not yet there, I had managed to breach, all by my lonesome self, the considerable defense of Bridesburg, and sitting in Blue Moon, I could hear Matt recount his recent troubles, “After I lost 110 lbs, my wife became paranoid. She thought I was having an affair! She called up Verizon for my phone record and picked fights with me all the time. We’re getting a divorce.”

Matt married at 18 and, after graduating from Drexel with a business degree, managed to find a job with a medical supplies company. He bought a spacious home in suburban Montgomery County, had three daughters and everything was fine until he decided to shed a few stones. As his marriage imploded, Matt also lost his $125,000 a year job through downsizing, so now the local boy is back in the hood to tend bar six nights a week at Blue Moon and Ozzie’s.

“I remember exactly the day of our last fight, because the Bears were playing on Thursday Night Football. As I was just getting ready to watch the game, the bitch gave me shit again, and I was like, ‘Can’t I just watch the damn game?!’ Since she wouldn’t stop, I went to the bar to watch it with my buddies. When I came home around 2:30, she was already asleep, so I got into bed, thinking everything was OK, but as soon as my wife got up in the morning, she started again, and out of the blue, she called 911 and said I had a gun to her head!”

“She could have gotten you killed!”

“She sure could have. I walked outside in my swimming trunks, because that’s how I sleep, and when all the cop cars came, sirens blaring, I just stood in my driveway and raised my hands. There were about six cops pointing guns at me!”

“Why was your wife so paranoid? Did you ever cheat on her?”


“Seriously?” I grinned.


“Not once?”

“Never!” Then, “Since we separated, I’ve had about fifty women, though, and I have a girlfriend now.”

Let’s see, the Bears played the Giants on Thursday, October 10th, 2013, and I talked to Matt on January 28th, 2015, so what’s that, a woman every five seconds? In any case, with his American dream blown to smithereens, Matt had to crawl back to his native village because that’s his most enduring support system. It’s archetypical, this trajectory. Perched to my left, 56-year-old Tommy, the Italian guy, had heard all this before, so paid no attention. Deciding he wanted no more Coors Lite, Tommy roared, “I’m going to go home now and beat up my wife!”

“No, you’re not!” The Irish woman protested.

“Yes, I am. I’ve had enough!”

Talking to Matt, I found out we actually had one mutual acquaintance. Also a bartender, Melissa works in Kensington five days a week, though business can be so dead, she often has to close early. Thirty-years-old, she’s divorced, lives with her mom and has 12-year-old twin sons. Melissa’s sister is an officer in the Marines, and both of her kids plan on joining the military. Last Christmas, Melissa spent $700 on presents for Mike and Doug, which I thought astronomical, but she scowled, “No, it’s not! I love my kids!” Melissa’s own father, a Japanese junkie, was never around when she grew up. Her mom’s Irish. Soon after Melissa turned 21, her dad called to beg for money. She's not pissed off at him. “I’ve gotten over it. It's not worth it.” To prove that she was really half Japanese, Melissa pulled up a photo of herself at seven-years-old wearing a kimono. In Bridesburg, people go into a bar bathroom to do coke, she said, whereas in Kensington, they shoot up, so that’s another point in Bridesburg’s favor. To protect herself, Melissa carries a large folding knife, keeps a baseball bat behind the bar and, thanks to frequent trips to the gun range when she was dating a cop, can surely zap anything moving from half a block away. Seeing many photos of her kids always looking so happy and calm, I said to Melissa, “You must be a great mom.”

In every family, there are sweet, loving individuals as well as nosy, domineering, judgmental or backstabbing assholes, and so it is with each village or neighborhood, though in an urban setting, you can more easily avoid just about any meaningful human contact even as you’re swarmed by bodies and voices. Though Americans evoke community fairly often, their actions betray them. Regularly moving away and breaking up, many prefer, clearly, to be left alone. Politically, this means that there’s not even a unified 1% in opposition to the status quo, much less 99%. (During our last Presidential Election, the Green Party got 0.36% of the votes, and the Libertarian 0.99%.) Alone we eat, sleep and have sex, and alone we will confront the machine. Some of us, though, will save ourselves by organizing or joining a warband. We few, we dismal few, we band of brothers!



x larry said...

really enjoyed the article, linh. being white i tend, and try, to forget the racial hostility out there, which i've never seen so ubiquitously as in phila. but even in lame-o white denver any conflicts i had on the street were literally ALWAYS racial--not from me, but directed at me, almost always black guys, the odd indian (they seem to have been swept from central denver), maybe a hispanic or two. but the hatred in philly! wish i'd thought to visit bridesburg, or even frankford, during my five years there. as for the white/jewish rulership of u.s.a., i want to protest, but find i can't as it is very hard to argue with. americans are in deep shit, many of us, as we grow up isolated from our tribes, or maybe that's just the way i feel and very out of touch with the realities of most--and, as you sort of said, it hardly matters when you're white. what of bertrand russell and his close friend joseph conrad's belief that the 'white race' was doomed? well, at least there are the coming centuries of all out, vicious warfare to look forward to. whatever happened to the more universal? i'm thinking of some excellent greek philosophers, also some chinese such as chuang-tzu, and many others. then again, one of the main traits of the average joe or jane everywhere is their lack of intellectual curiosity, and hatred on the 'brains'--they seem to feel intelligence equates to lack of heart, which i have found to be the opposite of the truth. well, rant over for now. cheers!

destroytheuniverse said...

It's not just 'murkans who are getting dumber and more vicious.
Have you read the readers' comments in The Jerusalem Post or Ha'aretz lately? Clear proof that ideology makes people stupid.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi destroytheuniverse,

I'll check out the comments on The Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz. Many unmoderated comments are like talk radio, and if the topic has a racial angle, then the racial bile comes out...


Linh Dinh said...

Hi x larry,

Racial hatred can come from any group, obviously, but since many on the left are committed to the notion of universal brotherhood, they downplay or try to explain away racial hatred in all groups except white, because they associate whites with colonialism, imperialism and racial genocide.

After I finished my Postcard, I ran into this article about Pakistani rape gangs in the UK that target white girls. I have no idea if the article is hysterically hyperbolic or just the plain truth. Your take?


x larry said...

hi linh,
well, i read the article you gave the link for, from some site called breitbart. i also got maybe 15 or more pages into a link from that article--it's a 330-odd page report on this epidemic in britain.
my verdict: i have no clue. it strikes me as very dodgy in what it says of a gigantic police cover up of over 20 years. i of course believe nothing in the media, not only mass media but so called alternative sites. there has recently been here a 'scandal' involving celebrities and politicians, right up to prince andrew, involved in child sex rings. there was a famous case of this in america, i forget his name but he was from omaha and it supposedly reached the greatest heights--bush sr.'s white house. all of this could very well be true, as could bohemian grove and a lot of what alex jones talks, or yells, about.
also, i know very little of muslims in general, or pakistanis. however, one of the nicer guys i casually knew in brighton was a cashier in the local convenience store. he usually worked with a very nice spanish woman, and together they were extremely nice to my little son. he hasn't worked there for well over a year now, and recently i began to befriend one of the new guys there, and i asked about this other one and how he's doing, and was told that he's now in the local prison for (i'm not sure i have this part right) ten years, on a rape charge. i didn't ask anything else of him. and there is my vast knowledge of pakistani muslims in britain!
back to that article and the huge report it references. i see conspiracies everywhere--that is, in all the 'information' we're given, even down to 'litersture', 'classics', music, etc. now there's at this moment going on a blatant brainwashing campaign by Da Gub Mint (that is, the world govt., run by britain and u.s.) to foment hatred of muslims, which is very convenient for all their endless wars. without giving evidence i can say i've read at least some things on how britain and america have created the radical fundamentalish muslim terrorist. from creating israel to bombing the shit out of muslims everywhere to creating hate states like indonesia (read andre vltchek on this) to creating bogus organisations like al quaeda and isis to doing every machiavellian trick on mafia-like gangs like the taliban to probably (for all i know) brainwashing (including and especially with top secret drugs) hapless individuals to go to bat for them (ie be murderers--there's some movie from the seventies on this, was it parallax view?).... you get the picture. so i saw in the article and report referenced many such what to me could be red flags. also, the website for the article seemed to be, who knows?--set up and funded by the govt? it had the usual articles on things like isis.
finally, i may agree with 'destroytheuniverse' that ideology makes people stupid, but tell me, What makes them smart? i don't see two people anywhere agreeing on really anything. so who's right? or, as i heard terence mckenna say in an old speech, 'who ARE we working for?' but the lies are so many and so great that i would be the last person to claim to know the truth. but just like with religion, i can only look at the benefits for the powerful in creating these massive structures which rule the populace's minds forever and all time.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I can leave a long comment as you have written so much in so little. I'll just let my thoughts flow freely and dictate what my fingers should type.

Having grown up in a city, it appears to me that in a city, people essentially become obstacles. I take a step out of my door, and I have a single-minded goal: to get a place. If I take the public transport, a train, everyone becomes an obstacle. Faces are unimportant, their backgrounds are unimportant. What's important is I get where I need to be.

Yet there's an allure to a city, especially the NYC variety. Any craving can be satisfied and gratified. If one is financially comfortable, one can drown and forget one's sorrows and troubles temporarily, just by immediately satisfying one craving after another. There's no need for any kind of authenticity, in genuine human interaction. There's no need to work on understanding and on respect.

Unfortunately, though, when one goes back to one's apartment or room, one is immediately confronted with the gaping holes in one's life. But like your friend, we can leave our TV on, drown our rattling and wrestling thoughts, sleep, and do it all over again the morning. Or maybe we can just induce enough physical stimuli that sheer fatigue will ensure a sound sleep.

We are lonely and yet we can't wait to be alone. We fear commitment, we fear having to work, we lack patience. Spurred by Likes and Clicks and Views, we want instant gratification. If something cannot be obtained now, then it's not worth it.

X said...

That was me. Too used to being Anonymous!

Chuck Olroski said...

Linh: What you write here on Bridesburg adds another Postcard for a future Volume 2 book.

At times, & although you're not "into" the scene, I am hoping you can venture into the streets of gated communities, Country Club estates, and write about the Top End of US decadence and decline. (Note: As you please, I can take you to one just a little over a mile from our home)

Appreciated your link to CONCEIT, and the 26-year old Philly gal dressed as a Red Guard and holding "Quotations From Chairman Mao." I don't think spoiled & under-educated youngsters realize how close they are to dressing in Clinton family suits, and holding "Quotations From Chairman Hillary."

Anonymous said...

Hi Linh,
What is scrapple?

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Chuck,

Though Ahuviya Harel appeared masculine and spoke with a masculine voice, he asked me to list him as female. As you well know, many Americans with a penis now consider themselves female, so if what you feel on the inside can override who you are on the outside, if psychology can trump biology, then perhaps I'm a Polish guy.


Linh Dinh said...

As for scrapple, it's a breakfast food common in Eastern Pennsylvania. It's sold in a small loaf, which you slice up and fry. When I bought it for the first time around 1989, I tried to boil it and it just dissolved into a gray slush.

Here's wikipedia's definition: "Scrapple, also known by the Pennsylvania Dutch name panhaas or 'pan rabbit,' is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices."

Linh Dinh said...

Check out James Howard Kunstler and Fred Reed on our Disunited States.

X said...

Not referring to Ahuviya Harel in particular, but do you think there is merit to the notion that some might identify more with a gender other than the one they are born with?

Linh Dinh said...

Hi X,

First of, you have people with ambiguous genitals, so they're not clearly male or female. Then you have people in all cultures who, though born with one sex, identify or behave more like members of the so-called opposite sex. I mean, a person may act masculine one moment, and feminine the next. I'm fully aware of all these possibilities, and I also believe that it's no one's business how anyone thinks or acts, as long as it's not harmful to anyone else, and a man wearing a dress is not a threat, but he's still a man wearing a dress and not a woman, and a man who has his penis removed is just that, a man without a penis and not a woman.

To shift perspective a bit, an East Asian with surgeries on eyes and nose and dyed blonde hair to look more Caucasian is still an East Asian.

One more example: an old person with a dozen alterations to look younger is still an old person.


Linh Dinh said...

Hi X,

A female mammal is one that can be impregnated, give birth and lactate, and a male mammal is one that can inseminate a female, so it's not a question of culture or psychology, but biology. With humans, moreover, motherhood and fatherhood are not just biological processes but elevated, in all cultures, to sacred functions.

Many modern men and women have chosen not to breed, however, and who can blame them, with so many hungry people already and the earth being raped at breakneck speed, but with this divorce from our biological destinies, some are making an extra leap to thinking that being a man or a woman is simply a personal acknowledgement or decision.


X said...

I see your point now. The analogy with the east asian and the old person helped. However, there is something more intimate to gender that I am not unable to put my finger on. I have in mind the Thai boxer Parinya Chareonphoi. She was born biologically as a male, and then had a surgery when she was an adult to resemble a female. I have troubles trying to call her a "man without a penis" rather than just "woman." Perhaps I'm merely being politically correct. But would it not cause her personal anguish if I called her "man without a penis," given that she does not, in her mind, identify as being a man?

You're essentially right; she does not resemble a human female in the sense of being able to conceive and lactate. And what I say here can be easily applied to your analogy. "Would it not cause the Caucasian personal anguish if I called her 'East Asian with surgery,' given that he still identifies as being a Caucasian?" And yet, I'm still insistent that there's something more intimate about gender. I don't think one can switch genders simply as a matter of personal choice, but perhaps there are people born in one gender who simply identify with another gender, and for whom it's not a personal choice?

Linh Dinh said...

Yo Chuck,

As for straying into high end communities, I can barely afford to drink at the cheapest bars, and in fact, most weeks, I can't even do that. I'm sure you know the feeling!


Linh Dinh said...

As Chuck can tell you, I don't slum when I write these Postcards, for most of the people I depict are in fact richer than I am. I mean, I get rather giddy when I'm sitting at Jack's, Bentley's Place, T-Barr's Bar or Blue Moon because those slum drinking holes are my high end joints.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi X,

If Parinya Chareonphoi can convincingly look and act female, then more power to him, it's his life, and if an East Asian can somewhat pass as a Caucasian through surgeries, then that's his or her choice, but he or she is still not white.

Our body and its processes provide us with all the important lessons.


Linh Dinh said...

Hi X,

I just looked up Parinya Charoenphol. Sounds like a fascinating person! Thanks for bringing Charoenphol up. Perhaps Charoenphol can fight Ronda Rousey!


Chuck Olroski said...

To X:

I attest to being ten (10) times richer than Linh Dinh! In fact, while we were mistakenly inside the Scranton Train Station, "Radisson Hotel" barroom, I felt quite of out-of-place in midst of all the legal and corporate patrons, BUT Linh Dinh could NOT last in such Imperial atmosphere more than five minutes.

Very disappointed, I thought Linh would have sat down, dug into pocket, and instruct the bartender to "line drinks up for the bar!" .

Linh Dinh said...

Yo Chuck,

I ran out of there as if I was chased by a phalanx of cops! I commend you for your exceptional composure.

Note: Chuck and I were looking for one of his co-workers' retro band. It was at a different hotel, and we didn't have to pay to get in.


Linh Dinh said...

P.S. Chuck is joking about being 10 times richer than me, of course. We're in the same (bush) league. After two decades of cleaning up highway accidents and motel room suicides, Chuck is now making almost nothing driving a school bus, and he's not paid at all on snow days. Such is the new economy.

Here's my portrait of Chuck in a Taylor, PA Postcard.

Chuck Olroski said...


Yea -- Its absolute truth we're in same (bush) league. But get this? This afternoon I picked-up a bus trip to take West Scranton basketball players to a tournament in Mid Valley!

As a result of such windfall, when you return to Taylor, I'll take you horseback riding to the Scranton weapons factory, and afterward, enjoy Roast Marzipan Chops and Heineken.

X said...

Linh, I wanted to put this quote out by Fromm given your last paragraph.

“If I perceive in another person mainly the surface, I perceive mainly the differences,that which separates us. If I penetrate to the core, i perceive our identity, the fact of our brotherhood. This relatedness from center to center - instead of that from periphery to periphery - is 'central relatedness'.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

it's been a while since I read his Art of Loving. I should re-read it.

X said...

Another one:

“While everybody tries to be as close as possible to the rest, everybody remains utterly alone, pervaded by the deep sense of insecurity, anxiety and guilt which always results when human separateness cannot be overcome. Our civilization offers many palliatives which help people to be consciously unaware of this aloneness: first of all the strict routine of bureaucratized, mechanical work, which helps people to remain unaware of their most fundamental human desires, of the longing for transcendence and unity. Inasmuch as the routine alone does not succeed in this, man overcomes his unconscious despair by the routine of amusement, the passive consumption of sounds and sights offered by the amusement industry; furthermore by the satisfaction of buying ever new things, and soon exchanging them for others. Modern man is actually close to the picture Huxley describes in his Brave New World: well fed, well clad, satisfied sexually, yet without self, without any except the most superficial contact with his fellow men, guided by the slogans which Huxley formulated so succinctly, such as: “When the individual feels, the community reels”; or “Never put off till tomorrow the fun you can have today,” or, as the crowning statement: “Everybody is happy nowadays.” Man’s happiness today consists in “having fun.” Having fun lies in the satisfaction of consuming and “taking in” commodities, sights, food, drinks, cigarettes, people, lectures, books, movies—all are consumed, swallowed.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

x larry said...

excellent quotes, x. i haven't read fromm ever, i don't think. reminds me of something i read two days ago a bit, by terence mckenna the psychadelic guru--possibly now infamous as cia informer? he described a fairly wild scene, then stated that this was the original religion, worldwide, very small and local, with no dogma, no priests (but yes, shamans), not trying to weild power over others, and ego-less. our main goal, he thought, was and is ecstasy. for some reason this really hit me, and i thought of our gorgeous 10-month-old boy, and realised he fit that description, just wildly ecstatic. today i was in a forest group, doing 'bushcraft', and spoke to a very interesting sicilian woman about spirituality, telepathy, etc, and i told her my truthful desire to speak as little as possible or not at all, and to connect with all, and lose the ego...
anyway, thanks for the quotes again!

Swza said...

So not only have you had multiple conflicts on the street but they have all been racially motivated? You need to check yourself if that's the case.
In my experience people who talk about Jewish control of the U.S are usually bigots. Capitalists control the U.S. not 'jews.' And if you're talking about the Israeli lobby, fundamentalist Christians make up a much bigger political force in the US in support of Zionism than Jews do.

Anonymous said...

Swza: Hasbara

x larry said...

thanks anonymous re swza. had to look up hasbara, to show my naivete on these matters. spot on! not only a dick, but an illiterate--first off, address somebody (i assume you were addressing me). 'you better check yourself'--now there's a moron talking. as we like to say over here, naff off.

x larry said...

don't know where the mole swza lives, but if you look like me--tall, rather nice-looking, very unassuming white guy--and live in north philly, west philly, most of south philly, nyc, jersey city, as i have, or if you stray into certain areas of any u.s. city, such as kansas city, durham, detroit, chicago, as i have, you had better watch out! no, i'm no racist. and no, i'm not even particularly afraid, unlike so many white boys. i had a black girlfriend in philly, and couldn't walk a block with her without being verbally assaulted. i've had many a close call, through no real fault of my own--though i will say i often don't back down. cheerio, dude,

Elizabeth said...

This comment is for Anonymous, who wrote "If I take the public transport, a train, everyone becomes an obstacle. Faces are unimportant, their backgrounds are unimportant. What's important is I get where I need to be."

While you're on the public transport, take a tip from Linh Dinh and talk to those around you. I find out a great deal about my city and the lives of those inhabiting it by striking up conversations with strangers on the bus, in the streets and in the bars and coffeeshops. You may well find that many people will enjoy talking to you and sharing their stories and perspectives.

Swza said...

"I'm not racist! I had a black girlfriend!"
Haha. Unreal.
Sorry you can't figure out blogspot message boards or what reply means so I'll help you: This is to you joe, the tall good looking white boy ( aren't we all talk and good looking on Internet message boards?)

Swza said...

You nailed me anonymous!

destroytheuniverse said...

swza: you're easy to nail

x larry said...

so now swza knows that i indeed AM a racist. why? because i had a black girlfriend of course. why o why do swza types ruin legitimate comments everywhere?

x larry said...

there are many who write honest comments, but always a few who only troll the internet to spread their filthy shit. nasty fucking shitstick liars! swza, the world doesn't only consist of your imaginary world in cyberspace--you know, the one in which you're Somebody--and your neighborhood in the occupied territories. hahahahahaha. this i hereby announce as the final post of my end of this 'conversation' with 'swza', gee, wonder what that might stand for.
big j

Linh Dinh said...

OK, guys, I've only closed down a comment stream once before, and I don't want to do it again. We're all friends here, so let's chill! I know that Joe is anything but a racist, and Swza has commented here from way back, so he's no troll either.

I brought up whites and Jews as being most dominant in this country, and I stand fully by it. Of course, the whites who are dicking us over are not the people in places like Bridesburg or Kensington, and the Jews who are bringing us to ruins are not your regular Joes just trying to get by. I'm talking about the elites here, the ones with power.

If Puerto Ricans or Vietnamese were dominant in this country, we wouldn't be fighting Israel's wars and be so obsessed with that country, and Muslims wouldn't be so demonized, OK?

To clear the air a bit, check out this fantastic new post by Dmitri Orlov.

my name is link said...

I am reading Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe. This is a great writer (born before WWII, like all people we can honestly attach the adjective "great" to, sadly) unjustly known by the already few who know him for The Bonfire of Vanities just for that book.

He's written many, fiction and nonfiction, and Back to Blood + I am Charlotte Simmons are unmissable, on top of The Bonfire (Whose title draws inspiration from Vanity Fair by Thackeray, another great piece of literature.

The Bonfire of Vanities was initially published in episodes in Rolling Stone. That's why the book edition comes with an introduction by Wolfe that deals, by other things, with the book's reception.
The introduction deals the dissolution of Western culture, focusing on the literary.

"All serious young writers — serious meaning those who aimed for literary prestige — understood such things, and they were dismantling the realistic novel just as far as they could think of ways to do it. The dividing line was the year 1960. Writers who went to college after 1960... understood<. For a serious young writer to stick with realism after 1960 required contrariness and courage."

Contrariness and courage were the two terms which stroke me a lot. Some pages later, there is a "candid" and "candour" also.
When you see these words you know it's worth going ahead with reading, and that you ran into a true artist and thinker.

That passage also reminds of your commentary on whore-writers.

my name is link said...

"If Puerto Ricans or Vietnamese were dominant in this country, we wouldn't be fighting Israel's wars and be so obsessed with that country, and Muslims wouldn't be so demonized, OK?"

We would have other obsessions, history hoaxes, demonizations and the like.
Power, and not the groups that, in each space-time conjuncture come to wield it, is the real question.

Christians are far more "demonized" and belittled than Muslims, due to the fact that that religion has lost its power and popular followship. Nobody really complaints if the 100th Hollywood film making fun of the core of Christianity. Islam can't be mocked just because the mockers would suffer possibly severe consequences.
In their heart of hearts, all "intellectuals" would mock all religion, and religion per se.

Of course you aren't going to see Judaism and the Talmud being subjects of sarcasm or defamation in a film by Steven Spielberg, still.

You write,
"I brought up whites and Jews as being most dominant in this country, and I stand fully by it."

First, it's getting to something like 20-80%, where 80% is Jewish power.
Second, I don't think you, as a Vietnamese, have less power in the USA than an American would have in Vietnam.
I hope you have never told yourself that "foreign ethnicities" would be allowed in Vietnam, of for that matter anywhere in the world less for North America and Europe, the power and rights they get in NA and EU.

That the only place in the world where "minorities" complain, and soundly so, is the NA and EU proves that.
The best treated people are who complain most, that's a rule of human behaviour, and a psychologically understandable one.
A Brit in Vietnam/[insert any other non-Western country] wouldn't even dream to think it as unrightful that in Vietnam the power is held by Vietnamese... no dreams no complaints.

If on the other hand you only intended to denounce the dishonesty of the elite, I fully submit to it.
But tying this with ethnicity is misleading or misled.
There is no reason on earth to believe if other ethnicities had the same power they'd behave better.

*note: if a 2% minority, and one seeing themselves as outsiders + nursing hostility feelings towards a far wider group, comes to hold the 80% of power, that's, we should say, a special issue, that should be dealt with.

Forecast: with economic real growth well over, financial bubbles and ensuing bail-ins & bail-outs only going to increase in frequency and shamelessness, changing demographics, the loss of jobs in the bottom-to-mid-high IQ job market segment (of which, make no mistake, I am part), dire times may be coming.
Plus: we have already moved past democracy, and under a soft despotism run by the marketist plutocracy. Now, in the aftermath of democracy, soft despotism rarely comes as a stable solution. It's not unlikely to turn into hard techno-despotism.

This is a time of imbalance, things will shift to a new equilibrium. Let's wait and see. Despotism based on marketism if of the threatening kind really, as marketism is not a local-focus fascism, but a totalitarianism, aiming to wreck not one of a handful of neighboring countries, but the whole globe.


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.