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Sunday, May 15, 2016


Thomas Decoteau--Kips Bay

Kips Bay. Thirty-three-year-old Thomas Decoteau spent five years in jail for selling drugs, nearly seven years in the Army, which sent him to Iraq and Afghanistan, then nearly four years with the Big Apple Circus. He has dealt drugs since he was a teenager.

Thomas has an Argentinian wife who's back in Argentina. He's the father of two kids, but one died at birth. He has 100 acres in Maine which he won't sell because "it's sacred."

On the streets, Thomas has an older friend whom he calls his "mom." She is always picked up by cops at Grand Central and dumped at Bellevue Hospital. Once they spent all night in the same hospital bed at Bellevue. She has come on to him once, but Thomas resisted, "because I don't want it to be like that. I see her as my mom."

Thomas was on his way to see his "mom" at Bellevue when I ran into him. Walking down Lexington, Thomas was ranting and screaming but when he saw me taking a photo, he said, "That's beautiful," in a normal voice. After I talked to him, Thomas calmed down, "You just saved my life."

"Bullshit, man, I didn't do anything."

"If you didn't talk to me, I'd probably be picked up by the cops for screaming on the street."

"So what?"

"Maybe I'd have walked in front of a car," and Thomas started to walk onto the street into traffic. I yanked him back. "See? You just saved me again!"

"You're so full of shit, man."

PBS did a six-part mini series on the Big Apple Circus. Thomas appears in the first episode.


3 comments: said...

Thanks Linh. High functioning and completely normal man right there from what I can see. Might need his self esteem nurtured and protected a bit. I like 'Noam the straying's intuitive take: "Those who have no time or mental space to work through their problems"

Linh Dinh said...


Thomas said he was paid $275 a week at Big Apple Circus, with free food and rent, and the food was great, too. The ratio of men to women were 2 to 1 in the 150 member troupe, so there was a lot of tension and jealousy, Thomas said, and he was one of the few who had a girlfriend. Thomas likes his whiskey and his vodka, on top of his drugs. He was so enraged marching down the sidewalk, I could hear him from half a block away. Once we started talking, though, he was perfectly lucid. He even rapped a couple of poems for me.


duncsbaby said...

Decoteau? More like Vive la France.


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.