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Friday, April 7, 2017

David B. writes from Tucson:

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Linh-

Enjoyed the notes on Kensington. I rode the Frankford El a few times, I think it was to visit the historic Cruiser Olympia, which is now in danger of sinking for lack of maintenance.

Interesting that Fishtown is considered hip. I remember it as low-income, blue collar. I seem to remember long ago that Fishtown recorded more casualties from the Vietnam war than any community in America. I don't know what metric was used - per capita, per acre, per neighborhood - but I remember the claim.

North Philly
was always, if you'll pardon the expression, "Indian Country."

I could not imagine how the pupils at the Visitation School could be well behaved. Then I saw the picture, and the obviously enforced dress code, and I realized, "Oh, it's not a government school."

[...]

Haircuts for $5, cheesesteaks and blow jobs for $3, some people would call that paradise [...] that's better than Disneyworld! There's a decent sandwich shop walking distance from my house in Tucson with the name "Philly Cheese Steak" and the product is not bad, but you have to tell them not to add pickles and tomatoes..around here they seem to have the idea that a cheesesteak is what we would call a hoagie but with hot meat instead of cold cuts.

Russia Today has the ability to criticize the naked emperors in the U.S. without restraint, but in the video Hedges' simple and evidently leftist anti-U.S. bias was showing, emphasizing the homeless (which are certainly a problem), deindustrialization (a complex topic that has heavily and negatively impacted blue collar Americans to be sure, but to blame it purely on corporate greed is an oversimplification), and the presumed abuses of "..the racist police" that actor Samuel Jackson sang about, making an ass of himself in the process.

Your point about the underclass not being able to withdraw into their enclave I thought was excellent; what I took from that was that ordinary working people do not have the luxury of being able to afford bigotry (or at least act on their bigotries, real or imagined) since their daily lives and work compels them to commingle with others of different backgrounds, like it or not. I think we could agree there is not a homeless problem or the option of $3 blowjobs in Martha's Vineyard or in Crescent Park (where Zuckerberg lives with his family in a secure compound with an extended perimeter and a 24/7 personal security detail). I have had many heated discussions with people who, while of modest means, manage to have the good fortune to live in areas without "zombies" and are primarily informed about the situation of working class Americans through the Wall Street Journal. BTW we have plenty of zombies in Tucson, in fact we call them that because they are often heroin addicts who look, act, and smell just like you would imagine. I cannot leave anything of the smallest value outside my wall overnight without security cables, or they will make off with it. Similarly, your realization that not being "part of the mainstream" crosses color lines I thought was very insightful - but also politically incorrect.

Your point about the U.S. being the poorest country on earth is not a new one to me. I can remember doomsayers predicting 30 years ago that a U.S. debt default was imminent. Somehow the U.S., led by other developed nations, continues to grow its debt higher and higher. I have demanded from a host of professional financial people and economists that I have bumped into over the decades an answer to the question "If we don't fix this, how will it end?" and the answer is essentially a shrug. I think it came very close to ending in 2008, but the USG and the Fed were able to successfully paper over it. I have not found a historical precedent for this situation - there may not be one for our global electronically connected economy.

I took note of your remark about things seen through an auto windshield. Robert Pirsig wrote in 1974 (I think) in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that everything seen through the window of a car was just more TV, and not real. Of course Pirsig's main point was that this was one of the advantages of traveling by motorcycle - you were THERE, everywhere you went, part of the environment.

I will disagree with you that the sooner things break down, the better. When I hear people express that sentiment, my answer is always "Be careful what you wish for!" I recall an observer of Africa during the period when communist wars of "liberation" were popular. He said (as best as I can remember) that "We always thought the revolution had to make things better, because things were so awful, how could they be worse? Then the revolution would come, and unbelievably, things would get much worse." Of course we may not have a choice. If you combine the thought that our economy is not sustainable with the realization that the elites that think they are running the world are themselves living in an illusion of their own closed cocktail party feedback loops, then you realize that no one and nothing is ultimately in control, and we are approaching a sort of event horizon beyond which no one can make meaningful predictions.





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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 a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), 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). 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.