Author Archives: Linh Dinh

Postcard from the end of America: Taylor, Pennsylvania

The sixteen-year-old’s consciousness was percussive with recorded music, as usual, when the train slammed into him, and it’s not clear, even now, if it was suicide or merely absentmindedness that killed this boy. (To have your inner life constantly stunted or suffocated is already a form of death, but had he lived, this incipient man may have eventually outgrown his three-chord addiction.) Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: New Orleans

This time, I got to New Orleans on a bus named Mega, and it also dropped me off at Elysian Fields. In Nola, there’s a street called Arts, so of course there has to be one named Desire, and Tennessee Williams clearly saw the two as intertwined, thrusting and plunging their bodies against each other. Of course, death will interrupt this coupling not just finally but every step of the way. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Osceola, Iowa

The American presidential election is a drawn out, byzantine process that involves precinct meetings, regional caucuses, state primaries and national conventions, all to give citizens the impression that their participation matters, for in the end, the lying buffoon who gets to stride into the White House has long been vetted and preselected by the banks, death merchants and brainwashing media that run our infernally corrupt and murderous country. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Jackson, Mississippi

Riding the train from Chicago to New Orleans, I impulsively got off in Jackson, Mississippi. I had never thought about visiting Jackson, never even saw a photo of it, so I had no idea what I’d encounter. In the train’s lounge car, however, a boisterous game of dominoes, with much laughter and trash talking, already told me I was in the Deep South, and the towns glimpsed along the way, Tchula, Eden, Bentonia, spoke of a quietly dignified world that’s also besieged and crumbling. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Wisconsin

Before we start, I must admit that I didn’t set foot in Wisconsin this time, but only saw it from the train as I crossed it going West, then East. (I had been to Madison and Milwaukee before.) This, then, is really a train postcard, but the long distance train is a community in itself. In fact, Americans seldom have such thorough conversations as when they’re trapped on a long distance train. If only more of us could be confined that way, we would relate to each other a whole lot better, but such a wish also conjures up citizens being packed into boxcars as they’re sent to hard labor, or much worse. How many Americans will cross this country without seeing any of it? Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Portland, Oregon

Our train was hugging the Columbia River. Sitting in the lounge car, a father looked at that huge, snaking ribbon of silvery water and said to his young son, “I’m just jonesing to go fishing. That’s the first thing we’re going to do when we get home!” Then, “That Colts shirt really looks great on you, Jack!” Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Tri-Cities, Washington

Though this may sound like a joke, it’s certainly no joke, for I’m not a joking type: When I came to the US in 1975, the very first American song I learnt was “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” Though I could not properly pronounce any of the words, and understood only half of them, at most, I sang along with all the other kids in Miss Dogen’s class at McKinley Elementary in Tacoma, Washington. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Wolf Point, Montana

It always amazes me how many people get on a train just to play cards, for outside their windows, a most amazing world is constantly unfurling. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Southwest Desert, Northern Plains, Cascades or Rocky Mountains, they don’t look up from their miserably dealt hands to notice that Eden is just a glass barrier away, but that’s how it is with the uber domesticated. They prefer a shrunken, airless civilization, as contained in 52 puny pieces of laminated cardboard, to the unscripted richness they’re entitled to at all times. Although it’s free, they don’t take it. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Williston, North Dakota

Oil made this America-dominated, futuristic world and with its increasing scarcity, will unravel it. Most pampered yet most disappointed, we’re living in the age of peak oil, water, gold, copper, wheat, rice, cabbage, porn, greed and banking shenanigans, etc., for with more mouths than ever going after a shrinking donut hole, the ugliness is just getting started, and let us not forget, this age of oil has also been an era of mass carnage, a century of resource wars that have wiped out hundreds of millions, but for the survivors, us grubby schmucks, what a cool ride, eh? Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Levittown, Pennsylvania

In 1947, the first Levittown was built in New York State, then in 1952, an even bigger one was erected in Pennsylvania. Marketed as “THE MOST PERFECTLY PLANNED COMMUNITY IN AMERICA,” Levittown was the prototypical American suburb. For only $10,990, or $100 down then $67 a month, you could own three bedrooms, two bathrooms, front lawn, back yard and garage, plus access to five Olympic-sized pools, with free swimming and diving lessons thrown in. Most soothingly, you no longer had to deal with strangers above, below or abutting you, or dark skinned neighbors who may alarm or irk you as you went about your white routines. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Manhattan

Getting off the Greyhound bus at the Port Authority Terminal, I immediately saw a man in his mid-50s digging through a garbage can. With his right hand, he held a plastic tray on which were placed whatever edible scraps he could find. Lickable flecks clung to his ample brown beard. Chewing while scavenging, he was quite leisurely with his task and no one among the many people sitting or standing nearby paid him any attention. Done with one trash can, he moved to the next, and since there were so many in this huge building, I imagined his daily buffet to be quite ample and varied. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Bensalem, Pennsylvania

When I told my friend, Anwar, of my plan to traverse Bensalem by foot, he laughed, “You can’t even walk there. There are no sidewalks!” Though this is not quite true, I did find myself mostly schlepping on edges of roads or people’s lawns. To not get splattered by SUVs, sometimes I had to hop puddles or even step in mud. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Columbus, Ohio

I was in Columbus all of ten hours. Even downtown, some of the sidewalks were clogged by snow, and as I crossed the Sciotto into Franklinton, my trudging became even more laborious. Mostly I walked on the side of the street, and on side streets, right in the middle. Continue reading

Ukrainian lessons

The first lesson, and it’s a very old one, is that violent protest does work, and also sinister tricks such as having your own snipers shoot at police and fellow protesters. Without this ramping up of mayhem and bloodshed, the Ukrainian government would not have been discredited, destabilized and finally overthrown. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Chicago

I’ve been coming to Chicago forever, but always just for a day or two. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Joliet, Illinois

The story of Joliet is familiar enough. With its industries gone, a city turns to the casino as a last ditch salvation, but cannot reverse its decline. The details of this disintegration, though, can be interesting. Continue reading

Full spectrum Peeping Tomism

In 1928, Ho Chi Minh was in Thailand while his Chinese wife, Zeng Xueming, remained in Canton. He sent her this letter: “From the day we parted, already more than a year. I miss you with such anguish, it needn’t be said. Borrowing rosy wings, I send a few lines to reassure you. Such is my desire, and I wish your mother ten thousand good lucks. Clumsily yours.” Continue reading

American crisis

Though Thomas Paine galvanized this country into being and gave it its very name, the United States of America, there is almost no trace of him here. In Philadelphia, where he spent his most significant years, there is a Thomas Paine Plaza, but it is barely marked as such, with no statue of the man. Instead, one finds a bronze likeness of Frank Rizzo, of all people, and a Jacques Lipchitz sculpture that Rizzo once compared to a dropped load of plaster. Composed of torturous human forms holding up some insufferable burden, it’s titled “Government of the People,” though walking by it for decades, I actually thought it was a Holocaust memorial. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Vineland, New Jersey

On a drowsy, sputtering bus into Vineland, I glimpsed a 9/11 Memorial by the side of the road. Next to a flag pole, there was the Twin Towers at the height of a middling crotch. Fleetingly I thought of getting off at the next stop to scrutinize, but decided no, for it was clear I was only on the outskirts of town, and Vineland is vast, despite its modest population of only 60,000 souls. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Marcus Hook, PA

First settled by Europeans in 1640, Marcus Hook was once called Chammassungh, Finland then Marrites Hoeck, from which the present name derives. The Hook, however, does serendipitously evoke its pirate past, when Blackbeard plied the Delaware, and one of his mistresses, Margaret, lived here, in a plank house still preserved. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Kensington Ave., Philadelphia, PA

The elevated train rumbles above Kensington Avenue, so riding on it, you can see all of these desolate windows on the upper floors, many of which are boarded up, bricked over or hollow. Ruins of factories loom nearby. Until recently, there was an open coffin in the yard of The Last Stop recovery center. Lying inside it, a wide eyed, pink faced dummy stared up. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Riverside, New Jersey

Though Riverside has successfully reinvented itself before, it is now stuck. During the middle of the 19th century, it was a resort town, a place for the well-to-do of Philadelphia to mellow during the sultry months. They chugged up the Delaware River by steamboats. Some steamed into town on rails. There were summer homes here, and a grand hotel with a ballroom. When the train reached the New Jersey Shore, however, Riverside couldn’t compete with the Atlantic Ocean, and so it slumped into irrelevance, a forgotten fork in the river, but then it picked itself up and morphed into an industrial center. For a tiny town that never had more than 9,000 souls, it became a leading manufacturer of watch cases, worsted fabric and hosiery. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Norristown, Pennsylvania

Wandering around so much, I’m constantly among strangers, in completely unfamiliar neighborhoods. Though these novel situations have opened my eyes much, it would take but a single unfortunate encounter to blacken or close them, even for good, and in Norristown this week, I had to call 911 as I quickly ducked into a store to wait for the cops to save my ass. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Atlantic City, New Jersey

This city peaked nearly a century ago, when it billed itself as “The World’s Playground.” Hyperbole and false hope are its currencies. Trudging into glitzy casinos, badly dressed schmucks dream of instant wealth, yet leave with barely enough nickels and dimes for McDonald’s dollar menu. Continue reading

Striking Russia through Syria

We’re witnessing the last grotesque convulsions of a dying empire. As it threatens humanity with annihilation, it’s also nauseating the still sane among us with an unending farce, as in the hypocrite Kerry declaring, “this is not the time to be silent spectators to slaughter,” but John, you lying cynic, the world has been asked to be a mute audience to American mass murder for how long now? But Johnny wants more, much more. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Trenton, New Jersey

I had been in Trenton, I dunno, maybe two hundred times before I decided to know it a little. For years, I would stop there on the way to NYC from Philly, or vice versa, but I was never compelled to wander from the Trenton Transit Center. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Cherry Hill, New Jersey

If the American Dream can be reduced to a single object, it is the suburban home, with its front yard, back yard and two car garage. This residence must not share a wall, ceiling or floor with any neighbor, a living arrangement highly unusual worldwide, but that’s why it’s called the American Dream, dummy, not the Cambodian or Italian Fantasy. If you want to dwell in a hive, go back to your country! Any country. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Chester, Pa.

Traveling by train to Philadelphia, going North, you will pass by Chester, PA, a city that has been in decline for more than half a century. Founded in 1682, the same year as Philadelphia, Chester was a major manufacturer of US Navy ships from the Civil War until World War II. It also made ammunition and automobile parts. Despite its relative small size, with a peak population of 66,039 in 1950, Chester was an industrial powerhouse. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: North Philly

The corner of Broad and Erie is the Times Square of North Philly, but instead of flashy signs pushing Kodak, Samsung, Canon or Virgin Airlines, you have stark billboards urging you to “ELIMINATE YOUR DEBT” and “REBUILD YOUR CREDIT.” On utility poles, styrofoam signs promise, “JOBS! $400-$600 PER WEEK. CALL TODAY, START TOMORROW.” Is it legit? Ring to get sucked in, or you can stock your fridge, finally, by ditching your junk wheels for “$400,” according to one flyer, or “$250-$400,” per another. The biggest billboard touts “RAND SPEAR 1-800-90-LEGAL. He Eats Insurance Companies for BREAKFAST!” Are you aching all over, your skeleton permanently askew from that bus accident you weren’t even involved in? Are you emotionally spavined from having to dodge that abruptly swinging door? Now you know who to call! Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: South Philly

South Philly’s Friendly Lounge is close enough to my door, I can crawl out of there in a brown out state of mind and still end up on my steps, curled up, if not in bed. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Camden, New Jersey

With 77,000 people, Camden has one public library left and, in a city where Walt Whitman spent 19 years and is buried, there are exactly two bookstores, a Barnes and Noble serving Rutgers Camden students, and, not too far away, La Unique African American Books and Cultural Center, with The Master Game, The New World Order, The Unseen Hand and Say It Like Obama in its window. Camden has no hotel, and only one downtown bar, The Sixth Street Lounge. Hank’s closed in 2010 after half a century in business. Now, if you can barely drink in the heart of any American city, no matter how tiny, you know it’s seriously messed up. Continue reading

Postcard from the end of America: Philadelphia

John is 46 but looks twenty years younger, with not a single white hair or whisker. His grungy style also suspends him in early adulthood. His mom was a registered nurse, then secretary at a garage. His dad sold car parts and drove a mail truck from Philly to Harrisburg in the evening. Continue reading