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Economics

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Camden Tent City, 2009
Indoctrinated for decades by relativism, we’re supposed to consider all life styles equal and never pass judgments. There must be legitimate reasons for a culture to embrace, for example, child marriage, bride kidnapping, female circumcision, Oprah Winfrey, or universal, all day long access to pornography. Shit, though, is a hard sell, thus open sewers or... Read More
West Scranton, 2017
On Thanksgiving, I came to Scranton to stay with a 65-year-old friend who’s going through a cage fight kind of divorce, though only one side is dishing out the sharp elbows and knees. Just hearing Christmas music at the Dollar Store was driving him mad, Chuck confessed. The four-hour bus ride from Philly stopped in... Read More
New York, 2017
To go home, I had to take a taxi to Saigon’s airport, fly to Hanoi, then on to Hong Kong, where during a 5 ½ hour layover I’d take a train to Central to hang out a bit, then back to the airport to fly to JFK, then hop on two trains just to get... Read More
Home cooking in Hanoi, 2017
I’m back in Hanoi. Noi Bai Airport was sparkling after its recent upgrade, and I rode into town on a wide, well-landscaped freeway named after general Vo Nguyen Giap. On both sides were shops and restaurants. “I don’t recognize any of this, brother,” I said to the taxi driver, a man in his mid 40’s.... Read More
Marseille, 2017
Born in Nghe An, he quit school after the 9th grade to start working full time at 15-years-old. He got a job in Saigon, then Phu Quoc Island, the southernmost part of Vietnam. He visited Hanoi and remote Dien Bien Phu, right on the Laotian border. At 18, he agreed to pay $15,000 to be... Read More
Frankford, Philadelphia, 2014
Jonathan Revusky was in Philly for a few days, and I had a great time showing Jon around. We went to Kensington, Fishtown, Camden, Point Breeze, Little Cambodia and Rittenhouse Square, all but the last at the sinking end of the economic scale, places I’m well familiar with. At Jack’s Famous Bar, we ordered a... Read More
Friendly Lounge, 2017
My local dive, Friendly Lounge, was mentioned in I Heard You Paint Houses, a book soon to be turned into a movie by Martin Scorcese. Now Friendly’s featured quite prominently in The Last Don Standing, an account of the Philly mob by Ralph Natale. An infamous snitch, Natale still spent 27 years inside. As I... Read More
West End Mall, Atlanta, 2017
Knowing you can’t run from their jokes, bus drivers will crack a few, so on the endless leg from Washington to Atlanta, the driver intoned, “I don’t believe in Lost and Found, ladies and gentlemen, only eBay. If you forget something on this bus, you can find it on eBay.” Later, he chastised us all... Read More
Dirty Frank\
Before its rents became astronomical, I lived in CenterCity, so frequented McGlinchey’s and Dirty Frank’s. Now, I walk into Frank’s and hardly recognize anybody. Uncle Moe, Tommy Hackett and Skinny Dave are long dead, the last from an OD while in his late 30’s. Others have moved away. Last week, though, I ran into Rick,... Read More
Peter in Friendly Lounge
An American president has become a cartoon hero or villain. Like Obama, Trump is an inconsequential yet lurid target for worshippers and detractors to unload emotions. As we rejoice or rage at this figurehead, the Military Banking Complex will continue to serve the elites at our expense. Our economy will keep cratering, and our poor... Read More
Marty in Friendly Lounge, 2016
Within the shadow of 920-year-old Norwich Cathedral squats the 767-year-old Adam and Eve Pub. Both are spooky, inevitably. A decade ago, I was minding my own business, nursing a pint of Old Peculier, when the mugs above my head started to rattle, the ashtray flew off the bar and Lord Sheffield whispered in me ear,... Read More
Dan in Friendly Lounge, 2016
Jokers are bad news. You don’t want to sit next to one in a bar. This day, I heard, again, about a man who ordered ten shots of whiskey after getting a blow job, and a man who got a bullet in his ass while humping someone’s wife. “Had he shown up a minute earlier,... Read More
Eddie and Friends
When 46-year-old Eddie found out I’d been interviewing people, he wanted to talk. “You can write a book about me!” and that’s true enough, but then again, I’ve never met an uninteresting person. Within a minute, Eddie was showing me photos of women on his cell phone. There was plenty of skin and at least... Read More
bb-at-friendly-lounge-2016x
The flame-like tree and yellow stars from Van Gogh’s Starry Night burn on B.B.’s right shoulder. Blonde, slim and 33, she bartends at Friendly Lounge twice a week. She calls everyone “darling,” as in, “Are you good, darling? You need another one?” When B.B. told me she had lived in the Tenderloin, had drifted much,... Read More
Amanda in Camden, 2016
With huge tax breaks, Camden has lured several companies to this wrecked city, so a small chunk of downtown is getting spruced up. Shirtless or in wifebeaters, tattooed junkies still lurk around the Walter Rand Transportation Center, but the Third-World clothing stands have been shooed from the shadow of City Hall. Crown Chicken has moved... Read More
Eileen Walbank, 2016
In Philadelphia, I often see Chinese push their grandchildren around in strollers, so the three-generation households are evidently still common in that community. In China itself, citizens can be fined or even jailed for not visiting their aging parents enough. That there is such a law can only mean that familial bonds are weakening, however,... Read More
In Ethnic America, Thomas Sowell observes: Racial, ethnic and religious differences can be overlooked as long as there are rich economic opportunities, but absent this expansion of output for all, pluralism collapses and explodes into mutual resentment, finger pointing and violence, and we’re only at the beginning of this hell. Those on the lowest rungs... Read More
Don in Friendly Lounge, Philadelphia, 2015
Showing up in Friendly Lounge, beaming Maria said to bartender Manon, “How’s my baby? Come here and give me a hug! How are your job applications?” “Nothing yet, but I have a couple of interviews coming up.” For the last six months, Manon has been trying to get hired as a school counselor. She only... Read More
Patrick in Kensington, 2016
This week, a 55-year-old tourist from Texas was killed when he fell onto the subway tracks at 13th Street Station. He and his wife had just visited the Liberty Bell. Going by the station the next day, I half expected to see some sort of memorial, but there were no flowers, cards or candles. I... Read More
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, 2016
I spent a week in New York with a handful of Japanese writers and editors. They were in the States to promote Monkey Business, a Tokyo-based literary journal. That Friday, we had a reading in Brooklyn, so I decided to spend the entire day there. I first heard of Brooklyn through Welcome Back, Kotter. It... Read More
Anna in Friendly Lounge, Philadelphia, 2016
Don, Friendly Lounge owner, told me this joke, “How is a South Philly guy like Jesus? One, he’s never left his neighborhood. Two, he hangs out with the same 12 guys. Three, his mother thinks he’s God.” Angelo comes in Friendly each morning to read Don’s newspaper. After half an hour, he’d say, “Don, you... Read More
Point Breeze, Philadelphia, 2015
In the early 90’s, I sometimes worked the door at McGlinchey’s. Lurching in, 6-9 Lloyd Lunz guffawed, “Yo, heavy duty bouncer action tonight!” I was only paid $30 for five hours of carding baby-faced carousers, and it was torture to be sober while everybody got trashed. One night, there was some commotion outside, so I... Read More
Empty Friendly Lounge just before noon, Philadelphia, 2016
It’s not right. I came into the Friendly Lounge at 11:45AM, parked my bony ass there for three hours, and saw nobody. In the 90’s, I heard an exasperated crack whore kvetch, “Don’t nobody want a blow job no more!” It’s gotten much worse. In 2016, it’s, “Can’t nobody afford a beer no more?” Tony... Read More
Spider in Kensington, Philadelphia, 2015
Though no millennial metrosexual, I sleep next to my laptop, and this morning, an email came from a Japanese literary journal, Monkey, to ask me to name a short story I wish I had written. Editor Motoyuki Shibata also requested a one-hundred word explanation, which I promptly knocked out while sipping an Earl Grey at... Read More
Before interviewing 33-year-old Manon, I had never talked to her. She only bartends at Friendly Lounge one day a week. The joint was completely empty when we started at noon. Folks can hardly afford a beer anymore. An hour into our conversation, Tony the cook came in to take his midday break, then a stranger... Read More
When I lived closer to Center City, I’d take out-of-town friends to McGlinchey’s or Dirty Frank’s, but since moving to South Philly more than a decade ago, I’d drag people to the Friendly Lounge, because it really is friendly. In Philly, black bars tend to be called “lounge,” but Friendly is the haunt of middle-aged... Read More
I hadn’t even changed money when a guy in a military jacket approached me for a donation for Ukraine’s war efforts, and he was quite persistent too. This happened in Maidan Square, now turned into a death shrine, with photos of sacrificed soldiers scattered all over. Of different sizes, many were draped with rosary beads... Read More
dandinhbrighton-2
Born in Kansas City and raised in Midland, Michigan, Dan has also lived in Myrtle Beach, Vail, Martha’s Vineyard, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Taos, Durham, New York, Albuquerque and Denver in the US. He taught English in Seoul for three years, moved furniture in Barcelona for two and, for five years now, has been miserably ensconced in... Read More
Going from Philly to Camden, I take a train across the Ben Franklin Bridge, then get off at Broadway. In 1969 and 1971, fire bombs were thrown, shop windows smashed and businesses burnt and looted all around this area. The 1969 riot was sparked by a false rumor that a black girl had been beaten... Read More
I’ve prowled around Gary, relaxed in New Harmony and explored downtown Indianapolis after midnight. There is a bronze statue of John Wooden. Kneeling and suited, the basketball coach is surrounded by five young pairs of male legs, their bodies disappearing above the pelvis. It is very creepy and gay. One of these days, I must... Read More
The first recorded race riot in Camden occurred on September 12th, 1864. The Philadelphia Inquirer: No one died that day, and of the nine people arrested, seven were black. In mid 19th century America, it was apparently a crime for a black man to be chased out of a bar, down the street, into his... Read More
I’ve depicted Jack’s in a Kensington Postcard, two poems and even a Vietnamese article. In business since the end of Prohibition, Jack’s is the last bastion of a Kensington that existed before all the factories moved out and the heroin came in. Old timers on a shrunken budget can mosey in to get buzzed for... Read More
David Swanson, author of War is a Lie, declares, “Yes, I also want to say Free Mumia. In fact, I want to say Free all the prisoners. Turn the prison holding Mumia Abu-Jamal into a school and make him dean.” Now, only a white man living outside the city can even think of, “I want... Read More
It doesn’t get any better than this. Luxuriating in Dunkin’ Donuts, Chuck Orloski and I each have our own cup of coffee and, yes, our individual donut. Shrewd, I have ordered one without a hole since you get more donut for your bucks that way. Biting into a jelly filled, deep fried piece of dough,... Read More
Lin Yutang wrote, “What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?” Born in Fujian, Lin also lived in the U.S., France, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where he’s buried. Whatever attachment Lin had to his childhood stews, fish balls, snails, clams and tofu, it didn’t prevent this remarkable... Read More
Riding the train from Chicago to New Orleans, I impulsively got off in Jackson, Mississippi. I had never thought about visiting Jackson, never even seen 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... Read More
Linh Dinh
About Linh Dinh

Born in Vietnam in 1963, Linh Dinh came to the US in 1975, and has also lived in Italy and England. He is 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). He has 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 Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. He is also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (2006). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. His writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and he has been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US, and has also published widely in Vietnamese.