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saigon-2018-2
Trinh Cong Son, the great song writer, poet and soul of Saigon, said that he got his heart and mind revving each morning by watching frantic life unfurling all around him, while sitting in a sidewalk cafe. Lesser Vietnamese do exactly the same, however, for to be among one’s own kind is practically an hourly... Read More
Philadelphia, 2018
During a recent gay pride parade in Philly, a transgender woman was arrested for attempting to burn a Blue Lives Matter flag. The charges against ReeAnna Segin were arson, causing/risking a catastrophe and other misdemeanors. After Segin was released, however, her case smoldered on, for he/she claimed that his/her human rights and dignity were violated... Read More
Philadelphia, 2018
Céline half joked, “If you stay anywhere long enough, everyone and everything will stink up, just for your special benefit.” Without this pungency, however, there is no real understanding of anything, and Céline knew this as well as anyone. With tremendous physical and mental courage, the man endured. He survived being wounded in WWI, a... Read More
Jenny\
The jokes about New Jersey keep coming. It has the third highest taxes in the country, yet ranks dead last in fiscal health. Its most successful residents flee. Those who have never been to New Jersey still sneer at it, thanks to its mostly horrible depiction in the media, as in Jersey Shore, where a... Read More
Shooters Crossing, 2018
I’ve hung out with poet Hai-Dang Phan in quite a few places. Since our first meeting in Certaldo, Italy in 2003, we’ve downed a few pints together in New York, Washington, Milwaukee, Iowa, Illinois, Philadelphia, Hanoi, Saigon and Vung Tau. This week, Hai-Dang flew down from Boston, and with his rented car, we spent two... Read More
Today\
I was just interviewed by two Temple journalism students, Amelia Burns and Erin Moran, and though they appeared very bright and enterprising, with Erin already landing a job that pays all her bills, I feel for these young ladies, for this is a horrible time to make and sell words, of any kind, and the... Read More
Donna\
Last Saturday, five eternally misunderstood and oppressed gentlemen fired 41 shots at a crowd at 20th and Susquehanna, killing one and injuring four others, including a 5-year-old boy. The TV news reported that the deceased was a “standout basketball player.” North Philly is generally not good for your health and happiness. Though neighborhoods have cute,... Read More
Love City, 2018
I’m sitting in a spacious bar, Love City, that was once a factory. Too slicked up, it’s not quite a ruin bar, of the kind you find in Budapest. The patrons are mostly hipsters and yuppies, but with a handful of Joe Sixpacks thrown in. Looking like contractors, they’re probably fixing properties in this rapidly... Read More
Woman in Fishtown bar, 2018
I’m back in Philly to wrap things up, return my apartment, give a paid talk and say goodbye to my friends. With Felix Giordano, I’ve hit bars in the Italian Market, Point Breeze, Pennsport, Fishtown and Whitman. Soon, we’ll run over to Billy Boy’s in the Pine Barrens, where the owner/cook makes some of the... Read More
Tokyo, 2018
We landed in darkness. The last time I was in Narita was 18 years earlier. With a six-hour layover, I inexplicably didn’t leave the airport. “Can I possibly die without at least a glimpse of Japan?” I’d ask myself, cringing. Finally, I was there. My first impressions were the generous legroom on the train to... Read More
Quy Hop, Nghe An, 2018
In Marseilles, I met an illegal immigrant from Nghe An. He said his boss and housemates in Paris were all from the same province. Long known for its poverty, Nghe An leads Vietnam in the ratio of people working overseas, with most never returning. In fact, so many have become illegal in South Korea, Vietnam... Read More
Chanthaburi, Thailand, 2018
History is primarily a chronicle of wars and invasions, most often among neighbors, so every inch of every border has been fiercely fought over, for that’s how any population maintains its autonomy, integrity and identity. Plus, you need land to prosper so, often, you grab your neighbor’s when he’s weak. Everyone has done this. Everyone.... Read More
Vietnamese children in Akreiy Ksatr, Cambodia, 2018
When the French ruled Indochina, they had a shortage of white collar workers in Cambodia and Laos, so solved it by bringing in many thousands of Vietnamese, which, understandably, didn’t please the Cambodians and Laotians too much. Most of these Vietnamese would be kicked out in waves, sometimes violently, as happened in Cambodia during the... Read More
Phnom Penh, 2018
Cambodia makes good, cheap beer, so I was sitting in some lunch place with yet another can of Angkor, after having polished off a plate of fatty pork with rice. Two tables away, a girl sat, doing her homework. She had a machine that sang out, “Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!” and so on.... Read More
phnom-penh-2018
Traveling, I prefer to be on the ground, for that’s how you get an overview of the countryside. The bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh took more than seven hours, but that included 30 minutes for lunch, plus 45 more at the border. My seatmate was a young fellow, Morris, from Halle, Germany, and we... Read More
Baby ritualistically abandoned, Saigon, 2018
In Saigon, the foreign tourists stay mostly downtown, where they can patronize American bars, and restaurants serving Indian, Thai, Korean, Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern food, not to mention McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyes, Starbucks and Lotteria, the last a Japanese chain. With English as the lingua franca, they can be overseas, yet... Read More
saigon-2018
With their brief existence, and dumbed down now by a degraded and warped education, most Americans have a telescoped and cartoony sense of history, so nothing matters, really, beyond the last two or three presidential elections, and each foreign country is represented, at most, by a caricature or two, so Germany is Hitler and Merkel,... Read More
Vinh Chau Chinese at the Seven Wonders Restaurant, Saigon, 2018
In the 17th century, the Manchus conquered China, causing thousands of defeated Chinese soldiers and their families to flee to Vietnam, then divided between north and south. The Nguyen Clan, rulers of the south, granted these Chinese land in nominal Cambodian territory, paving the way for Vietnam’s annexation of a third of Cambodia. This obscure... Read More
Palmyra, NJ, 2013
When out-of-town friends visit, I like to take them to Camden. With its high crime, horrible government and general wretchedness, it’s the worst of America’s present and, if all goes according to plans, our stereotypical future. Soon as you cross into Collingswood or Gloucester, however, the graffiti, trash, abandoned houses, sagging pants and neck tattoos... Read More
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
Scotty\
Southerner Fred Reed writes about Yankee hypocrisy, “You’ve heard about white flight. In nearly about every city in the North, white people streak for the suburbs so’s not to be near black people, and then they talk about how bad Southerners are for doing the same thing […] Fact is, you can see more social,... Read More
New York, 2016
At age 18, Theo volunteered for the Marines and was sent to Vietnam. Based near the demilitarized zone, he saw much fighting and lost most of his left arm in 1968. Post war, Theo learned karate, opened a dojo, married, fathered three children, got his college degree and became a high school teacher. The Philly... Read More
Hanoi Jane urinal target in Cookie\
Two blocks from my front door, there are two signs in a house window, “FASCIST SCUM YOUR TIME IS DONE,” “WHITE SUPREMACY IS TERRORISM.” Seeing them, my 71-year-old friend, Felix, snarled, “I feel like throwing a rock through that window! How dare he comes into this neighborhood and calls us Fascists!” Interesting, Felix’ immediate assumption... Read More
Scranton, 2015
With their vast parking lots and chain stores, strip malls may appear generic, impersonal and characterless, but each harbors an intense web of social interactions, with an infinity of stories to tell, but to even state this is redundant, for there’s no man, woman, child or dog who isn’t, by his lonesome, asshole self, a... 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
Chicago, 2012
Millions of Americans still have ties to their ancestral country. Two years ago, I met an 54-year-old man who would periodically visit his family home in Abruzzo. Its grape vines and olive trees had been sold a long time ago, and the house itself was little more than a husk, thanks to thieves, “Locals, not... Read More
SS United States in Pennsport, 2014
Drive-in theaters are practically extinct, diners are dying, but go-go bars are still common in working class neighborhoods across America. It’s wholesome afterwork entertainment for the sweating man. When I was a housepainter over twenty years ago, our crew would hit The Office in CenterCity or Penn’s Port Pub, on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. After a... 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
ea-kar-2017
It was a 200-mile journey from Saigon to Dak Lak, a highlands province that saw much fighting during the Vietnam War. Just north of Saigon, I passed quite a few grand villas, with two dog statues on gate columns, though some owners outdid their neighbors by having lions instead. The further north I went, the... Read More
Vung Tau cafe, 2017
And so we’re in Vung Tau, a sleepy, seaside city at the mouth of the Saigon River. I’m staying in a hotel owned by an Army unit. My room is quiet, cheap and has an ample balcony with an ocean view. I’ve only stumbled onto two other guests, each sitting on a massage chair. The... Read More
Hanoi, 2017
With only a week and a half in Hanoi, I’ve been out and about almost nonstop. This article, then, is being jotted down at 5:11AM, as I’m lying in bed on my stomach at the Letters Home guesthouse. Stuck in a grim alley in an unfashionable neighborhood, it’s not exactly popular, so about the only... 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
Tarragona, Spain, 2017
In Catalonia, there’s a summer drink that combines beer with lemon soda. In Barcelona, it’s called “clara.” Further South, it’s dubbed, most charmingly, a “champu,” as in Head and Shoulders. Champu is quite good at eliminating the dandruff inside your skull. It is late summer, and I’m in Cambrils, drinking my second champu in Hawaii,... 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
Olargues, 2017
For the price of a Motel 6, Jonathan Revusky and I have three floors in Florensac, a village of 5,000 in southern France. This house is older than the USA, for sure, with raw wooden beams in the ceilings, stone floors, twisting stairs, odd angled walls, and an entrance to the bathroom so low, the... Read More
Becky Anderson in Barcelona, 2017
The Muslim conquest of Hispania began in 711 and ended in 1492. In Catalonia, they were expelled by 1154, with their last stronghold the mountainous village of Siurana, which today has but 39 residents, though with several restaurants for tourists. Walking through it, I almost felt like I was in a theme park or movie... Read More
Monica Hotel in Cambriles, Spain, 2017
In 1937, Orwell was shot in the neck during the Spanish Civil War. Known mostly as a political allegorist, Orwell was also a master at describing all that is see­n, heard and felt, so in Homage to Catalonia, you can read about his near death experience, “Roughly speaking it was the sensation of being at... Read More
Dresden, 2015
In a few hours, I'll fly to Europe, my favorite continent, and why not? Most of my intellectual and artistic heroes are Europeans, Kakfa, Beckmann, Kippenberger, Siebald, Rabelais, Rimbaud, Celine, Orwell, Kundera, Dostoievsky and Milosz, etc. I've spent significant time in Italy, England and Germany, and have fond memories of a least a dozen other... Read More
Gemma and Lasikar at Their Wedding
Imagine all the people living for today Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too. Imagine all the people Living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, And the... Read More
buffalo-2017
All over America, I’ve seen posters warning against drug addictions. In Cheyenne, it’s “METHAMPHETAMINE / Don’t live this tragic story.” A few blocks away, I stepped over used needles on the sidewalk. In Buffalo, it’s an image of a beer bottle and a pill bottle, with “HEROIN addiction starts here...” Appended to it was a... Read More
shutterstock_531208639
The Western media shame Germans, stay silent on endless attacks against Muslim countries and insist on massive immigration into mostly white nations. Meanwhile, false flags are staged that are blamed on Muslims, with the aim of flaming hatred between pale, nominal Christians and darker Muslims, for this animosity distracts from the systematic economic and war... Read More
Tepotzotlán, 2017
One Friday, Jonathan Revusky and I went to see lucha libre. On a night featuring Valiente, Mistico, Misterioso, Rey Cometa, Euforia, Rush, Virus, Fuego, Stigma, The Panther, Blue Panther Jr., Tiger and Puma, etc., Arena Mexico only truly erupted at the appearance of Samuel Polinsky, a 6-foot-4, bleached blonde 28-year-old from Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Before arriving... Read More
Mexico City, 2017
Jonathan Revusky and I were in Mexico City for eight days. Though Jon had been there twice, this was my first taste of this extremely complex, exhilarating and sophisticated metropolis. For $85 a night, we had a spacious two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Cuauhtémoc. It was cheaper than, say, Spokane, yet here we were in a... Read More
Rue Saint Hubert in Montreal, 2017
Despairing Americans often threaten to move to Canada, but how many even know what it’s like now? Many liberals assume that our northern neighbor is more progressive, while those on the right might think that it’s, ah, whiter. Ask your average American to name ten Canadians, and it’s likely that nine will be white guys... 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
Poets Phan Nhien Hao and To Thuy Yen (far left) in New Haven
I’ve only been to New Haven four times, and last week, it was only to participate in the commemoration of the Fall of Saigon, as organized by the Vietnamese Studies Program at Yale. I was one of three poets invited. The other two were Phan Nhien Hao (b. 1967) and To Thuy Yen (b. 1938).... Read More
Rudy Dent in Detroit, 2017
On February 18th, I was in Detroit to attend a presentation, “The War on Islam: 9/11 Revisited, Uncovered & Exposed.” Sponsored by the Nation of Islam, it featured Kevin Barrett, Richard Gage and Christopher Bollyn. Prefacing, Ilia Rashad Muhammad remarked that 9/11 is more relevant than ever, since it has been used to curb the... 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
A Sign by Henry Herskovitz
Say Ann Arbor and people will think of Michigan football, with the second biggest stadium in the entire world, behind only North Korea’s Rungrado May Day Stadium. The annual marijuana rally, Hash Bash, may also come to mind. Downtown is filled with hip cafés, trendy shops, comfy brewpubs and sophisticated restaurants. These kids have money,... 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.