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Alley Culture, Zoning Laws and Anomic Americans
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Even more than eating for fun, the main pleasure of Vietnam is mingling, but that’s only if you enjoy being around people, which Vietnamese obviously do, and here, community life is most intense and intimate in alleys.

The French gave Hanoi and Saigon a facelift, so there are straight streets, grand boulevards and many traffic circles, but if you enter an alley, you can be sucked into a labyrinthine network that’s entirely Vietnamese, and once in, there is a risk of humiliation with each turn, for if it’s a dead end, one must retrace one’s steps past all the locals. Escaping one dead end, one may enter a worse one. Thinking they might never get out, most foreigners never take the first step.

On my morning walk today, I passed the egg noodle man, who’s been in business for over three decades. Though overcharging a bit, his food is decent enough to fill his three tables, set up each dawn at the head of my alley.

Turning right, I saw the shoe repair guy, sitting on an old camp bed in the shade, fixing a sneaker. Across the alley were his used shoes for sale, arrayed on a nylon sheet on the ground.

Within sight was the itinerant fish monger. Perched on a tiny plastic stool, she snipped one fish head after another.

Up and down that alley, men relaxed at tiny cafes, under anchored umbrellas. Some read newspapers. A pair played elephant chess. Here and there, an old man sunned himself in front of his house. Food carts sold noodles, wontons or sticky rice. A man pushed a three-wheeled pedal wagon, laden with vegetables. Under a conical hat, a woman slowly drove her motorbike around, with a speaker that repeated, “Hot bread here! Crusty, thick-bodied bread here!”

Even in alleys, there are many factories, so within a five-minute walk from me, you’ll find manufacturers of machine parts, jewelry, carton boxes and plastic bags, as well as a water bottler and an overnight car garage. Blending into daily life, all their doors are wide open. One factory has five chickens that spend their day pecking around its alley.

At a small, half-dead banyan tree, still believed by some to be holy, there is an array of Taoist icons, plus two faded and dusty tiger figurines. Once all over Vietnam, this fearful, sacred creature was dubbed “Mr. Tiger,” but between sport hunting, as introduced by the French, then Napalm, illegal logging, poaching and explosive human population growth, there aren’t even five tigers left in the entire country.

Pulling up to a tube pasta restaurant’s window, a motorcyclist shouted, “Beef here!” Then he handed the waitress a small sack of red, bleeding flesh. Much more meat was in a green basket between his legs.

Beneath an idle fan, a thin, shirtless tailor was concave over his antiquated Singer.

Alarmingly, there’s this on a greengrocer’s wall, “A THOUSAND DISEASES CAN ENTER THE BODY THROUGH THE MOUTH.”

An entire semi-covered market can be hidden inside alleys, with butchers, fish mongers and vegetable vendors all jammed together, so that each merchant is within earshot of half a dozen others, facilitating much jovial bantering. “If that whore isn’t ridiculous, then who is?” “Such a fart-sniffing face, yet so arrogant!”

A coffee seller yelled to a fruit dealer across an alley, “Where you going, missus?”

“To collect some money!”

“You’re going to get drunk! Admit it!” Both women laughed.

Of course, people need to joke and jive to lighten their workload and shorten their day, but they can’t do it if their work space and pace are strictly regimented, with a supervisor constantly hovering over them. At a crowded soup joint on a large street, I saw employees assigned to work stations, just like in an American restaurant, so the assembly line has penetrated the Vietnamese kitchen.

At a curbside cafe, a middle-aged man opined, “This month is for drunken carousing. Next month is for gambling. When cash is short, you gamble.” Overheard bullshit should also be a part of any healthy diet.

In each alley, you’ll find many laundry racks, with good clothes, an impossibility two decades ago, for just about everything would have been snatched. In 1995, a shoeshine boy sprinted out of a Saigon restaurant with my leather pair, then in 1998, my glasses disappeared in Nha Trang. With mirth, a lady told me about having one shoe stolen as she relaxed by the Saigon River in 1980, with the thief returning minutes later to demand a ransom.

Though Vietnam is still poor, its steadily improving living standards give people hope, and since many are their own boss, they feel more in charge of their destiny. Its -0.3 migrants per 1,000 people is the same as Malaysia, worse than Thailand (0), but better than Morocco (-3.2), Mexico (-1.8), Bangladesh (-3.1) or even China (-0.4). A successful society is one that can retain its poorest, as well as its brightest. With American student loans becoming unpayable for millions, many are already fleeing the country.

In my alley, there was a driver who emigrated to the US with his wife and two boys in 1999. Now, the older is a transsexual and the younger, very likely gay. Though these developments are causes for celebration in progressive America, the driver is none too pleased. His wife, “Had we known they would turn out this way, we would have stayed in Vietnam.”


A Viet manicurist, Vu, spends ten months a year in Ferguson, MO, then two months in Saigon, where he keeps his wife and five-year-old son. They live with ten other people in her parents’ home. In Ferguson, Vu has a basement apartment and practically no social life, “On my days off, I might not speak to another person for an entire day. The guy above me is also Vietnamese, but we don’t hang out much.” Taking out his phone, Vu showed me a photo of some middle-aged dude with his face on a kitchen table, with beer cans around him, “He often drinks alone until he passes out. Sometimes he even pisses on himself!”

With us was a man who had never been to the US, so Vu turned to him, “The US is like a cemetery!” he laughed, “but people don’t know it, because they only see American films! There is no one on the streets and you have no idea what your neighbors are doing. They could be dead, and you wouldn’t know it!”

With virtually no zoning laws, nearly every Vietnamese neighborhood is residential, commercial and industrial, which makes Vietnam freer, in at least one respect, than “the freest country on earth.” Just outside Saigon, I saw a house that had added a factory to its front plot, plus a row of rental cells for workers, with each just large enough for a bed, small table, two plastic stools and a motorcycle.

With everywhere open for business, you’ll find signs advertising just about everything even in an alley, “HERE WE CAN FIX IRONS, RICE COOKERS AND ELECTRIC FANS,” “ENGLISH, CHEMISTRY AND MATH TUTORING,” “DRIVER AND VAN FOR HIRE,” “FURNITURE FOR RENT,” “NEW! TOM YUM! THE REAL DEAL!” “JAPANESE BLACK GARLIC PREVENTS CANCER, REVERSES AGING, PROTECTS THE LIVER.” Seeing sushi being sold for 8 and 16 cents in 90-degree heat, I wisely moved on.

With such a density of humanity, there’s always a very public and drawn out funeral nearby, so death is a constant presence, but a Vietnamese funeral is mostly a free, multi-day concert of funky traditional music, as boisterous, chaotic life swarms all around it.

I noticed a 60-ish woman who was busy with her broom. Walking next to her, I smiled, “Sister, you’re sweeping everybody’s trash!”

“You know, brother, I just had an eye operation.”

“And it went well!”

“Yes, I can see pretty clearly. I have glaucoma. The operation was free.”

“That’s pretty good!”

“Yes, there is this program. Even people from the provinces come up for it.”

“Were the doctors foreign?”

“No, Vietnamese, but I think the funding is foreign.”

It’s also domestic, I later found out. Vietnamese medical care is often a nightmare, however, with appalling overcrowding of up to four adults or six children to a bed. Basic nursing services are routinely performed by a patient’s relatives, who sleep on the floor in jam-packed hospital rooms, hallways or even elevator lobbies.

Intent, the lady swept some paper and plastic trash, then looked up, “I hear that regular glasses are better than charity ones. Is that true?”

I stared at her goggle-like pair, “These seem fine to me!”

Suddenly, a motorcyclist rode right up to us, “Why are you sweeping the street, ma?! You just had an eye operation!”

Since her daughter looked quite pissed, I said a quick goodbye, then left.

With American-styled zoning laws, the Vietnamese alley would become commercially and socially barren, for buying and selling bring people together. In gangster Capitalist America, this human fact has been distorted into mere trips to the malls and big box stores, for only in ghettos and barrios can you still find peddlers and sidewalk vendors, where a shopping cart loaded with whatever is a roving store or restaurant. As their economy and way of life devolve, however, more Americans will resort to these tiniest business practices, just like their forefathers. Are we not men? We are post-collapse Americans!

In upscale developments, Vietnamese are aiming for American-styled sterility, however, for the houses there are no longer open for business or neighbors. Behind high walls and formidable gates, they are fortresses for fat cats who are increasingly irritated, disgusted or fearful of nearly everything Vietnamese. Chauffeured to school in air-conditioned cars, their burger and French fries-fed kids learn more English than Vietnamese.

Outside those Americanized enclaves, a Vietnamese can still thrive and do as he pleases with his own home, and if he earns more, he can add floors and repaint it whatever colors, things most Americans can’t do, a fact that astonishes my Viet friends, “But it’s your own home! Isn’t it a free country?”

If you’re, say, a computer repairman, why not have a glass case selling cigarettes, snacks and drinks in your shop, since you’re sitting there anyway? In Philadelphia, a Vietnamese street vendor of fruit salads made the news because he decided to sell panty hoses also, and why not, since nearly all of his customers were women.

On my afternoon walk yesterday, a woman in her mid-40’s said, “Did you come from afar? We haven’t seen you around here.”

“I lived in the US for many years, but my wife and I are making arrangements to move back. Things aren’t all that great over there.”

“Yes, move back!” Then, “I hear there’s a volcano in the US. If it erupts, the entire country will be gone!”

“Well, I don’t think that’s their main worry,” and left it at that.

In the US, I gravitated towards bars because those were the only places I could mingle. As you well know, there is no bustling square or sidewalk in a typical American neighborhood, and hardly anyone knows anyone outside work, the bar or online.

Traveling little, most Americans don’t realize that every other society has many readily-accessible spaces for any man to enjoy his neighbors’ company, but perhaps they don’t want that anyway, for it would cut into their world highest 4.5 hours of televised brainwashing daily, plus addiction to the smart phone, online games, masturbatory websites and canned music, heard mostly alone, the very antithesis of music’s purpose. Moreover, American pop music is really top down mass indoctrination, with all the top acts groomed and elaborately produced to poison the entire world.


With relentless spectacles and noises, an inner life becomes impossible. Long anomic, Americans are now increasingly doped up with downers, which makes human contacts even more aggravating, so friendships and sex are mostly in pixels. Forced to be together, they crank up the volume, check FaceBook or text away, for to look someone in the eye has become cruel and unusual punishment.

With each in solitary confinement, it’s no surprise Americans are unable to mount any meaningful resistance against their masters, though, so fogged up, most don’t even who their rapists are. Whipped up by several layers of fake media, they froth against puppets.

To emigrate, a man must divorce his society, so he’s already a betrayer, even if justifiably, but in his new home, he must strive to join another community, except now, in one place, everything is virtual or fake, so there’s nothing to latch onto. As the ship goes down, each enraged citizen is trapped in his windowless cabin.

Linh Dinh’s latest books are Postcards from the End of America (non-fiction) and A Mere Rica (poetry). He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Vietnam 
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  1. Brabantian says: • Website

    Profound point here from Linh Dinh, about the joy of human interaction in ‘street life’, where that life is sufficiently gentle and non-threatening

    There was, long ago, a somewhat distinctive version of that life in North America, the culture of the home ‘front porch’ or small veranda, in the pre-television era, when the ‘porch culture’ was enjoyed by all the middle classes

    Where children played, and people walking about said hello to their neighbours sitting on their porches

    That culture still exists in the black and Latino communities in the USA – in city areas often a bit rougher, one must admit – but the whites of North America have lost this

    One still sees the remnants in the older North American middle-class home architecture, every house in a row down a street, graced by its small front porch veranda, with space for at least a couple of chairs, and often a small grassy lawn in front

    But then the television came and it was all over for North American white folks … kudos to the Latinos and blacks for keeping some sense of that old type of ‘neighbourhood’, however imperfectly

  2. CK says:

    There are still a few bazaars left in the USA. Some are once a week some are thrice a week.
    It takes nothing to find them.

  3. Very bleak look at the US.

    • Agree: The Anti-Gnostic
    • Replies: @eah
  4. eah says:

    Robert Putnam explained what happened.

  5. Mario964 says:

    Having grown up in a small village of +/- 1000 dwellers I can say that there is some truth in the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. Taunting, teasing and pranks become part of dayly life in a sort of never ending merry-go-round, with sensless waste of mental energy and time. I’m not fond of it.

  6. I think one of the main problems is that America’s materialistic and work-obsessed culture renders random socializing dreadful. Most Americans hate their jobs, and yet one of the first things anyone ever asks at a social gathering is, “what do you do?”

    Well, if one’s job isn’t especially meaningful or esteemed – which is most jobs – then it becomes taxing trying to come up with ways to evade such conversations or whitewash your lame job. I sometimes wonder if Americans’ growing aversion to human interactions stems from a subconscious fear of revealing themselves to be “losers.” I now consciously force myself to avoid asking questions about work, because I feel like this insane focus on work is making us miserable.

    Also, great descriptions of the alley’s vibrant entrepreneurial culture. Despite its cult of capitalism and entrepreneurship, Americans are actually some of the least entrepreneurial people in the world. Very few are self-employed and self-sufficient, and most resort to working for big employers – the exact opposite of what Adam Smith would have wanted.

    Meanwhile, in formerly Communist Vietnam, Smith’s vision of independent craftsmen and entrepreneurs is alive and well.

  7. Anomic: Succinctly put, dead on the money.

    I’m old enough to remember having to “visit” with the neighbours on their porch or ours; I hated it through the eyes of a child, but looking back, it was a nice part of life that helped weave the tapestry that was America.

    Speaking of anomie, neighbours were very much a part of policing and parenting. If I stepped out of line within sight of a neighbour, you can bet my parents would hear about it, and if the behaviour was egregious enough, the beating might come directly from the neighbour with the post-event blessings of my parents. Somehow I survived that “brutal” world.

    “Are we not men? We are post-collapse Americans!”

    There’s a video for this … don’t use headphones … share!

  8. Linh,

    What do you think of the proclivity for eating cats in Vietnam? In addition to novelty, there is a persistent belief that properties of the cat, will spiritually flow into the eater. Furthermore, cats are tortured, skinned alive, made to feel extreme pain before being boiled alive in the belief that such emotional distress adds vigor and enlivening qualities to the meat.

    Asians fall into two categories, generally. East Asians-Chinese, Japanese, Korean-who achieved high levels of civilization and language, which is evident in continuity today. South Asians-Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laos, Indonesian, etc., who have less average IQ and are less dynamic in higher thought cognition, discovery, and knowledge acquisition.

    Vietnam did not have a written language before the French conquest, which was created by learned monks, I believe. All in all, Vietnam resembles The Philippines more than any other Asian country. There is stability in doing things the same way day in and day out. This is not a sophisticated peoples.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @Bragadocious
  9. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Poupon Marx

    Hi Poupon Marx,

    Please do a bit of research before you say something like this:

    Vietnam did not have a written language before the French conquest, which was created by learned monks, I believe.

    To start with, do look up Nguyễn Du’s “The Tale of Kieu,” a 3,254 line poem written in Chữ Nôm, the Vietnamese script, and first published in 1820. For an overview of Vietnamese literature, you can consult Huynh Sanh Thong’s An Anthology of Vietnamese Poems: From the Eleventh through the Twentieth Centuries (Yale University Press, 2001).

    The Vietnamese cast bronze drums dating back to 600BC, so do look up “Dong Son Culture” or “Dong Son Drums.”


  10. @Poupon Marx

    Looks like you’ve touched a nerve. Dinh may hate hate hate Americans, but he’s very defensive about the homeland!

    I would simply add, every Vietnamese I’ve ever met is a financial basket case with a high propensity towards compulsive gambling. And data shows that they got crushed by the mortgage crisis of 2008 because of their financial illiteracy and general cluelessness about debt. I guess it’s tough to make your house payment when there’s high-low poker awaiting at Harrahs.

    I’m sure Dinh would blame this is on “anomic” whiteys stepping on the throats of poor defenseless Nguyens. LOL

  11. @Bragadocious

    I don’t dislike Vietnamese especially, or admire them. I just have grown to see people as they are, up and down. As a whole, I do appreciate Asians in general for many qualities, which Western Indo-Europeans today have less of or lack, tragically. In fact, in recent times, I woke up and realized that I have been a Buddhist all my life and that Orthodox Christianity and all the rest are incompatible with my Wa. It’s complicated, by way of Jung, Hinduism, Buddha, etc., but my belief is that my previous incarnations were Asian, specifically Japanese.

    I believe Linh is sincere and a good egg. I detest so many things in the Occident that I cannot list all of them without fatigue. We have Chinese intermarried in our family and the results-including children-are exemplary.

    Finally, I loathe hypocrisy. My ancestry is completely Greek, realizing that modern day Greeks are a ragged, near worthless set of wastrels and buffoons. The present day inhabitants bear no resemblance to the Hellenes or the Ancients. No honor.

    • Replies: @Truth
  12. Truth says:
    @Poupon Marx

    The present day inhabitants bear no resemblance to the Hellenes or the Ancients. No honor.

    Just a small point of understanding here; were you aware that homosexuality was COMPULSORY to be an Athenian citizen during the prime of the empire?

    • Replies: @Poupon Marx
  13. fish says:

    Just a small point of understanding here; were you aware that homosexuality was COMPULSORY to be an Athenian citizen during the prime of the empire?

    Oh Troofy… and Tinys should talk…..!

  14. @Truth

    Four of the first five Roman Emperors were homosexual, as was Richard The Lionhearted, as was Aaron Hernandez. Women had no status.

    Take what is good and leave the least.

    • Replies: @Truth
  15. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    With your Israel-first mentality, of course you think the US is doing fine, because it’s serving Israel unconditionally even as it destroys itself.

    Smug in your Midtown Manhattan bubble, you’re the hypocritical misanthrope who hates “whiteys” and all other Americans whose lives are ruined by their Israel-first government.

  16. Truth says:
    @Poupon Marx

    Right, and Rome was much like Athens. But in Athens (and probably Rome, although I am not sure) homosexuality was a mandatory condition of citizenship. In order to be a citizen, one had to be a man and had to do an “apprenticeship” with an older male citizen (often a relative) between the ages of 12 and 16.

    The point being that when I read of a Greek lamenting the fact that “well, we’re nothing now like we were in the “good ol’ days.”

    I think, “well thank God!”

  17. Ivy says:

    Air conditioning contributed to the decline of front porch culture in many regions of America. Porches and rocking chairs or swings helped many stay cool, perhaps with a glass of lemonade or sweet tea or other beverage, sometimes enjoyed with a neighbor. Couple that with basketball hoops and lawns and you have more opportunity for socializing that does not involve some little electronic device. In-person activities seem to encourage deeper interaction.
    It is interesting to read Linh’s observations about how other cultures may interact.

  18. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    Hi all,

    Paid or unpaid, a hasbara’s favorite tactic is to steer the discussion away from the main points, thus in an article that’s about the well planned and implemented social alienation of Americans, Bragadocious suddenly talks about Vietnamese “financial illiteracy” and proclivity for gambling.

    Entirely without evidence, he also accuses me of hating “whiteys,” which no one is more guilty of than an Israel-firster like himself.

    The only Americans I despise are Israel-firsters, not their anomic victims. Being a traitor at heart, Bragadocious can’t stand that I’ve profiled the plight of many ordinary Americans, for he doesn’t want people to know what they’re going through.


    • Replies: @Low Voltage
  19. @Linh Dinh


    Anyone who reads you knows that you don’t hate “whitey.” Bragadocius and his ilk are going to be a fixture in America until the rest of the world pushes this decrepit Empire over a cliff (and puts us out of our misery). It can feel gratifying to put a Zionist troll in his place, but they aren’t worth the effort. Americans only wake up after the system bites them on the ass, and by that time, they’re powerless. C’est la vie.

  20. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    Hi all,

    Though I’ve analyzed and celebrated healthy communities wherever I can find them, including in Mexico, Turkey, France, Spain, England and Italy, I’m somehow a hater of “whiteys,” according to Israel-firster Bragadocious, and the reason is, you guess it, I hate Israel!

    Just ask yourself, who have the desire and power to destroy America and Europe, an inconsequential Vietnamese-American writer like myself or Israel-firsters? Can you name any Vietnamese bankster, media brainwasher or deep state policy maker like Henry Kissinger? Do American politicians kiss Vietnam’s or Israel’s ass?

    Israel is an ongoing genocidal project based on lies and unresolvable contradictions, so the US must decouple itself from it. Otherwise, it will go down with this unprecedented monstrosity.

    Bragadocious and other Israel-firsters don’t have dual loyalties, but only one love, coupled with an utter contempt for the rest of us, and you can usually spot them by their bombastic arrogance and shameless mendacity.


    • Replies: @fitzGetty
    , @Sunbeam
  21. bartok says:

    Dinh doesn’t understand Anglo-Saxons’ temperament, makes the same mistake that his hated Zionists make. Jews like Freud saw us not-speaking, not-socializing, not-smiling and concluded that we are repressed. Dinh concludes that we are depressed and has this cure and that one for us.

    No we are not repressed, and yes we are mildly depressed because we are born that way. East Asians, too. It may be a side effect of high IQ, (humblebrag), our notable melancholy, introversion and unmoved nature. Magnus Carlsen displays a lot less enjoyment being king of his world, than Usain Bolt did being king of his.

    We are naturally who and what we are. Let us be who we are in our quiet-unto-death suburbs, flats and farms, rather than advise us to be like haggling, bragging, bullshitting Israelis or Vietnamese.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  22. @Brabantian

    Television and air conditioning destroyed that entire world.

  23. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    Hi bartok,

    Having spent nearly a year in the UK, I can say that the English still have a much stronger sense of community than Americans, and they’re even more talkative, in spite of the stereotype.

    Surely, you can’t think that increasing addictions to television, loud music and drugs are the norms for Anglo Saxons? In 2016, 64,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, a rate that’s been increasingly rapidly each year. Is that normal?

    Opioids are not happy or social drugs. You shun people while on it, so addicts end up alone, with hardly any social life. When they do seek out people, it’s usually to borrow money, hustle or steal, so they can get high again, all alone. Is that normal?


    • Replies: @fitzGetty
  24. fitzGetty says:
    @Linh Dinh

    … this is a chilling reminder of the deadly Oxy-Sackler family … about whom something really must be done … Dave has just bought a sunny hillside house in W Los Angeles for many USD25 million or so, as death comes to W Virginia and New England for the less fortunate …

  25. fitzGetty says:
    @Linh Dinh

    … and, deep beneath the Judean Hills, nestles an unknown number of nuclear bombs … from that comes power with a very capital P …

  26. Linh,

    I have read your columns for years and feel that you are a very keen observer of the human condition. Lived kind of close to you in Bucks county and often pondered inviting you to see the outer suburb belt, I wondered what you would have made of it. You are the last chap I would describe as racist. The folks trying to get your goat, well they seem to have a axe to grind, to use an old Anglo-Saxon phase. Don’t let the B–tard’s get you down, we like and appreciate your writing, for all of its honesty.

    Now the real reason I write this is because of your post #23. Once you get outside of the inner suburban belts, you will find the old Anglo/German/Scot/Eastern European/plain folks of PA doing quite well. They have jobs, live within their means, get married and stay in that state, are not depressed and have decent lives much like their parents/grandparents did 40 to 50 years ago.

    They are necessarily quiet in this modern age. It does not pay to attract attention when the wider society has gone mad or is headed in that direction. It is also a fact, that for the most part these societies of northern European types are not particularly extroverted socially, but they do congregate and are quite social in their old voluntary organizations such as hunting clubs, firehouses, ambulance companies, steam engine societies, glider clubs, hospital aid societies and a Swiss shooting Verein. All of these societies are somewhat closed, meaning they do not look for members, but the members in them are something akin to a mutual aid and comfort societies. The word “Verein” can be translated to club, but it has a much deeper meaning which fulfills a human need for Northern European introverts.

    I could go on, but the main point I have is I think you might have missed some of these rather healthy aspects of PA when you lied here. The folks that inhabit such venues are not sad or depressed, they are just typical northern European types, which outsiders might find hard to figure out.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @iffen
  27. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Sam the Man

    Hi Sam the Man,

    Many thanks for your comment. Yes, there are certainly pockets of sane, healthy people, but as you say, “the wider society has gone mad or is headed in that direction.”

    On July 4th, 2014, I visited Saint Paul’s Langford Park and saw maybe a thousand very sane, healthy and beautiful people enjoying the celebration. There was a well-rehearsed community band, which means they must have met and practiced often. There were kids everywhere, happily playing, and no one was dressed like a gangsta or beltless convict, such as I had seen in downtown Minneapolis earlier the same day.

    What struck me about the delightful scene in Langford Park was that it was highly unusual for the US, and I said so to one man, who completely agreed. As we chatted, he filled me in on the history of the area.


  28. iffen says:
    @Sam the Man

    I think you might have missed some of these rather healthy aspects of PA when you lied here.

    Fuck S. Freud.

  29. iffen says:

    Hey L.D., more “alley life” and less “fuck dem Jews” and “USA is loserville.”

  30. @Brabantian

    Gimme a break. American whites don’t have that kind of life anymore because the blacks you mentioned so fondly make many of our cities dangerous.

    If 13% of Vietnam was black, Vietnamese wouldn’t mingle so freely either.

  31. Anonymous [AKA "melvin"] says:


    i’ve been a big fan of your postcards series for a while but i only just got around to reading your fiction, for some reason i assumed it wouldn’t be any good! i don’t know why…

    love like hate was the funniest, most devastating novel i’ve read in a long, long time. please write more in the future!

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  32. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    Hi Melvin,

    Many thanks, man. Some of the people I based Love Like Hate on, I’ve been seeing in Saigon… “Hoa” has turned her life around.

    If you want more of my fiction, then give Blood and Soap a try. It’s a collection of stories, with a few prose poems thrown in.

    As I get older, I’ll run around less, so perhaps I’ll focus more on fiction, which is mostly a reflective genre, drawing on memories and regrets.


  33. you nailed again linh..and it’s getting really stupid here.

  34. Sunbeam says:
    @Linh Dinh

    “Though I’ve analyzed and celebrated healthy communities wherever I can find them, including in Mexico, Turkey, France, Spain, England and Italy,”

    For now. Look, maybe there is some unique aspect of Anglo-Saxon culture, at least the American version, that makes that society particularly vulnerable to the effects of the new electronic world.

    Maybe it’s even genetic somehow (we talk about genes here a lot).

    But do you really think all these other cultures are totally immune to this sort of thing, in a manner akin to some societies where alcoholism is virtually unknown, yet legal?

    My take is it’s just beginning in some areas. Maybe it takes a generation of conditioning to produce… whatever we are in the process of becoming.

    But you could go to Japan and check out that new generation of kids, particularly young men. Or go to Korea with their insane gaming culture. More energy, but not far behind Japan in a way I think.

    Curious as to what you think. Taking a long term view my guess is Vietnamese culture might look very different in 20 years.

  35. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    Hi Sunbeam,

    Yes, I agree. Unless something drastic happens, every society is heading that way. When I was at a wedding banquet last week, most guests under 25 were looking down at their smart phones nearly nonstop, and I see the same whenever I go to a cafe here.


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