Postcards from the End of America

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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Outside Walter Rand station on 5-18-15--Camden 5










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Homeless man and US flag set--Center City











Homeless man and US flag set--Center City (detail)










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Monday, July 27, 2015

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Shirtless man on ground with pizza box--Center City











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Become a Practical Nurse billboard--Center City










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TT CUT ON 7-25-15--Kensington








[Kensington]



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LEARN LIVE--Kensington








[Kensington]



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Sunday, July 26, 2015

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Community--Kensington








[Kensington]



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Check cashing store at Kensington and Allegheny on 7-25-15--Kensington








[Kensington]



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Check cashing store at Kensington and Clearfield on 7-25-15--Kensington








[Kensington]



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Man slumped on sidewalk on 5-25-15--Kensington









Kensington. Flyers on street announced Tracie Neville as missing. Last seen July 18th. Age 28, but "looks like 15." Height 4' 9" to 4' 11". Weight 110 lbs. Hair color blonde, eyes blue.

At Allegheny Station, a young white girl begged. A black guy gave her some change. Another black guy poured some Orange Crush from his can into her bottle. A white guy helped her out. I wasn't within earshot, but she was probably saying something about needing money for a train ticket. Patty, 65-ish bartender at Jack's Famous Bar, informed me, "I saw her at 6:30 this morning. She was lying there, asleep. Then she got up at around 11, fixed her hair and even put some deodorant on." Patty laughed. "Then she disappeared. Now, she's back."

"First time you've seen her?"

"Yeah, but I'm not here everyday."

Two drug dealers, black guys, entered Jack's and walked right by the owner, Mel, sitting in a booth in the back. "Can I help you?" Mel said twice, but they ignored him and went into the bathroom. Done, they exited to resume their position across the street at Allegheny Station. The length of the bar, with its many patrons, was like an empty corridor to these two thugs.

Next to me was a man in his late 50's. Bloated and clean shaven, he wore a fading Eagles cap. He bartended at Jack's for eight years but had to quit after two strokes. Seeing a group of females walking by, some clearly underaged, Eagles cap blurted, "I want them all!"

"One at a time," dude next to him advised. He had on a Vietnam Vet cap.

Next door was Crown Chicken. When its owner took some trash out, Eagles cap commented, "I like her too. She's pretty." He then ran outside to catch a glimpse of his unsuspecting admiree, now back inside among her thighs, wings and breasts. She also sells fish sticks.

A man wore a cerulean blue tanktop, and over its one white band, there was "HEART" in red at the front, then "MIND" on the back.

Girl of about nine had "I'M GOING TO KNOCK YOUR SWAG OFF" on her baby pink T-shirt.

The conversation turned to pleasant items to put into your mouth, a shrimp cocktail with a particularly large decapod crustacean, for example, or an honest cheeseburger. On the jukebox was Billy Joel, one of our greatest working class poets ever, "If he can't drive with a broken back / At least he can polish the fenders."

Across the street, two white guys nodded off on steps of train station's entrance. Eagles cap, "Must be some good shit! Must be that wet shit!"

When an old black lady walked in, Patty shouted, "Look who the cats drug in! We thought you had died."

"No, I come back alive," the lady laughed.

Black man in his mid-50's, "I was one of them guys who does nothing but work, and I gave my woman all my money. It still didn't work out. I thought we would be together forever. All of my baby mamas were cheaters. The good thing is, after it's over, it's over. None of them give me problems, and I don't give them none. I take care of my children. In fact, I'm going home right now to be with my baby--my daughter."

The NFL preseason starts in two weeks. Since watching sports has become the most consistently satisfying experience for many people, it's easy to forget that it's a very recent phenomenon. Patty sings, "Fight, Eagles fight, on your way to victory!"

When the B-52's "Love Shack" came on, Patty danced with her elbows close to her ribs and her fists sticking out. She moved her creaky hip from side to side. I was ready to speed dial 911.

"I can't wait until 4:30," Patty moaned throughout the afternoon.

Beneath some flowers on the calendar, "Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.--Sigmund Freud."



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Jose on 7-25-15--Kensington








Jose in Kensington. On Saturday, a new Puerto Rican restaurant opened at Kensington Avenue and G, so there was free food and very loud music. You could hear it two blocks away. It was certainly better than hearing gunshots. From the Philadelphia Inquirer of June 24th, 2015:

Seven people shot in Kensington

The neighbors around East Hilton Street heard the blast from a shotgun Monday afternoon and knew what to do. Up and down the narrow Kensington blocks, they opened their doors for the children on the streets, who were already running for cover.

On East Madison Street, Stephanie Johnson hustled her grandchildren - and anyone else nearby - inside. A block away, Tina Jacobs checked to make sure her granddaughter was behind her, inside the house.

"The kids on the block - they know how to move when they hear bullets," she said.

Cathy Dever, who lives on Allegheny Avenue, was in her backyard when she heard what she thought was fireworks, and then saw children running, screaming, from the block behind her. She told her own children to get down.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

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Spider on 7-25-15--Kensington








"Spider" in Kensington.



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Jesse James on 7-25-15--Kensington








Kensington. He said he was Jesse James, born in 1847. He has a few bullet hole scars, and his face and neck were burnt when he was 18. In upper right, you can just see the Visitation Church and School.



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MY SON GREW UP IN THE VISITING ROOM--North Philadelphia








[North Philadelphia]



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Friday, July 24, 2015

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Man on ground and woman with colorful dress--Center City










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Postcard from the End of America: Lisa from Clayton, NJ

As published at Unz Review, OpEd News, Smirking Chimp and CounterCurrents, 7/24/15:







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 to say Free all the prisoners.” Most city dwellers, white, black, brown or yellow, would retch in disgust at such a statement.

The left tend to see all losers, even criminals, as merely victims of circumstance, but from the right perspective, just about any destitute person is a lazy bum who’s made too many wrong decisions. To a pure leftist, one’s birth traits override individual complexities, so if you were born into wealth, for example, then you’re inherently guilty of, well, just about everything, but if you’re black and living in a white society, then you cannot be guilty of anything, not even of racism, that most basic of human instincts. A black man doesn’t have to overcome his racism, since he can’t even be racist, according to many a leftist brain, but to deny such a moral agency to anyone is to see him as subhuman. One has to be a racist, or just plain stupid, to believe any man incapable of self love.

On just about every issue, immigration, race, religion or law and order, the American left has alienated itself from the lower class, one that it still pretends to represent, but the right is also out of touch, for too often, it downplays systemic reasons for individual failures. If you’re relying on food stamps, for example, you must be a parasite, but the fact is, with job outsourcing and a deliberate policy by our ruling class to not just allow, but import, cheaper foreign labor, it’s becoming harder by the day to put food on the table.

In April of 2000, the Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate stood at 67.3%. Now, it’s 62.6%. Not only are far fewer Americans employed, the current batch of jobs also pay less yet inflation has only skyrocketed, if measured honestly. One of the funniest terms in our increasingly Orwellian epoch is “core inflation index,” for it leaves out the costs of food and energy, the two core necessities of life. Heartless, our masters sure know how to laugh in our faces. In 2008, 18% of American children lived in poverty. Just seven years later, it’s 22%. Housing prices are going up thanks to low interest rates, speculators and foreign buyers. Though this only shoves more destitute Americans into homeless shelters, garden sheds, garages and cars, if not under bridges and onto sidewalks, it’s trumpeted by Wall Street and Washington as a heart warming sign of the recovery. The latest housing trend is tent rental in someone’s backyard. For $65 a night, you can curl up in Chula Vista, CA, but it’s only $20 in La Verne. What’s next? Lean to? Air mattress under the stars?

Traveling to a poor country, Americans can be overwhelmed by the sights of beggars. Grimy children may pester you as you carve into your meat. Slumped on sidewalks, the deformed or maimed beg for their next meal. These impressions contrast sharply with the skyscrapers and gleaming boutiques that can be found now in even the most bankrupt and dysfunctional countries. Dysfunctional is not readily measurable, but debts sure are, so I’ll give you just one guess. Which nation is the most bankrupt in this galaxy? The US has dug for itself such a deep, wide and ghastly hole, nearly all of its wealth, capabilities and initiative have been sucked straight down to China.

In any case, beggars are always an indictment of a society, and their number, nature and even techniques are reflective of its condition. The March 18th, 1882 issue of the British Medical Journal has this entry, “SELF-MUTILATION IN CHINA”:

“Dr. R. A. Jamieson of Shanghai has recently presented to the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons a pair of feet, to which the following remarkable history is attached. Some months ago, a Chinese beggar excited much pity, and made a very profitable business in the streets of the foreign settlement, Shanghai, by showing the mutilated stumps of his legs, the feet belonging to them being tied together, and slung around his neck. Warned frequently by the police, he was knocked down by a carriage one day when scrambling out of the way of a constable. He was brought into hospital, under Dr. Jamieson’s care, being slightly injured; and, on recovery from his bruises, he sold to his medical attendant his feet, which otherwise would have been confiscated by the police. He admitted that, for the purpose of making himself as attractive as possible to the charitably disposed, he had, about a year previously, fastened cords round his ankles, drawing them as tight as he could bear them, and increasing the pressure every two or three days. In about a fortnight, the bones were bare, and he had no more pain. At the end of a month and a half, the bones were quite dry; and, by this time, according to his account, he was able to remove the feet by partly cutting and partly snapping the bones. The feet were quite black and mummified; on the wounded surface of the right foot, the upper aspect of the astragalus was seen, no trace of the malleoli remaining; but the external malleolus lay in its normal position in the left foot, and it had evidently been removed by cutting and snapping, as the patient affirmed. The stumps were perfectly healed, and conical; the ends of the tibiae and fibulae were apparently fused, and both stumps were covered in with a good cicatrix, puckered at the centre, and admitting of a very considerable amount of pressure before pain was produced. Such instances of self-mutilation appear to be frequent in China; and, when performed for such a motive as in Dr. Jamieson’s case, they throw a light on that singular mixture of courage, deceit, and sacrifice of almost anything to advance low enterprise, which characterise the lower orders in that country.”

We can’t know how “frequent” such self-mutilations for coins were, but it’s interesting that from one “remarkable” and frankly freakish example, the writer could conclude that it “throw a light” on “the lower orders in that country.” It almost sounds like, “the lower order of that country.” Again, beggars are an indictment of a society.

In our land of fuzzy and often quite devious euphemisms, where a prisoner is a “detainee” and an illegal immigrant is just an “undocumented worker,” it’s only appropriate that we don’t have beggars, really, but only panhandlers. Though we have enough strange bodies on the streets, most of our beggars are remarkably normal in appearance and demeanor. Just today, I talked to Marty, a 31-year-old from Winslow, NJ. Reasonably well-groomed, clean and without tattoos, Marty wore a long-sleeve T-shirt, basketball shorts and Polo sneakers. He sat on his bedding next to a platic cup of soda. Marty served four years in the Army. He loves his brief glimpse of Berlin and the “brotherhood” of the military. Afghanistan was “a mess” and Iraq “not what we had been told.” Marty’s been homeless for three weeks. To gain an advantage over other beggars, Marty had come up with a clever sign, “FREE TO A LOVING HOME. HOUSE TRAINED ALREADY!!” In a tiny scrawl beneath that, there’s also, “Trying to Get a Buck to eat.” Two blocks away, I then found an old lady of about 80 dozing in a wheelchair next to two tote bags. I’ve seen men this ancient dumped on our sidewalks, so why not this woman? Most of our homeless shelters kick people out during the daytime, and there are no storage facilities. Here was your average greatgrandma nodding off on a comfy armchair in a cozy living room, except that there was no armchair and no living room. For the many hours that she’s out there, thousands of people, locals and tourists, walk by this exposed woman. This is the new normal.

An American who’s at the bottom is no less representative than Steve Jobs, though only Jobs’ biography is scrutinized. In fact, since the ratio of American “losers” to “winners” has become so askew, with the losing camp swelling to include just about everybody by now, one can understand nothing by ignoring the bottom. Let’s meet, then, Lisa from Clayton, NJ (population 8,216). I found her sitting on Walnut Street near the Holiday Inn. At the time, Lisa had been homeless for 10 months. It was a gorgeous spring day, warm and sunny. Freezing temperatures would not return for at least four months.

“It doesn’t make sense to be anywhere else, right? It doesn’t make sense to be in Atlantic City?”

“No. Now that it’s getting nice, it’s OK to be in Atlantic City, but during the winter, no, and they really don’t have much to offer there.”

“Don’t they have a pretty good shelter there?”

“No, not for women.”

“Were you familiar with Philadelphia before you came here?”

“Semi.”

“It wasn’t too much of a shock, right?”

“Uh-uh, I’d been here a lot in my younger years, so I’d been around and I’d seen homeless people then, so I knew where the areas were.”

“Did you come over here for music?”

“Yup, yup,” she laughed.

“That’s what most people come over here for, you know, for rock shows.”

“Yup, yup.”

“Where did you go?”

“I was more into going to the Phillies games, and concerts. I was in South Philly. I went to clubs.”

“Which clubs?”

“I used to go to Egypt. That was a long time ago.”

“That’s on Delaware Avenue, right?”

“Yup.”

“That’s a nice one too!”

“Yeah. I was a normal person!”

“What kind of music were you interested in?”

“Club. I liked hip hop. Now I’m into country.”

“How old are you?”

“35.”

“I’m just wondering, you know, your generation.”

“Era.”

“So what kind of work were you doing?

“I was a secretary. I was doing billing, medical billing.”

“How long were you doing that?”

“Six years.”

“And before that?”

“Before that, I worked at a retail store. From there, I became a secretary, then from there, I ended up out here.”

“Did you have to get a degree?”

“Associate.”

“Did it cost you money?”

“Yup.”

“But you made it back.”

“Uh huh.”

“So when did it go bad?”

“Two years ago. Um, but for the first year, I was able to maintain still, and then, the last year, I just lost everything, so that’s what put me out here.”

“You had an apartment in Clayton.”

“Clayton, yup. I’m actually now trying to get back up, so, and get out of here.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“The plan is to get back to New Jersey.”

“So how are you straightening things out?”

“With the help of my family, and getting a little part time job, which I’m starting Thursday.”

“Wow!”

“Yeah.”

“Where?”

“In Philly, in Reading Terminal Market.”

“OK, cool!”

“Yeah. It’s something. It will help me get off here. I’m going to rent a room, and then from there, try to get home.”

“Was there a problem getting hired, ah, as a homeless person?”

“I didn’t tell them, no. Now they know!”

“Now they do?!”

“Yeah.”

“It didn’t hold them back?”

“No, they’re really, really nice there.”

“Were you nervous about…”

“Yes, it’s embarrassing.”

“You know, people make all kinds of assumptions.”

“I’ve been assumed to be everything, and no one knows anything.” We both laughed. “It’s crazy. I’d rather people not say anything at all than to just be mean. There’s no need for it.”

“How mean can they get?”

“Very! Yeah. They curse you out.”

“For no reason?”

“For no reason. And I don’t say anything to people. I’m not sitting here asking, I’m just sitting here quietly. So they just come by and say whatever they want.”

“Like, who are the meanest people? If you can generalize a little bit. Younger, older?”

“Younger. I’d say between, like, 19 and 23, that age group. Guys.”

“But, you know, they haven’t been out.”

“Exactly!”

“What do they know?”

“Exactly.”

“I wonder if it’s some kind of anxiety that they feel?”

“Could be.”

“Because they haven’t been tested.”

“Right! And I just don’t get it, because it’s always the same group of people, the same type of people, but I don’t pay it any mind.”

“What do you mean the same type?”

“Like, same age group. Guys, it’s always guys, never girls.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s so perverse!”

“Yup.”

“I mean, how do you get off insulting people you don’t know?”

“Exactly! And how do you know you’re not going to be sitting here one day?”

“You might not last until 35. You might be in jail or dead.”

“Exactly. You don’t know what the future holds.”

“Are they black guys? White guys?”

“Black.”

“Black guys tend to be a little bit more…”

“Yup! Even to the point of kicking your cup over.”

“Black guys will do that?”

“Yup!”

“You know, I keep hearing this shit about black guys.”

“Uh huh.”

“But black women tend to be nice.”

“Yes, very. Extremely, extremely. Ninety percent of my drops come from black women.”

“You know, I keep hearing that.”

“Yup.”

“Isn’t that amazing?”

“Yeah, they help immensely, immensely. It might even be ninety-five percent.”

“Wow, and they’re nice to, like, white guys too?”

“Yup.”

“That’s what I hear.”

“Yup, very. I don’t know if it’s because they feel compassion because they grew up struggling, or they didn’t have things growing up, but they’re the ones who help the most. White people will walk right past me and look at me like I’m dirt under their shoes.”

“Well, black women also have to take care of a lot of people.”

“Yeah.”

“A lot of them don’t have husbands, right?”

“Yup, that is true.”

“And they also have to take care of people at their jobs, you know, like nursing care.”

“Yup, nursing, yeah.”

“Um, I know that Angel has Seth.”

“Uh huh.”

“Do you have a boyfriend out here?”

“Yup, right there,” and Lisa indicated with her head a man sitting across the street by the Korean owned buffet.

“So you’re safe that way?”

“Yup.”

“Do men try weird shit?”

“Yeah. Everyday.”

“Everyday!”

“Uh huh,”

“In the daytime?”

“Daytime, nighttime and they think I have six heads because I say I don’t do that.”

“Wow.”

“It’s expected.”

“They come by and say some shit?”

“Yeah, and if you say no, they’re like… They expect it. They expect that, if you’re sitting out here, you’re a prostitute.”

“Wow.”

“And I’m like, no, I don’t do that.”

“I bet you, like, are they older guys? Middle-aged guys?”

“Forty, yeah, forty, forty-five.”

“Creepy, huh?”

“Very.”

“And what do you say?”

“I just say, no, I don’t do that, and they look at me like I’m crazy. I’m like, I don’t do that!”

“You should say, You’re a fuckin’ loser!”

“Yeah!” She laughed.

“Do you ever say that?”

“I told one guy off because he just wouldn’t leave me alone. And I’m like, get away from me, you creep. Like, go get a life!”

“What did he look like? What did he look like?”

“He was, like, fifty. White.”

“Did he look, like, skanky?”

“Yeah, dirty. He looked like he was more homeless than me!”

“Well, I’m saying… He probably hasn’t been laid in, like, twenty years!”

“Yeah.” We both laughed. “Probably. Yeah. Desperate. He’s a weirdo. I see him every once in a while now, too, walking around, but as soon as I see him, I run the other way.”

“So what does he say?”

“Do you date?”

“Do you date?!” I cracked up.

“Yeah, do you date? No, I don’t. And he’d just stand there and stare at you.”

“Stand like right there?”

“Uh huh. Yeah, he’s a weirdo.”

“How is he dressed?”

“Sweat pants and a T-shirt, always, and sandals with no socks on.”

“Something goofy on the T-shirt?”

“No, just a dingy white T-shirt. It was during the winter time, and he didn’t have any socks on. I remember that.”

“And he always say that?”

“Yup.”

“He doesn’t vary it?”

“Nope. Just do you date?”

“I bet you hear ruder shit, right?”

“Not really, not with that. It’s more like, do you date? Or, do you want to take a ride?” I cracked up. “Do you want to do that? But I’ve been out here for ten months with him,” meaning her boyfriend, “so a lot of people see me…”

“Did you meet your boyfriend out here?”

“No, no, we… I’ve been with him for fifteen years.”

“Oh wow! So what kind of work does he do?”

“He’s a mechanic.”

“And you both just ran out of work?”

“Yeah. I stopped working before him, and then he got laid off. After that, we lost everything.”

“So you lost your job two years ago?”

“Yeah, and he worked for a whole ‘nother year. He worked under the table, so he wasn’t able to collect unemployment.”

“How old is your boyfriend?”

“Thirty-three.”

“Wow, it’s amazing, isn’t it, that people in their thirties… It doesn’t make any sense. I mean, Angel is in her twenties.”

“”Yeah, I think she’s only 23.” Angel is actually only 22.

Lisa then told me about Eli, a 28-year-old homeless woman from Pittsburgh, “She has a really, really interesting story. I tell her all the time that, once she gets out of this situation, she should go teach young girls, because she has an incredible story. I mean, she was, like, working with congressmen.”

“Lisa, I’m 51, and it used to be so easy to find work. I’m telling you.”

“Now, it’s a struggle.”

“I know, it’s insane.”

“It is. The whole economy is terrible, and the cost of living is higher, yet you don’t even make enough money to live.”

“And they’re lying about all the statistics.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Unemployment. Inflation.”

“Yup. It’s crazy. Even when I was younger, when I was 19 and 20, there were tons of jobs. From then until now is a huge difference, so I’m just hoping. I’ve got to take it step by step.”

“So how many hours will you be working?”

“Twenty, twenty-two, something to get me off here for twenty or twenty-two hours.”

Lisa and her boyfriend are hoping to move inside soon, “We’re going to rent a room. It’s by 22nd and, ah, Dickinson.”

“Point Breeze.”

“Yup. So we’re going to try to rent a room. We can’t afford an apartment now.”

“How much is it?”

“It’s about 130 a week.”

“Housing prices, too… 130 a week for a room, in fuckin’ Point Breeze.”

“Yup, and it’s just a room,” she chuckled.

“That’s kind of a pain, ain’t it? But what can you do?”

“It’s better than being out here.”

I told Lisa that in 1999, I had a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Philadelphia for just $350. Now, the same space would go for at least $1,100.

“It’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy. To get into an apartment, you need the first and last month’s rent. You need a major chunk to get even in the door.”

“So that’s hopeful, you have this job, and your boss seems nice.”

“Very. Very nice.”

“How did he know that you were homeless?”

“Well, the way I got introduced was through a regular of mine that passes me all the time. He’s friends with him. At first, I didn’t say anything, but my regular said, you can tell him, he’s understanding, so I talked to him, and he said he’d give me a chance, and it didn’t matter that I was, you know… As long as I’m a hard worker, that’s what he cares about, so.” Lisa will be a cashier at her new job. “I’ve experience with it. I’m looking forward to it.”

“A couple more questions! What’s the biggest surprise that you’ve found out after being out here this long? Is there something you didn’t expect at all?”

“I guess. Really, it’s just that… the way people treat you is the biggest surprise. I used to be the person walking by that would give a homeless person a dollar, but I didn’t realize how people… It’s like you’re invisible. I don’t know how you treat people that way? I’m still a human being.”

“And the hostility is incomprehensible.”

“Yeah, yeah. I don’t know what the hatred is for. I don’t know what the anger is for. I’ve done nothing against these people. I get that if you don’t want to help me, you don’t have to help me, but you don’t have to walk by with such anger. That’s probably the biggest surprise, how people treat, and it’s not just me. It’s homeless people in general. I mean, I’m pretty fortunate. I’ve seen people get treated a lot worse. Um, a friend of ours just got, ah, beaten and he passed away. They beat him right over here by the Dunkin’ Donuts.”

“Really?!”

“Yup.”

“How old was he?”

“Forty-three-years old.”

“This happened recently?”

“Yup, this happened about a month ago. No paper, no news.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, they beat him to death. He was in a coma, and they finally got in touch with his family, and they pulled the plug and he passed away.”

“What’s his name?”

“Kenny.”

“Kenny?”

“Ah, his last name, I believe, is Taylor. He’s from Delaware, but he was out here for a good two and a half years.”

“And you said there was no newspaper coverage. I wonder why? It’s a murder.”

“Yeah. There were actually three beatings of three homeless people.”

“Within a month?”

“Within a week. One of them was left at the level of a five-year-old, Kenny passed away and the other guy, they put into a rehab facility. He’s an alcoholic, and he got beaten so badly, they didn’t want to put him back on the streets, so they put him into a rehab. Three, within a week.”

“And how did the news get out?”

“We found out by the outreach. The outreach came by, especially to me and Eli, the other girl, because we’re girls and they wanted us to be careful. But yeah, no news, no…”

“And no arrest.”

“No.”

Broad Street Ministry, the shelter that Lisa used to sleep at, has been closed since April 1st. It only operates in the winter.

“If a woman doesn’t have a man,” I continued, “that’s pretty fucked up, right?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s almost essential.”

“Yeah. I don’t see how you can be out here without somebody, a friend or someone that you trust to take care of you. Otherwise, you’re in jeopardy every night, really.”

“I can see a situation where a woman is out here as a single, and then has to find a man.”

“Yes!”

“But that’s also weird, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Because that’s not… You don’t really want this.”

“Yeah, there’s a lady out here that’s like that, Tracy. She found somebody out here because she was out here by herself.”

“So it’s like a convenient boyfriend.”

“Right.”

“OK, one last question. What about your survival tactic? What have you learnt how to do that you didn’t know how to do before?”

“Ah, how to have thick skin! Thick skin and, ah, knowing your surroundings, knowing what’s going on around you. I used to be in this little bubble, you know, oblivious, but now I know what’s going on around me, a lot, and you have to, to be out here.”

“And being out here, you can probably observe people better than you ever did.”

“Yeah.”

“Because you, literally, have nothing else to do.”

“Yeah, and you do see a lot, when you’re sitting here. A lot of good, a lot of bad, but a lot.”

“So what have you learnt about people? I mean, aside from the nasty things.”

“Ah, there’s a lot of good people, though. There are a lot of good people who come up and are willing to help. I have a lady over on Chesnut that comes up to me everyday and just says hi and gets me coffee in the morning. There are a lot of good people in this city that outweigh the bad. The good outweighs the bad.”

“Oh, that’s good to hear.”

“Yeah. You tend to focus on the bad because it aggravates you and you don’t understand it.”

“And also for survival.”

“Right!”

“If you don’t focus on it, you might be dead!”

“Yeah! Exactly, exactly!”

Today, I scoured the Reading Terminal but could not find Lisa. I also didn’t see her on Walnut Street. Perhaps she’s back in New Jersey. I’ve seen a few people climb out of the pit, but I’ve seen more lose their footing.






.

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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy and England. I'm 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). 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 Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. I'm 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. 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, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.