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Canceled in the USA, I’ve emerged triumphant in South Africa. I’m huge here, for real. Everywhere I go, people know my name.

“Mr. Miyagi!”

“Hello, Jackie Chan!”

“Hi, Mr. Lee.”

“Hey, Bruce Lee!”

“Ni hao!”

“Ching ching!” accompanied by a huge smile.

My self worth restored, I strut. As I pass two chunky prostitutes in Bellville, one laughingly says, “Free to Chinese people.” Now, that’s prestige.

Short skirts or tight pants showcase their bulging buttocks and thick thighs, for locals demand lots of cushion for the pushing. The matchstick thin would snap in two. In groups of three, four or five, they display themselves and wait.

Robert Crumb must have been inspired by caricatures of the Hottentot Venus. More recently, we have Kim Kardashian popping a champagne bottle to ejaculate a creamy white stream of bubbly over her head into a glass perched on her huge rump.

Treated like a freak in Europe, pinched and poked at, Sarah Bartmann has become a symbol of her people’s dehumanized treatment. At age 25 or 26, Bartmann died in Paris in 1815. Eighty-seven years later, she was finally returned to the Eastern Cape to be buried. In Cape Town, there’s the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, and the main hall at the University of Cape Town is named after her.

As inscribed on Bartmann’s grave, “The site has spiritual, cultural, social and historical significance. The treatment of Sarah Bartmann during her life and after her death speaks of suffering, dispossession, sadness and loss of dignity, culture, community, language and life. It is a symptom of the inhumanity of people.”

Although man’s inhumanity is a constant, and you can’t indict it enough, Bartmann was actually complicit in her own degradation.

It was certainly not black and white, for many Europeans didn’t find her show too amusing. Here’s an account from one disturbed contemporary:

She was extremely ill, and the man insisted on her dancing, this being one of the tricks which she is forced to display. The poor creature pointed to her throat and to her knees as if she felt pain in both, pleading with tears that he would not force her compliance. He declared that she was sulky, produced a long piece of bamboo, and shook it at her: she saw it, knew its power, and, though ill, delayed no longer. While she was playing on a rude kind of guitar, a gentleman in the room chanced to laugh: the unhappy woman, ignorant of the cause, imagined herself the object of it, and as though the slightest addition and as though the slightest addition to the woes of sickness, servitude, and involuntary banishment from her native land was more than she could bear, her broken spirit was aroused for a moment, and she endeavored to strike him with the musical instrument which she held: but the sight of the long bamboo, the knowledge of its pain, and the fear of incurring it again, calmed her. The master declared that she was as wild as a beast, and the spectators agreed with him, forgetting that the language of ridicule is the same, and understood alike, in all countries, and that not one of them could bear to be the object of derision without an attempt to revenge the insult.

Many similar responses led the white-run African Institution to take her impresario, a colored man, to court, but Bartmann refused to be freed from him and return to Africa (at the African Institution’s expense).

In his Early African Entertainments Abroad, Bernth Linfords sums up Bartmann’s situation:

She had agreed to allow herself to be exhibited indecently to the European public, and she persisted in this tawdry occupation for more than five years, stopping only when her health finally broke down. She may have been the victim of the cruelest kind of predatory ruthlessness, but her collusion in her own victimization seems clear. She wanted the show to go on and the profits to keep rolling in. She wanted to capitalize on Western curiosity.

One can argue that her poverty and illiteracy allowed her to be used, but that’s too patronizing, for it implies she was incapable of making life choices. Many say the same of prostitutes, and yes, Bartmann was likely one also.

In any case, Bartmann didn’t consent to having her body cast displayed at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris for a century and a half. In 1982, this stiff and naked “African” was finally removed from the bemused, disgusted or scandalized gazes of clothed visitors.

Confronted with a foreign body, we’re naturally curious, so we gaze, flirt, fuck or even kill, with the last two not all that rare throughout history. Since I’m in Africa, let’s talk about Africa. Am I in Africa?

I’m pretty sure I’m in Africa, although with the internet, the Nescafe Coffee I’m drinking with condensed milk (Vietnamese style) and the Seattle Seahawks highlights I checked out this morning, I could be almost anywhere. For lunch, though, I will have a bototie pie, yum yum, so I’m really in Africa! South Africa.

A pioneering European explorer of the African interior, the Scottish Mungo Park got a very raw deal, indeed, but he too, courted his own doom.

Looking for the source of the Niger, Park went to Africa twice. After all the misfortunes, hardship and near-death experiences Park encountered on his first trip, in 1795-97, most people would have stayed the hell away from the Dark Continent, but Park couldn’t stand being happily married back home, so he had to return.

On both trips, blacks actually treated Park rather well, and sometimes even profoundly so.

Traveling with a caravan of slaves about to be sold (by their black master), Park was even looked after by these wretched men and women. Unlike Park, they had to carry huge burdens on their heads, with one woman, exhausted, beaten then stung by bees, left behind to die. Park:

During a wearisome peregrination of more than five hundred British miles, exposed to the burning rays of a tropical sun, these poor slaves, amidst their own infinitely greater sufferings, would commiserate mine; and frequently of their own accord bring water to quench my thirst, and at night collect branches and leaves to prepare me a bed in the Wilderness.

It’s certainly not anything like the Hollywood or cartoony image of a lone white being cooked in a pot by black savages, but that’s why travelers’ accounts are valuable. If truthful, they add to our understanding with nuanced or surprising depictions.

During another leg of Park’s first trip, he entered the native village (in present-day Gambia) of someone in his caravan:

When we arrived at the blacksmith’s place of residence we dismounted and fired our muskets. The meeting between him and his relations was very tender; for these rude children of nature, free from restraint, display their emotions in the strongest and most expressive manner. Amidst these transports, the blacksmith’s aged mother was led forth, leaning upon a staff. Every one made way for her; and she stretched out her hand to bid her son welcome. Being totally blind, she stroked his hands, arms, and face, with great care, and seemed highly delighted that her latter days were blessed by his return, and that her ears once more heard the music of his voice. From this interview I was fully convinced, that whatever difference there is between the Negro and European, in the conformation of the nose and the colour of the skin, there is none in the genuine sympathies and characteristic feelings of our common nature.

As said, Park had many horrible encounters, with most of them at the hands of the Moors, which by Park’s time meant North African Arabs.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Africa, Racism, South Africa 

In boxing, there are bangers and dancers, but the very best, a Meldrick Taylor, say, could concuss and rupture yet still pirouette with finesse. If you waltz too much, you’ll lose fans. Even with a perfect record of 50-0, cake walking Floyd Mayweather has detractors.

South African Corrie Sanders was no juking pussy. Although his main passion was golf, “The Sniper” had enough balled viciousness to crumble opponents, including Wladimir Klitschko, with a hammering left. Retired, Sanders was murdered by three young Zimbabweans during a robbery at his nephew’s 21st birthday party. Shielding his daughter, the bleeding Sanders told her to pretend to be dead.

Even famous South Africans aren’t spared of this country’s casual mayhem. At 82-years-old, Nadine Gordimer suffered a home invasion by four blacks.

The Guardian quoted the widowed Nobel laureate, “One grabbed me and had his arm across me. It was a muscular, smooth arm and I thought, ‘Shouldn’t there be a better use for these hands, this arm than robbing an old woman?’ What a waste of four young men. They should have jobs […] He pulled off my ring. He held me tight, against his chest. I was very close to his face and could see he had very little beard. He didn’t shave often. I would put his age at 18 to 22.”

Gordimer’s solution, “South Africa needs a huge jobs program, like what Roosevelt did in the United States. That will prevent youth from turning to crime.”

South Africa’s official unemployment rate is 32.6%. For those aged 15 to 34, an astounding 46.3% are jobless.

In Cape Town, the poorest are generally in the black townships, with many living in shacks. The homeless, including coloreds and whites, can be seen in nearly all neighborhoods, however. On Longmarket, they collapse, with chichi Tjing Tjing and Mochi Mochi just across the via via. They sleep right outside the grand Parliament complex, with its equestrian statue of Louis Botha, “FARMER / WARRIOR / STATESMAN.” Despite protests and vandalism, Botha’s still riding high.

At many intersections, there are beggars, with some wearing shirts advertising businesses even. In Bellville, two white women approached me, with one pleading, “We are decent people, but my mother is sick today.” Following me for a block and a half, a colored man kept hustling me for more change, so he could buy milk for his baby, he claimed. A young black man with carved giraffes stated, “I’m not a beggar, I’m an artist, but I’ve made nothing today. Please give me something, sir, for my baby?”

There are also “car guards” who will direct a motorist to a parking space, help him park, rather unnecessarily, I’d think, then watch over his car, for a small tip. If you’re rude to one, he might just run a key along your gleaming BMW. As a rule, though, they’re unintrusive, courteous and don’t beg. Seeing all these black men in yellow reflective vests, I had mistaken them for municipal employees.

Though bad enough, Cape Town’s homeless crisis is not as visible as, say, in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

One day before dawn, I walked two miles from Kloof to the taxi van depot. In the dark, I passed a bunch of people, all black, going to work. Three young women cheerfully chattered.

On Upper Orange, stately houses lurked behind tall walls topped with electric fencing. Cold enough, I hunched. From inside a crude, weather-beaten tent, a man and a woman muttered.

On Buitenkant, there was a wood fire under a battered black pot. From the plastic-covered dwelling next to it, a stooping, thin crone emerged. Down the sidewalk, more disheveled hovels slumped.

At a bus stop, a McDonald’s ad for its Grand Chicken Special seemed like a taunt, almost. What a lusciously lekker stack! I’ve seen homeless of all colors digging through trash cans for food.

Like in most European cities, Cape Town’s downtown is anchored by its train station. This has become a shell of itself, however. None of the electric departure and arrival boards work. Tracks are mostly forlorn, there are few shops and the outside has become an open black market, with vendors selling fruits and vegetables.

Walkway columns are plastered with flyers advertising abortions and penis enlargement, mostly, but also magic potions or witchcraft to win a court case, solve financial problems or recover a lost lover.

With voodoo, you can be free of consequences, physical shortcomings or even the universal curse of losing this and that, until you lose everything, so give me a call, eh? I can cure you of all but the “painful exit.”

Next to the train station is the taxi van depot, a spot I’ve become familiar with, since there’s no cheaper way, by far, to get around this vast metropolis. Each van I get on, I’m the only non-black, interestingly, although whites, I’m sure, must hop on one of these, I don’t know, once every decade?

Whatever, it’s good to be accepted. Although the legal limit for each van is 15 passengers, they routinely pack in two or three more, so we’re always sitting shoulder to shoulder.

Having taken buses and vans my whole life, I know damn well why they’re so comforting. For the duration of the trip, you don’t have to do anything!

Even if you have the shittiest job, you’re not there yet, so the funky van is a blessed reprieve. Plus, there’s much to see out the windows, almost too much, and you’re with people who love you!

Well, maybe not, but at least they won’t kill you while you’re all jammed inside a stuffy steel box that’s redolent of body oils and arm pits… We’re all the same, dude, and heading in the same direction, until you get off, that is, so hallelujah!

Cape Town, bra! Cape Town, sista! Cape Town, boss?”

 

In my last two articles, I pointed out the obvious, that war profiteers, whorish politicians and Jewish social engineers are destroying America. (If this is still news to you, then you are either an infant or a world-class moron.)

My indictment didn’t sit well with several commenters, however, so I was accused of being, among other things, a warmonger, hater of whites, privileged immigrant who should give up my American passport and, get this, a “Jewish acolyte”!

Alexandros, “Foreigners really have no business commenting on the affairs of Europeans. It’s normal to take criticism from your own, but not from your enemies. That is an affront.”

In short, all these brave yet incognito “Europeans” were pissed at me for fingering those who were ramming truncheons up their asses!

When the raped identify with their rapists to this degree, there’s nothing anyone can do, especially a foreign enemy like me, so I’m really sorry to have interrupted your oh-so-moreish coitus.

The very foreign Taliban did more than comment on the affairs of Europeans! They gave the European Biden and the entire white world, what’s left of it, quite a lot to suck on, but let’s keep all the criticism in-house, among Europeans only, so do tune out everyone but Trump, Pelosi, Carson, Hannity, Hedges, Krugman, Goodman or Chomsky, etc. If you ever hear “Jew” from any of them, in any context, please alert me!

Holocaust! Remember the Holocaust. Six zillion gassed! Your baker, butcher, mailman, babysitter or grandma might be an ex Nazi guard at Auschwitz. Night and day, six billion Holocaust survivors convulse in fear of the next Holocaust. There’s a life-sized Hitler crouching inside each goy, that’s for sure. Torah! Torah! Torah!

Now, I go back to writing about what I had for breakfast this morning, and what I see out my window.

In Cape Town for three weeks, I’ve come to love my neighborhood, Gardens, as well as adjacent Tamboerskloof and City Bowl. Nearby Bo-Kaap is also very pleasant, of course.

Those who know Kaapstad might interject, “Yo, these are all whitey neighborhoods! You wouldn’t be riffing such free jizz had you relocated to Mitchells Plain.”

Since I’m not there, I wouldn’t know, but you’re most likely right. Unless one’s particularly suicidal, it’s not prudent to move into a black township in South Africa, Chicago or Philadelphia. I ain’t stupid.

The worst Cape Town gang is The Americans, by the way. Though not as murderous as a US platoon jihading for Jews, these Americans are lethal enough. With Uncle Sam the champ at glamorizing violence, these Capetonians can’t resist the cool brand.

In Gardens, I’ve established a routine. Most mornings, I eat breakfast at home, since I have a kitchen, but if I feel like treating myself, I head to Arnold’s, just a five-minute downhill stroll away.

Leaving my door, I’m always astounded by the magnificent Table Mountain. Jutting straight up, it’s a 3,500-foot-high granite and sandstone wall.

On the way to Arnold’s, I pass Thai, Vietnamese, Portuguese/Mozambican, Italian, Arabic, Indian and Turkish restaurants, as well as a well-stocked Checkers Supermarket, and Soy Joy Oriental Food, with its fish, soy, teriyaki, hoisin, oyster and satay sauces, etc., plus bok choy, homemade kimchi and various Korean instant noodles.

For \$6.65 at Arnold’s, I get coffee, two eggs, two thick slices of bacon, two hash browns, three pork chipolatas, two hunks of fried tomato, six chunks of eland steak and six chunks of ostrich steak. (Compare this feast with the \$5.56 McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hot Cakes, with its miserable single patty of jivey sausage.)

To enter Arnold’s, you must sign in and leave your phone number (or email) after having your temperature taken.

I asked the young man, “What’s a bad temperature, man?”

“Twenty-seven. If you’re at 27 or higher, you can’t go in.”

“Has anyone shown up like that?”

“No.”

“Maybe it doesn’t exist!” We laughed. Always sprightly, he would even dance a few steps behind the cash register.

Like at most Cape Town restaurants, Arnold’s waitstaff is entirely black. Since it opens at 6AM, the morning crew has to get up at 4. Vans, called taxis here, bring them in from distant townships. In the dark and chill, OPEN in red neon shines above Arnold’s roof.

Nearly all of Arnold’s customers are white. One morning, I met an Englishman. Escaping the always dismal UK winter, he arrived in December for a three-month holiday. Enjoying the cheery and sophisticated Cape Town so much, he decided to linger.

When he applied for a visa extension in March, they took his passport and said he’d receive an answer in eight to ten weeks, but he hadn’t heard from them as of late August. Since he had a temporary ID, he’s legal here, but without his passport, he couldn’t leave.

To get a visa extension in South Korea, all I had to do was schedule an appointment at the immigration office, then showed up days later to receive my approval within half an hour.

To receive Covid-related welfare, South Africans must stay in line for two days, meaning they must sleep outside a government office, then wait four months to get their first payment.

That’s the post-Apartheid South African bureaucracy for you. Corrupta et incompetens should be its motto, etched in stone.

Here, only 8% of murders end with convictions, and just 7% of rapes. South African sidewalks, then, are swarming with uncaught murderers and rapists.

Accused of rape, Jacob Zuma was acquitted. Knowing she was HIV positive, Zuma still didn’t wear a condom, he said, but he did take a shower afterwards, to wash away the AIDS. If it’s not meat on meat, it’s meaningless, I suppose. Before becoming president of South Africa, Zuma was president of the African National Congress. The massive rioting in Durban recently was started by Zuma’s supporters.

(You can gauge a population’s mental retardation by its superstitions. In one, morons actually believe a 47-story skyscraper can collapse in seconds, into its own footprint, without anything hitting it!)

Any city is best explored on foot, so one day, I decided to trek down to Woodstock and Salt River.

I was mindful, however, of a gentle warning I had received from an Unz reader, “As an old dog who’s grown up around Cape Town, and having seen what this captured country’s become, I go nowhere on foot anymore […] Cape Town has not been spared change for the worse. I can’t help thinking that you may be taking your life into your own hands in deciding to go walk-about though. I pray to God that I’m wrong.”

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: South Africa 

When Ichiro played in the Major Leagues, he was always hounded by a mob of Japanese journalists and photographers, starting with the first day of Spring Training. Sick of this, he told an interviewer he wished they would just disappear.

“From your life?”

“No, from this earth.”

The USA, though, is not being pestered but deformed, debilitated and, well, frankly destroyed by a host of people, many of whom you may not have heard of, so let’s us:

Imagine there’s no George Soros,

No Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch or Klaus Schwab, too.

No Jeff Zucker, Mark Zuckerberg, Arthur Sulzberger,

Jonathan Greenblatt, Larry Fink, David Solomon,

Robert Iger, Charles Scharf, Jamie Dimon,

Steve Schwarzman, Jeremy Zimmer, Len Blavatnik,

Andy Slavitt, Jeffrey Zients, Anthony Fauci,

Jessica Rosenworcel, Janet Yellen, Gary Gensler,

Betsy Berns Korn, Mort Fridman or, what the hell,

Nancy Pelosi also, mostly because she’s so icky.

Even more than most lists, it’s highly incomplete, but you get the idea. Or maybe not. It’s too eclectic, you say, if not confusing. What do they have in common?

They are all social engineers, out to remake America in ways that have nothing to do, at least initially, with the wishes of its majority, so there goes your democracy. As new norms are relentlessly propagandized, legalized then imposed, most Americans will learn to embrace their newly cowed, castrated selves.

Many clearly have. When I tried to indict a cynical and sinister Uncle Sam in my last article, one who has wrecked not just dozens of foreign countries, but America itself, several readers took offense, not at Sammy, the Jew-jerked puppet, but me!

Clearly, they identify with the steel boots that are pinned on their faces, so fine, let them embrace their increasingly wretched fate, but what about others? What about their children? Due to their parents’ nauseating cowardice, American kids are inheriting hell.

Notice I didn’t bother to list Biden, not because he’s already dead, but because American politicians are merely cabana boys and girls for their social engineering paymasters. From president on down, they decide absolutely nothing.

Truly moronic, Americans keep waiting for the next election to vote in their savior, or they vote for an “independent” candidate as a symbolic gesture. By merely voting, however, they endorse a system that’s openly destroying them.

With voting machines that can’t be audited, American presidential elections are designed to be rigged, with one of two vetted candidates allowed to win to keep the intramural bickering and catfight lurching along, to distract the dummies from seeing what’s going on.

(The last American politician with any integrity was Cynthia McKinney, and they’ve chased her all the way to Bangladesh. Once disappeared, she’s never mentioned by any former colleague, such is their collective cowardice.)

In any case, you don’t want to turn a clown like Obama or Trump, say, into a martyr or, God forbid, national hero, to be worshipped for centuries.

Not that America is likely to last another decade, especially since most of its “patriots” are curled up, with their eyes shut tight, as waves of degeneracy, idiocy and infamy lap over them.

As their family graves are routinely crapped on by their ruling wardens, these pant-soiling patriots keep muttering, “Please don’t fire, deplatform or cancel me, massa! I’ll do whatever you say. I’ve never whispered one bad word about you, not even online. I’ve only used my internet privilege to spit at Afghan refugees and Mexican dishwashers, but no, no, no, I’m no racist! Black lives matter! Please give me the blackest flip-flop to french kiss!”

Conditioned by Hollywood to enjoy others being chopped or blown up, many Americans are getting a kick out of the current terror and panic in Afghanistan. Some justify this sick schadenfreude by saying these Afghans are collaborators who fully deserve their punishment or even death, but guess which country has provided the most collaborators, by far, to the evil empire?

America, of course.

To the millions who have fought for war profiteers and Jews, you must add all the employees of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon, etc., as well as all the academics who go along with the perverted, mostly Jewish-led social engineering agenda, and the journalists who spew nonsense and lies daily, on and on, so that, really, about the only innocent Americans are the little kids, those who will inherit a hellish, denatured reality as constructed by their clueless or spineless parents, not to mention an astronomical mountain of debts, as brought into being by a Jewish-dominated banking system.

Many Americans are also laughing at the quick collapse of the Afghan Army, but 66,000 of them did die fighting the Taliban and other opposition groups (who themselves suffered 51,191 deaths). 117,191 Afghan men, then, laid down their lives over conflicting versions of Afghanistan.

Do prove me wrong, but the only country that’s going down without any fight whatsoever is the United States of America.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Israel Lobby, Political Correctness 

Promising freedom, democracy and prosperity, America brings widespread destruction and death, but it’s all good, for the war profiteers. Since each Uncle Sam misadventure is a bonanza for them, the more, the merrier. Bring it on!

On April 21st, 1975, I was still in Saigon. As the Vietnam War neared its end, there was much turmoil, obviously, and much fear. I had stopped going to school. With Da Lat overrun, my aunt and her family showed up at our house.

After an 11-day battle, Xuan Loc, just 44 miles from Saigon, had just fallen. On our black and white television, I watched President Nguyen Van Thieu say:

The Americans have asked us to do an impossible thing… You have asked us to do something you failed to do, with half a million powerful troops and skilled commanders, and with nearly \$300 billion in expenditure over six long years.

If I do not say that you were defeated by the communists in Vietnam, I must modestly say that you did not win either. But you found an honorable way out. And at present, when our army lacks weapons, ammunition, helicopters, aircraft and B-52s (bombers), you ask us to do an impossible thing, like filling up the ocean with stones…

Likewise, you have let our soldiers die under the hail of shells. This is an inhumane act by an inhumane ally. Refusing to aid an ally and abandoning it is an inhumane act…

The United States is proud of being an invincible defender of the just cause and the ideal of freedom in the world… Are US statements worthy? Are US commitments still valid?

Less than a week later, I would be fleeing from Tan Son Nhat, on a C-130. Sitting on the floor, I wished I had a packet of instant noodles to munch on, uncooked, like some other kids.

Just hours after it took off, the North Vietnamese would shell the airport, rendering it useless while killing many people exactly like me, just trying to escape.

Watching Afghans fleeing in panic in 2021, Americans can even laugh, however. Andrew Anglin, “Look at them running! Run, faggots, run!”

Anglin also calls them “sluts and other sinners.” This is very bad form, Andrew. If they’re faggots, sluts and sinners, then Uncle Sam was their pimp, john, rapist and bugger, which is accurate enough, but how can you blame foreigners for believing in Slick Sam’s sexy come-on, his glammy image and thumping pitch, when even Americans don’t know better?

Sidestepping human shit and collapsed grandpas on downtown sidewalks, they still think America is number one!

“SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” signs, banners and stickers adorn working class bars and storefronts across the USA. Even after so many self-defeating wars that bankrupt their nation while murdering millions of innocents, they continue to enlist.

With guns, will travel. No one else thinks like this. I wonder how many Americans can even identify ten countries on a map, or maybe just five?

In 2013, I met a woman in Cheyenne who said her daughter was stationed in North Korea. I bet most Americans don’t even know they’re paying to have at least 900 troops in Syria. Where is Syria?

With their own neighbors or relatives slaughtered, they can’t stop fighting for war profiteers or Jews, for it has become an American rite of passage. Even queers and trannies demand a piece of this Satanic action.

As for whom they must fight, they don’t even have a clue, or they’re too cowed to name their true enemies. There’s no true resistance or hope for America until the first meaningful assassination. Only galvanized by this can a pushback begin.

Through April of this year, this is the death toll of America’s fiasco in Afghanistan: 2,448 American soldiers, 3,846 American military contractors, 66,000 Afghan soldiers and police, 1,144 allied soldiers (mostly from NATO countries), 47,245 Afghan civilians, 51,191 Taliban and other opposition fighters, 444 aid workers and 72 journalists.

The 66,000 Afghan soldiers and police who died didn’t fight for America. They had no reason to. They did, however, get suckered into believing a Potemkin Afghanistan as Elmer glued together by a jivey Uncle Sam, with its freedom, democracy, rights for women and prosperity, etc.

If they were fools, then the 2,448 American soldiers who died were even dumber, for they lost their lives in a faraway land for nothing more than the bottom line of war profiteers. Though many undoubtedly thought they were exacting revenge for 9/11, Afghanistan had nothing to do with that inside job.

In Walter Reed, how many are thinking, I lost my limbs, eyes, nose, dick and half of my brain for what?

No wonder military vet suicide rate is so high. They knew they’d been had, with many figuring out, even way before they were discharged, that they didn’t serve their beloved country but help to destroy its treasury, credibility and even soul.

After Pat Tillman realized what was going on, he got shot in the head by Uncle Sam. Not satisfied with shutting Tillman up for good, Sam milked his corpse for propaganda purposes. (Sam is expert at jerking cadavers and making them dance. JFK and Martin Luther King too.) American hero Pat Tillman was killed by the Taliban in battle, Sam claimed.

That’s the cynical and sinister fuck you’re dealing with, people, and Americans are no less dispensable than South Vietnamese or Afghans, etc.

To answer President Thieu’s questions. American statements are expedient lies, at best, and American commitments are made to be broken (and yes, even to Americans).

During the Vietnam War, Thieu constantly reminded us, “Don’t listen to what the Communist say. Look at what they do.”

To his grief and ours, Thieu discovered too late that Uncle Sam was as slick as the Commies when it came to mendacity and duplicity.

Sam can turn inside out, shed skin or flip flop with the best of them. After all, Joe Stalin was his best friend.

Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America. He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

 

After six months in Albania, it was time to move on.

Céline: “When you stay too long in the same place, things and people go to pot on you, they rot and start stinking for your special benefit.”

Actually, this did not happen to me in Albania. The longer I stayed, the more I loved the place and people, and during my last month, I even discovered an out-of-this-world seafood joint, right on my street, Mine Peza.

For just five bucks at Detari Fish, you can get octopus and mackerel drenched in olive oil, tagliatelle with shrimps or even a tub of clams plus a beer. Freshly caught, all the fish are deftly seasoned.

Saying goodbye to my landlady, I gave her a hug then tapped my heart three times, as if in penance. She chirped, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” That’s her only English, besides “good morning.”

When I was sick with likely Covid in March, I really thought I had killed the cheerful old bird. After coming to my door to deliver a package, she disappeared for about a week. Hearing no sounds in the hallway each day, I felt terrible lying in bed.

Great, now I will always be remembered in this neighborhood as the Chinaman who came all the way from Wuhan to murder Mrs. Berisha! When she showed up again, I babbled my happiness, though she couldn’t understand a word of it.

A week before my departure, Emirates canceled my flight, so I had to book another with KLM. Instead of one layover, now I had two, and my ticket even cost \$200 more! Such is traveling during Covid.

Granted, my destination wasn’t exactly hot, or it’s hot in all the wrong ways. I imagined many folks were trying to get out, even for good.

The day before my flight, I went for my Covid test at 7AM, to get the result by 1PM. If it came back falsely positive, I could dash to another lab, I reasoned. I also had to make sure the entry rules at my destination hadn’t changed, and there was no new lockdown.

Since Covid started, I had been in South Korea, Serbia, North Macedonia, Lebanon, Egypt, Albania and Montenegro. In all these countries, life was practically normal, with restaurants and cafes all open, and public buses or trains packed.

Only in Lebanon was I subjected to a lockdown, lasting two weeks, but it was so loosely enforced, it barely bothered me. (The Lebanese government has not been in control of much for a while.) During this “lockdown,” I traveled to several villages, and had pizza then coffee at two places around Tyre.

Much of East Asia is experiencing new Covid restrictions, as triggered by the “Delta variant.” In Vietnam, the surge in Covid deaths coincided with the introduction of foreign vaccines, starting this July. Saigon is in the midst of a five-week lockdown.

Two weeks ago, a Saigon friend emailed me a video of Cho Ray Hospital, with Covid patients lying immobile, and there’s even a corpse covered by a reed mat, with just his bony brown feet sticking out.

I’m familiar with that stiff posture (of the still living). Sick, I had to think for maybe an hour before daring to shift positions, and even worse, I could never really sleep. My extreme discomfort was constant for a month, with a two week span truly hellish.

In the video, a male voice narrates, “Oh God, I can’t even find a doctor at this hospital since this morning. They’re all hiding. There’s a dead body lying here since this morning, with no one to remove him to be cremated or be buried.

“Give the old man some oxygen! He’s about to die and there’s no doctor around. He probably won’t make it. All the doctors are hiding somewhere. The doctors don’t even dare to be here. There’s a corpse lying here since this morning. No burial, for real. There’s not a shadow of any medical personnel or doctor. Oh God, there’s an old man who’s about to die and there’s no doctor to save him.”

I was also emailed photos of a completely dead Saigon, including Trung Sisters Street in downtown at 6:34PM on July 26th.

Normally, there’s always some traffic on every Saigon street, even at 3AM, and a Saigon day starts at 5AM. In the middle of the night, farm produce is brought to wet markets all over the city, and there’s always a cafe that’s open wherever you are.

In Tirana, I was downing beer and seafood at Detari Fish, among laughing diners, with no social distancing whatsoever. Almost no Albanians wear masks anymore.

Just hours before my flight, I went to my neighborhood café, Lami’s, for the last time. Hearing, again, some rather schlocky Italian pop actually teared me up. Deep down, I’m just a total pussy. Adriano Celentano, “Io non so parlar d’amore / L’emozione non ha voce / E mi manca un po’ il respiro / Se ci sei c’è troppa luce.”

Just before taking the bus to the airport, I had my last Tirana meal at Chinese Garden, mostly to say goodbye to the Albanian waiter.

Like the two young ladies at Lami’s, he worked each day, and hadn’t had a day off in over four months. In fact, he had told me he worked 16 hours a day.

“No way, man! So when do you sleep?!”

“I barely sleep.”

“When do you see your girlfriend?”

“What girlfriend?! I don’t even have friends.”

But it’s OK, he said, for he was saving to buy an old car. “In Albania, they don’t appreciate these classic cars, but I want one. I’ll get one in five years.”

As a child, he had spent a decade in Greece, but he’s happy to be home, “Too many Albanians become criminals overseas, or they have dirty jobs. Yes, I’m a waiter, but my job is clean.”

Chinese Garden has a Chinese cook. In Tirana for five years, he’d work every day for 11 months, then fly home to see his wife and kids for a month. With Covid, airfares have jacked up and there’s a two-week quarantine, so he hasn’t been home in two years. Once, I heard him screaming for about half a minute in the kitchen. It must be terrible, his stress and loneliness.

As I walked out of the restaurant with my luggage, the waiter said, “Good luck, sir.”

“Maybe they’ll kill me,” I joked.

My first stop was Rome. With more than nine hours at Fiumicino, I lay on the floor in an empty section of Terminal 3, to await my 6:10AM flight. Slipping briefly into sleep, I heard footsteps all around me, but there was no one.

 

I just had my best sleep in a long time. My dreams were elaborate, meaning my harried mind finally had a chance to iron out, at least partially, a few kinks. In one dream, I was asked to review some miserable literary text, with a few footnotes in French. As I fudged and botched this unwelcomed task, a crowing rooster saved my ass. I woke up.

I’m paying \$10 a night in Librazhd, a mountain town of 6,937 people. When I got on the mini-bus in Tirana, the driver thought I had done so by mistake. Looking alarmed, he asked where I was going? Foreigners don’t come here.

My room has an air conditioner that doesn’t work. There is hot water. My bathroom is the size of a shower stall, which is perfect, because it also functions, in its entirety, as a shower stall. A shower hose snakes from the puny, “Euro Standard” sink, and there’s a drain on the floor. At least there’s no courtesy comb with lots of hair from previous guests. I have a tiny balcony to dry my handwashed clothing, so technically, I can stay here forever. What else do I need?

Cicadas buzzing overlays a gurgling stream. White or yellow butterflies weave, stagger and dip among the shrubs, weeds and wild white flowers. Birds chirp, frogs croak and stray dogs bark. Looking down, I see grapevines and two cans of Coke, the only trash. In the distance, finger-sized humans walk back and forth, fending off death. Among tenements lurks the shape of an Orthodox church, with its three-bell tower. There’s a basketball court that’s always empty, but the daily high has been around 100 degrees, 10 more than usual, for two weeks already. On the horizon, mountains have arranged themselves rather dramatically, for my sole benefit, I’m sure. Knowing I was coming, they hurried, with girlish giddiness, into place.

Across the hallway, there’s an old guy maybe five steps away from the morgue. Through his thin door, I can hear him hacking. Unlike me, he must use the shared bathroom. With no common language, we can only wave at each other.

This morning, one of the crowing roosters sounded like an infant crying, which tore me up. Even in the most idyllic setting, there’s tremendous suffering, of course, one room over or maybe even in one’s bed, but what do I know, I just got here. Fully clothed in awful hand-me-downs, we suddenly tumble in, and in clownish rags, if that, we shall book, trailing curses.

Librazhd is distinguished by a rather macabre, black stone monument to two murdered poets, Vilson Blloshmi and Genc Leka. In the middle of a rectangular fountain lie two decapitated heads, one with its eyes wide open. Poetic fragments crawl up the side of a head.

What a concept, to be killed for one’s poetry, but this savagery can only occur in a society that’s still civilized, where the most meticulously calibrated language still matters, where there are still verbal shades, hues and textures, not just single words to trigger constantly enraged idiots, as in present-day America! There, poets are too irrelevant to be murdered. It’d be like raping a corpse.

(Even in Philadelphia, there’s only one statue of a poet. A modest bust of Whitman is on out-of-the-way Oregon Avenue, in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts. Granted, there’s the elegant Walt Whitman Bridge, but that was built in 1957.)

Arriving in Librazhd, I headed straight to the center to get my bearings, and also to find a hotel. Like in the rest of Albania, there were cafés everywhere. At the fanciest, there was a panoramic photo of Dresden, that tragic city, jewel of Germany, barbarically destroyed. Shunning all the chichi ones, I eased into a spartan, half obscured joint, away from the main promenade.

At an outside table sat a wiry, leathery man in a polyester polo shirt and beige track pants, on their last legs. Between gulps of raki, he rolled a cigarette with gnarly fingers. Unlike my lame, overly brainy ass, he clearly knew how to swing a hoe without chopping his toes off.

I ordered a large Korca from a boy waiter. Maybe 14, he was brazenly growing his first moustache. Transitioning into a man is no easy challenge, with many, if not most, failing repeatedly until death. Cemeteries worldwide should be filled with this generic epitaph, “I’M SORRY. I FAILED TO BECOME A MAN.”

Hanging laundry on a second-floor balcony, a woman accidentally dropped a chunk of wood onto the pavement. Glancing down, she saw no writhing or dead body, so leisurely returned to her chore. Walking by, an old man in a knitted fez noticed me and smiled. Smiling back, I mumbled and nodded.

After my first swig of Korca, I leaned back, stretched out my legs and felt almost too comfortable, for everything around me was perfectly normal. People talked and laughed. Although open, frank conversations are dear to life, they’re too often denied. If you’re too distracted or censored from engaging in such, you’re in hell.

Bringing me my second Korca, the kid waiter volunteered in crisp English, “Do you need help with anything?”

“Actually, I’m looking for a hotel. Is there one near here?”

It’s not a question he had ever encountered, apparently, for he had to consult the next table for a good minute before answering me.

His directions, though, were very fluent and precise, “You go to that corner and turn right. You will then see a bridge, a concrete bridge. There’s also a wooden bridge, but don’t cross that! About twenty meters after this concrete bridge, there’s a gas station. Ask the people there. They’ll show you where the hotel is.” Now, you try that in whatever Spanish, French or German you can still dredge up from your high school or college days.

English instructions in small town Albania must be fairly good, for I’ve encountered similarly impressive young people elsewhere.

In Peshkopi, population 13,251, I talked to a 19-year-old for nearly an hour, and he had no problems following me.

“Man, your English is very good!”

“I was one of the best in my school,” he smiled. “We had an essay contest in English. I won it two years in a row!”

“Wow! What did you win?”

“Just a piece of chocolate!” He laughed. “For writing this long essay in English, they gave me a fuckin’ piece of chocolate!”

“Ha, ha!”

“We had an American teacher. He was a volunteer. He’s gone now.”

“So what can you do with your English skills?”

“Nothing, really. I was a waiter at this café. Next month, I’m going to Italy to pick fruits. I will be there for three months, at least. It will be hard work, but at least I’ll make money. Here, I can do the same and make no money.”

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Albania 

Last year in South Korea, I went into a fried chicken place and asked for half a bird. Misreading my hand gestures, the lady gave me a full one, but chopped up. It’s standard in South Korea to gorge on an entire chicken, while downing mugs of beer. Their BBQ restaurants also stuff you with meat, usually pork.

Germans, too, can devour frightful quantity of pork at one meal. Served such a sinful portion in Munich, I immediately thought, There’s no way all that is going to fit inside my body.

In Cairo five months ago, I’d sometimes eat dinner with the staff at my budget hotel. Though it was always varied and delicious, there was almost no meat. With flat bread, we scooped potato chunks, mashed fava beans, lentil dip, eggplant in an oily tomato sauce, pickled carrots and turnip, feta cheese spread or falafel, etc. Not bad, since it only cost around \$4 to feed three people. All over town, however, there were fast food joints that offered obscene-sized burgers. One named Cheesy Heart Attack had three huge beef patties topped with bacon, slices of cheese and deep-fried mozzarella sticks. A multi-tiered chicken sandwich was dubbed Bazooka. A five-piece chicken meal was called Bomb Attack!

Meat consumption is certainly an affluence index. In Albania, a typical deli sandwich, costing a buck or \$1.25, has only a few thin slices of salami or prosciutto, and even the cheese is broken up. Used to heftier Philly hoagies, I’d buy one to go, then supplement it with store-bought meat.

In downscale Tirana eateries with no English menus, you can get spaghetti with butter for around \$1.70, or a plate of pilaf with a meat-flavored broth for just \$1.30. Either can be consumed whenever, including for breakfast, and your glass of water is free.

I’m giving you these examples to show that eating habits vary very widely, with each considered normal, for its time and place. In Saigon, even a piss-poor banh mi is supposed to have pate, ham, cucumber, carrot, cilantro and mayonnaise, but in a mountainous village near the Chinese border, I ran into a guy bicycling around to hawk six sweetened rolls for 22 cents, for that’s all the market would bear, near the end of a winding, unpaved road, among the clouds, with fairies, angels and maybe even God, just around the next bend. Like a dumbshit, I asked him, “What else do you have?”

We’re not just ignorant of what others eat, but what we had to swallow not even that long ago, and that’s why Orwell is, again, so magnificent. Big-hearted, he paid the closest attention to the most banal, yet most insistent, of our problems. That of feeding ourselves.

In The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Orwell reproduces the food budget of a poor man, as printed in contemporary newspapers. His diet consists of just bread, margarine, dripping, cheese, onions, carrots, broken biscuits, dates, evaporated milk and oranges.

Orwell, “Please notice that this budget contains nothing for fuel. In fact, the writer explicitly stated that he could not afford to buy fuel and ate all his food raw. Whether the letter was genuine or a hoax does not matter at the moment. What I think will be admitted is that this list represents about as wise an expenditure as could be contrived; if you had to live on three and elevenpence halfpenny a week, you could hardly extract more food-value from it than that.”

Though in serious decline, the British Empire was still one of the most powerful, yet millions of Englishmen were literally disfigured by their poverty.

Orwell, “The most obvious sign of under-nourishment is the badness of everybody’s teeth. In Lancashire you would have to look for a long time before you saw a working-class person with good natural teeth. Indeed, you see very few people with natural teeth at all, apart from the children; and even the children’s teeth have a frail bluish appearance which means, I suppose, calcium deficiency. Several dentists have told me that in industrial districts a person over thirty with any of his or her own teeth is coming to be an abnormality.”

(In movies about England during this period, you don’t see any toothless smile, do you? That’s just Hollywood, obviously, so keep that in mind when you watch a film about any country. From its biggest claim to the smallest detail, Hollywood nearly always lies. You’d think everyone already knows that, but recently, an imbecilic reader used a Hollywood film to badger me about the Vietnam War. As Ron Unz sadly points out, Americans get most of their history from Hollywood. Talk about Jew-screwed! Shoah proves the Holocaust. Roots is a documentary about slavery. Three sistas took America to the moon, even if it never got there. It must be true because I saw it on a screen! No wonder the country is being flushed down a Third World shit hole.)

Orwell, “In one house where I stayed there were, apart from myself, five people, the oldest being forty-three and the youngest a boy of fifteen. Of these the boy was the only one who possessed a single tooth of his own, and his teeth were obviously not going to last long.”

After depicting working class life so grimly, Orwell paints an idyllic scene of a comparatively prosperous blue-collar home. On a winter evening after tea, “when the fire glows in the open range and dances mirrored in the steel fender, when Father, in shirt-sleeves, sits in the rocking chair at one side of the fire reading the racing finals, and Mother sits on the other with her sewing, and the children are happy with a pennorth of mint humbugs, and the dog lolls roasting himself on the rag mat.”

It’s where “you breathe a warm, decent, deeply human atmosphere which it is not so easy to find elsewhere. I should say that a manual worker, if he is in steady work and drawing good wages—an if which gets bigger and bigger—has a better chance of being happy than an ‘educated’ man. His home life seems to fall more naturally into a sane and comely shape. I have often been struck by the peculiar easy completeness, the perfect symmetry as it were, of a working-class interior at its best.”

This assertion that a laborer is more likely to be content than an intellectual was likely derived from Orwell’s socialist orientation at the time. Still, no society can be deemed healthy if its working man’s lot isn’t at least tolerable. In the US, it’s already impossible, and will only get worse.

 
• Category: Culture/Society, Economics • Tags: Food, Population, Poverty 

You grew up in El Cerrito, just north of Berkeley, then attended Reed College in Portland. Reed was like a madhouse in the 60’s. Then you went to Berkeley, before heading to Vietnam for four years, during the height of the war. Did you transform from a hippie to a gung-ho grunt?

I was too poor, too conservative and too goy to fit in well at Reed. At Berkeley I ignored the anti-war crowd and graduated in math in 1966.

I went to Vietnam to get out of the Army. IBM needed people to support the State Dept. and military. But… my National Guard signal company was a “designated reserve unit,” first to go if called by Pres. Johnson. They were not letting communications people out.

My sergeant was sympathetic to my problem, and excited that I had the chance to go to Vietnam. He said “The Army ain’t gonna step on its own dick. How’d you like to be a cook?”

In Danang I developed a rapport with the Marines I worked with. Glad not to be one, but respected them as people .

I’m assuming Vietnam was your first foreign country. It’s certainly not ideal to experience any place in during a war, with all its social turmoils and distortions. Still, you stayed there for four years, and even married a Vietnamese. What did you like and hate about Vietnam? Shoot straight!

IBM literally had to throw me out after four years. I loved the work, the warm weather, the freedom, the Vietnamese people and the money. I accumulated \$100,000.

All bachelors, we formed the Benevolent Association for Recreation and Fornication—BARFUP. Our mission was to make the most of the outstanding French, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants. We joined the elite French Club Sportif and Club Nautique.

The frustrations were tolerable: beggars, “I watch boys” who would vandalize your car if you didn’t pay protection, traffic cops who wanted bribes.

We developed what the French called la fièvre jaune, an appreciation of the beautiful young women. When one guy, who had divorced just to become eligible for Vietnam, brought his wife over we joked that he was “bringing a sandwich to a banquet.”

It is telling that despite the great availability of women, monogamy won out. Most settled down and quite a few are still married to their Vietnamese sweethearts. And why not? They love children, take pride in their bodies, and generally respect their husbands.

Vietnamese in French schools adopted French names, so my wife was Josée. Josée’s father, born in 1900 to the Bac Lieu province chief, studied law and lived in France. His firstborn of 12 came when he was 40. Mother, 20 years younger, was the daughter of the largest landowner. The incessant squabbles in their marriage presaged those in ours.

You ate your sandwich, and have apparently gotten over your yellow fever. You’re now married to a Ukrainian woman who’s 37 years younger! Can we assume she’d not have agreed to be your wife if you didn’t have an American passport? If so, is there anything wrong with that?

You can’t make that assumption. That would be the hard-up girls looking online to become “Russian brides.”

Looking for a place to practice English, Oksana dropped in on the Anglican church. My decade-older friend Mike chatted her up and squired her to Rotary and Toastmasters—where I also happened to be. Through conversations at their meetings she learned that I wanted to start a family. Mike escorted her to the Toastmasters Ball, where I danced with her.

She wanted to learn to type. My computer had a typing program. I put my arms around her and my hands on hers to position them properly. She still contends that the kiss on the neck came to her as a surprise, but I doubt it.

She played a weak hand well. Just as if she had read The Rules, she gave herself to me by slow degrees. She didn’t agree to marry until we had lived together for half a year. Encouraged by girls from her former dance troupe, she put my generosity to a one time test with diamonds and a fur coat. Satisfied, I heard nothing more. When burglars stole them they were not replaced.

While Oksana would like to see the United States, she has never had any desire to live there. Her family and friends are here.

We talk about our situation often in the context of encouraging mutual friends to get married. We were both somewhat unusual in that we were really committed to starting a family. The miracle is that we figured that out and were able to do something about it.

In between your Vietnamese and Ukrainian wives, you also had a Japanese one. How did you meet her?

I researched IBM overseas offices as my Vietnam tour ended. There was a sister office supporting the military in Germany. I booked an international telephone call—a rare thing in those days—to ask if they had openings.

I loved my time in Germany, learning the language and Spanish as well. I programmed what became an Army standard system—bit of a feather in my cap.

After Josée’s constant fighting led to our separation I discovered that my instincts had been right—the German girls were unromantic, hard-edged feminists. My one love was a Hungarian girl. Had I been wiser, I’d have married her.

When I returned from Germany in 1976, Washington was supposed to be a bachelor’s paradise—three women for every man. Yes, but each had read Sex and the Single Girl, The Feminine Mystique and Germaine Greer. They wanted careers and success—not families. The more attractive and intelligent, the more the corporate world would entice them. Those I met through church, the neighborhood and work were either uninteresting or uninterested.

I met this lovely half Japanese lady in my first week with Booz Allen just as short reconciliation with Josée failed. Within a month we were thrown together writing a government proposal. I had the expertise and the writing skill, Mary Ann knew Booz’ resources and how a proposal should be structured. I asked her out shortly after the victory party. She was surprised when “the bicycle guy” arrived at her door in a 450 SL.

She wasn’t sure that she wanted marriage or children, but gave it a try. However, she soon started her own company and career took precedence.

When you wed a foreigner, you’re also marrying her entire culture. How difficult was this? How did you get along with your foreign in-laws?

My Vietnamese, Japanese and Ukrainian mothers-in-law have all seemed happy that their daughters married somebody who could care for them. With minimal language overlap conversation was scant with the first two. Oksana’s mother and I talk easily about cooking, children and housekeeping. She can’t give me crap—I’m five years older and rather generous. Josée’s father enjoyed speaking of world affairs in French with somebody educated; subsequent fathers-in-law just weren’t interested. I’ve never gotten close to any of my wives’ siblings.

Josée’s friend My Linh and her French banker husband looked askance at the American husband. They didn’t trust America’s or American motives. In Germany Josée was the queen bee in the circle of Vietnamese rural wives, the one with savoir faire, the one who could negotiate in four languages, Vietnamese, French, English and German.

I didn’t form friendships with my wives’ friends until Ukraine. Oksana is extroverted. Her friends tolerate my Russian and/or are eager to speak English. Interest in the world is part of their culture.

What made you come to Ukraine initially?

 

At 80-years-old, you’ve done and seen quite a lot, but you didn’t exactly have an auspicious beginning. You couldn’t even graduate from high school. What happened?

I was expelled! I wasn’t much of a student anyway. I signed up for welding class and woodworking class, so I didn’t have to do any work, but in welding class, the instructor was a friggin drill sergeant from the Korean War! This son of a bitch was always ordering me around, “Do this,” “Do that.” If he didn’t like what I was doing, he’d say, “You, get on the floor, do twenty pushups!”

Right in class?

There weren’t desks or anything, but yeah. I had to get this asshole, so after school, I went back to the shop. There was no one in there, except me, so I welded a bunch of tools onto the welding table! My parents got a call. He knew immediately it was me.

So now what?

I joined the navy, on my 17th birthday. I wanted to see the world. My parents had to sign for me. We were living in Bellevue, Washington. Back then, it only had about 10,000 people. So I flew to San Diego. I had never been on an airplane.

When you enlisted, you had to take a bunch of tests. They had to see what your aptitude was, whether you were a dishwasher, or swab the deck, or being an electrician or machinist. I took these tests and scored very high on them, so it made me eligible for a lot of technical programs. I went to submarine school for about three months, had psychological training there. You had to go through a 100-foot-tall escape tank, to simulate an escape from a submarine. None of that stuff bothered me. I graduated easily.

So where did you go?

My first submarine was a diesel submarine. It had completed patrols in the Pacific in World War II, successfully. It had sunk some Japanese ships, that kind of shit. It had about 70 enlisted men, and 10 officers.

On a submarine, everything was pretty loose. You can have long hair, you don’t need to shave, you don’t need to shine your shoes or any of that shit.

It was pretty cool. This was amazing stuff, I thought. Nobody was at war, 1957, so I had joined an adventure program.

They sent us to Pearl Harbor, but it was only to refuel and add supplies. Not much fresh vegetables. Lots of frozen stuff, frozen meats. The vegetables, they stacked them in the showers, so we wouldn’t be able to use the showers for a few weeks.

I got into a little trouble in Hawaii, because we were only there for a couple days. They only let us out for one night, to get drunk, chase women.

I climbed onto the roof of this nightclub place that had an open-air dance floor. I took these coconuts off this tree, and I was throwing them down onto the dance floor. Just crazy shit.

They didn’t really do anything to me. They just said, “OK, don’t do that shit any more.”

Were you drunk?

I might have been. I hardly drank anything, to speak of. When I was 16 or 15, I may have had a beer that whole time. I smoked, but I didn’t drink.

This was amazing, Linh, for an 18-year-old kid, to experience this, traveling across the Pacific. We ended up having to go through a hurricane on the surface. We were taking 45-degree pitch, and 65-degree rolls, and my job was helmsman, trying to steer this thing.

Cruising at night on the surface, my job was to look out at night, it was very peaceful.

In Hawaii, I bought ten cartons of cigarettes. I smoked Lucky Strike. They were a dollar a carton! I got paid \$75 a month. Plus, we got another \$30 hazardous duty pay, for being on a submarine. I really didn’t understand why. I didn’t see any hazard.

Seventy days later, we pulled into Yokosuka, Japan. Seventy days.

In Hawaii, we had seven or eight civilians come onboard, which was very unusual. Who are these guys? It ended up they were CIA. Our mission was to spy on a Russian naval base, right off the Russian naval base, submerged, and tap into their undersea cables, to monitor all their communication.

We were laying on the bottom, dead quiet, no engine running. No fans running, just dead quiet, hiding, and listening. There was a Russian destroyer that came out. You could hear their active sonar, looking for us. Apparently, they had an alarm that we were there, or some indication that we were right there.

We were just sitting on the bottom, in about 200 feet of water, not very deep. They started dropping depth charges. You know what those are? They’re big canisters they rolled off the destroyer, to try to kill submarines.

There’s your hazard pay!

Yeah, but we survived. So we were pinned down, and the air was getting low. The air was getting very screwed up. On the bunks, back in the crew’s quarters, we had carbon monoxide absorbent powder. The problem was we couldn’t turn on the air valves. There was no noise allowed. It was a little bit tense.

I remember going into the control room. That’s where they had the periscope and all that shit. I went up to the officer, and I said, “Hey lieutenant, you don’t mind if I smoke a cigarette?”

You couldn’t breathe and you wanted to smoke a cigarette?!

I figured I might as well have one more, if I was going to die soon. The officer said, “No, no , no, go ahead,” so I took out my Zippo and my Lucky, but the lighter wouldn’t light! He just laughed at me. There wasn’t enough oxygen to light the lighter.

So we weren’t caught by the Russians. We escaped, finally. They gave up after a while. Going deeper, we slowly crept out of there.

Eventually, we got back to Yokosuka, where the submarine was put onto a dry dock to be repaired. The hull of the submarine was damaged from the depth charges. It caved in from the compression of the explosions underwater.

It took six weeks to repair the submarine, so we had six weeks of rock and rolling! Can you imagine an 18-year-old kid, going into… Women everywhere, bars, 18-years old! Woo! Rock and roll!

Here’s a funny one. Halfway through, the chief of the boat, Jenkins, said we’re going to have a ship’s party. He said, “Everything in there is paid for! Everything.” Anyway, the ship’s party was in a brothel! It was at a fuckin’ brothel, with free pussy for everybody!

Jenkins was like a father to the other enlisted men. Besides organizing group activities for the crew, he also lent money to you if you were broke, and you paid him back on payday.

Did any man refuse to go to the party?

Oh no, no, no, we all went. What do you mean?

There might have been guys who were super religious, who didn’t think it was right.

No, no, no. They’re submarine sailors. What do you think?

It’s interesting, we had black guys on there too. Two or three black guys. At the time, black guys could join the navy, but they could only be stewards to the officers. You know, servants. Same with the Filipinos. They could join the navy, but they couldn’t be an electrician, torpedo man or anything. They had to work as stewards, as servants for the officers. It was pure racist crap.

It’s interesting, Linh, but where I grew up, during my entire existence, up to that point, I don’t think I had seen a black person, in person. Maybe on TV, you know. Like most things, I didn’t give it any thought.

One of the black guys became my best friend. We’d go get some women together, and stuff like that, and drinks.

He ended up with a girlfriend, after about two weeks there. I found a girl that I semi fell in love with, at 18. I stayed at her place most nights, that I could.

Then we went to Hong Kong. As a young, 18-year-old kid, and knowing very little, it was really amazing, the shit I went through, and discovered.

 
• Category: Culture/Society 
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.