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Saturday, December 9, 2017



O'Jung's--Pennsport (detail)

O'Jung's--Pennsport (detail 2)

[O'Jung's in Pennsport]



House with Trump signs in second floor windows--Passyunk Square

House with Trump signs in second floor windows--Passyunk Square (detail)

House with Trump signs in second floor windows--Passyunk Square (detail 2)





The first 11 comments at Unz Review

to my "Obscured American: Melissa the Iraqi Refugee":

• eah says:
December 9, 2017 at 5:40 am GMT • 100 Words

Yes, I know Melissa is not yet an American, but she will be one soon enough. Moreover, by wrecking her native country, America has caused Melissa to be here, so she is very much an American product.

We’re all sorry about “wrecking” Iraq (how ‘unwrecked’ it was before is another matter), which in democratic America no one ever voted for — but “wrecking” America by bringing Melissa and her brood, not to mention millions of others like them from countries that ‘wrecked’ themselves without any help from America, is not something we’re really interested in — we didn’t vote for that either.

• MikeatMikedotMike says:
December 9, 2017 at 6:04 am GMT • 100 Words

To hell with Melissa, and her kids. She is a product of a reckless progressive government, forced upon an unwilling American populace. I did not ask for war against her country. I do not ask for her burden here either. Take her, and your bigotry back to east Asia, Dinh, you despicable squatter, where you can live in brown utopia. Only there you can be free of the evils of whiteness, and Western Civilization. We, the horrible whites, who you choose to live amongst. I never chose to live amongst you or Melissa, but i guess I’m stuck with you.

• jim jones says:

December 9, 2017 at 8:14 am GMT

There is an Iraqi refugee staying near me in West London, people hate her because she flew into this country and got everything for free from Social Services. She has a house and car and sits around all day watching TV.

• Biff says:
December 9, 2017 at 8:21 am GMT

You should paraphrase her work just a little bit, but it was nice never the less.

• anonymous says:
December 9, 2017 at 8:38 am GMT • 100 Words

“Yes, I know Melissa is not yet an American, but she will be one soon enough. Moreover, by wrecking her native country, America has caused Melissa to be here, so she is very much an American product.”

Sounds like she and the kids are fitting right in. Are the boys Eagles fans yet?

• neutral says:
December 9, 2017 at 9:59 am GMT • 100 Words

Let me say it straight, I don’t consider her an obscured American, she is an Arab that does not belong in America, made even worse by the fact that she has brought in so many Arab children.

I can sympathize with that story of her 14 year daughter, but these supposed tear jerker stories simply don’t work anymore for me. White people are basically being ethnically cleansed in most white lands, whether these foreigners come as conquerers or with sob story refugees the end result is still the same, they are threat and feeling sorry for those that will replace you is the height of stupidity.

• RealAmerican says:
December 9, 2017 at 12:04 pm GMT

The tragic circumstances of this woman’s life should have been told with far greater sensitivity and dignity. If there’s a point to this rant, I simply missed it.

• AndrewR says:
December 9, 2017 at 12:18 pm GMT

Negro-loving immigrants should be the highest deportation priority

• Anonymous says: •
December 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm GMT • 200 Words
Melissa has been in the US for 2 years and 7 months. With no husband here, she must manage six children, aged 18, 16, 14, 11, 8 and 5. Her 16-year-old daughter, Melina, wants to be cheerleader, but that’s not going to happen, Melissa said.

It’s her 14-year-old daughter, however, who’s giving Melissa the most trouble. Mina has discovered sex and at least marijuana. “She likes black guys,” Melina told me. Mina would disappear for days, and once, drove Melissa’s car away and stranded her mother.

Man, such a heart-warming story. I feel so enriched. This is exactly the type of breeders the US needs to multiply and vote.
Yes, I know Melissa is not yet an American, but she will be one soon enough. Moreover, by wrecking her native country, America has caused Melissa to be here, so she is very much an American product.

She’s a product of Israel. At this point in time Israel has not yet learned how to be multicultural. And I think we are going to be part of the throes of that transformation, which must take place. Israel is not going to be the monolithic societies they once were in the last century. The white race is going to be at the centre of that. It’s a huge transformation for Israel to make. They are now going into a multicultural mode and whites will be resented because of our leading role. But without that leading role and without that transformation, Israel will not survive.

• ThreeCranes says:
December 9, 2017 at 2:14 pm GMT • 100 Words

This woman and her six children…..during the Bronze Age we would have killed her children and enslaved her. She would have been a sex slave and domestic servant to a powerful warrior, bearing his half-breed bastard children. In this way, she would have been assimilated–literally genetically assimilated.

But we have left those clear-thinking days behind us so we are left to ponder what to do with her and ask ourselves what benefit she and her brood confers upon America.

• wayfarer says:
December 9, 2017 at 2:21 pm GMT • 200 Words

Brother Orloski,

Here’s a bullet-proof plan for your pal Jimmy, the freezing homeless Texan.

Back in the day, your American hobo could’ve hopped a freight train, and gotten the hell out of Scranton, come winter.

But today, your American hobo just needs to panhandle $176, and he’s got himself a one-way Greyhound bus ticket, from Scranton PA to Miami FL.


Along with an EBT card, which Jimmy no doubt qualifies for, were talking first-class cuisine for the first-class ride.

Once in Miami, one can lease a taxi-cab. Instantly you’ve got yourself a job, spending money, drunk women, and a mobile beach house. Cops typically won’t cite a cabbie for sleeping in the back seat of their cab. I know this from experience.

P.S. Maybe you and Linh ought to get a pair of bus tickets for Miami, too. No doubt there are plenty of colorful gonzo tales to write about down there, you know in “paradise.”


Friday, December 8, 2017

Obscured American: Melissa the Iraqi Refugee

As published at Unz Review and OpEd News, 12/9/17:

With their vast parking lots and chain stores, strip malls may appear generic, impersonal and characterless, but each harbors an intense web of social interactions, with an infinity of stories to tell, but to even state this is redundant, for there’s no man, woman, child or dog who isn’t, by his lonesome, asshole self, a thousand-page novel.

In Scranton recently, I was daily dragged by Chuck Orloski to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Washington Avenue. From its beauteous and ample plate glass window, I could espy the wondrous China Moon across the street, and Dollar Tree, Rite Aid, Brick Oven Pizzeria, Pro Nails and PNC Bank were all within rifle shot distance.

Chuck knew just about everybody in Dunkin’ Donuts but the guy sleeping in the corner, with his head on the table. He introduced me to Andy, Hoppie and Melissa. Behind the counter was Ashley.

Ashley’s husband, Brian, did a good deed two weeks ago. When the temperature dipped into the 20’s, Brian went to check on Jimmy, a homeless guy who always slept outside Weiss, the dead supermarket. It’s a spot the native Texan liked because it fully caught the morning sun. This morning, Jimmy’s teeth were chattering, and it sure didn’t look like he could survive the next several days, all forecast to be sub-freezing. With another Dunkin’ Donuts buddy, Brian took Jimmy to the West Side Hotel, two miles away, and gave him three nights, at $150 altogether. They also gave him a bag of donuts and breakfast sandwiches.

Ten days later, Brian was $50 short for his gas bill, however, so Chuck lent him $43, all he had in his wallet.

When Chuck moved into Lighthouse, a charity home run by a blind Carmelite nun, Hoppie gave his friend an 8-inch TV, for he was certain Andy Griffith, Columbo, X-File, Gunsmoke and the Philadephia Eagles could divert Chuck from always thinking about his many woes.

Sitting across from Hoppie, I could see that he was very pleasant, if a bit senile. Next to me was Melissa, an Iraqi refugee. Two of her kids were also at the table. Hearing about her difficulties, Hoppie would exclaim, “God bless you,” or, “I’ll pray for you.”

Turning to me suddenly, Hoppie blurted, “Welcome to America!”

Before leaving, Hoppie pleaded to Melissa, “And please, pray for me too, for I need your prayer.” Then he got up and did a lurching jig on the open floor, to the mild amusement of the cashiers. They had seen it. Encouraged by their grins, Hoppie kept dancing for a bit too long.

Melissa has been in the US for 2 years and 7 months. With no husband here, she must manage six children, aged 18, 16, 14, 11, 8 and 5. Her 16-year-old daughter, Melina, wants to be a cheerleader, but that’s not going to happen, Melissa said.

It’s her 14-year-old daughter, however, who’s giving Melissa the most trouble. Mina has discovered sex and at least marijuana. “She likes black guys,” Melina told me. Mina would disappear for days, and once, drove Melissa’s car away and stranded her mother.

Yes, I know Melissa is not yet an American, but she will be one soon enough. Moreover, by wrecking her native country, America has caused Melissa to be here, so she is very much an American product.

On Melissa’s left arm was a heart tattoo with a dagger sticking out of it. Her eyebrows had also been tattooed on. Her head was uncovered.

I never sleep enough. Like, four hours, five hours. That’s it.

I work at Dunkin’ Donuts, from last year, October.

We have three thousand pound of dough. Sometimes three thousand pound. More! They pay me 11 an hour. I work hard, hard, hard.

You know the jelly? I fill that. Yesterday, I fill 62 baskets. Too much, 62, too much. My neck hurt all the time. Then, I take the sugar jelly. Yesterday, 68. You’re killing me, man.

If you work from 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, four hours, they give you 30 minutes. I take overtime, so nine hours, 30 minutes. And they don’t pay you, you know. Other companies pay you.

People who work five years, they give them 12.

I want to change this work. Horrible.

I work at TJ Max. Was bad. Because I work just two days. I have to watch my baby. Saturday and Sunday, because my kid home, I can’t work.

He in childcare. The bus pick him up every day, 7:50. I give my baby to the bus, then he come back 3:30.

Sometime, they told me, “You have to work at 4 O’clock.” I have to take my baby, then I have to go to the other school, for my daughters.

I never sleep. Never. I told you. I can’t sleep.

Sunday off, Monday working, Tuesday off. They don’t give me two days off. Fuck it. No problem. “Because we don’t have the people.” Of course, you don’t have the people, because everybody left. One day, everybody left. Too much. Good people quit.

Spanish people, they steal stuff. I just finish my work. I see beside the car, a bucket. They say, “Mommy, don’t touch it.” It’s heavy. I think about telling the manager. I afraid.

We have buckets of vanilla, chocolate. Expensive buckets. More than 30 dollar. Used to be nobody take this stuff. They take the glaze. They have friends with stores, so they sell it.

We have 24 people. American, Spanish, anybody. Just me, Araby.

In my country, the men work. The women watch the kids, the house.

In 2003, I live with my mom, and my dad, in Baghdad. When my mom die, when my brothers die, I be married, this time. So I live with my husband, in Kirkuk, then, terrible with that family, so I move back to Baghdad. I live in Baghdad nine years.

My father is a farmer. He grow vegetables, fruits, apples, lemons. One day, I stand with my father outside, and American trucks, four! come. We see my brothers come home from fishing. Two, three American soldiers jump from trucks, shoot, tat, tat, tat, tat! They kill my brothers, so we get their bodies, you know. We have a good life, but they break it.

Al Sadr, he die, but his son, his son maybe fight with the American. They shoot them. They just want to be, like, a hero, you know. They don’t care for the people. I say, “Man, what are you talking about?! The American have this one, guns, different. What are you talking about?! You have, ah, ah, Kalashnikov? What do you have? They know where are you. The American, they have everything. Why you kill your people, man? You know, when you make all this stuff, the people are killed. They’re destroyed. The people be die, like, for no reason.”

2014, I pay money for visa. Around 90,000 Iraqi. Six hundred dollar. Me, and my babies. Then I leave from Baghdad to Kirkuk. We stay on the bus for 44 hours.

Monday, we come to Turkey, and just sleep the night. I wake up with my children. We sleep in the hotel. It’s not hotel, like apartment? I wake up at 5:30 in the morning. Just take my children to United Nations. So, I just told them, “I want to get out of here, man. I want to get out, because I have the kids. My life is hard in Iraq. My life is difficult, too difficult. My kids, every day, I’m scared to death, you know. When my kids go to school, oh my God, every minute I hear boom! boom! My heart is like this, all the time, every morning. When they come home, I’m scared somebody come and kill them. My kids, you know?” So I just told them, “Please help me!”

They take my name. They take my children’s names. So, between there and there, I don’t have a house, I don’t have enough, so I go to my cousin. He was in Turkey. My husband’s uncle, before me he go there. So my cousin, he help me to find house. Five days, I stay with my cousin. I find a house. The Turkey people, they help me. Too much. They bring some stuff. I buy some stuff to my kids. I just stay in the house. My husband, he work. He send me money, to pay the rent.

My husband used to be coming with me, but he, “No, I can’t. I have to work here. La, la, la, la, la…” I told him, “No, you have something going. Why you don’t want to come with me? You lose me, man.”

“No, I’m coming behind!”

I think he has another woman. Yeah. Exactly.

I stay in Turkey almost three years. After three years, he forget. When he forget, I’m looking for another husband.

I was, want to go to Estraly. You know Estraly? Yeah, Australia! There, they take care of the people. Here, I see different stuff. It’s hard. The work. One day, you’re not working, you can’t do anything. It’s hard.

Australia, they pay you for one year. You have to study, study in the school to learn. You have to, every day, go. If not going to school, they don’t give you your food. Smart. Then, every day, every night, they give you three times, food. It’s nice. Here, it’s difficult.

So, I was, want to go to there, Australia.

When they told me, “United States,” I told them, “Let me take time. Let me think it,” because my husband, he don’t want me to go to America, because, I don’t know, he has a friend. They told him, “The life in America is hard. The life in Australia or Germany, it’s nice.”

The people, they told me, “You’re lucky, girl! You’re lucky, girl! You’re fast! There are people who wait seven years! To get out Turkey.”

When I come here. The social service, they give me 5,000. They rent the house for me, six months. I do not find a job, five months.

They have ESL classes, but I don’t go there. Man, I don’t have time. I go one day a week, but I don’t like. I already know this stuff. One month, two month, three month in America, this stuff is easy.

I sing. I love to watch music. Everything, music. I love Limp Bizkit. I love Future. Adele. Ali-A. I listen all the time. All the time. Make me forget everything. The music give you… happy.

I don’t dance. Not too much. We don’t have the time to dance.

I watch American music when I, a child. I watch almost 80%, from all the movies, American. American. I love American music.

You know Saudi? Arabia Saudi? They have one channel for American movies. They translate the movies. I love Indiana Jones. Rocky. I love Fast and Furious. Paul Walker, he die. Jackie Chan, I love.

Look at this, man. Abu Dhabi. Police cars. Lamborghini. Uh huh. Exactly!

When we come to America, we stay a couple hours in New York, then they put me in the car, and we’re leaving to here. Social service, they connect with this people. Yeah, so they found the house. They bought the food. They already made everything for me and my children. Just open the door. Stay here.

Even the bed. The beds for the kids. They made food. They made everything, so we just open the door. Stay here.

They help me, a couple months, then bye!

The government gave me, I think, five thousand dollar, so they found, for me, bad house. The church, they found, for me, bad house. Bad, bad, bad house.

They pay the rent for six months, from my money. They pay for me the stuff, for the house, beds or something, the sofa. Stuff, from my money, so they told me, “Ah, we pay this, we pay this, we pay this, we pay this, we pay this!” They bring a receipt. I just look at it. Then they give me one thousand dollar.

They tell me, “This is what we have now, OK? You have to go to the bank. Open your, this one. Here’s a thousand. Maybe you’ll need it.”

It’s not enough to do anything. “Keep the money! Keep the money!” I tell them.

The people, they understand how they play. They bring bad stuff, and they take all my money, you know? Even the shampoo, they bring for me the cheaper one, you know, that blue one. Bad, bad, bad stuff, they bring my house. Why you spend this money, man? They steal it. Yeah!

If they’re just working for help the people, so how everybody, like, have a good car? Yeah, they steal the money from the people!

I don’t have a cousin here, nobody in America, so I’m, like, blind.

What the heck. If you wish, don’t buy for me nothing, the people will help me. When I live my house, after three days, the people bring for me stuff, you know. Jama, the mosque. The mosque send people. They bring for me everything, everything, so why don’t wait?

The social service, they know the system here. Why you steal my money already, before I come? I lose the money. My stuff is bad. The people help me, so I lose the money, you know.

The mosque. Saudi Araby, the people when they study here, in America, so they have a mosque. Some people, like, students, Maghreb, like, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Araby students. The people, they’re nice people. They help.

I go to the mosque three times, on the holidays.

So I have to bring something to my children. You know, they want something different. They tell me, “I can’t eat that food.” It’s difficult, because it was other culture, so my kids, “Oh mom, I can’t smell that. I can’t smell that food. I can’t.” I tell them, “You have to eat it. No choice. You have to eat it,” then one day, two days, they like it. They eat it.

My daughter, this week, she’s not coming home. Four days. Last week, I call the police. I lose the girl. You know, when I told the police, “My daughter, she’s not coming home, three days.” I told them, “I don’t know where she is.”

She smoke. Weed.

She beautiful, taller than me, beautiful girl.

Yo, man, she’s a smart girl. She smart. When I leave the house, she behind me, but she not coming.

My son, the big one, he told me, “Mom, I put Mina in the basement.” I say, “No, you don’t want trouble, baby. You get in trouble, for what?”

She not call me. I cut her phone, you know. I cut the line, last week. I told the police, “I cut her line, to stay home, but she never stay home.”

I’m just thinking, “If I cut the phone, she stay home. She can’t connect with anyone. She just stay home, and watch her homework,” but she outside for four days. She don’t ask about me. Before, she call me, “Mom, I miss you.” I told her, “You miss me. Come home.”

My son, he good boy. I say, “Your brother is your brother. He can’t take your blood. No. Even if he scare you, or something, it’s for a reason, right?”

The Arab people different from other people. Like, they accept the girl outside anyway, but she have to respect the house, respect the mama, respect the dad. That’s it.

I know what’s going on here. She stay with her friend. She take her around, around, around. They smoke weed. When she finish with that, she come back to the house.

The Jordan girl buy. My daughter just smoke. Sometime, my daughter stay with the Spanish girl.

I don’t know what she want, man. I don’t understand her. Everybody home. All my kids home. Why she always outside?

Sometime, she go to school. She come home after 12 O’clock. She don’t find nobody open the door. I give her the key. She lost it. She sleep outside.

I was working. She call me, “Mom, I make my nails. I have no money. I finish now. You have to come now, now! To give me money!”

Fast, I go outside, because they don’t give me half an hour or something. I give her the money. She tell me, “Take me home.” I have to go back to work fast.

When she talk to my son, she eat him like crazy, “No, don’t talk with me. You’re not my father! You’re not my mother! So why you talking with me? I call the police for you, OK? You touch me, I call the police.”

What he do? He stay in his room. He tell me, “Mom, I go to my room.” I tell him, “OK, baby, stay away from her. I don’t want to lose you together.”

He see his sister outside all the time. He think I give her everything, to be outside. No.

This week, my car almost break down. I need new work. I need to move, man.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Thanks for a $180 contribution from a long-time supporter in Frankfurt, Germany! I'll split it with by Scranton buddy, Chuck Orloski.


Saturday, December 2, 2017


Bus station--Stroudsburg



Thanks for a $50 contribution from a new donor!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Postcard from the End of America: West Scranton

As published at OpEd News, Unz Review, LewRockwell, Intrepid Report and Truth Seeker, 11/30/17:

On Thanksgiving, I came to Scranton to stay with a 65-year-old friend who’s going through a cage fight kind of divorce, though only one side is dishing out the sharp elbows and knees. Just hearing Christmas music at the Dollar Store was driving him mad, Chuck confessed. The four-hour bus ride from Philly stopped in Doylestown, Easton, Stroudsburg and Mount Pocono.

Just outside Easton, a black man had just shot two white cops after he was pulled over for speeding, and even as I dozed on the bus, another black man murdered a white state trooper in faraway Texas. Both incidents would be downplayed by our media, then forgotten almost immediately.

Getting off the bus, I thanked the friendly bus driver, a middle-aged black man. He, too, would have a late Thanksgiving dinner. From the terminal, Chuck came into the cold to meet me, and together, we walked half a mile to The Lighthouse, his group home. Paying $400 a month, Chuck gets a 10X10, plus use of the communal kitchen and dining room. Paying $100, I got five nights.

Sister Lindy Morelli, the blind Carmelite nun who runs Lighthouse, was supposed to have dinner with me, but since she suddenly had a migraine headache, I ended up eating solo. Though a vegetarian, Lindy had made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the entire house. My heart-warming plate had turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mash with gravy, string beans, cauliflower and carrot. For Lindy, I brought a bottle of Chianti Classico, complete with the black rooster seal, but she drinks no alcohol, I found out.

“Can I cook with this?” Lindy asked me the next morning.

“No, no, it’s too good for that!”

“Oh yeah?!” She laughed. “I’ll give it to my sister then.”

Founded in 1994, The Lighthouse has hosted nearly a hundred people. As could be expected among the destitute, there have been criminals, freaks and life-long bunglers, but the vast majority were just ordinary folks, down on their luck. One morning, I chatted with 55-ish Lee Ann, who had been at The Lighthouse for over a year.

“When you told Chuck you had to go to work at 8, he said, ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’ That’s pretty funny. Why sorry?”

“Ah, you don’t know! The dayshift people don’t do nothing, so when I come in, I’ll have to clean up after them. They don’t count the leftover newspapers, or put them away. It’s not my job to train them. I don’t get paid enough!” We laughed.

Price Chopper is a supermarket chain. This week, you can get 10 cans of Chef Boyardee for just 10 bucks. Lee Ann has worked there for six years.

The short, slightly overweight lady was on the couch, while my rotund self was beached at the dining room table. On the walls were crosses, Jesuses and uplifting messages. Over the stairs was a watercolor of a kneeling woman with her hands together, "Prayer is the key to the morning and the lock of the evening." The Lighthouse doesn’t proselytize, however.

Lee Ann sighed, “This week, I’ll have three funerals to go to go. Three!”


“One is for a co-coworker. She’s in the bakery. We just took up a collection for her.”

“She has no family?”

“She lived with the mom. She had kids, I think, but no husband.”

“How old was she?”

“Around 35. She died of a blood clot.”

“Dying of a blood clot at 35!”

“She was a big girl.”

Lee Ann has had her own health issues. She had a brain tumor removed at age five, and was operated on for kidney cancer recently. Her recovery, she attributes to a miraculous icon at St. George, a Greek Orthodox church she attends every Monday and Wednesday, “I was waiting outside in my car by 4:30. The door opens at 5, and service begins at 6. It’s always packed.”

Online, there are several testimonies about the healing power of the myrrh exuding icon of Taylor, PA. One example:

A man had a massive heart attack while in the church. Two nurses who were present rushed over to him and began to do CPR, while others called 911. As the nurses tried to revive him, he showed no pulse, stopped breathing and actually died. While waiting the few minutes for the ambulance to arrive, Fr. Mark Leisure, the priest of St. George Orthodox Church in Taylor, PA took the Kardiotisa, “The Tender Heart” myrrh-flowing, miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary and held it over the man so that the fragrant myrrh would drip from the icon onto the chest of the man. Immediately, the dead man took a deep breath, opened his eyes, and began singing “Mary, Mother of God Save Me.” By the time the paramedics arrived, he was sitting up and didn’t think he needed to go to the hospital, even though they insisted that he get checked.

One stranger began to attend on Mondays, and at one point stood up and said, “These icons in the Church are against Allah. They are idolatry.” He argued that Allah was not pleased with these icons. After attending for a few weeks, this man from Iran finally approached the icon. Fr. Mark admitted that everyone was tense because he wasn’t sure what the man was going to do. Over the past three years, Fr. Mark has seen someone pull out a knife and try to stab the icon; others have tried to smash it; some have spit on it; and one person even vomited over the protective case. The man from Iran approached and stood motionless in front of the icon covered with fragrant myrrh. Fr. Mark said the man was like in a trance, and it seemed like a battle was going on in his mind. Slowly a tear formed in his eyes, and he began to cry. He kissed the icon. As he walked out of the church, he stopped by the candle stand and wrote something in the sand in Arabic. Since no one could read Arabic, the priest took a picture of what he wrote and got someone to translate it. The man wrote, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Several months later this man was baptized and is now a pious Orthodox Christian.

“I’m a walking miracle,” Lee Ann declared. The icon gives her energy and hope.

Going back upstairs, she said, “I don’t know about this Meghan with Prince Harry. Everybody’s talking about it! Ellen was discussing it, and that’s what they’re going to talk about, too, on The Talk. The Queen is not too happy about Meghan being divorced, you know, but I say, ‘Look at your own son, Charles! Just shut up already!’”

Their coal seams exhausted, their factories gone, Scrantonians get by on dead-end jobs, cheap alcohol, pills and unaffordable heroin. In September of 2017, Lackawanna County sued pharmaceutical companies over the ever-deepening opioid crisis. “The line has been drawn,” the county commissioner declared.

Scrantonians down opioids at nearly twice the national rate. Last year, an overdosing 21-year-old was strangled to death with jumper cables by three of his close friends, including his girlfriend. The police, “Bottom line, they drove right past a hospital and continued north on I-81. At this time, we are not sure why they did that.” Stopping for gas, they put sunglasses and hat on the corpse.

As the CIA and big pharma get away with pushing drugs, it’s the minnows that get busted. For transporting marijuana, Jack Reese got locked up for 20 years. OK, so it was a ton, enough to fill a U-Haul, but weed has never hurt the least of God’s creatures. Jack now works for the St. Francis soup kitchen in downtown Scranton.

Barrel-chested, nail-tough yet mellow, Jack is a guy you’d want on your side in any fist or firefight. Before he was snagged, Jack spent two years in Kensington, Philly’s heroin bazaar, “I wasn’t dealing drugs then. I painted churches.”


“Yeah, but I wasn’t, like, Michelangelo or nothing. I painted the outside.”

Many early mornings, Jack would give shelter to a freezing whore, “By 3 or 4, their prices would go down.”

“Were they good looking?”

“The tops of their heads looked fine to me!”

This time, Jack ducked into Waldo’s Tavern just to say a quick hello to me. In this old man bar with a shuffleboard, I was surrounded by near fossils who reminisced about incidents from half a century ago. A tallish fellow, Herb, recounted, “I could outrun even the black guys, so the coach had me returning kicks and punts. The one time I scored a touchdown, however, one of our guys pushed one of theirs in the back, so the touchdown didn’t fuckin’ count.” Herb shook his head. Commiserating, I did the same.

Several of the old heads had worked for Roadway, the trucking company, and so I heard tales from the endless war between workers and management. A black worker pulled out his schlong in front of a new manager, as the man was talking on the phone. A manager’s car was slammed in the parking lot. Grease was smeared onto office phones.

“They were all cocksuckers, I tell you. They got kicked out of every bar in Scranton. One manager took a dump on a pool table, can you believe it? They went to a Red Barons game and punched the fuckin’ mascot. It turned out she was an 18-year-old girl! A manager’s wife had just delivered a baby, so on the way from the hospital, he picked up a prostitute. He thought it was hilarious!”

The man on the next stool, Earl, survived Roadway for 38 years. Retired, he can devote more time to his passion for antique bottles. He showed me one, on his phone, that’s shaped like the head of George Washington, “I bought it for $25. It’s worth several hundred.” Earl’s five kids are all productive, drug-free citizens. I met one who’s a manager at Dunkin Donuts. The cheerful young lady is getting married this Saturday. Earl and his late wife also raised his two nieces, after their dad had died.

During my four hours in Waldo’s, the three televisions showed ESPN nonstop, and on the wall, there was a Pittsburgh Steelers’ Terrible Towel. Though a Steelers fan, Earl hadn’t watched an NFL game all year, he said, in protest against black players kneeling during the national anthem.

Like any other blue-collar town or neighborhood, Scranton is aflutter with the Star-Spangled Banner. There’s a guy who drives around in a white pickup truck, with two large flags in the back, plus two small ones up front. On many city buses, there is an add for the Pennsylvania National Guard, “SECURE YOUR FUTURE / DEFEND YOUR COUNTRY.” Among the perks is “Low-Cost Health Insurance.”

Without it, you may end up like a middle-aged man whose smiling face is on posters around town, “BENEFIT FOR PAUL ‘OLLIE’ MORGAN, TO HELP DEFRAY MEDICAL EXPENSES RELATED TO HIS ON GOING BATTLE WITH CANCER.” A Ticket costs $20. Food and refreshment will be served.

One afternoon, Earl took me to meet Thinh, a Vietnamese-American garage owner, “I’ve known this guy for over 20 years. He’s a great guy. Oh, you’ll love him!”

“Should I speak Vietnamese to him?”

“Yeah, that would be great!”

We entered the man’s office to find him on the phone. One of his employees, a white guy, was also there. In his mid-60’s, Thinh spoke English fluently, but with a heavy accent, “Oh, I’m old! I don’t want to work no more. Some morning, I just want to stay home and relac!”

Then, “My daughter, she always give me a shit, but I can’t sell my businet yet.”

Phone conversation done, he turned to me, so I smiled and extended my hand, “Chào anh, tôi là người Việt Nam. Tôi là bạn của thằng này.”

Face blank, Thinh said nothing, so I continued, “Anh nói tiếng Việt được chứ?” Still nothing.

Laughing, I turned to Earl, “Yo man, this guy can’t speak Vietnamese. He’s probably not even Vietnamese!”

“Yeah, he’s probably Chinese or something!”

I said to Thinh, “Wow, man, you really can’t speak Vietnamese. Don’t you speak Vietnamese at home?”

“No, my wife is American.”

Though we exchanged pleasantries, I could tell Thinh wasn’t all that comfortable with me around. It’s as if I was threatening to expose a hidden side of him. He couldn’t afford to become another dude in front of his Scranton buddies. Leaving, I said to Earl in his car, “Man, that was weird. He’s older than me. He should know Vietnamese.”

“Yeah, he was in the war. He’s shown me his bullet wounds. He also goes back to see his mom every two years. I don’t know. He’s a great guy, though. You want to hear something funny? One time, an insurance agent called to sell coverage for his workers, so he was polite and listened to her, but she went on and on. Finally, he said, ‘Listen, lady, I only hire Mexicans, and they’re all poor and on welfare, so they can’t afford your insurance,’ then he hung up!”

“That’s pretty funny!”

“And Thinh doesn’t even hire any Mexicans. Here’s another one. He went back to Vietnam and bought his mom a propane tank, so she wouldn’t have to burn wood for fuel. Two weeks later, he found out his mom wasn’t using it, so he called her and said, ‘Ma, I saw dad last night in a dream, and he was crying and crying. It’s all that smoke from the wood you’re burning!’ So he got the old lady to use the propane tank at last. Isn’t that clever?!”

With so many Poles, Irish, Italians, Ukrainians and, now, Mexicans, Scranton is filled with active churches. Across the street from the Lighthouse is St. Joseph Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Founded by Lebanese immigrants in the late 1890’s, it still features Arabic hymns in its service. Last Sunday, I went to mass there with Chuck, and it was wonderful to see the joyful congregation, especially the well-dressed and angelic children.

The priest read a letter from the bishop. One sobering passage stood out, “Only six out of twelve Melkite churches in Aleppo, Syria are even open. Our Melkite bishops must provide food, rent, medicine, and even home rebuilding for these poor people. Because of your generous response to last year’s Bishops Appeal, I was able to send $60,000 to five Melkite bishops in Syria to assist families devastated by the on-going conflict.”

Later, the priest appealed to God to guide our president, senators and congressmen, that entire cabal of genocidal Satanists. Good Lord, I thought. As long as Americans, church-going or otherwise, keep voting for mass murderers, nothing will change.

That night, Sister Lindy Morelli made stuffed peppers for dinner, and of the five at the table, only I had a spouse. Middle-aged Lou and Scott had never married. Done with eating, Lindy sang “Ave Maria,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and, her favorite, Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”

“Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend / When people can be so cold / They’ll hurt you, desert you / And take your soul if you let them, don’t you let them.”



Hi all,

If you want to send a check to The Lighthouse, here’s the address:

Lighthouse in Scranton Inc.
P. O. Box 199
Scranton, PA 18504

I can’t think of a better Christmas gesture. It is a non-profit and incorporated under IRS Section #501 (C.) (3). The Lighthouse gets no money from any government agency. Everyone associated with it, including its board of directors, is a volunteer and receives no salary.






Wednesday, November 29, 2017





Waldo's--Scranton 2






Before addiction detroys your family--Scranton

[Waldo's Tavern]



Alternative to Viagra--Scranton




PITCHING IN FOR PAUL--Scranton (detail)



About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), 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 Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). 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, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.