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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/9/17

Obscured American: Katy the Bartender and Nursing Student

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Jonathan Revusky was in Philly for a few days, and I had a great time showing Jon around. We went to Kensington, Fishtown, Camden, Point Breeze, Little Cambodia and Rittenhouse Square, all but the last at the sinking end of the economic scale, places I'm well familiar with. At Jack's Famous Bar, we ordered a cheesesteak and a roast beef sandwich for just $4 each, my kind of price, and I thought our lunch excellent. In Camden, I steered Jon to a bodega where a cheesesteak was just $3.50. Jon said, "I would never have walked into a place like that, if I wasn't with you." Most Americans wouldn't go to Camden, period, even if you paid them.

Jon also introduced me to an alien Philadelphia, for he treated me to fancy joints like Paradiso Italian restaurant and Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steak House. When you can burn a Ben Franklin for dinner, life certainly becomes so much more civilized and soothing, and the lower class is mostly reduced to beautiful and smiling servers. "Is there anything else I can get you?" beamed the wholesome, slim waitress with the cute dimples.

Though living comfortably in Spain, Jon is well aware that his homeland is in steep decline. Unlike me, he's not so sure there will be civil unrest, "I go to places like Brazil, with its vast favelas, and the poor people do carry on. Perhaps Americans will just become poorer and poorer, and get used to it."

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As we strolled past Center City's best collection of chi-chi shops and restaurants, Jon remarked, "Any top-tier Chinese city, like Shanghai, Shenzen, Guangzhou, etc., is, in most respects, so vastly superior to any American city at this point, it's crazy. Not only do Americans not know this, but, as you pointed out, some would even get violently enraged at you if you said this. You mean this isn't the best place in the world??!!"

Campaigning, Trump said, "Our airports are like from a third-world country," not that anything is going to be done about it, for we're worse than broke. Living in a near continent-sized country, it's not easy to experience any other nation's achievements, so few Americans have had a chance to be awed, say, by Berlin's Central Rail Station or Seoul's Incheon Airport.

After Jon left, I returned to one of the bars we hit to interview a bartender I'd known for a while. I thought of Katy because she had spent a decade mingling with the rich, if only as a server. As a housecleaner for many years, I did the same.

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Katy agreed to talk if I would neither photograph her nor name her Center City bar. Deal!

I was born in Frankford. I went to a Catholic grade school, St. Joachim. I read, four years ago, one of the most horrific stories ever. This girl was coming home from the bus. She's walking down Church Street, past St. Joachim. She was pulled into the school yard and raped, brutally. When the police found her, they said she was unrecognizable. It was one of the worst brutalities they had ever seen. She was in a coma for three weeks. Not only that, he gave her AIDS.

I remember reading this article and thinking, This is where I grew up. This is where I spent the first eight years of my life. Frankford is like Compton now.

I went to Little Flower, then Frankford High School. It was lame growing up in the Northeast. I had no favorite subjects.

I love music. Both of my parents were jazz musicians. My mother was a jazz singer. She was so awesome! My father played drums. He was pretty well known in South Philly.

I came out of the womb with music, although I never played anything, which is kind of odd. I can sing a little. I love Miss Ella.

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I went down to Delaware Avenue to hang out when I was 18. I started to bartend. I worked at the Aztec. I came in, I applied and that was it. I also worked at Rock Lobster.

It was really good money. I liked the diversity of people. It was a little glamorous. I got to meet a lot of people. At a restaurant, you don't have to wait for a table after a while, because you may have waited on that waiter. Things like that.

I broke my toe. I was working at Rock Lobster, and I was limping. This guy went, "What's wrong?" It turned out he was a foot doctor. I said I didn't have any insurance. He said, "Don't worry about it." He operated on my toe, everything, and all for free!

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.

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