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Postcard from the End of America: Dexter, Michigan

By       Message Linh Dinh       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink

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Dexter, Michigan 2016
(Image by Linh Dinh)
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And so I was back in my friend's house in this most tranquil, on the surface, country town. Outside was a young cherry tree with three bowling balls at its base, one for each dog buried beneath. A roofer's ashes had also been scattered over its branches, but nothing remained of the short-lived man. Before my 74-year-old friend, Rudy, reclaimed the house, the roofer lived here.

A drunken fall off a friend's deck during a July 4th party made the roofer miss a year of work, and got him hooked on painkillers. A second fall from a roof finished the always groggy man. He was but 33.

Behind Rudy's house was a tiny trailer formerly occupied by a lonely fellow who collected rocks and pebbles. Sworn off alcohol decades ago, he only smoked weed. After living peacefully there for years, the nearly invisible 52-year-old had to move out when a neighbor decided to rat that the trailer had no plumbing, and thus illegal. Now, the rural hermit showed up just once a week to feed his old cat, the trailer's only resident.

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Down the road was a 72-year-old farmer who wouldn't retire because farming was what he loved best. When a thresher shattered his left leg recently, the old man calmly drove himself to the hospital, and was back to cultivating within a month. He had spent nearly his entire life within a 20 mile radius, with just one trip to Chicago. Ann Arbor was alien enough, with Detroit, another planet. Each long day over, he could barely pay attention to Fox News. He voted Trump.

On the way in, we drove past a homemade sign, "BUILD BRIDGES NOT WALLS." Other than that, I saw no other political statements during my five-day stay in Dexter.

Rudy's three children were grown and gone, so the house was mostly empty. I had the entire second floor to myself. Each dawn, I looked out at the paling window to see a grain silo and a red barn. It was good to be away from so much concrete and so many bricks, and to wake up to utter silence. In the corner of my shower homesteaded a spider, and there was also a lady bug on the wall. Winking at me, she smiled.

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Rudy's marriage had been troubled for more than decade, his health was crashing and, each day, he could hear less. Serenely, Rudy spoke often of suicide, so I shouted, "Before you do that, Rudy, come visit me in Philadelphia! I'll show you around! We'll have a good time! Then you can commit suicide! You can even do it in Philadelphia if you want!"

Pondering his dwindling options, Rudy chuckled and shook his head.

If I don't holler, Rudy can't hear sh*t. At Dexter Pub on the town's thriving and wholesome Main Street, there's a sign warning against cursing, and last year, I accidentally shouted a few bad words while chatting with Rudy.

The obscene is saved for the men's room, where there's a poster of a blonde, bikinied babe, "Perfect Woman" Perfect Attitude." Among the sayings of this ideal woman:

"That was a great fart! Do another one!"
"I've decided to stop wearing clothes around the house."
"Your mother is way better than mine."
"Shall I drop you and your friends off at the lap dancing club?"
"Why would I need more than three pairs of shoes?"
"Pubic hair! I hate those tight curls, I'm clean shaven."
"I signed up for yoga so that I can get my ankles behind my head just for you."
"God... If I don't blow you soon, I swear I'm going to explode!"
"Listen, I make enough money for the both of us. Why don't you retire forty years early?"
"Let's subscribe to Hustler."
"Honey... our new neighbor's daughter is sunbathing again, come see."
"Say, let's go down to the mall so you can check out women's asses."
"Oh come on, not the damn mall again. Let's go to that new strip joint."

Though Dexter Pub was a very soothing place to enjoy pints of Two Hearted, Rudy declined to go there with me on this visit. "I've seen what the humans do. I don't care anymore."

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"It's all futile!" I piled on.

"You're right."

"I'm already tired, Rudy! And I'm only 53!"

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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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