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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/6/18

Postcard from the End of America: Callowhill, Philadelphia

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I'm sitting in a spacious bar, Love City, that was once a factory. Too slicked up, it's not quite a ruin bar, of the kind you find in Budapest. The patrons are mostly hipsters and yuppies, but with a handful of Joe Sixpacks thrown in. Looking like contractors, they're probably fixing properties in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.


On the way here, I spotted a few homeless lurking in the underpasses, beneath the Reading Railroad train trestle. Long disused, it's being turned into a beautiful park, so soon enough, you'll find the haves walking their dogs, jogging or sunning themselves above, with the have nots sleeping on dirty mattresses, or going to the toilet, below. They'll probably all be shooed away. Problem solved.

After talking to three black men, a once-pretty white woman scrambled up an embankment. Reeking of urine, a groggy black dude asked me for change, as did a black lady waiting at a bus stop. A handful of tourists tittered outside the Edgar Allan Poe house.

Since a 20 oz. Love City Lager is a reasonable $5, I have one in front of me as I upload three photos, just taken in the neighborhood.

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One is of a sign on a corner grocer's door, "No Weapons Allowed / Detection Devices On Premise / Upon Detection/ Police Will Be Notified Immediately!" Beneath it is an ad for Newport, aimed at a black clientele, obviously, though you're not supposed to notice that, since we're all the same, remember? This is the kind of store that sells cigarettes, soft drinks, candies, potato chips, beef jerky, canned food and the only symbol of hope left for many Americans, lottery tickets.

The second photo is of a billboard, "OPIOID DETOX / GET CLEAN. / LEAVE PROTECTED," with five white faces, and one black, all happy. Just three miles away, there are around 40 tents on sidewalks, occupied by homeless junkies, mostly white and under 35. I didn't think Kensington could get worse, but it has.

The last is of graffiti on a long-abandoned factory, "f*ck A NAZI!"

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Though it didn't say, "f*ck A NAZI UP!" it still sounds hostile, but that's English for you, for in this language, making love is constantly used to convey hate or calamity, as in, "I will f*ck you up," "He's f*cking with us" or "We're fucked."

With Trump installed, liberal, progressive Americans see Nazis everywhere, by which they mean all those who oppose having an open border, or who might identify as, God forbid, a nationalist, but a nation, by definition, can't exist without borders or nationalists.

Believing in America shouldn't equate to cheerleading her wars, however, and that's where too many Joe Sixpacks have erred. In their bars, you'll find all kinds of signs thanking soldiers and veterans, and the American flag everywhere.

A Joe Sixpack tavern accrues history organically, honors it and is grounded, like its patrons. A hipster/yuppie bar, on the other hand, is always divorced from its surroundings, and serves an anchorless crowd. Designed to make you feel au courant, it also leaves you restless, for you know that way cooler bars will appear soon, nearby. According to hipsters, the future, too, is always right around the corner, and history is just a hazy series of crimes and mistakes, to be condemned and flee from.

So hep, they identify themselves with a term from more than a century ago.

Me, I would rather get stupid in Friendly, Nickels' or Fatsos, places where they joke about erections and blow jobs, but I'm at Love City because I'll have to give a paid talk a few blocks away, in an hour.

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At Friendly, a short, philosophical Honduran said to me, "My wife, she gives me p*ssy, right? But my mother," he stared at me hard, "she gave me life!" Smiling triumphantly, Manuel gave me a fist bump, shook my hand.

After 30 years in the US, this former illegal immigrant's English is still somewhat shaky, but you must give him much credit for doing his best to blend in. Manuel believes in a common culture.

At Fatsos, 65-year-old Rick yelled at another old head across the bar, "Would you like a blow job, Steve?"

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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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