Obscured American: Bill the Professor, Writer, Musician and Artist

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My writing on society and politics has made me quite a few friends, some I’ve been able to visit on their home turf, from Scranton to Burgazada, to Leipzig. Others have come to me. In July of 2018, just before I left the US for good, I had a few beers with Bill, who drove to Philly from Allentown.

My Obscured American series was supposed to be a book, but like my Collected Poems, it has been scuttled by a publisher. Such is life in woke America. As its mind shrinks, it sinks.

Billy Joel sings of a post-industrial Allentown where the people are disappointed, restless and adrift, where even an education and hard work may not yield much. Twenty-six years after its release, this song describes just about all American towns. “It’s getting very hard to stay,” except there’s really nowhere to go, besides the often lethal escape to opioids.

Fleeing Allentown, Bill took a Greyhound to California, which was expensive enough in the 70’s. Now, with Chinese money flooding in, even a ratty couch in the Tenderloin or Skid Row is out of reach for most Americans. California dreaming is just a goofy song. After eight years in that elusive, faux paradise, Bill returned to Allentown.

When Bill first emailed me in 2012, he spoke of living among “backwoods “reactionaries” who “just love disgusting stuff.” With an IQ of 136, Bill has few peers. His work and life aggravations are compounded by his frustrations as an unread writer, unheard musician and unseen artist.

It’s presumptuous to call oneself an artist or poet, I know, I’m doing it, too. Speaking as Folly, Erasmus observed:

Poets aren’t so much in my debt, though they’re admittedly members of my party, as they’re a free race, as the saying goes, whose sole interest lies in delighting the ears of the foolish with pure nonsense and silly tales. Yet strange to say, they rely on these for the immortality and god-like life they assure themselves, and they make similar promises to others. “Self-love and flattery” are their special friends, and no other race of men worships me with such wholehearted devotion […] Of the same kidney are those who court immortal fame by writing books. They all owe a great deal to me, especially any who blot their pages with unadulterated rubbish. But people who use their erudition to write for a learned minority and are anxious to have either Persius or Laelius pass judgment don’t seem to me favored by fortune but rather to be pitied for their continuous self-torture. They add, change, remove, lay aside, take up, rephrase, show to their friends, keep for nine years and are never satisfied. And their futile reward, a word of praise from a handful of people, they win at such a cost—so many late nights, such loss of sleep, sweetest of all things, and so much sweat and anguish. Then their health deteriorates, their looks are destroyed, they suffer partial or total blindness, poverty, ill-will, denial of pleasure, premature old age and early death, and whatever remaining disasters there may be. Yet the wise man believes he is compensated for everything if he wins the approval of one or another purblind scholar.

Having shed 10 pounds recently, Bill appeared trim in his T-shirt and jeans. He wore thin glasses, a scraggly walrus moustache and soul patch, and his white hair was combed straight back. His slight overbite accentuated his age.

My father was very poor, from a very small town by the Susquehanna River. It’s a classic American small town, Porchville. His father and my mother’s father were unemployed during the Depression. They lived a block from each other, so my mother and father knew each other in the baby carriage. Their mothers were friends.

They were very poor, growing up, but my grandmother, I remember her telling me, “The best time of my life was the Great Depression.” I said, “Why, grandma?” Here’s another one of my little memes, but it’s a great story. She said, “Well, I have a soup bone. The woman down the street has some peas, and the woman up the street, uh, has some bread. We come down, make the soup and feed all the kids in the neighborhood.”

My father got into the Air Force, and my mother got into the Navy, during the war. My father flew B-17’s. My mother was a secretary in Washington. He ended up being an instructor. I can’t imagine being an instructor of flight school at 19 or 20. He says, or he said, he’s dead now, right before they sent him to Europe, the war ended, and right before they sent him to Japan, the war ended. He had a twin brother who was also a B-17 pilot, and they both did everything together.

Neither of them went overseas. After the war, they joined the National Guards, for money, then went to Vanderbilt Law School, all on the G.I. Bill. They could never have afforded it, otherwise.

Then my father’s twin brother, who had the same name as me, flew his B-17 into a Tennessee mountain. Nobody knows how it happened. That tore my father up. First big disappointment of my father’s life.

The thing that inspired my father to fly was a barnstormer. A barnstormer landed in a farmer’s field, across from his house, when he was a kid. He was babysitting, and Chuck Glassick was the boy’s name, and he took him down to the barnstormer. Imagine nowadays, if you took a kid that you’re babysitting up on a plane, without asking his parents! Chuck Glassick just told me at dad’s funeral. He said, “Ed said it was all right, and I believed him, and it was all right.”

My father wanted to be a pilot, but I think my mother nixed that, or else he lost his gumption, you know. So anyway, that was his second disappointment.

He got his law degree from Vanderbilt and came home, but he never became a lawyer. He never passed the Pennsylvania bar. He got a job at All States Insurance Company. In those days, adjusters, believe it or not, had law degrees.

He should have started out in sales, because guys who started out in sales ended up millionaires. He became a small office manager. He really hated that job. He tried to pass the bar again in his 40’s, by studying at night. I’d come home and see him fall asleep over his books, on the living room couch.

At some point, we moved to Levittown, and he worked in one of the big Philadelphia offices, but something happened, and he got demoted and sent back to Allentown. I never got the full story about that, but he said that they wanted him to do something that he morally couldn’t do. I don’t doubt it, really. They wanted him to fudge something, and he couldn’t do it.

Levittown
was brand new. It was all these veterans, and all the houses looked exactly the same. I was six-years-old when I walked out the door, walked three houses down, and started knocking on doors, “Where’s my mommy?! Where’s my mommy?!” Finally, one of the ladies said, “I think you belong in this house!” and she took me down to my house.

My family are all sports nuts. My grandfather was a minor league ballplayer and umpire. My uncle was a minor league ballplayer. My grandfather grew up with Babe Ruth, in Baltimore. My mother watches sports 24 hours a day, if she can. My father watched a lot on TV. So I had to play sports.

I played football in high school, although I was also in the chorus, which got me shit from both sides! That’s the kind of guy I am, you know, I’m always in between. I’m never in the crowd. I was in the chorus, a musician, you know, which is for faggots.

The football team wouldn’t let me play my junior year. I practiced with them, I was allowed on the bench, but I couldn’t suit up, because I had to go to chorus, and miss one practice a week.

I quit the chorus for my senior year, and played on the football team. I wanted to be a defensive player. I didn’t like offense. I didn’t like memorizing plays. You know, I’m a smart guy, but I hated memorizing plays.

What I liked was analyzing the other team’s plays, figure out what they were going to do, go and tackle them. I was also the fastest guy on my team, and I was the meanest guy, because I had so many frustrations from high school, which I hadn’t begun to figure out. I wanted to hit somebody. That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it.

Three or four games into the season, they suddenly realized I was the best guy on the defensive line, although everybody else was 200 pounds, and I was 150. They suddenly noticed I was the guy chasing people around the back field, while the rest of my guys were laying on the ground.

If they had let me play my junior year, they would have won. So three or four games in, they put me right in the center, and everybody else by the sidelines, because I could hold down four or five guys. I could. I was so fuckin’ mean. I know where the play is coming. It’s coming right over me. They tailored the defense to tempt the other team to run right over my head.

All I had to do was create a clot, right there. I don’t knock them down or anything like that. We won every game from then on.

I was also smarter than everybody else. There was a team that blocked at your knees, so I just pushed them to the ground. Nobody else on my team could figure this out.

That was my triumph, and nobody knows, because I was on the bottom of the pile, so they never announced my name over the loud speaker. Nobody knew I was on the football team. I didn’t get any of that appreciation from the cheerleaders or anything like that.

After high school, I did all kinds of jobs. I was a bricklayer, then I worked at Mack Truck for two or three years. Allentown used to be an industrial town.

I did everything. I worked as a chip man. They had a metal finishing plant, and they had all these shavings that came off the finishing, and you have to go and dump the shaves. That was one of the easy jobs. I worked on the line itself. One job I had was screwing on oil filters. Just screwing on one oil filter after another.

I worked a high stack of lift trucks. That is some job. High stacks go up two stories, like this, and you take these big containers full of parts, and you have to balance them. It’s like a scaffolding. If you don’t get it all the way in, once in a while, all these tools come raining down, ha, ha! I could have been brained, you know?

This was in the 70’s. A lot of the equipment there, I swear, went back to the 20’s. I had this hand-worked crane hooked around pieces of, ah, sheet metal. Big piles of long sheet metal. Tons of sheet metal. I hook it on the sheet metal, and move it from here to here. Several times, these knife-like, gigantic, ton-sized pieces of sheet metal go flying around, and I go ducking, you know. They could have cut off my head.

I quit. I could have gotten pension and all that kind of shit.

I hated working in factories, you know, but working in factories looks good to most people, nowadays, compared to what they’re stuck with. I mean, we had benefits. When we were laid off, unions made up our salaries, so we didn’t just get our unemployment, we got our full salaries when we were laid off. We had health care, all that kind of stuff, and pension. I mean, these guys my age who went the whole way until they retired from the place, they’re sitting pretty, compared to me, but I couldn’t have took it. I couldn’t stand it there.

See, I’m different from the usual academic because I’ve had other experiences, which also make me strange in academia. I know more than these other people, about other things, and they don’t like that. I know more history than a lot of historians, and I’m an English major. Sorry to get off the topic…

On the line, I had to hook this very old-fashioned crane onto each side of the bottom, then come around to the front of the truck, and hook the other side. Well, somehow, when I came around, that crane was swinging. It was this big, huge L of metal, you know, and it slammed up and chipped my front tooth. If it was a little higher, it would knock me out and I’d be killed, you know. They let me sit down for a while, then put me back on the job.

I couldn’t stand it in Allentown any more, I still can’t stand it, so, uh, I crossed the country. In Orange County, I lived with 15 people, ten people on bean bags in the living room, and three people in each bedroom. Huge piles of dishes. There was a zoo next door. Lots of Mexicans had chickens in their backyard, and we had this two-legged dog that used to walk in and scrape his body across the carpet and come out the door.

A year later, I was in San Francisco. I lived right on Russian Hill. A bunch of people from Allentown lived there. You have, what do you call it, colonies. People from Hammond, Indiana, lived in another house, on the other side of Russian Hill.

This place was beautiful. It was, you know, right after the earthquake, a Victorian, made of redwood. Sixteen-foot ceiling, crystal chandelier, cut glass windows, working gas lights. Beautiful tiles, walls, on the kitchen and on the bathrooms. Out the back window, we had this beautiful view of Alcatraz and Angel Island. It was palatial, and we only paid $300 a month.

Mr. Wong was our landlord. Mr. Wong was great, but he kicked us out eventually. What he did was cut the apartment in two, totally modernized it, and charged 1,200 for each side. This was in the late 70’s, when San Francisco started to become Manhattan.

I got a job as a cab driver. Veterans Cab. That’s a hell of a job. I worked the night shift, until three in the morning. Ten hours.

In the night, there are three kinds of people: the cops, the whores and the cab drivers, so you have a kind of kinship. About two in the morning, three in the morning, you take the whores home to Oakland. It’s a nice, long trip, and they tip me too, then the drag queens come on. They do their shift, late in the morning, at 2 or 3 O’clock, and they work ’til dawn. This is The Tenderloin I’m talking about.

You take a break between one and two, ’til the 2 O’clock rush when the bars close. One time, they sent this drunk out into my car, and I took him home. He wasn’t going to pay me, and he was drunk. I just left him out on the street, and he was laying on the ground there. Finally, I decided I’d roll him, you know. I looked around his pants, and I don’t roll people, but I go, Fuck this shit, I’m going to try to roll somebody!

He was wearing those kinds of, like, Indian pants that don’t have any pockets in them, so he didn’t have any money anyway. I couldn’t even roll the guy, but that was my last attempt at crime, you know.

My best cab driving friend was Sally Thompson. She was an American Indian, from Ontario, and she was a lesbian. She had the hardest time. She was a junkie. One time, I go to see her and both her arms are broken. It’s because she owed money to these bull dykes, and they broke both her arms. Another time, she fell asleep while she was cab driving, from methadone, and ran into the wall, so she had a steel plate in her head.

I remember being with her lesbian friends, over at their house, and they go, “You can come in, Sally, but no problems! We don’t want to hear any problems!” Sally always had… “They broke my arms!” Or, “I just got syphilis!”

She was the sweetest. A girlfriend of mine said, “She’s a whore with a heart of gold.” Sally turned tricks occasionally, to get a little extra money.

A lot of my old friends are dead, and I thought that if anybody would be dead by now, Sally Thompson would be, but I just looked on FaceBook, and there’s Sally Thompson! She’s got that tough American-Indian blood, I think.

I had two different cabs totaled out from under me. One of them, I was hit by a cab driver. Another cab ran a stop light, coming down the hill, totaled me, and I had to continue working! I had to wait four hours, until they got me a new cab, and they forced me to work into the morning, to finish my shift.

The good story is I got mugged! That ruined my cab driving. I picked up a guy in Washington Square. He looked all right. He got in the back, pulled me up on Lombard. It was really dark in there. He sticks a knife on me! Puts his arm around here. I go, “Ah, ah, don’t worry, I’ve got the money here! I’ve got a hundred dollars or so!”

I’m pulling it out, but it’s not fast enough for him, so he goes, “Hurry up!” Stabs it in. I give him all the money. “Sorry, that’s it!”

Luckily, it didn’t hit the jugular. He stuck it right in the side, and it went straight in, so I guess it didn’t hit any major artery, but I bled like a pig. I was a little upset, yeah.

He pulled out my phone, you know, so I couldn’t call the dispatcher. He says, “Lay down! Don’t do that!” then he leaves.

I drove the cab back, and they let me off that night, without paying gates and gas, ha, ha! because I had all this blood. My whole shirt was bleeding.

After that, it was no good, because you’ve got to take chances, you’ve got to pick up people, but I was scared to pick up anybody else. I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. No, not this one, not that one, no! I couldn’t make any money any more. You have to be kinda brave or foolhardy to be a cab driver.

The detective asked me to describe him, and look at mug shots. I said I could still remember he had a red wind breaker, with some college on it. He had curly, black hair, and he was missing some teeth. He had bell bottoms on. The detective congratulated me on being an excellent observer! “We never get this good a description, you know.”

They put his description up in all of the cab companies, and another cab driver picks him up. The cab driver looks in the mirror and goes, That’s the guy! Takes him where he’s going, gets on the horn, and the cops are there the next minute. He robbed a whole bunch of other people. They all described him.

I never heard what happened to him. Most of the difficulties at the time in San Francisco, crime difficulties, involved Mexicans, you know.

I got fag bashed one time, and I’m not gay, but I was living near the Castro. I was walking home in the Haight, walking alone and whistling, but I have been living in the city for about six years, so I’m not a suburban boy any more. I see a Mexican guy coming up the street, over here, and I pass a guy on my right, and I see two guys coming towards me, and I suddenly realize they’re all talking to each other.

My mind goes bumping in my head, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!

I time it, very careful. I can feel the guy behind me. The two guys, right as they come up before me, I scream bloody murder, and I go, “Raaah!” Running right through them, knock the two right to the sides. He tries to give me a karate kick, but I knock him right over, because I’m already at top speed. I go, vrooom!

I run over to the Castro District, where there are lots of guys, walking around, and I ask two gay guys to walk me home.

My drummer got fag bashed, too, and these were suburban white boys, coming down the peninsula, in a big van. I think they stopped him in his Volkswagen. He was a Vietnam ex-Marine. They started after him, you know, but he pulled out his nunchuk, ha, ha! He taught them a lesson.

These are my classic stories. It’s like, I have these little formulations, you know, simple ways of describing things that happened in my life, my opinions or anything like that, and they’re all very good, because they get it across to people, short, because people can’t listen for very long, but every once in a while, I get sick of them. I’ve heard them too many times. Sometimes, I want to change my opinions, just so I don’t have to say that meme again.

It’s like, when people ask me why I never get married. Well, the ones who want to marry me, I don’t want to marry, and the ones I want to marry, don’t want to marry me. Nice, sweet and to the point, and people get it.

I couldn’t afford to live in San Francisco, so I had to come home with my tail between my legs. I haven’t been to the West Coast in 30 years. I never had the money to go back.

Back in Allentown, I worked temp jobs and lived with my parents, which was hellish. I love my parents, but they yell at me all the fuckin’ time.

It took me 10 years to go through graduate schools. The $24,000 I borrowed have ballooned to 48,000, with interest, but luckily, I don’t have to pay. If you make less than a certain amount, you can defer paying back your student loan, and in ten years, when I’m 75, it will be absolved. I think Obama put in this rule.

Getting my PhD at age 43 meant I would be a permanent adjunct. I’ve never made more than $18,000 a year, teaching, with no benefits and no pension plans. One of those years at Mack Truck, I might, in real money, have earned more than $18,000.

I couldn’t stand the Beavis and Butthead undergraduates. Their behavior was out of control, but I couldn’t control them because the administration did not have my back. If the students complained about me, they believed the students and not me, so how could I discipline them? I have to get high evaluations, or I won’t get more work. How do you get high evaluations? You give higher grades. Basically, you give them A’s and B’s. A B- is an F.

Everybody hates teachers. Even teachers hate teachers. Teachers are the evil ones. I figure it’s because they’re like mothers. They’re trying to make you do things you don’t want to do.

I don’t know how you can get people to look at it from the teacher’s viewpoint, which is being tortured by people who don’t understand the whole thing, and who also think they don’t need to. They all think, I don’t need this.

They’re constantly fighting with me, constantly mocking me, mocking fellow students, talking while I’m talking, threatening me, and this is a prestigious college!

I try to do everything I can. I don’t know why. It all comes from my parents, again. They told me to work hard. Work hard and you’ll prosper, they told me. Do your best. I try so hard, every job I’ve ever had. You don’t have to believe me if you want, but everybody tells me I try too hard.

Anyway, I have to try very hard to not try too hard for my class. Take it nice and easy, and don’t worry if they don’t learn stuff.

For the past year and a half, my father had problems with his lungs. All the doctors said it’s dysphagia, which means it goes down the wrong way. You eat food, and your throat doesn’t work right any more, and the food goes into your lungs. And then he coughed and coughed and coughed, and so they gave him a stomach tube, but you’re still swallowing your spit, and things like that, so a little bit was still going down, and he was still coughing. He wasn’t getting better.

Right before he died, I took him into the hospital one more time. He was coughing blood for a while, along with spit, and they thought that was from his throat. It was dry, because he wasn’t drinking.

This young Indian doctor comes in there, and he can’t even talk to my father. He tells my sister, who’s a nurse, what the problem is. They gave him a CAT scan, and they found a mass in his lungs, so apparently he had a tumor or lung cancer, for this whole year, but because it was an X-ray, it just looked like ammonia.

He was basically saying, “You’re dying, man. That’s it.” He didn’t tell it very well. He was using these technical terms and all that kind of crap.

After they told my father that, he’s still conscious. I’m trying to get everybody to talk to dad about our lives together, you know, have my little nephew tell him about, Oh, I used to walk the dog with dad, down the farm, that kind of stuff, and play with his airplane, you know. But my niece has her two whining kids in there, and they’re on the cellphone, you know, texting everybody who isn’t there about the situation. I’m going, “Come on, guys, pay attention to dad.”

I didn’t yell at her or anything like that, but she started yelling at me, and screaming at me, in front of a dying man, and the kids are screaming at me, too, and this is the last time we’re going to be able to talk to my dad.

Shortly after, they pump him full of drugs. He goes to sleep, and that’s the last time, pretty much. They’re going to let him die. Don’t let anybody tell you they don’t do euthanasia. My sister who decides is a nurse, and my girlfriend is a nurse, and they both say that’s the way to do it, when they start choking, even though he wasn’t choking when we were all there.

He was talking to me and making jokes and all that kind of stuff, but they just decided it’s time to put him under. The put him under and kept him under, so he couldn’t choke at any time, and throw up. They would have had to suction it out. That’s the theory.

It took him five days. They starved him, and didn’t give him any water for five days. He was asleep the whole time. They gave him morphine. Anyway, I slept overnight with him, for five nights, and my sister and mother took over in the daytime, waiting for him to die.

It’s like I’m sleeping there, but with one ear open, you know, like they say soldiers do. One ear open, listening to his breathing, for it to stop.

Yes, my poor dad. It’s not an easy death. Actually, one time, he woke up, and I got a chance to talk to him just a little bit, and we even made a joke. He had to pee, so I said, “It must be hard to pee when a pretty nurse is holding your dick!” and he laughed at that. It was one of the last things we said to each other.

Around the fifth night, my brother from Altoona comes in to town. Big fat guy, truck driver, uh, in shorts. I hate fat guys in shorts. “Don’t you know how you look?” I want to say. Shorts look ridiculous on anybody, but especially that guy. Be that as it may, that’s not what I’ve got against him.

What I’ve got against him is, my dad’s asleep, he’s near his last day, and my mother was just in there. I say, “Don’t worry, Mitch, I’m going to move in with mom. I’ll take care of her,” and my brother starts screaming and yelling at me, “You just want the money! You bastard, you better not do that!” He just starts screaming, in front of a dying man.

He thinks I want to go live with her. No, it’s hellish to take care of my mother. She’s very demanding, and she yells at me a lot. She yells at me for sleeping late in the morning, you know, to this day. She tries to make me better, at 65. My 90-year-old mother treats me like I’m five, and tries to make a better person out of me, by nagging at me and yelling at me all the time.

I’m a late sleeper, and Hitler was a late sleeper. I’m going to write a song about all the things I have in common with Hitler! He forgot to take out the garbage, several times! Once, a girlfriend hit me on the head with a lamp, because I was sleeping late.

With medical advances, we’re living longer, but there has to be a way to make life more meaningful for old people, because all they do during their last 30 years is watch television. They ought to figure out how to not just keep them alive, but keep them healthy, so they can go out and do other things.

Nobody wants to use them as advisors. My father knew all this shit about insurance. Why don’t they want to use him? What the hell.

For the last year of his life, I wanted to take my recorder over there and quiz him on his life, you know, and I regret it. That’s one of the regrets I’ll always have. On the other hand, I got the feeling that he just wanted to hang around and watch TV with my mother, and he had trouble talking, and he was coughing a lot.

I may seem happy and jolly right now, but I’m pumped up with 15,000 milligrams of vitamin B. I’m so fuckin’ depressed about my shit.

Vitamin B makes you happy. It’s better than Prozac, because it’s healthier. It’s good for you. It’s sunshine.

He was 93. I shouldn’t be so… sad about it, but I… And he wasn’t that good to me either. Living in the house, I remember times he would yell at me and frighten me, and scared me a lot, but…

He did spank me, but not a lot, and so did my mother. Christopher Lasch said, “If children are punished, spanked, they grow up with symptoms of grief and depression. But if they’re not spanked, or physically punished, then they grow up with symptoms of borderline personality and narcissism.”

And that’s your present day young people. Personally, I prefer grief and depression. Borderline and narcissism, I’ve been around a lot of people like that. Borderline is when they need a lot of attention, no matter what. They’ll fight with you, just to get attention.

All my life, people have screamed at me! I remember you writing something about how we all need to be with other people? I have to disagree. I think we can’t all be happy until we each have our own room.

I’ve never had kids. I don’t like them much. I can’t describe it much better… No, I was influenced when I was young by, “Who would bring a kid into this horrible, fuckin’ world?” Who would put kids through what I was put through? I mean, that’s a big part of it, too.

I know I was middle class. I wasn’t a junkie, and I wasn’t a paraplegic either. You know what happens there? When people say, “Be happy, you’re not a paraplegic! You’re not a quadriplegic.” I go, “You know what that does when you tell me that? It just makes me feel guilty for thinking I’m better than a quadriplegic,” so that’s not helping me.

When my father died, lately they all tell me, “We’re all going to die, you know.” Why are you telling me that? Don’t say that! Why does everybody say that?

I’ve been through nothing but disappointments.

All my girlfriends have yelled at me, but this one is better because she has a short attention span. I like that, because I can jolly her up, after she’s yelled for a few minutes.

I’ve been with her for 15 years, and we’ve lived together for eight. My girlfriend used to be a geriatric nurse, but she quit. She thought care goes down when the computers come in. Before, nurses would spend all their time taking care of the old people, but now they mostly stand at a computer, entering data or talking, on their cellphone, you know, to one of their ten children!

Another thing is nurses get more patients per nurse. People with business administration degrees come in, cut the fat, rationalize and that kind of stuff.

The supervisor used to yell at her, and curse at her. He was brought in to fire all the old nurses, and hire young nurses for less money, make them work longer hours, take care of more patients. Nursing homes have become hellholes, thanks to these business majors.

Now, my girlfriend stays at home and take care of her mom, who’s going crazy. The old lady accuses my girlfriend of the most horrible things, like sleeping with her own father!

My girlfriend’s father was a bit of a wheeler, dealer. He got some money. This makes me think it’s terrible to have money in the family. Her family is more miserable than my family. They’re horrible to each other!

Her father manipulated them all by threatening to cut them out of the will. Typical stuff, you know. They’re always upset, because of the money, and it’s, like, useless. I would rather not have it. They’re a miserable bunch, anyway.

The thing that sucks throughout my life is that I spend most of my time, when I’m not being yelled at, constantly worried about being out on the street. Even though I’m an academic, with a PhD, I’ve been frightfully poor all my life. There’s this constant grinding fear in the back of my head. If I lived in Denmark or some place like that, that would be one thing I wouldn’t have to worry about so much. I could get on with other things.

I’ve been homeless. When I moved to LA, and I moved out of that house, I was homeless for a week or so. I was in a homeless shelter down in Santa Ana. I had this guy beneath me who would rock the bunk beds. I finally yelled at him, “Stop rocking,” but he couldn’t stop, because he had something wrong with him. I think he had a wound that was itching. I should have just stayed in my car.

I studied English because I wanted to become a writer, but I’m also a musician and an artist. Look at my website if you get a chance. On it, I have a collection of short stories, three books about slaves in ancient Rome and a science fiction book. I have five books, but nobody buys them.

I self-publish my books and sell them on Amazon. My uncle bought my sci-fi book, but he had to be an asshole about it and only gave it four stars, not five! My nephew, too, bought the same book. He’s also an asshole about it and only gave it four stars!

People keep telling me, “You should just do one thing,” but I want to do everything. As a musician, I play country, blues, rock, jazz and classical. I have a YouTube site, with me just playing guitar of a hundred songs. I got Martin, they make them up there, in Nazareth, they lent me a $5,000 guitar to make my videos.

I wanted to have a really good sounding guitar for my videos, but it’s still just me singing the songs, you know. That’s not a professional recording.

I have a recording with a group, made in a studio that’s owned by a friend who’s a trust fund baby. It took us years and years and years to make that album. It’s like my rock and roll group album, my garage Beatles band album. It’s out. You can buy it on Amazon today. Two people have bought it, and I’ve had it out for three years!

They say what you have to do, and this goes for my books, too, what you’re supposed to do is email reviewers, and beg them to review your stuff. I can’t do that. I tried it once or twice, and I said, “No, that’s enough.” So the marketing of it is 90%, and the making of it is less than 10%.

If I can just get some people to read my books, listen to my records and look at my art, online. All I want to be is an artist. All I really want to do is sit, alone, quietly, and make records. I’m making a blues record right now.

Lately, I’ve been playing these country swing dances. If a guy wants to meet women, he should go to these country swing dances, because I keep seeing all these very hot women show up with codgers. There just aren’t enough young guys to go around. To dance, these women must be in pretty good shape, so most of them have pretty good bodies.

I normally talk a lot, anyway, if anybody wants to listen to what I have to say, but most of the time, I start talking my shit like this, and people start yawning. I’m, like, all right, I’ll stop, but you haven’t yawned once!

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About author Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America, an account of our political, economic and social unraveling. He is also the author of three books of fiction and five of poetry.

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