Am moved by the merciful burying (shrining) of the American ghost. Mr. Long is right, he's getting more than he deserves, being whole again after ripping apart lives, but what grace lives in your culture Linh. That Russell Brand bit coming to mind, "thank you ever so much for the democracy, now then, where are my legs?" I think after we depart a corporal world of need do the translation issues truly drop. Hunger, race, all afterthoughts as we ruse to find rest.

I'm excited for a Thousand Autumns, no cheese perceived.


P.S. Macedonian affair with ancient and potentially 'appropriated culture' reminds me of the Black Hebrew thing; https://www.nytimes.com/1981/03/22/magazine/strangers-in-the-holy-land.html

People are funny. We just want to be whole and belong, wave our little flags and believe in something we love enough together it'll come true, a collaborative effort wish.

Take down the statues, changes the names, banish or frown upon traditional practices, still can't have the spirit. Ha. Where are we are born just as important, apparently, as where we die, hopefully as more than a sole asshole...

Alexander gets to be Great while the Slav gets to be Terrible, like you wrote about.

C'est la vie.


You broaden our world! Thank you so much for taking us beyond the boundaries of water, and with you.

Where we don't belong, but you're gracious enough to let us go.

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Hi Linh,

I encountered your writing first on Unz, and enjoyed your travel diaries. I liked the way you'd introduce a theme early on, then walk us here and there on your journey, and tie it all back to the theme. At least that’s how I remember them. There’s something very gratifying about the universal made particular; something to do with Truth that makes it resonate. When you disappeared from Unz, I missed it.

So I was glad to find you on Substack and started from the top entry and headed down the list. This is the first time I’m reading your fiction (unless there was some I can’t recall amongst your Unz writings). I’m finding the same universal-made-particular element in these stories as in your travel stories. But I have to confess I stopped reading this one (“Western Music”) after coming across this line:

“Their love was consummated in Skinny’s suite at the Metropole Hotel a day after his arrival.”

There’s only so much stunning bravery I can take in one month, and I had hit my limit somewhere around June 2nd. I just couldn’t. Go. On.

I should have had an inkling when we are told that “Dercum Sanders and Skinny, whose real name was Dave Levy, had met at Columbia.”

I really should have known (as everyone else probably did) when Dercum faxed Skinny “You must come over soon. This place is wild. COMPLETE FREEDOM. One feels uninhibited here. I feel like a new man. I am a new man. I cannot wait to see your face again. I think about you day and night. I mean it. In New York nothing is possible. Now I see my past in a new light. You must come over.”

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person left on earth that can think two men could have a love and fondness for each other that has absolutely no sexual or erotic element to it – like men did before, say, 1975 or so. I think it was around then that a sizeable part of the culture would started tittering at the slightest reference of two men liking each other. Sin - especially that sin - diminishes, degrades, and ruins everything around it: two normal men dare not hug in our culture - or at least have to think twice about it. That innocuous expression of affection has been closed off by the vile empowered. So much of our humanity and our human interaction has been tainted in the West. Long before there were physical masks, behavioral ones had to be donned from that other virus infecting our culture.

So I skipped the rest of “Western Music” and read “The Ugliest Girl.” I found there – at least in my mind – the theme. Brokenness and the decision of the broken to soothe their pain, not by taking refuge in Our Lord, but in sin. Sin that only breaks further whatever pieces are intact or re-shatters that which one may have been able to glue back together. Armed with this I was able to go back and finish “Western Music”.

“What the peasants saw when they opened their door to the American was simply his wish to be whole again.” Indeed.

P. S.

“Can there be such a thing as a gay imperialist?”

I don’t know what year you wrote that line, but with rainbows proudly waving in the breeze at every American Embassy in 2022, it seems so quaint.

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Linh, I love your style of short story writing. In a small amount of space you create some vivid characters and surroundings. I like how the story is powered by quirky but realistic dialog. An easy trap for a poet to get into with prose is to make the prose too "poetic" or try for unearned heaviness.

We definitely need more quirky, humorous stories set in exotic locales. Bonus points that yours are in Vietnam.

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Great story-telling Linh, but we all know the best hot dogs (char-broiled) are Sahlen's from Buffalo, NY.

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Thank you. This piece reminded me very much of Ursula Le Guin's story-telling, and it helps convey simply the varieties of people one meets in a mind.

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Thanks again for taking me to your country. Still stuck in Sacramento but am going to Alaska for a short vacation soon.....if they don't change the covid restrictions!

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“LSpeaking of Greece, I wouldn’t mind a decent gyros, I don’t know, maybe once a week, but the only gyros/doner kebab I’ve tried in Vietnam were atrocious, and that’s a very delicate word to use around here, but damn it, they were! Tzatziki was invented by a genius.“

Funny, the other day I’ve just had enough of the empty life without the gyro, and broke down and learned how to make tzatziki and pita bread at home - then set out to find some lamb(not always easy in Chiang Rai) and viola! Gyros. Wasn’t the best I’ve had but it worked.

There are some places in the area that attempt to produce a gyro, but they are horrid - I rarely throw food away, but half of a fifty Baht gyro hit the trash - I didn’t even want to insult a soi dog.

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Had a good laugh. The dialogues are excellent, and there must be an endless supply of cruel jokes about Americans in Vietnam. You know, in all my 45 years as a German, I have never heard a German joke about Americans.

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