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Saigon, 2019

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      In Saigon, I live with my in laws in Phú Lâm, the same neighborhood I was in at 8 and 9-years-old, when my mother had a pharmacy here. It was named Linh. Then my parents got divorced. Sometimes in life, you end up exactly where you started.

      Twice a day, I’d take my nephew for a walk, with the first usually at 6AM, and the second around 5PM. I’ve done this for over a year. Though his real name is Thiên Ân [God’s Gift], he’s called Suki, for nearly all Vietnamese babies have a nickname, usually something cute sounding, like Bim or Bon. In this neighborhood, there are toddlers nicknamed Coca, Pepsi and Khoai Tây [French Potato].

      Suki has just turned two. Like me, he loves to be on the streets. Delighted by what he sees, he sometimes laughs out loud, and once startled a boy badminton player in mid swing. Suki particularly likes to observe men working. Everywhere we go, we see new houses being built, four, five stories high, so we would stop to watch men and women fill then push carts loaded with sand or bricks. Mesmerized by cement mixers, Suki has sort of learnt how to pronounce it, “máy măng,” leaving out the “xi.” Many of these construction crews have gotten used to seeing Suki showing up early in the morning to watch them work. Smiling, they’d banter with him.

      As we watched a cement mixer growlingly turn, a woman in a nearby house noticed mosquito bites on Suki’s legs, so she went home and got some medicinal oil to rub on my nephew, and this she did with the greatest concern. We didn’t even know her.

      “Say thank you to granny, Suki!” I urged.

      Just by wandering around nearby alleys each day, we’ve rubbed ourselves into the neighborhood. People notice.

      Wending through alleys, Suki becomes acculturated, learns how to be Vietnamese, and what he sees isn’t always charming. At Phú Định Market, a regular stop, he watched as a man snipped off a frog’s mouth, hands and feet, then cut straight down its back, so that he could peel its entire skin, coatlike, off the still living animal. Eyes blinking, twitching or crawling around, the now purple frog could now join dozens of his similarly undressed relatives.

      Seeing Mr. Hiếu at an alley cafe, Suki and I sat down at his table. Across the way was a hideous Buddhist temple that, over time, I’ve found less ugly, and once or twice, from a certain angle and in the right light, I even thought beautiful.

      To say that I’ve known Mr. Hiếu for 20 years would be misleading, for there’s not much to know. The man hardly talks. Sixty-seven-years-old, he was a car and truck mechanic, but hasn’t worked in a long time, as his strength ebbed. He lived in the house he was born until last year, when it had to be sold. Now dwelling half a mile away, he comes back to his old neighborhood each day, out of habit and sadness. Yesterday, I caught him walking by his old home just to look at it. Mr. Hiếu was married for just a year, before his wife left him. He’s been nowhere, done nothing exciting and doesn’t touch alcohol. He does smoke Jet, at 86 cents a pack, and drink iced coffee.

      What Mr. Hiếu does have, though, is an abundant sense of belonging, so maybe he should feel sorry for you?

      As I walked alone, a scrawny boy of about four suddenly grabbed my hand and meekly pleaded, “Uncle, take me to my mommy.”

      “Your mommy?! Where is your mommy?”

      “That way.”

      “But I don’t know your mommy. Where do you live?”

      “This way.”

      “Why don’t you just stay home, and wait until your mommy comes back?”

      “I’m home alone.”

      Turning to a nearby woman, I asked, “Do you know this boy?”

      “No,” she smiled, “but he can stay with me until his mom shows up.” She yanked over a low plastic stool for the boy to sit on. Becalmed, he perched.

      “I’ll leave him with you, sister.” Satisfied with this arrangement, I continued my rambling.

      In the US, I also walked tirelessly, for during my 30 years as an adult there, I owned a car for just one year. Though certainly not the most efficient way to get around, walking is the most intimate and social, for that’s how you can measure your environment with your body, one foot at a time. Wandering, you can feel the friendly, off-putting, desolate or menacing vibes of each neighborhood.

      I logged many miles in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Portland, St Paul, Chicago, Columbus, Cleveland, Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Washington, New Orleans, Charleston, Atlanta and Orlando, etc. Mostly, I walked all over Philadelphia, for that’s how I got to know my city. Not too wisely, I repeatedly strayed into its least congenial sections. When I lingered at the corner where my friend Jerome Robinson had been killed, an angry, scowling teenager marched over to tell me to get the fuck away. Jerome was shot by such a kid.

      Much of this walking, I did without any maps. When I got lost in Washington’s Anacostia, one of its few remaining black ghettos, I asked a woman to point me to the nearest Metro Station. In the sweetest, most maternal voice, she said, “It’s this way, baby!”

      In Philadelphia’s Logan, a woman who appeared to be half black, half yellow asked me as I passed her on the sidewalk, “Are you partly black?”

      Half amused, half apologetic, I had to answer this lovely lady, “No, no!”

      ORDER IT NOW

      Working up a sweat, I would reward myself by barging into any bar that looked cheap enough, and the reception I got was nearly always convivial. In 2012, I dropped into Chicago’s Logan Square’s Western Tap, a joint I had been in just once, in 2009, yet the bartender, Pancho, still remembered me. Granted, no other Vietnamese had likely sat in this long-time Polish bar, then frequented mostly by Puerto Ricans.

      Another guy, Manuel, was perched on the same stool as three years earlier, and he too remembered me . As we chattered, Enter The Dragon came on TV, so we talked about Bruce and Brandon Lee, and I told him about my recent travel. Manuel had only been to New York once, for two months, and had returned to his native Puerto Rico a handful of times, and that’s it for his traveling. Too busy working, he had never even been to nearby Milwaukee, St Louis or Detroit. Manuel had toiled in all types of factories, and even in a Chinese restaurant. “There was so much work back then. You could always find work, not like today.” Manuel labored so hard, he never got around to getting married.

      On the Western Tap’s sign, there wasn’t even its name, just “HEILEMAN’S OLD STYLE” framed heraldically. Like the beer, the bar is gone. Like diners, dive bars are disappearing.

      There are many reasons for this. Its function as a public living room, as in England, has been diminished relentlessly, as people would rather sit home, alone in the dark, to be indoctrinated by a screen, and you can’t readily masturbate in a bar.

      Modern city planning, with its zoning laws, is also culpable. In The Road to Wiggan Pier (1937), Orwell points out, “A whole section of the town is condemned en bloc; presently the houses are pulled down and the people are transferred to some housing estate miles away. In this way all the small shopkeepers of the quarter have their whole clientele taken away from them at a single swoop and receive not a penny of compensation. They cannot transfer their business to the estate, because even if they can afford the move and the much higher rents, they would probably be refused a licence. As for pubs, they are banished from the housing estates almost completely, and the few that remain are dismal sham-Tudor places fitted out by the big brewery companies and very expensive. For a middle-class population this would be a nuisance–it might mean walking a mile to get a glass of beer; for a working-class population, which uses the pub as a kind of club, it is a serious blow at communal life.”

      In the US, the same dynamics occurred with the mass exodus to the suburbs, a process accelerated by the race riots of the 60’s. Millions of whites simply gave up their turf to blacks. Sick of strip malls, many are now moving back into cities, but each ghetto encroachment is being met by resentful blacks, for that’s how it is and has always been, a battle for lebensraum between competing groups. A different mode of living demands its own space. As intended, multiculturalism increases and intensifies these battles.

      It’s no big deal to talk to strangers, really, as long as you’re willing to listen, but first, you must walk towards them.

      Many, though, prefer to head the other way, and this antisocial walking is perhaps best exemplified by Thoreau, “I can easily walk ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, commencing at my own door, without going by any house, without crossing a road except where the fox and the mink do: first along by the river, and then the brook, and then the meadow and the woodside. There are square miles in my vicinity which have no inhabitant. From many a hill I can see civilization and the abodes of man afar. The farmers and their works are scarcely more obvious than woodchucks and their burrows. Man and his affairs, church and state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and agriculture even politics, the most alarming of them all—I am pleased to see how little space they occupy in the landscape.” Following his lead, Americans trek into their magnificent landscape, so much of which remains open even today.

      As for city walking, it’s not a very popular pastime, I don’t think, and one deterrent is crime. A friend, Wendy, just emailed me from Cleveland, “I think I told you then about my black friend who’d been killed in the ghetto, shot three times in the back, and nobody knew why. Every black person I talked to about it just shrugged and said, ‘Probably just another random shooting.’ In the past year there’ve been two black-on-black shooting deaths in my neighborhood that I know of. One was at the gas station/convenience store just down the street. It’s since installed bullet-proof plexiglas to protect the clerks and keep a security guard on duty. Well, three deaths, because when I saw the police all over the place, I went to the drug store across the street to ask what happened. There was a black woman there who said, ‘They killed my boy last week too.’

      “The other one was at the watering hole I used to frequent, T’s, just up the street. T’s used to be a place where people in their 50s-60s hung at during happy hour, whites, blacks, Russian immigrants who live in the low-income housing; carpenters, schoolteachers, retired folk, etc. Every once in a while we’d get a little buzzed, put some money in the juke box, and dance around. The bartender was a middle-aged lady who told great jokes. As with many of the bars around here, after happy hour the place would ‘change’– dive bar parlance for turning entirely black. Since the murder there, the owner has given management over to some black pimps; the barmaids are ‘dancers.’ The great thing about the sort of black people who frequent these places is they get plastered on the high-shelf stuff before tearing the place up and getting out their guns, and usually they miss. When people start moving out because of the violence, it’ll be chalked up to racism.”

      So now Wendy can’t even drag her creaky, middle aged ass to the local dive to palaver away her sorrows.

      ORDER IT NOW

      Maybe Wendy can drive half an hour or so to the nearest shopping mall, and after finding a parking space, go inside to march around with other mall walkers. Among the benefits of this new American pastime is the presence of “mall security staff and presence of other walkers and shoppers [which helps] to alleviate a fear of crime that may be prevalent in other neighborhood areas,” as explained by a University of Washington brochure. Chain stores will be her world.

      During my two months in Marfa, Texas, I would daily walk around this handsome town of 1,800, but the front porches were mostly empty, thanks to the air conditioners. Neighborly bonding did occur at the Lost Horse Saloon and, especially, at high school football games, where enchiladas were sold and everyone chattered quite cheerfully through another spirited loss. The Shorthorns simply suck year after year. Among the cheerleaders was a sprightly queer, so he too had his place.

      Every community is woven together by the stories of its inhabitants, so if you don’t know your neighbors’ stories, you’re homeless.

      This week, I reread Chekhov’s Little Trilogy. In “The Man in a Case,” “Gooseberries” and “About Love,” a character narrates a longish tale to two listeners, and this is no fictional device, but perfectly realistic, for before the advent of electronic media, people routinely told each other stories. I had many such evenings as a child, in the 70’s. More than entertainment, it was a social necessity.

      Now, billions are enraptured to dumb skits, porn and real or fake catastrophes cynically or sinisterly beamed from thousands of miles away. Hardly knowing where they are at any moment, they have become emotional, social and political castrati.

      The literature of walking is endless, and immediately, Basho’s Backroads to Far Town or Neruda’s “Walking Around” will spring to mind, but to me, the most astonishing writing on walking is Robert Walser’s “The Walk,” for it captures perfectly the multifaceted elation that walking’s intercourse with life often yields.

      Walser, as translated by Christopher Middleton, “A walk is always filled with significant phenomena, which are valuable to see and to feel. A pleasant walk most often teems with imageries and living poems, with enchantments and natural beauties, be they ever so small. The lore of nature and the lore of the country are revealed, charming and graceful, to the sense and eyes of the observant walker, who must of course walk not with downcast but with open and unclouded eyes, if the lovely significance and the gay, noble idea of the walk are to dawn on him.”

      Walking’s main usurper and enemy is the automobile. Walser, “To people sitting in a blustering dust-churning automobile I always present my austere and angry face, and they do not deserve a better one. Then they believe that I am a spy, a plainclothes policeman, delegated by high officials and authorities to spy on the traffic, to note down the numbers of vehicles, and later to report them. I always then look darkly at the wheels, at the car as a whole, but never at its occupants, whom I despise, and this in no way personally, but purely on principle; for I do not understand, and I never shall understand, how it can be a pleasure to hurtle past all the images and objects which our beautiful earth displays, as if one had gone mad and had to accelerate for fear of misery and despair. In fact, I love repose and all that reposes. I love thrift and moderation and am in my inmost self, in God’s name, unfriendly toward any agitation and haste. More than what is true I need not say. And because of these words the driving of automobiles will certainly not be discontinued, nor its evil air-polluting smell, which nobody for sure particularly loves or esteems. It would be unnatural if someone’s nostrils were to love and inhale with relish that which for all correct nostrils, at times, depending perhaps on the mood one is in, outrages and evokes revulsion. Enough, and no harm meant. And now walk on. Oh, it is heavenly and good and in simplicity most ancient to walk on foot, provided of course one’s shoes or boots are in order.”

      Fearing life, Chekhov’s man in a case erected every barrier against it, and was only at peace in the coffin, where “his expression was mild, agreeable, even cheerful, as though he were glad that he had at last been put in a case which he would never leave again.”

      Similarly, contemporary man has encased himself against life. Strapped to agitation and haste, he unhappily hurls himself past everything that makes this existence meaningful.

      Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America. He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

       
      • Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Vietnam 
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      1. When I got lost in Washington’s Anacostia, one of its few remaining black ghettos, I asked a woman to point me to the nearest Metro Station. In the sweetest, most maternal voice, she said, “It’s this way, baby!”

        When I still didn’t have the hang of the subway, during the Dinkin years when that could be a fatal mistake, I found my distinctly white ass in a place where a matronly black lady said, “Baby, you don’t belong here” and grabbed my hand and took me to the train back to safety. God bless these folks.

      2. Dumbo says:

        Another interesting text by Mr. Lihn. It seems that Western man is going deeper and deeper away from all that makes human life socially meaningful, and into greater and greater isolation and solipsism.

        I’ve read that young people now are so used to texting and social media that some are even losing the ability to talk in person and read facial cues. The increase in autism/Asperger’s may be related to that.

        The epitome of that seems to be the new VR headsets, which completely isolate the individual from everything around him. I find this in some ways extremely creepy, and yet there is hardly a discussion about it. With VR, the isolation of the individual, and its substitution of actual interaction with a fantasy world, is complete.

        I wonder what changes in society all this will produce. Maybe the Unabomber was correct in his dim view of technology, and how it would make us all slaves.

        • Replies: @ThreeCranes
        , @RudyM
        , @Lo
        , @Wendy
      3. Great to see in one of your pictures children riding bicycles and enjoying the outdoors. It’s springtime here and I have not seen one single kid on a bike or dribbling a basketball outside. Not one!

        Fearing life, Chekhov’s man in a case erected every barrier against it, and was only at peace in the coffin

        The coffin of the youth is the smart phone. How many teens and young adults in Vietnam have you seen with their heads down looking at a screen unaware of their actual surroundings? Who needs MKUltra.

        • Replies: @Colin Wright
      4. @Dumbo

        “The epitome of that seems to be the new VR headsets, which completely isolate the individual from everything around him. I find this in some ways extremely creepy, and yet there is hardly a discussion about it. With VR, the isolation of the individual, and its substitution of actual interaction with a fantasy world, is complete.”

        This is what you’re talking about.

        The only person not plugged into the artificial, delusional, make-believe world is the Jew Owner/Creator/Master of the Universe striding confidently down the aisle. This is the New World Order.

        • Replies: @Rev. Spooner
      5. RudyM says:
        @Dumbo

        I’ve read that young people now are so used to texting and social media that some are even losing the ability to talk in person and read facial cues. The increase in autism/Asperger’s may be related to that.

        Spend some time around some actual young people, and I think you will find generalizations such as these are complete rubbish.

        • Replies: @Dumbo
        , @Rabbitnexus
      6. AaronB says:

        The French have a term for walking aimlessly around in the city as an art and pastime – flaneur.

      7. Dumbo says:
        @RudyM

        Well, obviously this is not something that affects everybody, but perhaps a growing number of people. One thing that is certainly true is that most people now prefer texting than talking on the phone. Now that may be good or bad, I don’t know, but it certainly is a noticeable change.

        Another thing I notice, and I can notice this even in myself sometimes, is that people become restless if they cannot be fidgeting with a phone checking messages and status updates. We need constant tech interaction.

        Now it is true that traditional social interaction is not always a good thing, and it may be older than technology and involve some cultural differences, for instance, in Latin countries it is OK for people to talk to strangers in the metro or in a bus stop, while in Anglo countries if you try to establish conversation with a stranger in a public place you are seen as a weirdo. So it is natural in such countries for people to withdraw into their phones or their games, while in places like Vietnam it would be more common for people to talk to strangers all the time.

        Good or bad, a retraction away from traditional social neighborhood life and its inconveniences, and into a solitary, technology-driven life seems to be a reality for many people in the West.

        • Replies: @Colin Wright
      8. @Jon Baptist

        ‘Great to see in one of your pictures children riding bicycles and enjoying the outdoors. It’s springtime here and I have not seen one single kid on a bike or dribbling a basketball outside. Not one!’

        Ditto. We live in a community with quite a few children. It is, moreover, quite a safe town; it’s easy to forget to lock the door.

        So my wife and I were out walking one warm Spring evening — just about seventy degrees, still light. We came to a nice park: baseball diamond, swings, and so on.

        Not a kid in sight. It was very strange.

      9. @Dumbo

        ‘Another thing I notice, and I can notice this even in myself sometimes, is that people become restless if they cannot be fidgeting with a phone checking messages and status updates. We need constant tech interaction.’

        I saw this spectacularly illustrated at a restaurant somewhere in Europe. There was a German family — evidently, some sort of reunion, as there were about ten people, ranging in age from their twenties to the seventies.

        Above a certain age — say, fifty — everyone was talking. Below it, everyone was playing with their phone.

        • Agree: Rev. Spooner
      10. This week, I reread Chekhov’s Little Trilogy. In “The Man in a Case,” “Gooseberries” and “About Love,” a character narrates a longish tale to two listeners, and this is no fictional device, but perfectly realistic, for before the advent of electronic media, people routinely told each other stories. I had many such evenings as a child, in the 70’s. More than entertainment, it was a social necessity.

        Now, billions are enraptured to dumb skits, porn and real or fake catastrophes cynically or sinisterly beamed from thousands of miles away. Hardly knowing where they are at any moment, they have become emotional, social and political castrati.

        Intersting thoughts. The toddler walks are very intersting, too.

        Peter Handke is another European writer, who is very much into walking. His novel MyYear in No-Man’s Bay and especially his novel “Crossing the Sierra de Gredos” contain lots and lots of walks, as does his essay about the Jukebox.

      11. Muggles says:

        Mr. Linh makes many interesting and good points.

        However the joys of walking are as he notes, erased when violent thugs menace walkers in some places. Time to start packing heat. Though if you have to do that to be safe, probably not so much fun. Also, walking is for the healthy and fit. What percentage of Americanos are that?

        Where I live it is new, very flat and not very walkable since most homes are far away from bars, restaurants, etc. There is a lot of (mostly false) nostalgia about the “livable” and walkable city where you can easily head to a friendly bar or bistro, movie house or other amusement. Such places still exist but most are either now ghettoized or replaced with other businesses that can cover the expensive cost of living there. High end stuff or corporate buildings.

        Also, in a semi tropical clime like mine, it is very uncomfortable to walk (unless very early or late) in 90 degree heat and high humidity. Walk or bike, These climates also produce tropical downpours which will soak those not close to shelter. And bugs like dangerous mosquitoes. Where I live you see almost no one on the streets or sidewalks in the summer, early fall (to Nov) or late spring (mid May). But in the cooler months, people reappear.

        People moved out of apartments above shops, bars and restaurants as soon as they could afford to move to suburbs. Noisy and sometimes dangerous below, cars honking, sirens, etc. Often bad schools and no parking, so it’s buses or subways, now full of bums and thugs in some places.

        The Past ain’t what it used to be…

      12. Voltarde says:

        Thanks for another fine article. A suggestion:

        A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube
        by Patrick Leigh Fermor

        “At the age of eighteen, Patrick Leigh Fermor set off from the heart of London on an epic journey—to walk to Constantinople. A Time of Gifts is the rich account of his adventures as far as Hungary, after which Between the Woods and the Water continues the story to the Iron Gates that divide the Carpathian and Balkan mountains. Acclaimed for its sweep and intelligence, Leigh Fermor’s book explores a remarkable moment in time. Hitler has just come to power but war is still ahead, as he walks through a Europe soon to be forever changed—through the Lowlands to Mitteleuropa, to Teutonic and Slav heartlands, through the baroque remains of the Holy Roman Empire; up the Rhine, and down to the Danube.”

        • Replies: @Dumbo
        , @dearieme
      13. Dumbo says:
        @Voltarde

        This reminds me that filmmaker Werner Herzog once walked all the way from Munich to Paris and wrote a book about it, “Walking on Ice”. I haven’t read it but there’s an excerpt here:

        https://longreads.com/2015/06/04/werner-herzog-walks-to-paris/

        I think he said in an interview that he loves long walks, and something to the effect that mankind has been, for most of its existence, nomad people who walked from one place to another, so he reasons that we have somehow evolved to do that.

      14. Here is another quote from Thoreau, in Walden:

        “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

        In my experience, people who find excessive pleasure in associating with others tend to be shallow sorts. They always seemed to me to be suffering from a kind of pathology, though perhaps, since shallow people are many times more numerous than those who take readily to solitude, the reverse is true. Schopenhauer shared my view though:

        “And, as a rule, it will be found that a man is sociable just in the degree in which he is intellectually poor and generally vulgar. For one’s choice in this world does not go much beyond solitude on one side and vulgarity on the other. It is said that the most sociable of all people are the negroes; and they are at the bottom of the scale in intellect. I remember reading once in a French paper that the blacks in North America, whether free or enslaved, are fond of shutting themselves up in large numbers in the smallest space, because they cannot have too much of one another’s snub-nosed company.”
        – The Wisdom of Life

        Above the opinion is also ventured by Mr. Dinh and a few commenters that the advance of technology has had a hand in destroying human sociality, and perhaps this is true to an extent. But being preoccupied with gazing into a screen on a device so you can keep up with social media and communicate with others isn’t really being alone, is it? The paradox is that in many ways such technology pulls people closer together and leads to an even greater mental conformity, as is currently being demonstrated by the wave of deplatformings and social justice warrior doxings of dissidents.

        • Replies: @Marshall Lentini
      15. Lo says:
        @Dumbo

        – Young people are not good at social skills. Certainly worse than previous generations.
        – But you don’t become autistic. Autism is caused by younger women having fewer children and caesarian births.
        – VR isn’t necessarily bad. It can be useful in this society. Everything that requires actual focus isolates you from environment anyway, including reading books, studying maths, or crafting something.
        – Technology does not make us slaves, it just abstracts ownership, so that people don’t point fingers to their masters and instead blame an inanimate, thoughtless abstraction for ongoing problems.

      16. Modern city planning, with its zoning laws, is also culpable. In The Road to Wiggan Pier (1937), Orwell points out …

        Probably my favorite Orwell book–without doubt his best work of non-fiction.

      17. swamped says:

        “In the US, I also walked tirelessly, for during my 30 years as an adult there, I owned a car for just one year”…all kidding aside, that was probably your proudest achievement in your checkered U.S. experience & one that must please the incomparable Mr. Thoreau as well, as he smiles down on you from ecological heaven. Sadly, the incomparably lazy citizens (and non-citizens) of the world’s fattest country grow up believing a car is an indispensable necessity for any trips over 100 feet.
        “Walking’s main usurper and enemy is the automobile”…a statement so true & inescapable, it should be inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance. Post-war America has been built around the cult of the car. An America Thoreau wouldn’t recognize. There’s now a high speed freeway only a few hundred feet from where Thoreau’s idyllic cabin once stood at Walden. The pond & adjacent woods have been made a small state park & shrine for naturalists but almost everyone who visits arrives by automobile, even though Concord center & its RR station is only about a mile walk; a walk which Thoreau himself made countless times. Thoreau would have a hard time today though walking “ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, commencing at my own door, without going by any house, without crossing a road except where the fox and the mink do”; the area is very built up today, with some of the highest housing costs in the country. Long gone are the days when you could put up a humble abode in Middlesex county for $28. And live content without a “blustering dust-churning automobile”.
        However, Boston is still one of the most amenable cities in the land for getting around by foot, since it was laid out by colonists who did exactly that. Unlike in many sprawling western cities, it is not only highly desirable but even practical in the Hub to at last, junk your “blustering dust-churning automobile” (even though, alas, most don’t).

        • Replies: @Rev. Spooner
      18. In the sweetest, most maternal voice, she said, “It’s this way, baby!”

        I love when they do that. If you’re charming and play them right, for example at the DMV, they can be the sweetest women left in America.

      19. @Dr. Robert Morgan

        But being preoccupied with gazing into a screen on a device so you can keep up with social media and communicate with others isn’t really being alone, is it? The paradox is that in many ways such technology pulls people closer together and leads to an even greater mental conformity, as is currently being demonstrated by the wave of deplatformings and social justice warrior doxings of dissidents.

        Have you ever spent time in a small village without an internet connection, or at least, where the bulk of your socializing was done in person and not through media? It’s totally different. Ok, it all boils down to gossip, jokes, bullshit, superstition and conformity, just like on Facebook, but the psychological and thus neurological effect is definitely not the same. How could it be?

      20. Wendy says:
        @Dumbo

        A teenager once told me that on her first date with her boyfriend, they were too afraid to talk to each other, so they sat on a park bench and texted each other.

      21. Anonymous[548] • Disclaimer says:

        …the most astonishing writing on walking is Robert Walser’s “The Walk,” for it captures perfectly the multifaceted elation that walking’s intercourse with life often yields.

        Maybe. But in a culture less given to the pleasures of sharing and where solipsistic lifestyles take precedence, walking in and of itself would hardly evoke the elation mentioned here, any more than eating alone would. In gregarious societies, where widespread and spontaneous bonding provides an important building block for social wholesomeness, it is less the act of walking than with who one walks that marks a difference. In fact, Mr. Dinh, the simple fact of walking with your young nephew was adequate testimony to that fact, drawing so many folks into your shared world as a result.

      22. dearieme says:
        @Voltarde

        I agree wholeheartedly: a fascinating read – the civilisation it describes has largely vanished.

      23. Sofi says:

        Recommend “Homelessness and the failure of urban renewal” by Ryan McMaken via Moses Institute on Zerohedge on the deliberate break up of poor urban communities.

        Sorry don’t know how to link.

        • Replies: @Republic
      24. I typically visit Unz to see AI in action. Modern America is mostly people who can’t hold thoughts for more than a couple of sentences but consider their valuable contributions anyway.

        In the digital police state free people allow their masters to know all their thoughts, social media postings and emails, while not knowing anything about what the masters think because they lack the national security clearance.

        Vietnam is slowly transforming into an Old Testament society based on cruelty and slavery to the poor and life of luxury for the rich – much like the USA. We see more evidence of brainwashed confusion in the Vietnamese liberal – denigrating the automobile while it is home to over 16,000 people in Los Angeles alone. YouTube has tens of thousands of videos on how to live in a vehicle. Not just in LA but all over the country.

      25. During my two months in Marfa, Texas, I would daily walk around this handsome town of 1,800, but the front porches were mostly empty, thanks to the air conditioners.

        During my trek, the two days I spent in Marfa, another town in Mustang province in Nepal, a town empty due to the cold, I washed my jeans and hung them on the terrace. Next morning they were so stiff and frozen even Marion Robert Morrison would envy my walk.

      26. Dumbo says:

        Lihn’s text about Jews: 370 comments and counting
        Lihn’s text about walking: 25 comments

        This website really is “all Jews, all the time.” 😀 😉

      27. @RudyM

        I spend time around young people and it is clear that they are on average obsessed with smart phones, selfies and pointless almost inarticulate exchanges on social media. Some work for me, some are my grown children and one is even my wife and of course her many siblings. The tendency is real and it is having a very real and negative effect on them as people.

      28. In Walden, Thoreau also relates a conversation with a neighbor, which goes something like this:

        “But Mr. Thoreau, you love to travel. If you got yourself a job and saved some money, you could travel wherever you wanted.”

        Thoreau explains that by the time he’d have saved money for a train ticket to, say, San Francisco, he could’ve walked there and have had a much nicer and richer travel experience.

        Another great perambulator was Hans Christian Andersen, and before he hit it big with the fairy tales, he wrote of his philosophical (but short) foot voyage across the island of Amager.

        https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q21084042

        • Replies: @Rev. Spooner
      29. @Dumbo

        This website really is “all Jews, all the time.

        If 99% of all websites banhammered you if you talked about model trains, this site would be flooded with train enthusiasts.

      30. No thread about walking is complete without mention of Hilaire Belloc’s wonderful Path to Rome. He’s also good on sailing and many other topics.

      31. @ThreeCranes

        He looks pumped up, doesn’t he? He was skinny kid when sold out to the CIA, and he will be plump unless he does something radical. Here he’s walking on expensive sponges attached to his feet.

      32. @swamped

        The railways and public transport was actively sabotaged in the USA. Read about it.

      33. To walk in a city is to be poor; to walk in the country, you need to be rich (comparatively) or a tradesman.
        I have walked in the most poverty stricken spots in both the west and east (not USA) and never encountered viciousness.
        Does that mean I have some special powers? ???

      34. @Felix Krull

        You are wrong. The days of Jack Kerouc and the criss/crossing of USA by hobos is long gone. Today they’ll get gunned down by the cops.

        • Replies: @Felix Krull
        , @t-gordon
      35. @Rev. Spooner

        You are wrong. The days of Jack Kerouc and the criss/crossing of USA by hobos is long gone.

        So are the days of Henry David Thoreau, whom I was quoting. (From memory, so don’t go pedantic on me).

      36. t-gordon says:

        In the course of coming to terms with a drinking problem that’s left me on my ass- proverbially and literally, I’ve had the opportunity to walk thousands of miles out of necessity. I can drive legally now, but still prefer to walk when I get the chance. I spend a lot of time in my head which isn’t always healthy and find that walking is the most effective panacea for my ever present bouts of confusion. Buses and bicycles are great tools for the semi destitute as well. It’s not always a pleasant, sanitized reality and I prefer it that it way. I always gravitate towards the grittier sides and outskirts of most communities. You can feel some life in the air (and meet your death as well). This is why I admire Linh Dinh’s writing. I’ve traversed many miles of strip malls and suburbs which can leave me a tad sad. Constant traffic is an assault on the ears and I believe that noise and light pollution is a scourge/epidemic/pestilence that harms all of us neurologically, physically and spiritually. A bad case of tinnitus is a small price for the ability to walk for hours at a time. Ahh well, I’m simply a lush from Indiana who dreams of walking to Memphis via the cornfields, backroads and railroad rights of way along the Wabash River. Maybe I’ll wander into the wrong neighborhood and end up with a bullet in me, but considering the palpable anomie of the times, maybe it’d be worth it. When in doubt, walk it out. Dream big baby! Dream Big! Thank you again Linh.

      37. t-gordon says:
        @Rev. Spooner

        Nope. Many are still at it. They’re called “The Homeless” and can cover a wide spectrum Rev. Life’s never safe. I’d actually say that criss crossing the country via foot, bus, bike, hands, knees what have you is safer today than it was sixty years ago. America’s a ghost town in many respects and the majority of folks are too distracted to notice if Christ or the Angel of Death were to stride past. I suspect that the days of the hobo are returning with gusto.

      38. @Dumbo

        He knows who butters his bread.

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