++*Chicago Union Station BNSF to Aurora**++
I talked to an old Vietnamese immigrant for a class assignment. Lack of choice on my part dimishes the artistic rate-of-return on any anecdote. He ran away from his uncle’s farm to Hanoi at the age of ten. He was a Communist at fifteen, small business owner and capitalist at forty. His father died during a Japanese bomber strafing run when he was five. He left Vietnam on a helicopter, from the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon, in 1975. He thinks this is a small and relatively insignificant anecdote. He writes poetic essays and calls them “palavers”. Maybe we all think our participation in history is a small and relatively insignificant anecdote.
“I don’t really want the kids or my kids or my children to – to come back or rebuild on anything but I want to create and understand that they have to improve that quality.”
“I love the kids [pauses] like brothers, young brothers, young sisters so I like teaching. but probably teaching is the best uh to me because I have three – three months of vacation”
“sometime I just sit in front of my internet for many hours to look at the history of violence, the history of ISIS, you know um world causes, ISISism, Catholicism, something like that – and the situation like the older man, the Mongolians.”
He thinks the Vietnam War was an effect – historical causality – “bring the seed, plant the seed. what do you get next year? the seed again” – of global colonial imperialism, beginning with the Chinese. Like most old people he is concerned with an ineffable creator-deity. I am growing up at a slower rate than anyone else I know. My friends and peers are returning to belief systems they cast away in their early teens. To them the condition of metaphysical drift is untenable. I am still dyeing my hair and piercing my face, even though I am past the age at which these would be considered rebellious. Trad wife, trad life. Religion is everywhere again. Sometimes I mobilize nostalgia for the early 2000s, when agnosticisms and mall-rat culture were aggravating and not embarrassing, as a petty way to make myself feel better. Young gay men dressing like their straight fathers is either rebellious or a sign of white male queerness deferring to an American norm. I am not a good observer of the human condition (Keanu Reeves, Destination Wedding (2018): “Now I understand why it is called a ‘condition'”). Cynicisms are still valuable, to a degree. Paul Schrader made a good movie this year, for once. No one made a good poem this year.