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When I called 123_box_348x490_originalmy parents earlier this month, there was a sense of jubilation and relief when they answered: “You’re the only one who calls us regularly without having to be reminded.” (Which wasn’t exactly true, since I called in response to an email my mother had sent, asking us, the children, what we wanted to do for my father’s 80th birthday. Shall we meet in Houston or Denver?  I wanted to vote, emphatically, for Denver; Houston, in July, was a non-starter.) “We haven’t heard back from your brother, but he might be working in Malaysia.” my mother said. “And, as for your sister, well, we never know where she is.”

My sister splits her time between Saigon and San Francisco, with the majority of the split in Saigon. She goes incommunicado for long periods of time, and the family’s only knowledge of her whereabouts are what we glean from Facebook posts. Of the siblings, she’s moved the farthest away, both physically and psychically.

It wasn’t always this way. My brother moved away first, after college, to work in Midland, Texas, never to return; I left next, fleeing to the East Coast for college, though I moved back to Colorado periodically, in between jobs. But my sister followed the path that had been set out for her: living at home, teaching for Denver Public Schools, being the obedient daughter. Maybe, in that way, she was like Little Edie. The one who stayed behind. The one who put her life on hold. The one who deferred her dreams until they had congealed into an amalgam of love, guilt and resentment.

At times, I can sometimes understand that resentment. My mother gets stuck on an endless loop of worry—When will the University offer you a full time job? Do you have health insurance? When was the last time you went to the dentist? Despite her best intentions, she can be smothering, oppressive, a presence that demands attention.

Little Edie only left Grey Gardens once her mother had died. She went to New York, had a cabaret act, and, at 60, became the star she had always wanted to be. She burst forth onto the stage of Reno Sweeney for eight shows, enrobed in a crimson gown with a swath of red-painted plastic leaves on draping her shoulder like fire.

My sister, too, escaped. First into her own apartment, then into her soon-to-be husband’s condo. She decided: she’d get her MBA and leave the teaching profession all together. But on the way, she found a second husband, all the way on the East Coast, and, finally, Vietnam, and a possible third husband in San Francisco. And I see her, living the life she thinks she was denied all those years ago: the endless parties, the clothes that exude glamour and youth, the carefully constructed of her make-up and hair. And I see her still: parading in circles for the camera, picking the best costume to wear for the day, trying to keep the line between the past and the present.


122_box_348x490_originalViet Dinh

Street Address · City, State, Zip · (XXX) XXX-XXXX ·


Top producer with a distinguished track records in sales, customer service and client management

Best-of-Breed Go-Getter — Outside-Of-Box Strategic Thinker — Value-Added Self-Motivatior — Hard-Working Thought-Leader — Results-Driven Team Player — Detail-Oriented Go-To Person


Leveraged acumen to drive consistent increase in sales profits. Extensive experience in client satisfaction, appreciation and retention. Outstanding communication, networking, selling, customer service and negotiation skills. Adept at determining customer requirements and engaging in client-focused problem solving. Proven track record with bottom-line results.


Regional Sales Manager
Aurora Sentinel, Aurora, CO (1988)

Hands-on experience with all aspects of sales process, from initial processing of newspapers (tri-folding, rubber-banding, and wrapping in poly-plastic bags, depending on weather). Used varied and dynamic methods to achieve efficient distribution channels, including pedestrian-focused doorstep dropping, tossing from the handlebars of a wobbly bicycle, or flinging from the back of a Toyota 4-Runner driven by delivery associate. Took initiative when gathering monthly ‘donation,’ since newspaper was considered ‘free.’ Stoic in the face of slammed doors and irate customers insisting they had canceled their ‘subscription’ and no longer wanted product. Saved resources by noting addresses and not delivering product, subsequently recycling stacks of unused product at King Soopers for pennies on the dollar. Penetrated key prospective accounts while receiving payment, taking note of extensive wood-paneling, dun carpeting, wafts of cigarette smoke. Adopted innovative approach to increasing revenue, relying on innocent, doe-eyed look to extract tips more effectively.

Account Executive
World’s Finest Chocolate, Aurora, CO (1984)

Proactively recruited and retained secondary sales force. Spearheaded workplace entrepreneurship, delegating tasks as necessary to maternal and paternal contractors. Mentored members of sales team, insisting that catalog rewards were not the end goal. Instead encouraged civic pride in Parklane Elementary School, in spite of established sales quotas necessary to earn year-end bonus. Generated adequate volume with new accounts despite heavy competition from other independent sales associates accessing the same markets. Expedited sales by eating product, five-inch chocolate bars with the color and texture of a paper bag, a single almond in each segment. Compared product to others on the market to gauge marketing strategy, decided on innovative approach of not mentioning flavor whatsoever. Achieved and exceeded sales goal when contractors pooled resources and announced, ‘Look, it’s just easier for us to buy you whatever you want from the catalog.’ Donated all proceeds to local charitable organization, left on good terms after the 5th grade.

Area Sales Associate
Innisbrook Wrapping Paper, Aurora, CO (1982)

Accountable for all aspects of sales, business development and client management. Effectively prospected clients door-to-door using a hard-copy, glossy catalog. Pursued leads to generate revenue growth. Emphasized the need for foil-embossed wrapping paper and the indispensability of having several rolls on-hand at all times. Generated leads in a four-house radius, cultivated person-to-person contact. Wrote order forms, negotiated delivery dates. Prepared closing documents, eyed prizes in the rewards catalog: Atari 2600, Huffy Bike, Personal Gumball Machine (gumballs not included). Earned erasers in the shape of monsters.

The camera doesn’t record memories as much as it creates them.  These moments can now not be forgotten:  the naked and drug-addled being escorted to the medical tent; a man wearing a sparkly Star-Spangled outfit, puffing from a furry bong the size of a hockey stick; the woman on-stage who says, petulantly, “But I wanna see Mick Jagger, goddammit.”  Throughout Gimme Shelter, the Rolling Stones watch the footage, as if it holds clues to their own memories of their 1969 North American tour, which ended at the infamous Altamont Speedway concert:  what did they see?  What could they have done?  They listen to a radio call-in show recapping the Altamont concert, with Ralph ‘Sonny’ Barger, one of the Hell’s Angels, giving his side of the story, and afterwards, Charlie Watts says, sardonically, “Well done, Sonny.”   When the film reaches the moment when Meredith Hunter gets stabbed in the back.  Jagger asks to see it again.  The Moviola freezes on a knife blade flashing in the air.  Then Maysles winds it backwards, and Hunter pulls a gun, its shape visible against a girl’s crotchet dress.


Memorializing one’s life has become ubiquitous.  Video clips, photographs—with these artifacts, we can rifle through our memories, parsing their significance.  What did this moment mean?  Nowadays, you can’t go to a concert without someone hold up his phone for the entirety of the performance.   What will he remember of it?  How does he re-live the experience?  Does he sing along?  Are his eyes dazzled by the strobe lights, the smoke machines, the trembling of his own hand?


I saw Skinny Puppy on their Too Dark Park tour.  The stage featured rubberized trees that, in the light, looked wet with slime.  Faces were twisted into the bark.  Behind the band, a back projection showed a loop of atrocities:  war crimes, Lucio Fulci clips, animal experiments, Microsoft Windows 3.0 graphics.  At one point, the lead singer, Ogre, was tied into a chair with medical tubing and and ‘injected’ with neon fluids.  His bandmates strapped metal stilts to his arms and legs, and for the duration of the concert, he loped around the stage, a Goth giraffe.


I still have the t-shirt from the concert, a stippled close-up from the album’s cover art:  a demonic, tentacled face.  It’s the only physical reminder I have of the concert, and I’ve stopped wearing it.  The image has started to crack and flake away, and the black of the shirt itself has faded to a dingy gray.  And to be honest:  I can hardly remember much of the concert itself.  Much of what I ‘remember’ was provided by other sources.  But I’m sure it happened that way, anyway.


In 1991, Skinny Puppy released their Tormentor single, which featured the track “Harsh Stone White,” recorded live in Denver.  I imagine I can hear myself cheering, clapping, begging for “Worlock,” and I can see myself, the only skinny Asian 16-year old at the concert, skirting the mosh pit, inching my way up to the stage, and my 37-year old self, now sporting a mohawk for the summer, crosses his arms and says, Well done, sonny.