Saturday, October 31, 2015

Some Chinatown pics

This is overlooking that "back alley" I dare not venture to sweep for fear of herion needles galore. But if you look ate it, it looks beautiful, and it's only going to get cleaner as One Green way is finished and that park becomes a place where people regularly walk, maybe even at night and maybe even patrolled by private security guards. 

Here is some roofing going on across from BCEC, Boston Chinese Evangelical Church. 

And their little garden has come along nicely. When I did Crime Watch this corner always had a prostitute on it. One was there for so long, and in the broad day light no less, I asked if she might consider moving one block over just for appearances. I asked the other Crime Watch guys if this corner always had that type of businesses, even so early in the day. The consensus was....  Let us just say that the attractive prostitutes tend to be picked up quite quickly. I wonder if this corner is still like that later in the day? In any case the garden looks nice.

These pics are not from Chinatown. But Shao is enjoying the Baos from Pot Luck Cafe which I brought back into JP.

I didn't get a chance to eat any. The kids ate all but two. Those two were saved for Mommy, who was the one who had requested them in the first place. High marks all around I would say. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Pot Luck Baos

Grace really wanted me to go to this Three meals and a soup place (san chan yi tang) to get their baos.
So I figured I would do a little restaurant review.
This is the place. It is in the back alley across from Jia Ho Supermarket. I didn't see a street name. But honestly I've been going here and to the Supermarket for so long and today was the first time I even looked for a street name. It's really cheap and even though it is pre-made "fast food" I really like it. They have more home style type of food here.

This is what you will see if you look away from the restaurant. That would be Tufts Dental and I think the bricks are the back of St. James but I might be wrong about that. In any case we are looking out on Kneeland.

Here is the view the other way. You can see the restaurant. And we are staring at a parking garage connected to Arch Stone. It really is a back alley.

Here is the sign that tells you the name of the place, which I actually never noticed until today. 

Here are the selection of pre-made food you can order. And the styrofoam containers are filled with soup. It's like the stuff your mom would make, if your mom was from southern China. 

Here are the baos that Grace so badly wanted me to buy. They thought I was weird for taking pictures and immediately started talking to me in English after I whipped out the camera. I guess by pulling out my camera, I go down one level of Chinese-ness. All of these baos are filled with meat.

And here is what some of them are filled with. Hong.. big bao. North wing .... beef bao.  Heaven... (not translating that character because people might take it the wrong way. It probably means ground up or something. There is no way it is what it says.) not something bao. Life clean Bao (That's probably vegetarian.)  Man Tou. Which means it is a plain bun. But actually means the head of someone from the tribe of Mahn. There's a story behind that that dates back to the three kingdoms. I only mention it because the above character I did not translate probably has some similar background. Jook sings will know what I mean. You can't read a lot the wrong way when you only know how to read SOME words. 

Well, I always enjoy eating the meals here, at Pot Luck Cafe, and I highly recommend it, especially for Tufts Students looking for something cheap and fast. This is the first time we will try the baos. I think I'll video tape the kid tearing into them and we'll get Grace's review as well. But that will be a good snack before we go out for Trick or Treating today. (There's an early trick or treat Parade with the library. Better eat something first or it will be an overdose of sugar.)


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Gung Ho and Kung Fu

"You know that place in the back of Tai Tung where the old Kung Fu Federation used to be? Anyway there was the office back there, and that;s where the Gung Ho boys used to hang out. My brother was in it and all my friends were too so I would hang out there with them."

"Why didn't you join?" I asked Fred. (Not his real name.)

"That's a good question." He took another sip of tea. "I was all ready to join, it was my freshman year in high school at Brookline high and all my friends were joining. In fact we had already had this meeting and my name was even entered into the book. It was early November. And I went over to Teddy Bear."

"Teddy Bear was this arcade where everyone hung out and if you didn't know Teddy Bear, than I'm sorry you didn't grow up in the city. Everyone knew Teddy Bear. Anyway, I went over there with a bunch of friends and I talked to the bouncer over there. Big Persian guy. And I said, 'You know, I'm getting ready to join soon.' and he says, 'Why do you want to do that?'

"I was taken aback. I mean 'What do you mean?' All my friends were joining. Of course I was going to join. It was that whole peer pressure thing. So he asked me, 'Do you think of yourself as a leader or a follower?'
I thought about it, and I told him, 'I think of myself as a leader.'"

"'If you think of yourself as a follower then go ahead and join. But if you think of yourself as a leader, then don't do it.' he says. Then I said to him 'What if I work my way up the ranks and get to the top?'
He laughed and was like, 'Yeah get in line.' So after that little pep talk, a little later we were all together and they were like, "C'mon let's go up to the club it's time." And I was like, 'I'm not going.' My friends all looked at me like I was crazy. "What you mean you're not going?" And I just shook my head and said, "You guys g one without me."

"Now do I regret not joining? But in the end, it didn't really make a difference anyway. I still hung out with all of them all the time. So in a way, it's like I'm a member without being a member."

What about Kung Fu?

Fred laughed. "You know. I never really was into any of that growing up."

I thought this was strange because Fred was a well known practitioner and I mentioned this.

"I got railroaded into it. I had a friend Jimmy, who tended bar and he was always coming into the restaurant after his shift. And he asked me if he knew of any could Kung Fu places around. I said, 'Hey you're in Chinatown take your pick.' But he wanted me to take him around. So we actually went over to you guys, Woo Ching, but at the time you guys were still partnered with Lei Fahn Fung. And Bog Mike was there. And I love Big Mike.... now, but I didn't know him at the time. And well it just didn't seem like a very inviting environment."

I laughed at this because a lot of my friends coming into the school in the past had mentioned something similar. (Though I didn't feel that way obviously)

"So then we walked across the quad to Bo Sim Mark's And then we asked some questions dadada but then when they mentioned the tuition $160.00 a month. Jimmy's mouth dropped. And so we kept going. So we went over to Wah Lum and for this reason or that, none of the school's were really fitting his criteria. I was like, 'Jimmy, w've been everywhere.' But I remembered one more place I had heard about from a friend by chance. This guy told me he worked out at the gym in Teradyne and I was like, 'Whatever.' but I decided to take Jimmy over there now."

What is a good price as a consumer, by the way? (I wanted to know because I teach as well, but have never been financially successful when it comes down to it.)

"I'll get to that," Fred said smiling. " So we go to Teradyne, and actually the guy who taught there had a restaurant, Gyuhama, and it was one of the very first if not the first Sushi restaurants in the Boston. But his restaraunt as a business concept was AWESOME." Fred said with wide hand motions. "During the day, they would have a very traditional menu and the waitresses would where the traditional kimonos. But then, around 10pm half the wait staff would disappear and then, literally, a switch was flipped and there would be disco lights and music and it became like a club. And then the waitresses would return with tight T-shirts and miniskirts and the menu was different, like a hip more modern version."

"Anyway we didn't know that yet. But we could see the people practicing with their Gi's on and very intense and into it. And so someone came over and we said 'yeah we would like to know more about what you're doing here.' And you know they gave me the run down, Black belt 5 years dadada... and so we asked, 'How much?'" Fred paused.

"'They said, 'Ten bucks a month!'"

How did he make money?

"He didn't need to make money because he had the restaurant! He taught just because he was passionate about Karate. But he had schools in all the Universities and a lot of other places too. So anyway, Jimmy was like, "This is the place!" And I was like "Good luck to you then." But he says, "You gotta do it with me! Think about it. We'll get in shape, we'll learn to kick some ass, and its only 10 bucks a month!"

"So anyway I tried it out with him and I really liked the teacher. He would always take out to his restaurant afterward and so I try to repay those favors now. And I stuck with it. And now I do Kung Fu but it all started with Shotokan at Teradyne.... and would you believe it? Jimmy quit after 3 months!"

#Chinatown Blog

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Send in the Cavalry

I started Street Sweeping earlier than usual today because my Kung Fu class had been cancelled. I had seen a homeless guy sleeping in the park. When I got there he was gone but his stuff was there. I moved it to the dumpster. He came back to get it as I was bringing something else there. I tried to talk to him, to let him know I'd be cleaning on Wednesday etc. The truth is I should interview him. He was Asian. But he seemed not to understand Cantonese. You could argue I was being a jerk. But hey, it was already 10am and that playground is supposed to be used by kids. I mean there are a lot of day cares that would like to use it.

Anyway. I went the other direction avoiding that back alley (which pretty soon will be cleaned up because of development.) At 10:45, I was joined by other people who live in Tai Tung!
"Do we have to do the other side of the street too?" 
"Let's just do this side first." I responded. It's funny. Every time I work with the people who taught me when I was a kid, seem to be on the same page as me. In a lot of ways we think the same way.But if you looked at me and looked at them, you would not guess that.
 Tong How Jerng was there and other people who used to work at Kwong Kow and probably cleaned up after me when I was my kids age.  Tong How Jerng taught me some tricks of how we should be holding the bag etc. And how I should have taken a picture with the bags full of trash. "That's your evidence."
We did most of the block, except the back alley, which, glancing down it, looks fairly clean. It's just that I know there are a ton of heroin needles back there. Tong How Jerng found one sweeping actually. On Facebook I was told to call 311 or Citizens Direct etc. But talking to Main Street they said that they just want you to take the syringe and stick it in a bottle and then cover the bottle and throw it out, to get it off the street. That's what I did. It took a while to find a bottle because we had cleaned most of the street already. 
No poop this time. And we also had gloves. Plus we were a team. After about and hour for them and about one hour and 45 minutes for me since I started early, we were done.
"Sau Gong" Tong How jerng said, "See you next week."


Water Main Break today, and some other pictures.

As I was leaving Chinatown I saw the street blocked off again. This is right behind the #Josiah Quincy Elementary school and in front of part of the Upper School where the basketball court is. 
I asked a police officer and he said a water main was broken. Interestingly there was a guy with a news camera and when I asked him, he said he wasn't sure. 

Today I actually had an interesting time so here is a recap with some pictures. My preschool Kung Fu class was cancelled, so I wandered around a little bit before my street sweeping exercise (that will come in another post). I felt like some sort of loser with nothing to do so I tried to interview people. I ran into a black guy trying to make a delivery. A window opened. A white guy popped his head out. "Keep ringing the F-ing bell and see what happens!"
"Uhhh Delivery?"

I overheard the white guy apologizing. All this is in Chinatown by the way. So tense! I asked some other people if they wanted to talk. Granted, sometimes I should have used mandarin instead of Cantonese and English, but I figure, I'm not really going to be able to do that interview by myself am I? I realized this. Interviews have to be a scheduled thing.

I took some more pictures of stuff I would take for granted but you might find interesting if you'e never been to Chinatown. 
Here's a little street stall

And here's a delivery of Lobsters. 
Okay, next post is street sweeping.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Chinatown isn't going anywhere (A perspective from the North End)

Today I interviewed Joe DiGangi from Urban Core Development just to get his perspective about what is happening in Chinatown, from the point of view of a developer. He did some work in Lower Roxbury, South End, Dudley, Fort Hill, not Chinatown. But still don't you want to know how a developer sees your community.

(A new neighborhood market in Chinatown. While many places are closing down. New businesses are also opening up)

Right away he opened my eyes to the fact that Chinatown is the last untapped part of the city that hasn't been developed. North End, South End, Seaport... and then on the perimeter there has been some stuff with Avalon, Archstone and then there is One Greenway but the buildings in the core center are pretty much the same.

I had interviewed a Vietnamese-Chinese entrepreneur (some might say "street entrepreneur" in the past) who had strong ties to Canal Street in New York. (He didn't want his real name used. So let's call him Duong, he'd probably get behind a name like that.)

"Yo man, for what I see all of Boston is build up, like beautiful bot only Boston Chinatown look like a piece of shit. Look at that building like right there. Imagine twenty years ago they make it beautiful. Not like sell it but make it like Chinese way. Yeah! man. In New York you see that shit, but here no."

I told Duong that a lot of the stuff he said lined up with what the developers had said, and today I got the more professional read on the situation. Duong said that in New York Chinese developers would change things to make Chinatown stronger, to make it last for 100 years. But he thought that Boston's Chinatown would be gone in 20.

Chinatown won't disappear. It will just be more Commercialized.

"Look, Chinatown's not going anywhere." reassured Joe DiGangi, "It will just be more watered down and commercialized. The North End is a perfect example of a neighborhood that has changed without losing that ethnic feel."

Joe then gave me a quick history lesson from his experience in the North End and in this business.

"In the 1980's Boston was not a Cosmopolitan city. There was Back Bay and Beacon Hill but everything else was ethnic neighborhoods. The North End was Italian, Southie was Irish, the South End was black and people didn't go into other neighborhoods. I didn't step foot in Southie until Senior Skip day in high school because one of my friends happened to be from South Boston. But otherwise why would I go there? But then in the mid 90's something happened. The North End became somewhere to be.Yuppies started moving in and Old Timers started to sell. And it lost a lot of that authentic Italian feel to it. It became more watered down and Commercialized."

I mentioned that the businessman I interviewed, who I called Fred, said much of the same stuff regarding the August Moon Festival.

"Look I grew up in the North End, I mean even when I wasn't living there I was still part of the neighborhood. And there was a street of four or five butcher shops where you would see dead rabbits on a hook showing the kill of the day. But for instance, my father was the first one to build Condos in 1975. Before that there were no Condos in the North End, the didn't know what they were. But a Condo, you take a piece of that land, and anyone can buy it, from anywhere, even if their not Italian. So in terms of the North End being an "all Italian neighborhood" no it's not anymore. But will it disappear? I just don't see that happening. It's just changed."

"I mean people like going to Chinatown. That feeling of being densely populated, alleyways where you can go down this little street and you see something new and you go in the supermarket and maybe it's not really something from China and maybe it will be less authentic or watered down but it's not going to disappear. I mean people who come to America from Europe, they think of East Coast like New York, then Texas, the cowboy, and then L.A. "

"And Boston, along with New York and Philly is one of the few places where you can get that feeling of what East Coast America is supposed to be like. I mean have you been to Sand Diego's Little Italy? It's like a Disney world version. You can't just create an ethnic neighborhood." he laughed

I got the sense of how important neighborhoods like Chinatown and the North End are.

"Go to Arizona or New Mexico. You won't get that feeling at all. Just open space as far as the eye can see."

So even if it's just for tourism alone, these neighborhood like Chinatown and Little Italy probably won't be completely swallowed up. They will just change.


Are the Changes Good or bad?

"Well if you want to romanticize it I guess you would say it's bad. But to be honest, it was a little run down. And now it's a nicer neighborhood as far as wealth goes. And a lot of the changes, well this is what you see in American in general. You don't see the small businesses and Mom and Pop stores you used to see."

Joe's eyes glazed over a bit as he was walking down streets that might still be in the North End, but the scenes and buildings he would describe exist only in his and other people's memories now.

He laughed saying, "I mean I walked down the street and there was the toy shop, the candy store and one store Tosie's" he gestured now looking at the store in his minds eye and stepping into it, "I mean," he laughed, "On one side of the store you had musical instruments. Every musical instrument you could possibly imagine. And then other the other side was all guns and knives. There's no way you could have that kind of store in the modern economy."

"I mean not all change is bad. Look at the Seaport District. that used to be just parking lots. It's just a matter of perspective. You only see it as bad if you want to hold on to the past."

"Here's a good story," he said changing position and tone, "Do whatever you want with this."

"In the late 70's a young black couple came to my Father's Real Estate Agency" This is in the North End, "And he told them, 'I will show you anywhere you want and all the apartments that meet your criteria, but I'm not sure you will be well received. The couple asked what he meant. He told them, "I support you being here. You have aright to be here and I think you should be here. But I don't think the neighborhood will not (support you)'"

"And they looked at a few apartments but in the end they didn't move in because people would be throwing their stuff out on the street. That wouldn't happen today. That just doesn't happen anymore and for good reason. So how can you say that change is bad?"

#NorthEnd #LittleItaly #Chinatown

Chinatown 1991 Shooting article in Boston magazine.

When I first started doing Crime Watch a lot of my friends, the ones my age, were really against it.
They thought that this was a return to the way things were where Chinatown would police itself. My mother, often talked about earlier versions of these days and for her some of the people that were really bad, could do no wrong. At least that was the bed time story I was told.

But this incident was recent, within my lifetime, effected a classmate at Kwong Kow. Before cliicking on that link, it is the shooting that happened in 1991. You may not want to read this article. But sometimes talking about things can be good. Quoting the article, the guys plead innocent " setting up a trial that will relive a night many people in Chinatown still refuse to even talk about." 

Well I've talked about it plenty. But I wouldn't talk about it in front of the victim's family would I? 
 And maybe they read this blog. The article is well hashed out and researched. It describes the incident as a wound. The thing is, it's not my wound. But do I dare ask my friend to be interviewed about THIS event? 

No, if I interviewed them I would just ask about Chinatown in General and then if they WANTED to talk about this story I would let them talk about it. But I imagine it would be very difficult.

Crime watch was not a return to times like that at all by the way. And I think these articles remind us that not all the changes are bad. Would this kind of thing happen in Chinatown today? I seriously doubt it. But then, even in 1991 it didn't seem like something that would happen, until it did.  

But in all of these articles, the story is a bit impersonal. It's how the outside sees Chinatown. It's not about the people who were affected by this tragedy. Granted if you are the family of these victims, maybe you don't want to talk about it, even so many years later. But then maybe you do, and you never had time to hash through it yourself, in your own words. 

I hope I didn't offend anyone by writing this post. But I also hope that Chinatown can have a space to tell our own story in a more personal way about every part of life. And this horrible tragedy, is one of the many parts of life. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Haunted Buildings in Chinatown.

Halloween is approaching, and Chinatown has some legitimate ghost stories. Fred (not his real name) shared some of his stories with me in an earlier post. Today let's focus on the spooky ones.

"You know that building was all boarded up when I was a kid. It was so Ugly that we didn't even want to look at it. If we were going from Tai Tung back to the restaurant we would actually run, full speed just so we wouldn't have to look at it. It was that much of an eyesore."

Later that building would house Kwong Kow Chinese School and now it is actually a community Center. The school where I learned Kung Fu is there along with several other martial arts, dance and music schools, an after school, a #library, a gallery, and most recently it is where the displaced people from the fire were staying.

"I think the City actually sold it to the Chinatown Community for like a dollar or a penny or something. But you know Kwong Kow wasn't in that building in the beginning, it was in the building where Sun Sun is now. And that place was haunted."

This was interesting to me because as Kwong Kow moved from building to building I happened to be somehow involved either as a student, teacher, or Kung Fu Sifu. But I would always hear kids talking about the place being haunted. So this is the origin story of all that.

"That old Kwong Kow had a funeral home on the bottom floor." See of course a ghost story would come out of that. Having a funeral home and a school in the same building doesn't seem like good Feng Shui to me. "And in the late 1800's most of the Chinese here wouldn't be buried here. They would send their bodies back to China. And back then that Funeral home was there in that building. But the thing is, it's not like they would send the bodies back right away. They would be stored there for a while before being shipped back on that long boat ride back to China."

Now that's creepy. But not the creepiest.

"You know that On Leong Building?"

"Nobody ever wants to use the bathroom there because they say that place is haunted too. And it is weird. Many people have been taking a leak down there and suddenly they feel chills. I've felt it myself. And then sometimes you get that feeling that someone is looking at you, but then you turn and nobody's there."

I had gone there to sing karaoke there a couple times and I did turn like that several times thinking someone was there. Of course, I had been drinking. But I did have that sensation as well.

"They told me that back in the old days, the gangster days, that rivals or anyone that needed to be taken care of, were brought down to the basement and... executed.

Not only is that a ghost story but it's got recent legitimacy. I mean can you beat that for a haunted house? Maybe we should have tours on Halloween.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dim Sum with the Kite Master, Hing Yee

Today I interviewed Hing Yee, local artist, and close family friend to the point that even in the American view of things he would be my Uncle. I blogged about him on Kung Fu Dad about Kite Festival. But this post is all about him.

I actually arrived slightly early and saw him at the #Chinatown gate. Once again, because of my lack of photography skills I didn't capture the moment. But as I said in Kung Fu Dad, his image, for me, captures the essence of what a Chinese American Man should be. #Dragonwings by #LaurenceYep tried to capture this in Fiction. For the Japanese American the is #Mr.Miyagi. (made for Americans by Americans) I guess the American man would be #JohnWayne, or the #MarlboroMan. (Made to sell cigarettes and movie tickets) And for the ultimate Chinese man? #WongFeiHung. Maybe #BruceLee will do since he was American born as an icon. But he doesn't embody the culture and ideals that I see in Hing Yee, a true artist philosopher with an #enlightenment grounded in down-to-earthness.
We went over to Hei La Moon for dim sum and because I have known him since I was my son's age, the conversation flowed pretty easily. 

Can You tell me a little about when you first came to the States?
"I came here when I was fourteen years old with my older brother in 1965. And you know, back then there was just these grungy looking supermarkets, usually you would go into the basement, and they were dark. The planking that held the vegetables, the planking was about this wide," he held up his hands to about 1 and a half feet or so, "and I knew that they must be made of pine, but you could see the gaps in between them and you know pine is a very light color, but over time, these were completely black!"

"You didn't see a lot of women in Chinatown around that time. And the men would be swearing all the time. I was just shocked by this. It was a culture shock."

#ShaTin #10,000BuddhaTemple

"I grew up in Sha Tin, in the new territories in Hong Kong. I used to swim right near, Mahn Faht Ji. I knew the old Abbott. Man did he know what he was doing. That location is very good." He described the area drawing a map out in the air over the dim sum table. It was between two rivers with another hill having a Christian/Taoist church/temple. He also described some of the rich history of Sha Tin and how while reading about Belgian Pilot Charles den Bron flying an airplane from Sha Tin airfield in 1911, there was a painting accompanying the article. He recognized the horse saddle Ma Yu San, in the background. 

"Near there was a small place blocked off by a dam, no bigger than this room, but it was enough for us. And I would teach my classmates how to swim there. I was actually the first one in my family to learn how to swim. I taught myself with a book printed in China about sports. It talked about how to run, how to throw javelin, that sort of thing. I still have it. It had pictures and I just followed the instructions and that's how I learned to swim."

"Growing up I lived 3 miles from the beach, about half the distance between my house now and Chinatown. I would walk every morning to the beach and swim all day. I don't know how I survived. I mean no money?  No lunch? I didn't get hungry? But somehow I didn't even feel that. I just swam and then rested and then placed and swam until night time and then I walked home. I don't know how much money it was to take a train, but now you would get off at University Station. I always went with my brother. Either my oldest brother or the younger one, but not the youngest one because he was too little.  One of my younger brothers had polio so I remember I was always carrying something for him. 

"I appreciate, despite everything, that my father chose to have a place in Sha Tin, because I really enjoyed my childhood. My father was so irresponsible that he got himself married a second time and left all five of us. I despise that. But I admire his artwork."

Where did you go to School here?

"I started junior high here at the Oliver Wendell Holmes school in Dorchester. The school at the time was 90% Black and maybe close to 10% almost, 10% White. And can you imagine that after two years, I got into an exam school?" (I think it was the O'Bryant but I have to double check that.) 

Did you speak English already? (I asked because Hong Kong being a British Colony it wasn't necessarily impossible.)

"Shit no! I still don't." (Though for the record this entire interview and everything I write is how it wa said in English.)

Did you get into fights?

"Yeah!" he said somberly and seriously, " Of course. You know I'm small, I'm Chinese (the only one), I don't speak English so people misunderstood me, and so they challenge me... but the thing is I grew up in the Southern part of China. I swam all day and played all day. I was very athletic when I was younger. I was strong  and fast. White guys aren't fast!" he laughed, "Black guys aren't fast, they just might be a little bit fatter that's all. I'm fat now but when I was younger I didn't have fat. And the thing is here and there I was exposed to Kung Fu."

In Hong Kong?

"Yes in Hong Kong. I mean anywhere you are exposed to some Kung Fu. But in Hong Kong I was exposed to some Hakka Kung Fu. And another thing is confidence. If you don't have confidence in yourself to win, then who is going to have confidence in you? But if you have confidence" he shook his head and smiled, "But I think the main thing is that I always tried to be a good person. I think if you try to be a good person that is very important."

Are you Hakka?

"No I'm Toishan. But doesn't matter, you know, anywhere you are, you are exposed to some Kung Fu off and on here and there. Yeah sure there are a lot of bullshit artists out there... but that's no big deal." He started laughing, "I mean I'm an atrist... and sometimes maybe I bullshit." He laughed again, 

"You know I mentioned my father was an artist. I got some of his work. My older brother, he said if he saw his work he would just flush it down the toilet. His second wife contacted me when he passed, just a couple years ago, and asked me if I wanted it. Of course maybe they took the good ones.  But I saw some of his Chinese horses, wow, I really thought they were something. I believe that his original work was probably very good."

Do you Paint?

"I draw. But actually painting is just adding the color you still have to draw it out first and then grid it. I used to watch him,  (my father) when I was a kid. I guess back then for training to be an artist you would copy other great artists, and I liked the copies. I didn't know anything about originality. 
But I  got to see the whole process of how he did it. One stroke might take up to 30 minutes. I see some guys on tv that just bwaaap!" he motioned a broad stroke, "I mean yeah you can paint like that, but you are not painting a house. Who do you think you are? Picasso? Picasso could paint like that because he painted for how many million hours? Painting from morning until late afternoon or evening."

"I'm an artist too but I build. I build kites"

He also sculpts, builds tables, helicopters, (no really) submarines and a ton of cool stuff. But recently he has been focusing more on kites.

"I will draw and draw until I can't draw anymore, and then I have to build it. I mean when you are drawing you can't draw the outside without building the inside, but you can't draw the inside without building the outside," he laughed, 

"I'm sure you heard of Form and Function. Function is something real, but form is abstract until you build it."

At this point I blurted out a bunch of Kung Fu stuff because that Form and Function quote really got me thinking. I told him I was totally stealing that for when I teach Kung Fu. 

Did you go to college?

"I did two years of college. But with my personality.. I cannot attend school. I mean I read all the time, still. I am always trying to better and improve myself and learn new things. But school. I went there with a full scholarship to study physics. But in the end I dropped out after two years.

So then you started working?

"I was working from the second day I got here. When I was 14, the next day I went to work at my Uncle's laundromat. I was afraid I would be late, and the jet lag, no clock, so I just stayed up all night to make sure."

You're Uncle was here already?"

"Yes. Actually my grandfather was born in San Francisco... at least by the books. A lot of how I lived, in my childhood, how I was supported, was thanks to my grandfather. He sent us money regularly, after I was born. Before that for a while he had stopped. That's why I am named Hing, which means prosperous. After me he sent us money every month."

He continued with a vast knowledge of history of Chinese settlements on the West Coast of North America and the building of the railroads. 

"You know I was travelling with my wife in Xi'An and there was a calligrapher, selling there. There was a great amount of works. But one section of the poem read, "Chong yul But Ging." WHich basically means if you praise me.. okay that's nice. But it won't buy me. If you say I am a piece of shit. Okay. It also won't effect me. I really like that saying. "Praise or Degrade, I am not afraid." Because that is what I aspire to be. So I asked him if he would sell that. He said yes. 300 RMB! Hahaha. I said I can not afford it. But if he would write out those four words for me, I would give him 99 Rmb which is still quite high for him, but cheap enough for me. But why 99, because  gau gau gwai yut. All ofthe Chinese culture and meaning is to become ONE. Not one thousand or one million. But the 99 trying to be one. He looked at me differently."

I think this is another philosophy I would have to steal for my Kung Fu teachings. 

How did you meet your wife?

He laughed. "I was sitting in my friends car, it was a mustang. I must have been in the passenger side because it was his car, but somehow I remember it as being in the driver's side. I saw her and her sisters walking across the parking lot, together. I saw her walking by and I looked. I thought, 'I like her. I think I'll marry her someday.' And within a couple of years I did." he raised his hand in oath, "I'm not exaggerating. I just knew within about 10 seconds from that distance."

The waitress, came over, and I am used to this happening to me, but either because Hing's back was to her or the clothes he was wearing were not your typical Mainlander clothes, she spoke to him in English, and then when he responded in Chinese she said, "Oh you know this language too." in Cantonese. 

"Jong Gok Ngen amah." I'm Chinese, he said, in Taishanese. I only mention this because his look his simultaneously Very Chinese and Very American. He is so traditional Chinese looking, that my Uncles always thought he was my Sifu. Or when we went to a Kung Fu Federation event in New York and he sat in the Master's section, nobody dared question it, even though technically those seats were somehow reserved ahead or something. At the same time, to a new immigrant, he has a very American presence about him, in his demeanor and swagger. I don't know anybody else like him. 

So I'm asking everyone this, but what do you think about the changes in Chinatown.

"Chinatown will always be around. I mean you don't have to own everything just to be a Chinatown. Hong Kong is a Chinatown! It was one of the biggest Chinatown's in the world. But now even it is back to China, it is still a Chinatown. in Hong Kong and even Guangzhou you see white people, black people and even before hundreds of years ago, Arabs, Middle Easterners, Indians. I mean we are all mixed we just don;'t know it. We can all say we are Han, but people traveled and mixed all the time. If you look at the genes you would be surprised. I mean there are Chinese people all over the world, and our culture is strong. Even if it somehow disappears there will always be something left. I mean the Aztecs and the Inca they were great, and in a way they are gone, and their remnants are here. But in a way they are still here, they have just mixed and their culture is still around. I think a lot of it is how we choose to perceive the world." 

Election Time

Coming back from my kids swim lesson I ran into #MichelleWu and Uncle Frank.
I thought it was kind of cool that Michelle Wu recognized me. 

Here is Hung Goon President of the CCBA.
I told everyone about the blog and it seemed like they might give interviews. 
But first I have to post the stories from the interview I've already collected so far. Which will have to wait until the kids go to sleep I think.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Conversations with Aunty Amy: On discrimination

I had decided to become a true Chinatown blogger and so that means I started going to meetings like the AACA Clean up Chinatown Committee. I was introduced to a very old Chinese woman who spoke English extremely well, the kind of English that meant she had to have been born in the States.

"I'm from Chinatown. I'm third generation. There's not a lot of my kind left." She laughed. As she talked her face looked very familiar though I knew I had never met her before.
"My Grandfather came here in 1888 from the West Coast. He was an herbalist and he set up his shop where Eldo's Cake house is now. He had been working as an herbalist in the railroad camp peddling herbs to the railroad workers. But he decided to come out East where there was less competition and where he could get a fresh start."

The meeting started and I had to continue my questions later over the phone. But from this basic information I could guess why her face looked so familiar.

"Are you Uncle Frank's sister?" I asked her before she left the meeting.

"Yes." She said, "I'm the oldest!" she continued proudly.

"I went to the Josiah Quincy school which was where the CCBA building is now" 90 tyler street, "most of the neighborhood was actually Syrian. The Haddaya's lived next door I remember. And one of the things some of us Chinese would say to him is that we were ashamed that are parents couldn't speak English. And he would say, 'How do you think I felt!' he told me that his mother would always yell at him to come home out the window in their language, and that he would just cover his head with the hood and run home because he was embarrassed too. But we all got along. And all the teachers were Irish and unmarried, because if you were married they figured you had to much too handle and so you couldn't do get the job."

"You know," she continued, "It's a funny story, but I never really felt or had the word discrimination come up until my adulthood. I mean for me I never felt different at all until I became a social worker and they didn't think that was a job for me. But would you believe it, as a social worker, old, rich, Chinese, White... they all have the same problems."

"You know what you should write about?' She changed subjects, " I mean I don't have that much information to give you, but on  April 29th Kwong Kow will be having a Centenial Celebration. You know Kwong Kow? In the same building as the AACA? Now I'm not sure if you should do this for the blog or maybe write something for the Sampan since they have a wider readership. But you could interview different Alumni."

She went on to name a few. I mentioned that I had actually attended Kwong Kow as well.

"Oh that's good. Hahaha.. I went until the third grave. I found it very useful for me, especially when I went back to China because then there was no gap. And you know I was very lucky that I never faced any discrimination but I did here about it when I was in China. I went to High school and there were a lot of students there that were half Chinese and half German. And the girls were very beautiful and tall and the men were handsome. And me being from America I thought that was great. But a lot of the other students who were Chinese would you know, say, 'Oh don't they look strange.' and 'aren't they strange.' but I guess I did have a problem with it because I had grown up here in America. And then coming back I had talked to some Chinese men who had wanted to join the Armed Service in America and they said they had had problems. But I mean other than that.... And you know when I went to college those girls I went to school with"
I asked and they were all Irish French or Italian, all Catholic because Aunty Amy had gone to BC, "we went to school together and later when we had children we stayed in touch and all grew old together. They were like sisters to me you know? Most of them are gone now. A few are still around. We all get old."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Combat Zone, Community, Condo

I sipped tea and ate delicious dim sum while for this interview which will take us on a journey back to a Chinatown that only exists in vague childhood memories and stories.

Here is a link to an article from the newspapers. But for the Chinatown word of mouth story, read on.

"This Restaurant," I'm going to call our story teller, Fred, "Actually used to be the Beach Club lounge on over there by the exit, that was a jewelry store, this was a bar!"

Wait so this was part of the Combat Zone?

He nodded, "It was part of the Combat Zone. And there were a few clubs up there. And you know, the Naked Eye was over that way, and I mean this would never fly nowadays of course, but back then! I mean what a great sign!"

You know I wish I had a picture of that sign to post right here. It was flashing neon lights of the legs of a woman spiraling like an octopus, and a well placed picture of a giant eye between those legs. The image was burned into my childhood, especially since their phone number was only one digit off from my home phone number, and so I had got many calls to my house requesting times of shows, girls, etc.

"But anyway," Fred Continued, "my father owned the grocery store next to this place and then eventually he bought this building and opened up a restaurant. That was called the Lucky Dragon and it was open from 1978-1993.  And in my childhood, we would be running from the grocery store to the restaurant and back and forth... and Chinatown was kind of our PLAYGROUND. I mean I saw a lot of crazy stuff growing up. But even though we were right next to the combat zone.. we were perfectly safe. I mean everybody knew who I was and who my father was. It was that strong community that allowed us to run around like that."

"Chinatown was the Center. There was Tai Tung and Castle Square and Mass Pike, people in the South End and people in the suburbs, and eventually my father moved me out there too....but where did we all meet? Chinatown."

Do you think that community still exists now?

"Not like before. It's different now. For instance, the August Moon Festival. Before I mean they had the stage with performing Lion Dance and Kung Fu, yeah same thing... but now it's like.. I call it the Flea Market Festival. All the tables are selling something. But before it wasn't like that. We made puppets, we had arts and crafts and there were all these things for kids. It was more of a Community thing."

He paused his eyes glazed over walking through memories of the past. Then suddenly he laughed,

"Haha! I have a funny story. So you know Kwong Kow, the Chinese school, it used to be  where Sun Sun is now. Anyway, I was selected to memorize this speech for the San dei Mo, you know the heaven earth dance, they would come out, and.. well it's very unique. But I had to give the introduction for the Kwong Kow graduation ceremony. And I did. I didn't know what I was saying I just memorized it, but I went up I said the thing and then left. But I didn't realize that I would have to do that for the August Moon Festival too! So Chinese School ended at around the same time regular school ended, and school and Kwong Kow faded into the back of my mind to make way for summer things. And then the August Moon festival came and then a few minutes before the San dei Mo, they came in here in the restaurant to find me and told me I had to give the SPEECH! I was like, 'WHAT? I don't remember. And then you know Jong Seen Sang, Mrs. Jong she just told me to do my best."

"So I get up there and I start and then suddenly I lost it and stumbled and then you know people started to laugh. But you know I KNOW these people. Then I got it back, but it was too late. They were all cracking up and laughing at me. But I finish and I walk off the stage and Chan Seen Sahng, Walter Chan, the dance teacher, starts yelling at me that I should be punished. I mean I was like 'whatever' and just left. But to this day, I get stage fright. When I went to college if I had to do public speaking I had to practice over and over like two days in advance because I was so afraid, and it all stems from that Kwong Kow speech on August moon."

Do you think Chinatown will stick around? I mean you won't sell right?

"No I won't. But my kid might. And that would be up to him. I mean really it all comes down to this." he said holding his hand up in the gesture for money.
"Money. And the City doesn't help either. I mean someone double parks to get a Bubble Tea for a dollar twenty nine, but then BAM! they get a $50.00 parking ticket. They go to the grocery store to mai choi, to buy like a vegetable for two dollars and change, BAM! Fifty buck for a parking ticket. But before I mean for better or worse, there would be all the cars double parked and people would go and do their shopping. But now, why deal with that as a shopper. Better to go to the places further out where there is parking. And as a business owner, it's just too hard to make a buck. I mean I've been lucky. But I mean for a lot of people, why go through the headache? And Why deal with Chinatown politics when they can go out to Quincy and make a fresh start?"

So what do you see for the Community's future?

"Well it's still important for new immigrants, I mean unless they already have family here. It's cheaper to live here or more convenient than having to be out in the suburbs. It's one of the only places where you don't have to learn English right away. They need it as a stopping place to get situated, I mean unless they already have support here that's different. But some of the really cool stuff is already gone. I mean it was the Supermarkets, the Dim Sum, the Bakeries, all these places to come together and socialize. I mean those places are still here but it's not the same because now not everybody comes in to Chinatown. And the old people use to have that old age home by Castle Court where the old people could get together and then socialize and watch TV and eat a bowl of rice. FOR FREE!" he gestured eating and then opened his eyes and mouth wide, "Oh! I mean that was GREAT! The old people had a place to get together and talk." He paused, "But then somebody has to pay for that. So it really comes down to money."

"Did you know, that actually Chinatown was not always Chinatown. Before it was a big Jewish neighborhood." and then he got closer to whisper, "And actually you know, if you came here in the 60's and 70's, it didn't matter where you came from, if you didn't learn Taishanese you couldn't get work! I mean Chau Chau City, one of the brothers, I mean c'mon Chau Chau, chiew Chau, they aren't Taishanese, but he talked to my mother in law in Taishanese. And I was surprised. I asked him, 'what's with the dialect?' and he told me, 'When I cam here if you didn't learn Taishanese you couldn't get work."

"Yeah  mean who knows. But in the end it's all about money. And the  developers come in here with big pockets and bribe people. I mean remember those people who were displaced on Hudson street? I mean yeah the building had code violations... but in the end.. that property... is gonna be a condo!" he laughed.

Banding Together (Fire displacement update.)

Today was the last day that the people displaced by the Fire could stay at the CCBA.
"They have to be proactive about getting an apartment and getting their life back together." said Ellen Sullivan, a volunteer from the red cross. To give an idea of how much time this woman from Somerville put in, she worked 6am-7pm the first day, 6am to 1am the 2nd day, slept two hours, and then came back 6am today.
"I love it." she said. Did I mention she is a volunteer?

"One of the women who was displaced is actually pregnant and she just found out yesterday, so one of the Elders" (at first I didn't know what she was talking about, but this is a title in the Church of Latter Day Saints, they were out in pretty good force too.) "had twins and so he brought a bunch of toys and some people from the city did and we're having a baby shower!"

I thought that was a cool little story in the middle of all of this. I asked what her impressions of the Chinatown Community groups were.
"Oh everyone has been fabulous, the people from the building, Hung Goon" He's the CCBA President, "The people from the City." Courtney Ho from Chinatown Mainstreet passed by and said hi as we talked, "She's been wonderful." Ellen went on, "Everyone has been such a help, the Elders" again the Church of latter day Saints.

I ended up translating for a couple of people while I was there.

"I don't English." the woman had said laughing nervously.

"I know I speak Cantonese. If Mandarin is your language I can't really help you but Cantonese I can translate." I told her. She started cracking up.

"Oh I thought you were one of, you know like these people, you know you look very Ngoi gok yun, a foreigner."

"Yeah I know." I said.
Actually the woman ended up having nothing much to say. But the encounter was funny to me.

It was good to see laughter right?

Anyway, as you will learn more through this blog, Chinatown can be a very factional community. But it's nice to see everyone banding together like that when stuff goes down.

I was also impressed that the Latter Day Saints (those are Mormons) came out in such force. I mean we have a ton of Churches in Chinatown too. If Saint James called me up would I have showed up for some volunteer thing? Yeah probably. I'd rather do that then go to Mass frankly.

Plus it's a really good thing we have the CCBA. I mean where would they have gone? Last time there was a diplacement the people went from CCBA, to Josiah Quincy School, back to the CCBA.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

In the Hall of The Architect Developer

There is a meta narrative in a lot of news articles and our Chinatown Community stories that depict the developer  and architect as a mysterious demon in a suit

Almost like the ogre in the woods.

Or the witch that lives in the house made of candy.

Those articles and stories often dehumanize developer and architect.

They are "Them." The other. Part of the Power. The System. The gods that touched their finger to the earth to create mountains, rivers,

and the buildings to our City's Sky Line. 

But I knew that there must be another side to the story. Because all of these buildings were designed and built by humans. To begin to find that story, I interviewed Peter Vanko of Vanko Studio Architects.
 So where did I travel? I actually biked up Melnea Cass in Roxbury, right near Wing Fook Funeral Home and "Heroin Highway"

            Through a No Man's land,  to a neighborhood, whose name portrays an ambitious future.

                                                             New Market Square.

I was early for our interview and Peter let me poke around.

I was introduced to his co-worker Bhavik Mistri. Now I'm not sure what I was expecting to find. But my pictures can not really describe my wonder.

"Wow this isn't what I expected." I said.

"Welcome to the world of the struggling architect." Peter laughed. I felt I had gained access to the halls of Zeus or Odin or at least the modern hipper version.  But I guess being the creator of the world we live in has its difficulties.

"Being an architect is a tough business." Peter said shaking his head and grinning. "Your part Artist, part Scientist, part sociologist, you need to understand the market and finance and your client's issues. And you're creating something. It's Easy to be the Critic but hard to be the creator."

"Have you worked on anything in Chinatown?"

"Well I touched the Ink Block project loosely."


"Now I don't know if that will actually help or hurt us." Peter laughed. "We did the schematics for that project but our design didn't actually go through."

"We did the Marriot Courtyard Hotel on 275 Tremont. But Chinatown... I guess we haven't done much there."

But nevertheless, this was a real architect that did real work in Boston and Philadelphia and some developing too. I haven't heard any voice from the trade in the discussion about the changes in Chinatown. And it would be wise to know this perspective.

"How do you feel about the development in Chinatown?" I asked.

"To date or the future?"

Well let's start with to date.

"It's good to date. I thought the W Hotel was sensitive. The Metropolitan was good. Actually we touched One Greenway loosely. The City of Boston has rules that will include space for low income, but no middle income, and that's a problem."

I thought this comment was interesting, because it's the same thing I had heard Lydia Lowe of the CPA say in person, and in various quotes over and over. In other words, this architect/developer would be on the same page as Lydia Lowe on this detail. And that to me, is mind blowing.

"How about Archstone?"

A shake of the head, "Too blocky."

"And coming development?"

"This Mega development that you're seeing, the giant towers. That's not helpful to Chinatown."

"You don't think so?" Asked Bhavik.

"No, I think it's erosive. If the whole neighborhood came up to 12 stories I think that would be healthy."

"But don't you think that Chinatown could still be Chinatown even with development."

Peter said that Market forces were pretty strong. I asked if he though Chinatown would be gone in 20 years.

"I would go more with the 50 year plan. And if it goes it will be because of greed. I mean unless you have that guy that doesn't care about money like the guy in UP."

"As a non Chinese person do you think Boston needs a Chinatown?"

"I think Boston Benefits from it. It's like an investment, to keep a community like that, but it's not about money."

"Yeah,  I mean for me," added Bhavik, "I'm young and I live in the city and I like neighborhoods with character. Dudley has it's artsy feel, Allston has it's thing,  The North End has it's character, and Chinatown has it's identity."

"And yeah a lot of developers we work with, especially the ones in the North End really have that cultural appreciation." Peter

"I think it's almost unconscious if you live in the city, that you want cool communities." said Bhavik. "But what does that take, I mean is it the city or revolution or the developers?"

And here the conversation became almost spiritual and philosophical and broader in terms of the future of how we will live our life.

"I think what we do is big, but at the same time it is so tiny compared to technology, like Google cars driving themselves and  and other social forces." Bhavik analysed.

We talked a lot more about many things but one post can only be so long.

"If Chinatown is to stay, it will be through the community banding together and having something like a CDC. A community development Corporation and being involved in all of the towers built and maybe choosing Chinese Developers that have a stake in the community and actually live there."

"In the end there has to be a commonality that goes beyond money."

I mentioned Chinatown's land trust and the Master Plan, and he expressed interest in getting involved.

There are more of Peter and Bhavik's adventures and ideas which I will share in future posts. And hopefully future collaboration in Chinatown as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My First Wednesday Sweeping

Today I started my first Wednesday Sweeping. I'm working with Main Street, Tai Tung Village, and the AACA to start this clean up Chinatown street sweeping. Tai Tung Village actualy said they want to recruit their residents to come out and do this with me. And they are providing me with the barrels and the dump sight to clean up. I was going to start small. I honestly thought I could just sweep around the block in about 20 minutes. And I knew for sure I wasn't going to do more than an hour.
I did a little over an hour and all I got done was the Tai Tung playground and some of the back street.

Starting off the first 5 minutes it was pleasant and I was in a good mood. I thought perhaps it would be better if there were a composting bin nearby so that I could put the leaves in there, even the litter. Maybe I would sort through sand pull some of the recyclables out. Oh this homeless person left their blankets here? Gee what should I do about that?
Maybe I'll put some trash in this plastic container and try to sell it on Ebay. Lol

Perhaps I should just move this homeless persons stuff to the side. Wouldn't want to condemn them to a death by freezing.

But My mood quickly changed after sweeping up this shit.
Literally. And It's not a dog's.

Oh and look at this, here's some more. This is all by the playground by the way. I trashed the blankets and picked up all the glass and cigarettes. Yes I threw some leaves in too my eco-friendly friends. Yes we need a compost barrel because that would be easier. But at this point if some guy came back to challenge me over the blankets I was ready to poke him in the throat with the broom stick end. I really needed to wear gloves. But I didn't even ask about composting bins becomes next comes this.
More where that came from too.

My kids have played here. And One Greenway is down the street and not yet finished in terms of a swath of area yet to be landscaped. That means they oculd have dumped their fecal matter and their needles over there. Well I can tell you one thing. I'm pissed now. This brings back childhood memories and yeah I alreday knew... but still. It was humbling to sweep up the shit and I didn't really make a dent. Of course I could use some people's help. But I also think the compost idea would be helpful As for the needles, I did just throw them in the trash. The way that the dumpster is emptied is by machine so I that means they won't get pricked. But there's probably a better way to dispose of the needles. 

In other words I know more about what we need now. I'm wearing gloves next week. 

So Apparently to dispose the needles I'm supposed to contact Citizen's direct. by phone it would be by calling 311. There is an App to but I don't have a fancy phone. But definitely good to know for next week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chinatown Fire

I was lying in bed with the lights out when Grace said, "Hey there's a fire in Chinatown! You better tell your friend." But then I decided that might actually just be annoying instead of helpful, especially since I didn't have any real information. And I guess since I'm doing the Chinatown blog I should go in and try to find out what I could. After all I might not have time tomorrow.

The fire was at the building which has Ding Ho and two other businesses that are yet to open, Bao Bao Ting, and Double Chins.

By the time I got there the fire was put out thankfully. But you could still smell the smoke slightly.

Here is an article from Universal hub.

I walked over and saw a few of the fire fighters talking. I think I actually recognized one from that incident at the Chinatown park, I posted about on Kung Fu Dad with the title "Three Chinatown Adventures." But honestly I felt strange trying to ask them questions, like I was some sort of sick freak to want to know more. I figured I would just see if there was anyone I actually knew. It's not like I'm a real reporter.

One reason I didn't ask the firemen was  I didn't want to get in the way. Even though they were just talking, I would imagine that decompressing like that is important. You can be pretty proud of our Boston Fire Department for coming out in full force and blocking of the street and working together. Though I didn't see them in action, the photos on twitter seemed like a full on battle. When I arrived you could still smell smoke, but I would later find out that the fire never really got out of control, so this wasn't comparable to the Old Ming's fire (which I remember through the eyes of the small child I was then. I must have been my older son's age... or maybe my younger son's)

But any fire can be a huge problem to the whole Chinatown community if it isn't handled properly. The buildings are small and close together. So All I am saying we are lucky to have our Fire Department and Police Department.

I saw the President of the CCBA, and from him I learned that two people went to the hospital. I later picked up that they were an old couple in their 50's or 60's "a pau and a bak" and that they hadn't look too seriously injured. Though smoke inhalation can still be pretty serious. There was some confusion as to which dialect they spoke and someone was radioing the police officer for a translator.

The CCBA president jokingly pointed at me. "Cantonese only" I said, wishing I had learned Mandarin by now.

I heard from a couple of witnesses who said they had been there before the firetrucks even came that everyone seemed to have gotten out and were on the street. They all seemed fairly "normal" In other words it wasn't wide spread panic and mayhem. I overheard from others that the couple had to be taken out by fire fighters because they actually did not want to leave.

I saw a representative from the City, who said that the damage to the businesses was probably all water damage.  The fire had started on the second floor in the back somewhere and hadn't spread to much. (Though I also overheard some assessment people saying the floor had been burnt out and that the roof was also burnt out and of course to save lives, doors were kicked in and window broken.
So it would seem like a tragedy was averted.

Story over right?


There were still people who need a place to sleep tonight. And the  White Police Officer (who impressively spoke a bit of Cantonese) had to collect everyone's name addresses and phone number. People needed to go back in with the firefighters too so they could collect their identification documents or cards. Most of the people who were displaced seemed to be Mandarin Speakers.

The longer I stayed the more I realized how much of a hardship a fire really is. I mean even when it is put out and the building and lives are saved there is still a lot of trials and tribulation. Money, insurance, repairs headaches, all brought out onto the sidewalk and being shouted for everyone to hear. The details aren't that important to the story. But I did learn some things. There are emergency repairs like the boarding up of windows that have to happen right away. Why? Because if someone goes into the building because the window isn't boarded up and hurt themselves, they can now sue the landowner for a lot of money. But if you did board it up and do everything, insurance will pay for most of that and you are protected from a lawsuit. But who knew that being a landowner was so difficult? I felt like even though I am in my thirties, I am still a child when it comes to these sorts of grown up issues.

I saw the landowner, who I sort of know from the neighborhood and the bank dealing with this and that. She showed such strength of character, mental toughness,  and astute decision making as she handled this extremely well. What would I do in this situation? I would just throw my hands up and say, "yeah whatever you guys take care of it. I don't want to think about it. Let me crawl into a corner somewhere and hide."

This woman was tough as nails.

If she ran for something, I'd vote for her. She can clearly handle high pressure situations extremely well.

I over heard the police officer say that they were going to be out there till 8am easy and that they would need a detail. It's not like I hadn't seen a fire before. But I never bothered to watch. I mean once across from Moh Goon there was a fire so strong that I could see the flames through the thick smoke. But I thought, "Thank God nobody died." and that's it.

But I never thought how difficult and how much liability who have owning one of these buildings in Chinatown. So many things can go wrong. It's a lot of headache.
People often look at business owners and landowners in Chinatown and are envious of them. But look at all the hard work and risks that are taken, and effort and sacrifice. These people are really tough and have strong characters to make Chinatown what it is.

The landowner took a moment to comfort one of the displaced men. He had someplace else to stay for the night. "If you need to find a place to live, I can help you find one in the morning." She told him.

I went home to sleep. For all I know she's still out there.

The firemen earned their hero's wages and the firetrucks home. A fire like that, in these old buildings, could have easily spread to swallow up other buildings as well.

Oddly, someone was setting off fireworks down the street. It seemed weird and inappropriate, though of course those people probably didn't even know there was a fire a block away.

I saw some people who were on our lion dance team, hanging out with friends, carrying guitars. They just walked by, the same way I did when I lived in Chinatown, because in a way, this is all normal.

 The fire Chief and a couple fireman had to stay to pick up these pieces and for the small stuff, which when you just stop to look at it, is actually some pretty heavy and difficult stuff to deal with.

Like the cop said, they can all be out there till 8 am easy.

The displaced people are now staying in the CCBA. The Red Cross is working with them. I find out more details later this week.