Friday, September 30, 2016

A Night of Inspiration

The Chinese Historical Society honored Amy Guen tonight, also known as Auntie Amy, for her life of service to the Chinatown community.

There were poetry readings by Cynthia Yee and Athena Chu (I should talk to them. Maybe there should be a poetry section to this blog)  And of Course Artist Wen-Ti Tsen's "hometown" display.

I was pretty moved and awed by Kenneth Eng's short film about Auntie Amy and about the neighborhood and what it used to be. If Kenneth's name sounds familiar, he made the movie "My Life in China" , about his father, which aired on PBS.

As it turns out, Kenneth grew up in Castle Square too. And I bumped into my friend Kim who also grew up in those projects.
I knew a little bit about Auntie Amy's mostly because younger brother, Uncle Frank has been written about more extensively. But I guess I never did the math right because I didn't realize that they had been in China during WWII. Watching the movie about the old neighborhood and also the weight of history and stories of neighbors taking in other people's children... I just realized how petty a lot of our problems must seem to that older generation. I mean if you want to talk about STRUGGLE. 

So... respect your elders, is the lesson I guess. 

But the banquet also called upon the new generation to step up to the plate too. 

Cynthia Yee at one point said that we have to tell these stories, our history, whether it is about the sweatshops or the railroad because they aren't going to learn it in school. I almost wanted to stand on my chair and yell out "Right on!" but I decided against it. I said it quietly to myself instead. 

Athena Chu, who read her poem, is only in high school. There are a lot of young people with a lot to say. And young and old... we all have a lot to learn too. The banquet overwhelmed me with a saturation of stories and connections, but also reinforced that the blog is important. I mean it's not the Sampan. But its a nice thing. And it would be better if it had more voices on it too. Young voices like Athena Chu, but also the older generation, who can tell stories of their life and make sure that they are passed down. 

Basically I just realized how much work I have to do. 

But if Auntie Amy can dedicate so many years and still get up there and say, "As long as I am healthy and able I will keep doing this work." Then I can too.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sun Sun... the movie!

So here is a link to Max Esposito's short film about Jonathan Wong.

Pretty Exciting yes?

The title of the film is "El Chino."

We'll have more to come about this.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tai Tung Park Update

So remember I did all those clean up Tai Tung Park Zen street sweeping posts?

Well they are redoing the whole park now. I knew this, going in. In fact some people's response to the concern over the park was, "Their going to redo that whole park you know."

Looks good so far. The astro turf looks softer. But you know it's not even like the old park was THAT old. It just was nasty. But maybe now with one Greenway over there,
More attention is going to be paid to this block.

You know it's funny, (or maybe funny is not the right word) but when this highway was built through Chinatown knocking down a neighborhood and one of the On Leong buildings, (or was it two of them? I can check on Friday at the Chinese Historical society banquet) anyway, there is now only one, and I guess city planning back then thought this was a good idea, something necessary to do. 

But now that housing has sprouted up around there again, the highway seems even more out of place, like it really should be more pedestrian friendly. There will be a lot more people (with money) walking from Chinatown over to South Station and vice versa. It occurred to me one night as I played tourist in Chinatown with a group of friends. We were walking around looking for a bar and I realized I had now become on of those people I had always seen (and somewhat despised) wandering in a way that showed you were looking for something but not really knowing where you were going. The wandering was less because there were no bars and more because there were not that many bars that did not charge a cover. 

Paying homage to Sun Sun

I went to go to Sun Sun and buy something from the store one last time. To be honest, although my mother took me in there all the time as a child, I haven't really been in there as an adult. I always go to the market that is just closest. And my wife usually goes to a bigger market with a parking lot and not always a Chinese one. Usually it's Cosco or Roche Brothers or some farmers market up by Billerica. And to tell the truth, that's what the traditional Mom and Pop Chinese grocery stores are competing with.

But what I'm noticing is a grocery store, is more than just a store, it is almost like a home or a club or like an ancestral house. I mean I was not the only one who had the idea to come pay homage.

And apparently Max Esposito of Sweetrickey has been working on a documentary which relates to the store through the family who owns it for four years.

This story is even more important than I realized. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sun Sun Supermarket is closing

Word on the street among the Pau Pau's is that Sun Sun Supermarket is closing.
(Photo Credit: Courtney Ho)

Sun Sun was one of the first Chinese Supermarkets in Boston's Chinatown if not the first. And it is one of the last old school style mom and pop supermarkets to last.

When people talk about something closing down and it being a significant moment in history, this is it.

Kwong Kow Chinese School used to share space with Sun Sun. It is that small supermarket in the back alley with the red cement pillars lining the the sidewalk. I remember trying to leap frog those when my mom brought me into that supermarket. But to be honest I rarely shopped there as an adult, and most of my memories of the doorway are from Chinese New Year, doing lion dance back there.

It's hard for an old style market to survive in today's economy. It's sad in a way that McDonald's closing or Maxim Coffee House was not. This has been around a LONG time.

The building was also used as a Funeral Parlor in the 70s and 80's and was thought to be haunted. People were really surprised that Sun Sun would open up shop there.

There is actually a lot more to this story that really shows parts of Chinatown that people don't usually think about.  We'll see what later posts will bring.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Which way does the Chinese American Vote swing?

I was asked this by some friends and really it's all up in the air.

A lot of Chinese are dems and a lot are Republicans. Some have very left leaning and progressive views but something that is very inherent in Chinese culture is business business business... especially the traditional Chinese beliefs, where money is burned to ancestors and bribes are made to get into heaven

Watching this debate I will point out that the ultimate Chinese political books are for traditional Chinese are

1) The art of war

2) 36 Strategies of war

3) Romance of the Three Kingdoms

And you can throw in the Dream of the Red Chamber as well.

Justice AND Strategy are both valued.

Will this debate change anything?

Not sure.

Personalities are actually everything.

Hillary is using the same argument that Bill used against Bush Sr. and Ross Perot. It's the same debate.
But Trump is not the same candidate, and times have changed.

And whether Chinese Americans vote one way or another, the beginning of this debate is all about China. It would be interesting to take a poll in Chinatown and see who wants to vote for who and why.

BCNC's Oak Street Fair!

Our small team journeyed to the Oak Street Fair this weekend.

He came, we saw, we did our performance where I lost a shoe and part of the routine had to be skipped. The cold weather made the split harder, but people seemed to enjoy it. I wonder if there was video?

There was a carnival atmosphere, fun and games. 

Arts and crafts

And I sold my book as well. 

Booths to reach out to the community

And let them know a little bit about what's going on in the election.
One question I didn't know about that is going to be on the Ballot is the Community Preservation Act.
That I learned about at the Chinese Progressive Association's table, pictured above. Basically  it will raise money through a 1% tax surcharge (if your poor there are exemptions) It would come out to about $24 a year for someone whose house is assessed at $500,000. The money goes into parks historical preservation, and to protect water quality, that sort of thing as well as creating new affordable housing.

Basically what a lot of people are protesting about... this is actually a vote for legislation on the issue and you vote on a question (YES on 5 if you are for it) not taking a risk on a candidate.

Hmmm... come to think of it, I would totally door knock for this issue in my old neighborhood. Just to explain it and explain to people why they should vote.

Back to the Fair. There was food.

and a pretty good turn out. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lion Dance competition!

A glimpse at a tourists' Chinatown

The other day I ate at Pho Hoa, and the pork was just on point. The fat in the pork gushed out off into my mouth in juices exploding with flavor as I tore into it. It was good food.

I wasn't in blogger mode so I didn't even take pictures.

Pho Hoa is a nice little Vietnamese restaurant on the edge of Chinatown. Everyone likes going to it from Chinese to people exploring Chinatown just getting right off the Subway or coming down from the Boston Common, but interstingly, it was the first time I had been there.

This is a restaurant that feeds the tourist and the local and  is good and has been around for a long time.

There are new restaurants in Chinatown that do the same thing. They are good, they serve locals and they serve people coming in to visit.  So I always wondered what the hell people's problems were with "new" restaurants by owners who have been here for generations, or from new owners who grew up here. How were these signs of gentrification? Or how was "gentry?" wanting to live in Chinatown a bad thing?

But I did get a glimpse of this the other night in Harvard square.

I actually had a lot of fun in Harvard square, a bit of an Asian adventure.  WIth a group of freinds we went to a Taiwanese dumpling house, followed by a South Asian poetry reading at EMW bookstore. (I had been made curiosu by Adriana Li's post about Ally Ang.) The event was called Subdrift. We then went to a Boba tea place where I ran into another friend (also Asian) and drank tea way too sweet fro a body that is no longer growing.

Later on we went yo a bar, which was not Asian in anyway, but I would imagine if there was some sort of place that was hip and affordable and similar to the Asian bars I used to frequent near BU we very well could have gone there.

First off, we didn't choose any of these places because they were Asian, we chose them because they were there and close, and what we wanted. The students were mostly Asians of all kind, east Asians and South Asians. They probably went to Harvard, or they knew people who went to Harvard, or because so many Asians go to Harvard and this has become a hang out they come down here too. We were there because Harvard Square is a cool place to hang out.

Nobody will LIVE here though for more than 4 years that I can imagine.

It felt in many ways like a campus, and the food at the Taiwanese restaurant reminded me of campus food. What I mean by that is taht it was cooked very well. All the right seasoning all the right skill to make the food. Excellent chef, my friend's liked it, everyone liked it everyone was happy.

But I'm a spoiled angry old man.

The tea was so watered down. But it doesn't matter because most people don't even drink it. Why waste good tea on people who are just looking at it anyway?

And the ingredients for the food, the meat, was missing something. It was fresh enough to serve but it didn't have flavor. I don't know why or how that works. But I had the same experience with a Food Truck by Harvard serving Banh Mi, Ramen and Riceplates all with the same meat.

Usually when people try to say that something isn't good or authentic, they say it is more Americanized. This type of language is fast becoming out of date, because Americans want stuff that is Authentic, or maybe new and call it Fusion. But either way, although this restaurant had Americans in it, it was actually built for the foreign student crowd.  And there are places in Chinatown now built for that too. These are made for Taiwanese or Mainlanders who are coming here for a few years and then going back to Asia. They way it is cooked is authentic.

But in this fantastic place in Harvard square, in terms of environment and and wall hangings, I didn't like the ingredients of the food or tea.

But you don't go to a campus to get god food. The purpose is to give homesick kids a feeling of where they come from, that is right across the street from their classes, and for Americans to get that type of feeling too. It's like more of a cultural exchange or display than a restaurant. A festival, a school fair, a display, done with business and money. It's fantastic compared to my college and high school experience.

But it's not a Chinatown Community. The future of Chinatown is something between Harvard Square and what is in Chinatown now. Chinatown is still very blue collar and restaurant worker. Dim sum, even if old Chinese men might say that they are settling for the tea, has a TEA focus. and the people looking for a taste of home are the same people who work in that same or another restaurant.

But the workers in Chinese restaurants are starting to look and talk more American too, because they are younger. To do another comparison, I met a Jook Sing who was a waitress at a highly rated dim sum place in New York's Chinatown, who did not really speak Chinese.

This isn't a sign of "erosion of culture" or "Americanization" of a place. We are in America. Are whites less European then their ancestors? Yeah in some ways of course.

I mean basically, in terms of food, my night out at Harvard Square wasn't the greatest, but I didn't go there for the food. I went there to hang out with friends.

And the funny thing is half the people eating those ingredients in that restaurant probably like to turn their noses up at Boston's Chinatown and praise New York.

New York does tend to have better ingredients because of competition. But as I have written in the past, the Vietnamese food in Boston, so far, us better. BETTER than New York's and this is from New Yorker's mouths.

Philly has some pretty fantastic food all around and most noticeably in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. Bigger portions, fresher ingredients.

He has to do with proximity to farms, Overhead costs and the fact that those restaurants are in the middle of neighborhoods that were traditionally blue collar German, Irish, Jewish and Polish. You didn't go to North East Philly for a touristy Chinatown in the past, and nowadays those that do, are Asian and no about it through Social Media. It's an Asian Community that sprouted up largely unbeknownst to my non Asian relatives in the area.

The food is great.

But you have to drive. You can't walk from place to place. It isn't a big hang out for college kids.

You can't hit a Taiwanese Restaurant then a South Asian poetry reading.

You can hit a family association to play Mah Jong and then go get takeout for the Family.

It's more authentic.

As it turns out, to my taste buds, I like "authentic" better.

Is it better?

Everyone will have their own opinion.

As for me, I am just glad that Chinatown is what it is for now.

Navigable on foot, relatively safe, full of people I know, with restaurants and supermarkets that have good food. These things are not only important for tourists, but old people living in Chinatown or taking the subway in from Roxbury.

Do I miss the old days? Well for me those days were more dangerous, though people argue about that.

Can Chinatown improve for the community itself? Yes absolutely.

Can it and will it become more touristy?

Dude look at the location. It's where you move to AFTER you graduate from Harvard. That is unless you go to New York.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Renter's Day of Action

I didn't get a chance to cover this event but thanks to Mandy Chan I have a video here. 

A friend asked me if I was going to go to it, to protest and what my thoughts were on it. I think from looking through the blog you can get a sense that although everyone wants cheap housing close to where they work and that helps the function of a city, that doesn't necessarily mean that landlords are the villain here. Some are. Yes. There are horror stories. But some are not. In any case, this drew attention to the fact that maybe I need some more activist voices on the blog, as well as conservative voices, because I am somewhere in the middle or looking at it from both angles or perhaps a plethora of angles. 

Chinatown's Oak Street Fair

Tomorrow is Chinatown's Oak Street Fair on the JQS roof. I will be performing with Noah at 12pm and selling books and maybe even T shirts.

But here is an article from the Cabo Verde Network about the Watermelon eating contest.

It was the election year and John Barros came to the Oak Street fair. Mostly it was just me observing some of the interaction.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Check out this article about Macau's history

Sergio Monteiro, author of Other American Dreams, just wrote this nice article about Macau  on the Cabo Verde Network site.

I feel like I should try to get more about Macau on this blog. I only know a few people from there. They had the Chan Hak Fu vs. Ng Gong Yi fight there, which some argue sparked the whole interest in Wuxia in Hong Kong, or at least the modern Wuxia novels, and therefore the TV Shows and Kung Fu movies... which is like everything right?

A lot of the gangster films have something happen there. 

I took a short trip there from Hong Kong but I didn't really get to absorb the culture at all. Just did some slot machines, went to some bars... actually okay I DO have a funny story. And since this same friend hung out with me in Chinatown.. yeah this will be a later post. 

The Mask of White Privellege

I was taking pictures around Chinatown today sort of to just practice taking pictures. Then I decided for a few reasons to take a picture of Nai Lun Welfare Associations signs. Reason 1) I'm supposed to write something about the Association at Auntie Amy's request. Reason 2) I feel like these type of traditional signs are soon going to only have a place as an exhibit at the Chinese Historical Society and reason 3) They actually used to have a big Bak Gwa sign to counter the corner from another building whose Feng Shui was attacking them. The Bak Gwa neutralizes it. Years a go I saw a Chinatown tour stop there and talk about the Bak Gwa (without knowing really why it was there specifically, only that it vaguely brought good luck through Feng Shui. It wasn't until I passed by the place with some freinds and a Feng Shui master was part of the group and he pulled out is compass that I found out EXACTLY why it was there. ....

But now it's gone. 

Anyway, as I was taking a picture of the sign inside the gate (which I didn't get) the door opened and someone came out. What I should have done was talk to him and ask questions. You know since I want to know more about the organization that my father used to bring me into. 

But I also knew I didn't have a lot of time. I was teaching a class in a few minutes.

So I totally pulled this random white guy thing where I pretended I didn't know what was being said about me. And what was said was, "Hmm I guess this guy is taking a picture of the sign."

Which is very normal for a random white guy to do in Chinatown. No seriously it is. Taking a picture of a sign in Chinese is like the normal tourist weird white guy thing to do. A Chinese guy taking a picture of it and you start to wonder.  

So I put on the white mask and then walked down to my class and taught it. Part of the class is doing stances and I sing the Nam Yi Dong Ji Kerng song.  thought about how weird this was, that I had just pulled the white mask over my face and here I was trying to connect kids to the whole Kung Fu mythology of 200 years ago (though the lyrics were from like the 90's or something.) but it't the Wong Fei Hung theme. You know, strengthen the country and out with the Opium (doesn't matter if the actual Wong Fei Hung never fought in the opium wars or not, it's the movies that put him there and so that's what the song is about. The Black Flag militia and all that except, it;s the rated G version where Wong Fei Hung is a fantastically moral hero.

Any way, here I am singing the song and doing the stances after pretending to be the random white guy. It felt off. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A suggestion from Auntie Amy

I stopped by the Chinese Historical Presentation at Tufts medical center... late for the presentation but I chanced into Auntie Amy among others and we had some long discussions.

"Hey Adam, did your mother tell you many stories about your father?"asked Auntie Amy suddenly. People around here kind of thought it was weird she was suddenly talking to me I think.

I was assuming she was asking me whether I knew my father ran a gambling den and the like or not. The answer to that was sort of. I knew stuff but not details. Not because my mother didn't tell me. More because she probably didn't know the details and also I was young.

"Yeah sure."

"You should write about your father. Because he and his friends were very influential in Chinatown for that time period. He and the people around him and the work they did with Nai Lun Association and others was essential to Chinatown at that time."

Okay so to write something like that first off I don't know enough. I basically know enough to write a mention that doesn't do justice. Plus I had always thought I was brought into Nai Lun Association as a child... but I wasn't sure. I think I went in there when my dad gambled and I remember grabbing at the dice. We werent't playing nickel and dime Mah Jong it was craps. And I rolled snake eyes not knowing the meaning of it all. It's one of the reasons why I don't gamble.

Hearing the words come out of Auntie Amy's mouth sort of was just a confirmation. Still, I know nothing about Nai Lun Association... except that it seem sto be gone now, and that is a recent thing.

"How old was your father?"

Uhhh he was born in '34 I think but we weren't sure. He wasn't sure actually.

She nodded her head, "So he would be about 80... I think enough time has passed that you can talk about all these things. "

There are two big things to pull out of this sentence.

A) even if my dad were alive, he would be younger than Auntie Amy.

B) she was totally talking about Statute of limitations.

Okay so it would be interesting to write those stories. But even IF I knew them all, I would wait till everyone was dead before putting it out there. But again just I kind of knew what was going on. It didn't mean that I KNEW what was going on, like names dates and events.

Hell my mom didn't even KNOW know. Not really, because it was irrelevant to her. The FBI had approached her to be some sort of spy and it was the same thing. First of all she didn't know as much as they thought she did and secondly, F off because she was with my dad.

I mean some people would think that some of my sense of loyalties and all that is somehow adopted from the Chinese culture. Let me tell you, a lot of it comes from my mother and my maternal grandfather.

A lot of Chinese don't realize just how bad-ass a traditional "Chinese" wife a white woman or any non Asian woman can be. There are more cultural similarities than differences across the board.

But what was most interesting to me about what Auntie Amy said, is that there was a community side to the vague things that my dad did. I just thought he ran a gambling house and was a chef, and watched a ton of TVB kek jap soap operas, and that is the end of the story. One sentence. But what is Nai Lun Association? What was the work in the community? I actually even know that my father did stuff with the CCBA but only because he shook his head and grumbled about it (which might not be what Auntie Amy wanted me to write.) But that's all I know. I mean, my mom didn't speak Chinese and my dad didn't speak English. It isn't like they would have long political discussions with details about what was going on and who was who.

My mom had saved a bunch of articles from the time and she would only say that what was in the newspapers was spun in to way to make these guys look so terrible, so bad. I mean there must have been some truth to that, but it's true that the humanity, the community side of the story gets thrown out because it's harder and more complicated to understand.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chinatown Banquets

A big part of the Chinatown culture is the banquets. The New Year's banquets and now the August Moon Banquets. But I feel like everyone looks at these banquets differently. There are those who actually go there to eat. If you are one of these types that's sort of the best, because you get a pretty good deal for a lot of food. But you also tend to over eat. Then some people are showing up for social, political, or "face" reasons... which is the worst because then you sort of can't eat anything.

Most people are somewhere in between. I talked to some friends about how they felt about being children who went to these things. These banquets can be community organizations or Family associations or even people bound together by trade or hobby. I went to a Kung Fu Federation yesterday, but there are also banquets for people who sell gold.

I did a lion dace for them as a teen and they had a ritual where they bowed to a specific deity. I think most members were Chinese Vietnamese. As I recall, most of the middle aged women also had breast augmentations, and beer was flying everywhere. That was probably one of the more festive banquets of these types that I had seen.

For those who live outside of Chinatown, but grew up there going to these banquets can be like a reunion and a return to your old stomping grounds. So it is quite enjoyable. Most people who see it this way are older.

But what about kids?

Some friends were telling me how they HATED going up to get the raffle prize. Either mushrooms or a coupon for a TV. The thing is I can imagine older Chinese people giving this job to the young girl or boy at the table thinking that it would be fun. I mean I know that Noah would love doing that. (But there's no way we are staying up that late with him.)

But imagine that you hate it.

So then as an adult you always have an aversion to collecting prizes and maybe even banquets in general. To me that's kind of hilarious.

I tried to think back to banquets I had attended as a kid.

Did I attend any that weren't weddings?

I don't think I did. Maybe some stuff for Kwong Kow. And then it was kids running around everywhere causing mischief, playing with the chicken heads, throwing all the hot sauce and vinegar and tea together in a glass and then daring someone to drink it. The crazy white kid was usually the one most egged on to do this... yes I often did drink it too.

Oh I remember, I was at banquets as a kid but I spent the whole time under the table on the floor messing with people's shoe laces so my mother stopped bringing me. And  the floors may have been even dirtier back then then they are now.

But all this because basically, we were bored.

Are banquets a Chinese tradition? Yes and no. I mean there were Chinese banquets and specific rituals and protocol, but the stuff in place now, with old men dressed up in suits and ties... all this stuff is heavily influenced by the west. If not America, than England. I mean I have no exact proof of that other than some Chinese people saying so. But I guess traditions don't have to be ancient, or Chinese, to be a Chinatown tradition.

It would be interesting to throw some other get together event.

Friday, September 16, 2016

August Moon Festival. Family Celebration versus a street celebration.

Photo Credit: Mai Du

Today I performed at another August Moon Festival event with the kids and some other students. Walking back from it I realized that many traditional Chinese families or Chinese Vietnamese Families celebrate this holiday as a big deal. Like Christmas. I mean even Chinese New Year to me is an outside holiday... and I used to think it was because I wasn't as Chinese. But I realize that actually that is just the change and shift to modern society. I mean not for everyone. But what I am saying is that for many, Christmas or any Holiday is more of an external holiday nowadays than a family one. I got this picture from Facebook, another Kung Fu Sifu, Mai Du shared it. Her mother made the moon cakes. A couple of times we tried doing stuff like that. Making Zhongs for Dragon boat. Tong Yuan for the Winter Solstice. But it's like teaching kids in a classroom really. It's not really about tradition. Not family tradition passed down from generation to generation. It might be looking into the past and pulling traditions from books and you tube videos. Not pulling. Absorbing. As if we were adopting a culture, or re-adopting it. 

Basically if there wasn't Chinatown... or some place... to go to.... to re connect, to have an approximation of the holiday, then these holidays would be only something I read about. 

It might be nice to know how to make moon cakes like this. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"6 dollar duck!" part One

After my preschool kung fu classes I went to go eat Fau Yuk. I think it was actually Adriana's post on the subject that induced a craving for it. I went into Chinatown Cafe, because it's the closest and it has just been my go to place for so long based on location to the old Kung Fu school and went into order.

Man all these old people were ordering Fau Yuk let and right. JUST fau yuk. My guess is for the Harvest Moon's festival dinner. I mean this was lunch time and hardly anyone was ordering lunch... or ordering things other than Fau Yuk. The cash register woman was actually looking nervous. I was worried I was going to haveto have Char Siu instead of Fau Yuk. There was all this Roast Duck up there and one guy was like, "Want to just get Fau Ngap (roast Duck) if they run out of Fau Yuk (Roast Pork)?"

Also, there was something strange about the crowd. It was simultaneously busy and quiet. This is bizarre for a room full of Taishanese people.. unless somehow the culture has suddenly changed.

 I thought about this while quietly eating my Fau Yuk over rice. Maybe it was just that everyone was either eating their food, or taking the chopped up meat directly home.

The Americans were not ordering Fau Yuk, but fried rice and things like that, which take longer because someone has to actually cook it. Where as the Fau Nguk, the Char siu. the Siu lap which is called Barbecue Cold cuts in English, is right there already cooked. They just take it down and chop it and put it over rice. Well actually there is a layer of Napa vegetable in between.

Thinking about it I guess that Napa protects the rice from getting soggy, plus you get some vegetables.

But actually I heard that it's a Taishanese rule that you can't just have rice by itself, bad luck or something, so that sometimes  you have a tiny slice of vegetable in your white rice if you are following village rules... which most people don't follow, so it's if the person doing the work is superstitious like that. I had only heard this once. Maybe it's BS.

But in any case, the Cold cuts are the fastest food there is. Chop Chop Chop. Done.

or rather,



I thought about why there was so much duck hanging up there. And I thought about how usually you don't see Americans order duck...

But my Uncle, who was white and very American went right for it we he came up to Boston to visit.....

more on that next time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A guide to Boston Public School's map of Chinatown

So I guess I am a bad parent for not having noticed this earlier. Actually I can't even remember last year's map. But I have taken the liberty of labeling where Chinatown should be. Although there are a bunch of other neighborhoods in that district as well. But just for the sake of argument I would like to point at that the Josiah Quincy school was actually built for Chinatown specifically after the whole eminent domain knocking down all the houses to build the highway fiasco. It was part of the deal. Here's a school and community center to make up for damage done. Now I don't know if these maps NEVER showed Chinatown or what. After all Bay Village over there too and I don't see the North End , Beacon Hill, Back Bay or Downtown on this map either. So there is an argument that it's just too much to put on the map and so the whole section is just one unlabeled thing.  Actually, there are two unlabeled things. And it appears to be Boston Proper. There aren't many schools down there either. That's interesting too isn't it? I'm sure there is an answer to this. The recent answer will probably be boring but looking at the historic perspective might be interesting.

Me and shao performing and then the Finale of the Lantern Festival by a Pro.

Take a look at this Video By Paulo Texeira

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Finale at the Lantern Festival

Photo Credit: Eva Loh

I pulled these photos of the Finale off of Facebook. Wong Keung performed the Dragon and Woo Ching White Crane, the Lion. These photos capture more of that incredible feeling that took place in the crowd when smoke and confetti and Lions and Dragons and Drums filled the space of the Greenway park turning it into... magic. I felt like a kid. Look at the smiles on people's faces rushing to capture the event on film. It really was something.

Portal to Hong Kong

Back when I was doing more Teet Da treatements me and my Si Hing went into these apartments with elderly Chinese people that look out onto the Boston Common. Mainly we were treating this old man but the whole family was visiting and everyone had some sort of ailment. There was the middle aged woman whose hips and lower back hurt... an area that we came to believe would hurt in women who had given birth and then over the years the injuries came out. And then there was the young girl who was a figure skating champion whose back was injured from jumping. The teet da treatment meant that she could get back on the ice faster.

But all this was not the entertaining part. I mean I was rubbing and rubbing Teet Da Jau on people for hours and my si hing too. So we passed the time with conversation.

The middle aged woman mentioned that she didn't realize young people could speak Taiashanese. She had thought it was some old people's accent or mei yum that came along with alzheimer's. I had actually thought something similar so I was pretty glad I was the only one.

The old man who lived there would talk to us and his daughter's would single to us that he was crazy or senile. I didn't really understand why this would bother me at all. Hearing crazy talk was way better than just rubbing teet da in silence for hours.

The old man kept talking about Jimmy. "When is Jimmy coming? Did he stop by?"

Finally toward the end of the day one of the daughter's got exasperated and yelled, "Who is Jimmy!??"

"He is a Sai Yun " (A westerner)

"Hey! is it him!" They yelled and pointed to me. He stared at me blankly. (I was in High school at the time.)

"No, no, older"

"The whole street is full of westerners!"

My Si Hing changed the subject and started talking about where the old man was from.

He was from Hong Kong and started talking about different places and My Si Hing talked about some of those same places, many of which had changed. The changes my Si Hing mentioned sort of resulted in confusion.

"So where did you live in Hong Kong?" My Si Hing asked. Only in Chinese... there is no tense. So "Where do you live?" and "where did you live?"  in Hong Kong are the said in the same way. "Nei Herng Kong jiu been do ah?"

"Well I live here of course!" The daughter's burst out laughing. My Si Hing suddenly looked awkward. But I sort of felt like this would make a great sort story. A fairy tale almost, of a magic door way to 1960's Hong Kong that existed somewhere in an apartment over looking Boston Common.

I guess this concept was what made me write about something similar in Kung Fu and Cooking. I really want to get these novels I have just sitting in the computer edited so that I can have them out in hard copy and at least look at them.

Anyway, we left the apartment shortly after that, and going down the elevator and the cramped air filled with smells of Chinese people boiling soup for hours and hours and the clang and yelled of high pitched Country Chinese voices (and maybe these people had considered themselves Hong Kong Urbanites in their youth, but in old age the tendencies of Herng Ha just came out and took over)... and going from that into the sublight and Boston Common and the cars and tourists... it did feel like I had just left Hong Kong through an elevator and come out in Boston.

Storytelling in Chinese

Photo Credit: Adriana Li
When I was on stage at the Lantern festival there came a time to stall so as to have something on the stage. I started telling the story of the Nian, of the lion dance, and looked into the audience. Usually I tell the story in English because that tends to be the audience, and it is assumed that Chinese people know the story. But that assumption is wrong first of all, and secondly, I have changed and adapted the story over telling and retelling it. In fact, I have written a book, Lions and Dragons and drums, which adapts the legend, to Boston Chinatown life.

Anyway I started to translate into Chinese and I saw the eyes of some of the Chinese members of the audience and they were really listening to what I was saying. Either that or they were trying to figure out why I changed the story. Anyway, what I realized was that I need to practice story telling in Chinese over and over and over. It's a skill I sort of used to have because I was always listening to stories my Sifu told me. There is more to story telling than just saying words. There is cadence and rhythm, like the playing of a drum. And Chinese has a difference cadence than English. Although I was saying words in Chinese, I wasn't respecting that cadence as much as I could, and I realized that I was just out of practice. I was out of practice listening first of all. And secondly, I hardly ever told the whole story from beginning to end in Chinese. Basically there were some white people in the audience but it would have made more sense to just leave them in the dark and talk to the 90% Chinese elderly people who were sitting there waiting patiently.

I mean, you came to Chinatown and the aim would be to be entertaining even if you didn't know what the hell I was saying and that would give you a nice little culture shock right here in the united states right?

Anyway, it's one of the things i need to practice. I guess I should hand out more by the gate and listen to old men scream at other old men, about yet other old men. While these stories have more to do with gossip, the cadence is the same and is something I have to get into the rhythm of again.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Wong Keung's Dragon

(Photo Credits: Adriana Li)

I can't wiat to go through the video I got. This finale was something special. At the end Gilbert Ho was like, "Is that how you do it!"  I mean there was the Dragon from Wong Keurng then Woo Ching White Crane  had the Lion, then (they were performing together as the Kung Fu Federation) and then there was smoke and those confetti poppers. The old ladies pushing me out of the way to get to those things was like Kung Fu techniques too. I really hope the footage can capture some of what I saw with the smoke and the floating confetti and the Chinatown Gate in the background. Actually I'm pretty worried that it won't.   

Look at the size of this thing!

Here it is seeming to fly down from the painting of the mountains in the background. Imagine being a little kid in the audience and watching this thing fly through the air slithering by. It's Crazy!

Chinatown Lantern Festival

I did my performance with Noah. I also got some good video and was running all around, and even jumped in on a performance with the Kung Fu Federation. My friend took the picture. Looking at it, I can't help but think that I look like the stereotypical Hung Gar old man at the park. Which is funny because I don't even do Hung Gar, and if you had seen the video of the thing I did at films at the gate... you would put me in a different category, of like goofball dad. I have to go through all the footage which takes some time for me so that will all have to wait for later posts.
(Photo Credit: Linda See)

Wen-ti Tsen's Home town was also down there. 

It's going to be there tomorrow too. There was a lot going on and a lot of (hopefully) great video that I got.
(Photo Credit: Adriana Li)

Here's a picture from the exhibit which was literally right where the audience for the performances were. It was pretty cool how there was this whole festival going on in the park, but the stores and businesses and parking spaces were not as affected except for one street. It just made it easier to go to dinner afterward. The seemed a lot more local too. I was telling a story of the lion dance in English but then I was looking at the audience like "Dude I need to tell this in Chinese." Which I sort of did... but my Chinese story telling wasn't as good. That's something I need to remedy. But I practice telling that story in English like three times a week so that's going to be difficult. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Lantern Festival

The Lantern festival is coming up tomorrow Saturday!

And here is the Schedule.
My name is spelled wrong. My actual name is Adam Cheung.. but yes we will be performing. Here is a clip from our performance at the Films at the Gate. We'll be doing the same routine... and then I plan on doing Lion/kei lun/Dragon dance to Purple Haze.I have no idea how people are going to react. 

Response to my "displacement skits" post.

I had earlier made a post about how these skits were from a communist culture. You can check out that post here. 

I did get a bit of the other side of it, though I am not going to name my source.

Basically the response is that the skits were actually a product of Vida Urbana (City Life) as a way to educate people and it is a stretch to assume that the old people in the skit were part of the Red Guards.

However this is the song.

But then the 36 strategies do say to take old things and use them for new uses. And I do this all the time.

Some of the people who grew up in Hong Kong and were not part of the Cultural Revolution, still learned all the songs and sing them without being embarrassed whereas people who I have worked with in the past that did go through it do not want to hear these songs.

And then there are those who look on those times and those songs fondly. Even though they now live in America and worked toward their slice of the American Dream.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Chinese Historical Society of New England Banquet

I just got a letter from Terry Guen that Sojourner Award is going to be presented to her mother, Amy Guen, at this year's Chinese Historical Society of New England Banquet on Friday September 30, at Empire Garden. That's 690 Washington Street, the one that used to be a movie theater.

This is a pretty big deal, and if you aren't familiar with Chinatown you are going to want to  see this woman. Amy is 92 and she is still heavily involved with everything from AACA's clean up Chinatown Committee (where I met her) to countless other of other projects that make of the alphabet soup of Chinatown Organizations.

(Amy Guen Age 4)

But what people unfamiliar with Chinatown's history and culture might find most interesting is Amy's lineage. She is 3rd generation and part of one of the oldest Chinese American families in Boston. Her grandfather came here in 1890 something.. so that's two centuries ago.... from the west coast where he worked as an herbalist in Chinese Railroad camp.

Basically Amy Guen is Chinatown's Aunt, which is why she is often called Auntie Amy, and in a Chinatown that is changing and opening up to the tourists and the Boston community in a way it hasn't in the past and the old guard of Chinatown fades into history, this is an event you won't want to miss.

Check out their Website for tickets information

Curse of The new crisp 1995 Ten Dollar bill

I was in Chinatown today with my two kids because school doesn't start until to morrow and we bought Ha Cherngs fo lunch. I wen to pay with a ten dollar bill but I tell you it felt weird in my hand. I had previously embarassingly used a counterfeit 10 dollar bill at this very bakery... which somehow ended up being accepted by the bank... eh I blogged about it, I'll dig up that post and connect it with a link later.

Anyway I took out the ten and looked at it. It had the little magnetized line, it was small faced.. but I have never seen a small faced bill that was that crisp.

I decided to pay with a more recently printed 20.

But then I asked them to mark my ten with the pen just to see if it was real.

It was.

Then another woman asked if she wanted me to switch it so I said yes.

Then the original woman said it was mine to begin with so they said, "Oh it's yours?"

Now here's where it got interesting. They asked me that in Chinese. Maybe it was because my brain worked strangely hearing the words. But I thought she asking like, "Oh it's yours like you printed it yourself? Like you have  whole operation and your testing it out?"
I don't know why I thought that.

I mean that is the worst type of crime to get into anyway. They probably don't even arrest you. They probably just take you to a sleeper cell somewhere if that's what you were doing. But then again, I bet some smart kid could do it in his basement. Or maybe North Korea.

"You brought it yourself?"


Then I was thinking, shoot, I shouldn't have marked it. This thing was printed in 1995. What was I doing in 1995? Heck I was in middle school.

All this while the kids gobbled down Ha cherngs and the sparrows gathered around like a mob.

On another note. I had left my 90's cell phone at one of the preschools I taught Kung Fu at. Grace was calling me and some woman was answering in Mandarin. I guess really does understand Mandarin after all.

The woman on the phone (who is probably quite annoyed with me now) mentioned that I was coming back to get my phone. She probably saw me sitting outside with the cherng's staring at my 1995 ten dollar bill like an idiot.

I didn;t even realize I did not have my phone until I was back in JP... and happened to run into someone who used to be a great Lion Dancer for Gung Ho. His nick name was Bao Gung. I realized I didn;t have my phone because as I walked away I realized I should get his number.....

Oh no where's my phone? Yeah that's how it was.

Though my kids didn't mind any of this. What they grieved most was this cool red ball that can collapse and flatten and stay that way because of a suction cup. Then it pops back up into a red ball. I'm pretty sure they left it for 10 minutes at Elliot Norton Park. That got brought home real quick by someone. Hey it's a pretty cool ball. Can't blame them.

Anyway, for some reason I have attributed value to this ten dollar bill now, when really it isn't valuable. I think I'll feed it into the MBTA machine to put credit on my charlie card.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Most interesting man's son goes to the Yuet Pavillion

Okay so I know The Most interesting man is a fictional character made up by Dos Equis. But I swear I know this guys. or at least his son...

So he went out for a night on the town and of course women flocked after him and one of them pulled him aggressively over to the Yuet Vi, not that he remembered the name of the restaurant without looking at the receipt the next morning. I'm not using the real name but anyone who knows already knows. And if you don't know, then I'm not bad mouthing the restaurant. As for advertising for them... I think they are one of the most successful restaurant sin Chinatown and serve a specific niche clientele.

"Very sketchy place, I mean I did not see.... any Chinese in there. It was mostly like guys with the tattoos. We were drinking Soda, except inside of the can was not soda. So I was thinking, you know what, I mean how likely is it that they washed this can. I mean someone drank from it and then someone pours this other thing that we are eh drinking in....So how safe is that. But whatever."

You know there were a lot of shoot em ups there?

"Yeah I believe it but, my friend, you can not let this bother you. Stay calm and it will all pass by.

But the thing is so at this one table there is this really BIG black guy...fat.... just sleeping. And at ah the same table you have this guy who is talking.. to the entire restaurant... the entire night. And the thing is.. nobody cared. Nobody even looked at him.

So the woman  I was with.... she is telling me all about her boyfriend and how famous he is and she really wants me to bring me over to his house so that she can cheat on him with me. My father, " (his father the Dos Equis guy, the most interesting man in the World), "always told me, 'There is nothing lower than the hammer head eshark that tries to take the sword fish from the Old Man and the Sea.' So I did not want to hear about this woman's boyfriend. I realized I should have gone with the other group of women, a mistake which my father-" (His father the Dos Equis guy, the most Interesting Man in the world) "would not have made. ..

"But the dumplings were very good. I did not even care. I just ate all of them and then she didn't want hers so I ate hers too.  Well I caught a cab with this aggressive woman who tried to get me to come back to her place... her boyfriend's place.. .on beacon hill.  I told her, 'The cab will go t your place and then to my place in Beacon hill, that is where I live.' So we did that and when she got out I told the cabby, 'take me to'" the neighborhood where the most interesting man lives.... which in truth is just where he stays because to the most interesting man, or his son, the world is his playground. As you recall the Most interesting man Sr. actually retired and went to Mars., "but go through Beacon hill so that she thinks that's where I live. The cabby, big Jamaican guy, was laughing the whole way home."

"'That was good! That was good! I'm going to use that.' because my father always said, 'The rabbit never leads the wolf back to his rabbit hole.'"

Stay Thirsty my friends.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bubor Cha Cha

Here is a cool story I found via Facebook.  

"What a great night at the Cha. Hong Kong Actor Patrick Tang has dinner with his family here and customers and staff are hounding him for pictures and autographs. He told me that he used to eat here at the Old Lucky Dragon when he was a student here and when I told him our father used to own the Lucky Dragon, he got really excited and we kept shaking hands and thanking each other. Everyone kept staring at me and asked me how I knew him and I just replied, 'he's a great customer.'"
-David Chin

Taiwan boat race

Boston Chinatown Blog took a trip down to Rhode Island to see the Taiwan Day and Dragon Boat festival there. Met up with a team from Philadelphia. Check it out.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Seeming versus being

A friend of mine helped correct some of the mistakes I made in my last posts. That John Henry actually owns the Globe, not the times, and also gave me some insight on the three Chinese homeless people in Chinatown.

Last time the young man that approached me was actually from New York and African American. I din't write that last post very coherently. I might revisit that incident at a later time.

But a common theme for Chinatown, for anywhere, is that you can feel like something is happening one way, and it isn't necessarily what is actually happening, but the "feeling" has so much power has so much repeated visceral emotion that it becomes true to the point of say winning elections or defining how the future perceives the past.

They are talking about it all the time in terms of the elections.

But let's just talk about the feeling that Chinatown is getting gentrified by money from Mainland China.

I don't know the details of reality, but I do know wrong stories that people have told me and I have had to correct them... that such and such a restaurant is owned by a billionaire from China. But, it turns  out that that restaurant was started up by your most local guy you can think of. I mean he may be well off now because of his business, but the reality isn;t some tycoon swooping in and opening up a restaurant. Maybe there was some investment there or whatever, but a lot of the fancy new places opening in Chinatown are really grounded in local boys busting there ass to get their slice of the American dream through hard work and kick ass math skills. Really.

The other is that all the old places are closing down and that old Chinatown feel is gone. First of all, the new fancy places are just going with what most people like. But the other day I got some baos from Mei Sum, and if you are looking for that old old feel, the conversation of old Chinese men talking about restaurant gossip and the tiled floor and you know a kind of third world feel, not the new third world feel that is covered in glitz and marble, but the old one. The one that if they made movies about the Chinese instead of the Italians would have you reminiscing about the old country and the Godfather music would start playing.

I mean I had felt a disconnect with that old Chinatown feel too, but then eavesdropping on these old guys, it all came back. It's still here, old Chinatown, right inside new Chinatown. In fact its like Chinatown has become a conglomerate of many communities all rolled into one.