Plus, being rather extraordinarily white, I am anonymous.
Unless you know me, you will think me unable to understand a word.
We Caucasians all look alike.
For several years I had not spent much time there, because my girlfriend was Chinese, and Chinese girls seeing white men excite eye-brows.
"Hah, must be Japanese, she's dating a kwailo!"
All such remarks in the home town dialect.
Fairly understandable to both of us.
"Keep a straight face, dear."
"Don't flame anyone."
Since the split, my ability to speak Cantonese has improved, and I am older now, so I merit a little more consideration. I am still white.
But Chinatown is no longer the same.
It isn't inhabited by people looking upwards anymore. There are too many empty commercial spaces, and many of the people who remain are not as convinced that they will succeed in America. There is, sometimes, a sense of being left behind. Plus one hears Mandarin more often, from outsiders slumming or looking for "colour". They've made it, their immediate families benefited enormously from corrupt business in the old country or American Educational opportunities, their parents and relatives own real-estate out in the Richmond or Sunset.
A rather large number of the businesses that catered to tourists have failed, because one cannot rely entirely on Midwesterners and Europeans (中西和歐洲人) for one's livelihood; it yields a scrawny rice bowl.
Evenso, Chinatown has stayed a good place to lurk.
I can still enjoy my pipe there, and listen in.
Old folks and children don't mind.
Sometimes I wish that there were still as many bakeries, coffee shops, and chachanteng as before. Or that place on Jackson, where they had frogs.
I like frogs; they're cute food.
For an oversight of the neighborhood, click here: 唐人街 Chinatown. It will bring up a rather large number of essays on this blog, most recent first. You will note that my attitudes have changed (as have I), and the place is also different.
But you can still get frogs.
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