Okay maybe it's weird that I keep comparing Boston's Chinatown to a fictional TV Show, but in Hell On wheels, the main character goes to Truckee's Chinatown and the first thing is he feels lost because he is surrounded by Chinese people and Chinese stuff going on and nobody speaks English.
You usually see this in American TV shows and movies. The moment of "What the hell is going on?" Whether it is Chris Tucker in Rush hour, or frankly it used to happen in Boston's Chinatown. Not to me... but I would often get approached by white guys that were like "Do you speak English Thank God!" and then they would ask me for directions or whatever. This was a long time ago before GPS on smart phones.
But even recently, like last year or so, I helped a fire fighter translate for a guy that had passed out. But in the end of wasn't of much use. But everyone on both sides just felt more comfortable that someone was there that could speak Chinese and English.
But I was walking through Chinatown the other night and I saw a bunch of tough 20 something's with motorcycles....And tough kids hanging out in Chinatown is nothing new. There used to be a lot of fights in the 90's and I'm sure before that as well.
I remembered seeing group after group of gangster looking Asian kids and at one point chances are that I would look into a group of youth like that and recognize at least someone and be able to shake hands and nod what's up.
This time though the tough 20 somethings... were white.
It felt weird.
That whole, "Yo you know where you are? Your in Chinatown!"
Now I've heard before people say that Chinatown isn't like it was, better or worse.
I know there have been fights in Chinatown where Chinese have well, been sort of embarrassed.
But I've never felt like, "Holy crap I'm going to get my ass kicked by a bunch of white kids in Chinatown."
Now these guys weren't doing anything wrong. They weren't threatening me. But I sensed a bravado and confidence in them. Not necessarily a lack of respect, but.. I could feel it for the first time. Not just know it but feel it. Shit, if these guys were to jump me the difference between me being in Chinatown and South Boston did not exist. There would be no difference. I mean I can pass for white anyway.. but still.
Another time I walked passed a group of hipsters. Again, I guess this is nothing knew, nothing strange... but it's just that I felt something different that the power structure was absolutely irreversibly different. I know I wrote a previous article saying how Chinatown was weak. I know it's more touristy... but I guess watching that Hell On wheels show really showed me the mind set of how White people used to view Chinatown, as a place of confusion and bombardment of strange things. A slight discomfort... and what they felt of it now. The place to go to. A place for them.
I mean in reality it was always so... but I just never felt it before. It was an "Oh Shit" moment maybe even a "We totally screwed up moment." I don't know. I can't really explain it.
But I have always been for making Chinatown more open. Tourists are good it;s awesome, it means more money even if I'm not the one making it. Maybe it's just that the GPS on the phones makes people feel better. Hell maybe there's a lot of Pokemon Go being played.
But suddenly I felt like this is completely and totally not my neighborhood. It is their neighborhood. And by them I mean the tourist.
This year, these last few months actually I have gone from feeling like a local, moving more towards a tourist, to the point where now I feel like an outsider beyond even that and it scared me.