Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Chinatown is flooded: Washington Street, Watermain burst and a fire

Not only was the street Flooded earlier (by the time I got there it was cleaned up more or less) but there was a fire as well and a building had to be evacuated. What exactly happened and how will the businesses be affected?
When I made the video I didn't realize there was a fire as well. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Chinatown Land Trust

This Saturday December 3, 4-6pm there will be an event that explains the Chinatown Community Land Trust in the Metropolitan Community Room on 38 Ash Street.  A 22 minute video about the first community land trust will be shown and then I guess they will explain how this will work in Chinatown.

I'll try to go. Anyone else going? Let me know. 

Star Wars Rogue One: Boston's Own Donnie Yen, Finally an Asian Brother

So I was talking on the playground with a fellow Asian Dad. And the conversation came to Star Wars. Because my kids had watched a ton of these movies and shows over the Thanksgiving Holiday. I had seen posters of Donnie Yen and the Star Wars thing but I hadn't put it together that not only is he a main character in the upcoming movie, a Star wars 3.5 if you will, taking place between return of the Sith and a New Hope, but he is  GOOD GUY!

My fellow Asian Dad friend played it back for me, "He takes out like ten storm troopers with a stick-"

"Not even a light saber?"

"No Watch the trailer, I was watching it and I was like 'Finally we have an Asian brother in one of these movies.'"

Cause yeah.. the thing is... I don't know if you noticed, but Star Wars is Asian as hell... with out being Asian at all.  I mean I'll go to the closest thing I have to the movie industry, which is the Master Mandy Chan aka Mr. No one, AKA the REAL Mandy Chan. But he was talking about first watching "Kung Fu" and first watching Star Wars, and how he thought a) it's cool that George Lucas created these characters out of thin air but that a lot of Hong Kong people thought that B) "Hey you took our Sifu/To dai Relationship." Master and Disciple became Jedi and Padawan. But it was done in such a cool way, they had to like it.

Joseph Cambell, talked about Star Wars as the modern myth in the Power of Myth or Hero with a Thousand faces or one of the many book he wrote about. Anyway check out this clip of the interview with Bill Moyers. He talks about the Japanese Sword Master.

And in Rogue one, there is no doubt that Donnie Yen's character is much like the blind swordsman popularized in Japan, and the character also uses a cane. Apparently Bruce Lee has wanted to play a Kung Fu version of this role, but didn't get a chance. Asians have gotten a better chance in Sci Fi, whether it is Ming Na in Star Gate or Grace Park in Battle Star Galactica, or going back to the original Star Trek with George Takei. But it's true. Star Wars has been pretty white for a movie whose magic is primarily based off of Buddhist Philosophy and Kung Fu and Samurai flicks. When you break the movies down it really turns out that their ideas are what carry it forward. 

But to have Boston's one as the good guy, of course I had to throw some sort of post out there. And think of the doors that this could open for Donnie Yen. Hollywood yes... but let's look at Disney's other big well spring of stories... Marvel. Shoot I've been watching several Marvel series about small neighborhoods in New York like Hell's Kitchen and Harlem..... After this Star Wars movie maybe Donnie Yen could be in one about Chinatown.  And why not Boston's Chinatown. After all, that is where he is actually from. I mean technically Newton but his mom's Kung Fu school is still in Chinatown. Donnie Yen could actually play himself. And from what I hear there is a real plot. Hung Ching supposedly protected a gang from New York from moving and taking over Chinatown. Sounds like the plot of Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones if you ask me. An dthe whole gentrification thing was in there too in those New York films. 

How badass would that be coming off of the buzz from this movie? And what with Jason Yee and Mandy Chan and the Aflek brothers and Matt Damon being from here too?  Am I getting ahead of myself? I'm just saying with  Disney and Donnie together... it could totally happen. 

Chinatown: Home or Tourist Destination?

Name some Chinatowns that you’ve been to.  Have you been to New York’s? How about San Francisco’s? Maybe even D.C’s? Can you name something that they all have in common?  And no I’m not talking about the population having a Chinese majority.  What they all have in common is that they’re slowly becoming tourist destinations for some, while others are pretty much already a shell of what they once were. 

San Francisco's Chinatown is full of these stores that sell tchotchkes tourists love to buy
Chinatowns throughout America (and other countries) formed for many reasons.  The biggest two reasons were one, many did not want to live with the Chinese that were immigrating into their homes, brought on by fear mongering and disdain for those who were different.  Secondly, a close-knit community was able to benefit from each other’s help in a new environment and so they gathered in one neighborhood.  Of course if a homogenous group of people gather in a community, restaurants that specifically cater to their diet will pop up as well.  So it makes sense that Chinese restaurants populated the different Chinatowns, something I’ll get back to later.

As I mentioned in a previous post, because Chinatowns were cast off communities that preexisting citizens did not want to associate with, they weren’t always the safest of areas.  Like Boston’s Chinatown, many have been cleaned up and are nothing like they used to be.  The newfound safety led to curious outsiders that were interested in the many food establishments that they couldn’t necessarily get in their own neighborhoods.  For example, you can’t really go to Jamaica Plain or the North End for some dim sum although this is changing (see: Malden/Medford area).  Being “adventurous” and trying new “exotic” foods continued to drive more and more outsiders into the Chinatowns. 

Slowly, visitors that try these Chinese joints brought their friends.  As many realized how safe and quaint the Chinatowns were with their markets and restaurants along with their close proximities to other large parts of the city (Downtowns, Financial Districts, etc.) they started to buy up the dirt cheap property.  The property that used to be so dirt cheap because no one but immigrants wanted to live suddenly saw an increase in property value continuing until many residents were forced to relocate from the astronomical home and rent prices.  This is what everyone in the community so lovingly calls gentrification.  It’s something that is talked about over and over …and over again.  But it’s only because it’s a very real and big problem. 

If everyone in the community left, it would stop becoming that welcoming home and slowly become a caricature of that past community.  By caricature, I mean the type of community that Washington D.C’s Chinatown is now.  Apart from a few scattered restaurants, the only thing Chinese about that Chinatown are the various random stores that have signs with their Chinese name like Verizon or Chipotle.  No longer is D.C’s Chinatown the hub of the Chinese community that stop for groceries or breakfast or meet to talk to friends.  It becomes just a bunch of bubble tea shops (I’m looking at you Boston) and restaurants that cater to an ever growing foodie population.  On a side note, I don’t know if I’m going crazy or not, but I swear that every time a bubble tea shop opens, one of the small markets close. 
The list of bubble tea shop goes even deeper...
What has become of D.C’s Chinatown is something that Boston needs to be aware of and hopefully avoids.  Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not as clear cut as: safer neighborhood = restaurants & bubble tea shops = loss of Chinatown forever.  But if Boston’s Chinatown eventually heads in the direction of D.C’s it’ll truly be a shame.  We need to make sure that we appreciate the culture and history of our little neighborhood and remember why and how it came to be.  We can’t let forget the residents that live there and the difficulties they face in stopping their home from becoming just another tourist destination.

For further reading regarding D.C's Chinatown situation with residents' accounts press HERE

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"A-Woke" Asian Mannequin Challenge Goes Viral: An Interview with Co-Producer Michael Tow

I had the great pleasure today of getting to know Michael Tow more, after having seen his stage performance a few weeks ago. You may know him from his role in Warrior Class, that just debuted at Lyric Stage Company in Boston. Or maybe you've seen him in his film East of Hollywood. His acting style and accolades as an Asian in the media and theater are aspects to aspire to, certainly. However, I would like to call to attention his latest accomplishment, and a most powerful one at that.

Tow educated me on a bit of background. Having grown up in Brookline in a mostly white community at the time, he gave me some insight to some of his experiences dealing with identity and racial issues. We unpacked in detail some of the depths of this in his own Mannequin Challenge video to the Asian community, which he co-produced with Teja Arboleda:

Tow expresses and reacts with great purpose to some of the recent incidents the media has aimed at us as Asians, armed with hate and carelessness. Using the latest viral trend on YouTube as his medium, he creates a distinct mannequin challenge that separates itself from all the rest. With tones of harsh reality using real quotes and voiceovers from Chris Rock's mockery on Asian stereotypes while exploiting children to Watters World, this bears the most meaning out of all of the videos we've seen yet. The "A-Woke Mannequin Challenge" is just that; a challenge, for the world, and for Asians.

While I admitted to Tow which incidents I was aware of and which ones I wasn't, he explained to me he felt the video was already serving its purpose: to expose, educate, and evoke.

We discussed the need for action and this sense of unity that is missing or could be stronger from Asian communities to challenge and take a stand against our stifling. He urges us to stand up to these stereotypes, and to not stay quiet about it any longer, no matter how big or small. The observation of other communities staying vigilant and standing their ground is not a myth, and a responsibility to ourselves and our race. Asians have too long stayed the butt of a joke, to an effect of the media taking it for granted and cashing in at our expense.

So let's all take a leaf out of Michael Tow's book and as he urges his community, "Be awoken."

You can copy and paste the link to his challenge and spread the word:

Wikipedia Asian Month

So apparently it is Wikipedia Asian Month. Check it out, and do some editing my professor and historian friends.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Quic Pic Barbecue Turkeys

(Photo Credit: Wing Kai To)

Well we just finished our own Turkey. You know, it occurred to me while eating this a) Turkey is a healthier alternative to Pork. and b) the Turkey Breast was like Char siu, but the fattier parts tasted more like duck... so it's like you get two types of siu lap in one animal. We were lucky enough to get our bird before the line. But yeah I can see why there is a line. Gong Gong had us pack up a quarter of a Turkey to bring down to Amah in New Jersey to taste it.

In fact Gong Gong was pretty skeptical when he saw it. Like "What is this? what are you doing? this is American style?"

But once he tried a piece he changed his tune and the whole mood changed too. "Oh this is lik ethe Cantonese Cha siaw huh?" Well, ordering from Quic Pic was a success for us this Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fau Gai Jeet -Turkey Holiday AKA Thanksgiving

This year we are getting a Turkey from Quic Pic Barbecue in Chinatown. It's the first tim ewe are trying this and we are pretty excited about it. Pictures to come.

For those who don't know, Thanksgiving is THE Chinatown Holiday. That is to say, in the old days, it was the only Holiday you would actually get. New Years (the Western one) is actually one of the busiest times for a Chinese Restaurant because of the White American tradition of getting Chinese food. But nobody usually goes to a restaurant on Thanksgiving back when everyone's mother knew had to make Turkey. So in the 90's Thanksgiving was definitely the time for restaurant workers to celebrate by going to the Casino. Eventually Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods started having big name (or used to be big name) Hong Kong singers in for concerts for Thanksgiving.

Growing up, my household wasn't big on Thanksgiving. it was just my mother and me, not enough for a Turkey. And I didn't care about College football. Thanksgiving was more something I saw on TV. Some years we got together with the neighbors. I vaguely remember eating around a mah jong table, and they made various Chinese dishes and my mother made side dishes.

I think one time at Kwong Kow we had a potluck before Thanksgiving and my mother made Mash Potatoes. The Chinese kids devoured it so fast and all the leftovers were these intricate Chinese dishes. My mother thought that was kind of strange. But the thing is, When you eat home cooked Chinese food everyday and you grow up in America you start to crave the mainstream American food.

When I lived at a Kung Fu school, a lot of the Restaurant workers would bring in Turkey. They would get a free one, but had no family to share it with. They would experiment trying to cook it like Char Siu. People would come "home" if they worked at a restaurant in Western Mass or Maine and would bring beaver meat (some hunter illegal trapped it and then sold it where he could, a Chinese Restaurant) During those years Thanksgiving was a feast of awesome secret dishes. I know some people would be upset about me eating beaver meat but at the time it was awesome. A gamy soup that heated me up in a room that did not have a good heating system.

I first heard about restaurants actually selling Turkey from my in laws.

"In New Jersey, you bring the Turkey to the restaurant and they cook for you." proclaimed my mother in law.

To her everything is superior in New Jersey.

A couple years I just got duck from Chinatown Cafe. Sometimes Grace just bakes a chicken. I mean who cares? Why does it have to be Turkey?

 But this year again we are buying the Barbecue style Turkey. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think Quic Pic Barbecue is the only place that has this option of buying the Turkey around here right? It's pretty exciting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Adventures of Mandy Chan: San Sui: Ocean in the front and the Mountains in the back

Shan Shui--- The Sea in the Front and the Mountains in the Back

I was once asked what more I wanted with life by my boss. I had been all over the world, in countless movies… what else was there? When would I be satisfied.

My response was, “I tell you, when I wake up in the morning I want to see the ocean in the front and the mountains in the back.”

There is a show in Hong Kong called “Let’s get real.” Basically it is like a talk show or a game show and people call in and they will investigate the story. It’s about people who have been scammed or pushed and it seeks to expose the truth. You’ve seen Spotlight? Well if you turned that into a show that would be it, except it is in Hong Kong.

I had a story for them because I knew one of the hosts. I told them about this guy.. He was pressured by the Mafia, you know the Triads, and it was a really good story. She listened to the whole story. And then she said, “Good story.”

“So can you do it.”


Why? Was what I thought. “Let’s get real la, right?

“We can’t do this story because it has to do with the Triads and the government and politics.”

“Okay, no problem. I will save it for myself then…. I’ll tell it to you now.”

There is is this Doctor accusing a man of being sick. But this man is being played by the Mafia, pressured, messed with.. Bei yun wan okay. They say this guy is crazy. And this guy, the victim, thinks that the safest place that he can go is to jail right?

You don’t understand?

Okay let me start from the beginning.

This Mafia guy, he comes to this guy, okay this victim, whatever you want to call him.
He wants the victim to join his group. But he doesn’t want to, because A) the victim does not want to be in the mafia and B) this mafia is not paying him.

He’s not even paying, hang your lo mein

So Mafia says, “Look,you need me, I’m protecting you.”

The victim says, “You? Protecting me? Heh!”

“You go outside, you see that I am protecting you.”

So he set it up. He is walking out with the guy, the victim, and then he tells some other people, liang, thugs, that this guy will be walking in this alley way. So the plan for the Mafia guy is that these guys will beat up the victim, but then the Mafia guy will save him and then he will come over to his side, you get what I’m saying?

Okay but this guy, this victim, is not stupid. Those guys come over to him and stand near him and start pressuring him. Because even though they are the mafia there are rules still this guy needs to throw the first punch right?

But this guy does not respond at first. He does not throw the first punch. To insults he turns the other cheek like, you know? So they don’t know how to react, they look at each other, the liang, the thugs. But then the victim he doesn’t punch them but he says, “I’m not going to hit you, but if you come near me, hang your lo mein,  I’m going to  KILL you.” They freeze, like that. They are playing game, but none of them want to die.

So the Mafia, is like, nei lo mei he didn’t fall for it… now what?

But they follow this guy around. Every where he goes. It ends up, he cannot even go back to his house. He goes back and everything is stolen. So he needs to find a hotel. But every hotel he goes to.. They are all booked. Bei yun wan la you get what I am saying? So he goes to the five star hotel, because he is thinking, the five star hotel, they are international, they should be fine you know, Sheraton, Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel, Inter-Continental Hong Kong Hotel, Ritz Calrton, The Landmark.. These types of places, I was sure I would have no problem there, there was not a chance in the victim’s mind that they could possibly have any connection to the triads… no way.

No! Booked.

Okay then fleabag motel la. So he goes to there and okay so there is a room. But when he goes out, next thing he comes back, everything is stolen, all his stuff, his money under his shoe, Air plane ticket everything… so oh sh….

So he takes all his last belongings, his Passport he last few money everything and he leaves. He is walking around now. He doesn’t know where to go. He can’t go home and he can’t go to a hotel so right now he is getting very paranoid.

He is tired. It’s been days like this okay. So he sees a cab and he gets in.

“Where you want to go to?

“I don’t know just drive.”

“What? You don’t have a destination? I think you’re crazy get out.”

“What? Okay here is 50 bucks just drive.”

“No. I think I don’t want your business.”

Hang your lo mein

“Okay take me to the police station right now, that’s 50 bucks already and there is your destination.”


“Take me to the U.S. embassy then!”


I count to three. And if you don’t drive I will jump over to drive myself.

Then he counted 3... 2…. Before he even said 1.
the driver he takes the keys out of the ignition, “No!” And he throws them out the window. Like that!

So then I…

Okay, so it is kind of stupid for me to continue without just telling you, I am that victim, that victim is me okay that’s why I know.

I was in the front seat fighting with the cab driver with my hands on his throat moving out to the car outside and trying to get the key okay. And then suddenly I see the flashing blue and red lights.

Chai lo.


Thank god.. Finally I have someone to talk to. Someone to help me. I can explain my situation to them.
I can…


There was like 15 police in the cars and the vans and the tanks (maybe they don’t have this in the U.S.).. They do? Okay but they have all this man, and first thing they come over they start working on me. You know, they are doing their Kung Fu on me with their night sticks and stomping on me. They handcuff me and do more and then this Chief comes over.

“Hang your lo mein, I can see all of you your badger number is 56481 and your badge number is 34286 an the license to that car is AM1678 you know I am already on the ground and my face is pushed up against the asphalt and the Chief come over to me and sticks his shoe right in my face almost in my mouth and stand there and says, “If you say one more, hanging word I’m going to kick your teeth in.”

And then what I did is I just turned my head quickly and shut up. Yes I can take all that punishment they gave me but that kind of pain I can’t take. So I just turned my head and shut up right away.

But I thought, this is okay, they will arrest me and I will be able to talk to someone to explain. I am in the court system. People have rights I can call someone. In jail maybe i am at least safe from the Mafia.


Hang your lo mein, they took me to a room with soft walls you know what I am saying?

And the whole way there they have me handcuffed and in the four point restraints and wheeling me in saying to everyone out loud, “This guy is Crazy! This guy is CRAZZZZZYYYY!” Announcing it out loud so everyone can hear you know?

  Your lo mein, now I am disconnected from the outside world. I can’t call anyone     Hang your lo mein.

The first thing they do is seven of them rush in and... shuck! Give me a shot. The kind that is supposed to make you fall asleep to sedate you. And they tie me to a chair like that you know?
But you know, my body is already contaminated. I mean I drink, smoke and there is no way that just giving me one shot I am going to go out, that’s just not possible. So I get up and I get out of those straps and I lean closer to the door to see out the window and look at the nurse.

And she says out loud, “Hey That guy is UUUPPPP, he is oUUUTTT!” Singing it to everyone and then boom! Again seven people... shuck! Shot. I’m still not out but I think, no if this continues then I’m gonna die so I don’t try to go out I just go with it.

What am I gonna do?

They keep asking me what’s your name, because he didn’t trust anybody any more.
It has been a day and they don’t give me anything to drink. And everyone they treat me like nothing. They hate me. I spit on the floor and the nurse hates me, but what am I going to do? I don’t care. Look at how they treat me. They don’t even give me water, and they have me hooked up to a catheter… look this is some bad stuff right now.

And the weirdest thing is in this situation I hear… now look imagine you are in this situation and right around the corner you hear your girlfriend or your wife’s voice, laughing. I wanted to call out to her, and tell her, “Hey! Help me!” But then I thought. No there is no way that she is here. Why would she be here? It must be a trick, just like those guys in the alley. Once I call out, bam! Okay see he is crazy.

And that happened again and again, where I thought I saw someone, from far away. Friends. Or even one guy was like, “Hey Mo si ah Mai Mo!” Like, let’s do lion dance! Let’s perform together! But I couldn’t quite make them out. And I was thinking.. “Looks like that movie I was working on.” But that can’t be right. Why would they be here. So anytime I saw something like that I didn’t say anything.

But it got to the point.. You know, with no water and the catheter, it was almost full, and if that thing reverses… no no I had to do something, but if I cried out I knew they would think I was crazy.

Now I tell you, in any situation there are good people and bad people. Wherever. The police, the hospital or wherever and everyone knows who each other is they don’t even have to talk to each other and say who they are. They each have a part, that’s why that Triad, the Triangle, there is a relationship in society to government, gang and normal people. So in any situation there is all these types of people

So I heard some typing of a keyboard… you know the sound? Tac-a tac- a tac tac tac tac…

So I thought of something, and the next time the nurse came around to the bed I tapped out.

Tac tac tac, TAAC TAAAC TAAC tac tac tac.

You know?


Morse code dude!


But if I cry out help they will just have proof that I am crazy.

But suddenly after I did that. The nurse and everyone, the whole situation around me completely changed.

“Aiya! We are not here to get him” said the nurse, “he is here to get us!” And she changed my catheter they started feeding me.. Everything changed.

So then later on, no I still have no contact with the outside world, the police chief comes to the hospital and he is talking to the doctor. And the police says, “If this man has no problem then we will arrest him and bring him to the police station. But if you say he has a problem then we will leave him here.”

So I thought, “Thank God! Now I can go to the police station, I can have contact with the outside world. I can explain to them my situation and what happened.”

“He has does have a mental problem.” Said the Doctor .

Hang your lo mein. But I didn’t say anything, they will have proof I am crazy then so the police went away and I was there trapped.

So then they had me in this… you know the strait jacket like Hannibal Lecter, and they transferred me to another hospital. A mental institute. I was in the strait jacket and I was so thirsty and there was a sink next to me but I just couldn’t get that water.

So… I struggled and I pushed, I breathed in and I breathed out I cup hei and somehow, I don’t actually know how, but the weakest link in the jacket, the weakest stitch, I was able to somehow rip that and then it continued to rip and I did get out of that strait jacket which is supposed to be impossible. I got to the sink.

I drank that water.

It was holy water because all water is holy when you have thirst like that but in you day to day life here in the states you just don’t realize it, that all water is holy. That all water is the water of life, provided it is clean and potable of course.

I drank it, and I washed my face, and I went to the window…

And I will tell you...

The view out the window was the Ocean! The Sea in the front.. And the Mountains in the back!

Boston Lion Dance Competition Finals

The second and final day of the competition. It was fun, and at first I was afraid that all my footage was garbage. Do I wish that I had done something or at least given my spot to WYND... yes. Sorry I keep dwelling on it. But I got to meet a bunch of people and reconnect. At least I actually went. I have been sick and honestly I almost didn't go. 

One funny thing that happened, I was talking to an old friend of my fathers while explaining the blog and how I like to collect Chinatown stories. 

"Do you want to hear some stories about your father?"


"No way."


Well I kind of know why... but I did get some other stories. I even got interviewed, maybe I can put the clip up here at some point. 

Lion Dance Competition Day one

Here is the video of the Lion dance competition. I tried to edit it way down of course, and there were some emotional parts that I didn't have the option of putting in because I was judging and also competing in addition to covering this for the blog. So that's my excuse for bad decision making... though there is no excuse. I tried to capture as much of the story as possible, and I know some people requested the full video for certain performances...But Paulo Texeira and Brian Anime will actually have those up in 4K so maybe I will just put a link to those videos later.  

Oh Ye of Little Faith

The Lion Dance Competition was amazing. But I am feeling deep regret at something that I did, especially after seeing a post of our performance by Paulo Texeira, because what actually happened is getting lost I am one of the few that know the full story.

We performed and there were many problems yes. But because we had small children the organizers did not take away points for time being under. And the judges were kind in their scoring, taking the age of the students into account.

Other teams did have points deducted due to time and one team was even disqualified for their own saftey because of dangerous jumps and tricks that were difficult to do. Watching that team get hurt, my students became afraid and did not do the flips that they usually do and so they probably think that they din't qualify because of something they did, but actually the sin and the betrayal was mine.

Not only were we part of the competition... but we qualified. And because I have had so many naysayers around me in the past and because of my wrong perspective, I conceded.

I thought, "Well the Nativity kids cannot come back the next day anyway." But I forgot about myself and my sons, and indeed the Worcester Youth Nian Dancers team that was disqualified. I could have used this miraculous divine intervention to combine our teams. We would have been guaranteed at least the 4th place plaque and a piece of paper with Nativity, WYND and Adam Kung Fu Dad would be hanging on the wall somewhere.

But more than that, hearing some of the older lion dancers from previous generations, I realized that I could have represented the past and the future. I wouldn't have been able to do all the tricks that were done by other teams with out practicin g. But Honestly, I could have done a number of them with the lion head from WYND because of the weight difference. But more important than that, my style of dancing (Which Noah showcased with two moves and no more than two moves but still elicited a huge response from the crowd, is a style that isn't done much. And the older generation would have felt represented in the competition, thinking, "That's how we used to do it."

God reached down and gave me a chance to get under the head during the competition to save the day as it were and I couldn't accept it and so I rejected the miracle that was happening right in front of me betraying my team, my sons, the ancestors, and myself.

Take this as a lesson! Whenever your dreams are fulfilled in a way that you think you don't deserve it... do not reject that opportunity or gift. There is a reason for everything.

Moving forward I will have to use this for positivity, but I also have to answer for my sins when I explain all this to my students.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Chinatown: Learning About the Storied and Troubled Past

Being born and raised in Boston, I remember a lot of my teen and younger years being spent hanging out around Chinatown, specifically the Castle Square neighborhood and the streets around Mass Pike Towers.  Playing football, hanging out at friends’ houses and going to school at Josiah Quincy Elementary School and then the 6th grade school Josiah Quincy Upper School are mainly what my memories are composed of.  The strange thing was that most of these memories of Chinatown were not actually in the “heart” of the neighborhood. 

Finding this peculiar when I was older, I turned to the best source that I had: my father who had lived in Mass Pike Towers since my grandparents first came to Boston as their permanent settlement in America in the 70s.  He told me that Chinatown used to be a place that chewed you up and spit you out.  What is currently a bustling neighborhood full of new bakeries and new restaurants used to be a dangerous and seedy place better known as the Combat Zone. 

The Combat Zone, as it was so lovingly called, was given the appropriate name due to the looming presence of adult movie theatres, drugs and just overall gang presence.  If you came for leisure, it wasn’t the same type of leisure found at Disneyland.  During the end of the 20th century, the Combat Zone was starting to get cleaned up; adult movie theatres were being shut down, gambling dens were being busted up and local gangs were being infiltrated.  

Slowly, but surely Chinatown was being much safer to hang out with friends and family.  It was becoming the type of place that you could walk through the neighborhood, find your favorite pho place and didn’t have to be afraid that you were in danger of being in the middle of gang rivalry between the Vietnamese and Chinese gangs.

Ask any millennial that’s grown up in the area and they’ll probably stare at you with a face of confusion.  The darker history of our neighborhood’s past isn’t exactly revered or even talked about much.  I learned essentially that my memories didn’t involve much of the actual Chinatown because my parents still had the remembrances of the Combat Zone fresh in their mind.  Understandably it was something they didn’t want their children associated with. 

Flash forward to the past 8 years or so, it’s a much different than it was in the past.  It’s a neighborhood where you can go to the local market and grab baskets of choy for the hot potting at home you plan to do.  It’s a place that I can walk through feeling safe at 10pm just to get some of my favorite milk tea and bao because of a late night craving.  While Chinatown is always facing constant and different changes that many might not be happy of, it has come a long way, something that we need to remember and can’t forget.  Being safe and having the ability to enjoy such a beautiful neighborhood that still has a lot of rich history should be something to appreciate.  

Friday, November 18, 2016


Tomorrow is the Lion Dance competition and it is a big day for me because I will be bringing a group of fourth graders, to compete from Nativity Prep. Actually, because of some last minute issues, my sons will actually be leading the group... and if I have any friends who will be there and not competing, I may very well need help with gongs and cymbals... and at the very least some adult supervision over gongs and cymbals......please help.

But no matter what we are going to go out there and do out thing and complete the routine and it's going to be great. Also I will be trying to run around and interview people from the blog, or Adriana will... okay it's going to be a bit chaotic but it's going to be exciting man. I'm going to enjoy myself no matter what happens.

For the last practice on Wednesday I actually happened to meet Sifu Mai Du that day, and something that she said, corresponded directly with something that a Nativity teacher said.. for me anyway.

From Mai's philosophy, she said to just do your life's work following your heart and everything will fall into place. I noticed in the conversation that she was very much in tune with herself. Something i need to work on.

At Nativity, the idea of Magis was brought up. A philosophy and term coined by St. Ignatious Loyola, creator of the Jesuit order, the order tat runs Nativity. The idea (from Wikipedia) is to do MORE for God. To work for God. To think about what else you can do for God on a daily basis. To me, that is an Abrahamic way of following your heart.

But it can also mean to be more. To be all you can be, if you want to use the Army's tag line.

On Saturday, that is my goal. I mean what I am doing, in a way, makes no sense. It's sort of crazy actually to do what I am going to do and some would say fruitless in terms of money for sure. But the kids are going to have an experience,. Nativity will have been a part of this effort.. there is a lot of positive pay off from doing the Lion Dance classes and the competition. Even if the kids are nervous as hell and some of them might not want to show up because of that nervousness. I'm nervous too.

But I'm looking forward to it. Even though i know my kids are going to have to go to the bathroom a ton of times and I may very well be running around trying to do 10 things. Actually, maybe I should just make a point of it right now to slow down and chill out because running in circles won't do anything.

I'll have time to get pictures and I'll compete and the kids know the routine as well as they will. So yeah I just need to chill and enjoy myself. Let everyone enjoy the moment.

It's going to be Magical.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Safety Pins: By Shaina Lu

The following is from a Facebook post by Shaina Lu, copied and pasted (with her permission of course):

I am tired of safety pins.
A few months ago, BEFORE the election, a man on the T yelled at me for my entire ride to Chinatown, pointing at me and saying, "Trump says you'll go back to China!" He did other obscene things, including, but not limited to, performing fake kung-fu, calling me Chun-Li, and air-punching me. Not a single person stopped him. No kind white liberal intervened to say, "Hey man, stop..." Some people snapchatted it. The woman next to me looked at me sympathetically.
During this time, I will not be looking for who has a tiny glint of silver on their shirts. I don't care if you wear a safety pin, or a BLM shirt, or a goddam rainbow top hat.
PLEASE just DO or SAY SOMETHING. Then, I will know you are "safe."

If I see something, I promise with every inch of me that I will do something. Friends (that I have yet to befriend), I won't leave you hanging as your eye desperately roves around the T, searching for help. I'm coming to you.

Origin: How Mai Du started training in Kung Fu

I'm putting this in quotes, but I did not record Mai when she told me her story, and also I have changed the order of how I got the information. So really it's my interpretation of what I heard so take everything I write with a grain of salt. I can always go back in and edit later.

"Growing up in Vietnam my older brothers did Judo and Aikido at this community center, and so I heard about Martial Arts... and then at one point my father became ill so he started doing Tai Chi in the morning and my mother decided to go with him, and I remember I wanted to go so badly too.

'No they don't teach children... it's not for you,' the y told me, and you know my older sister had won at ballet and so I was dragged along to that too, but I knew that I always really wanted to do Kung Fu.

When we first came here as refugees we lived in Chelsea, and that was when I was exposed to all those Kung Fu movies.... In Vietnam we only had a small TV that only played black and white movies from 7-10pm and usually they were old Russian movies that had been translated. So watching these movies with the swords and people going "HAAA!!!" May parents had said that I was a girl and that it wasn't for me but I had been playing with sticks and pretending to do Kung Fu... I was really Tom Boy-ish... so I begged them until finally they said okay. So we we went to Chinatown, Where else? and the first place we saw with a sign with Kung Fu was Wah Lum.  I was Twelve years old. When I went up there I think I remember Sifu Bob was doing a form, and just the fact that he was doing a legit form... I knew that I wanted to do this. And so I was very active in performing Kung Fu from then on."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Lesson from Sifu Mai Du (Part One)

The first time I heard Mai's name was when I joined Chinatown Crime Watch. Some of the older guys were like, "You know Mai right? You don't? I thought you did Kung Fu? How can you do Kung Fu and not know Mai?"

Mai was someone who Chinatown watched grow up. They saw her performing Kung Fu from the age of 12 into adulthood. And last weekend, she celebrated the 10th anniversary of her school in Malden. She has become a cornerstone of the community. I had met her at various events of course, but it's always "Hi" and the Kung Fu salute, etc. and then back to your own team. Recently, the other contributor, Adriana Li, scolded me, "How have you never hung out with Mai? I mean, why wouldn't you sit down and talk with someone who has been practicing and teaching Kung Fu for so many years?"

As I tried to explain my reasons and excuses, I realized how wrong and lazy they all were. And more than that, after meeting up with Mai today, I realized even more the error of my ways. I got more than schooled, I got "Sifu-ed".

"Just sharing, not teaching", Mai would laugh after giving me some seriously sound advice and guidance. Mai has been doing what I have wanted to do for a long time, and in more ways than one. The conversation started with her listing an alphabet soup of Asian organizations she had been involved with since High school; some of which I recognized, but many of which I didn't.  

How did Sifu Mai get into Kung Fu and all the community work? Well, that will be our starting point in the next installment. But let's just say after talking to her, I felt like I was in the presence of someone who had a  much more highly developed moral compass, and I suddenly have the desire to be a better person. 

I also saw that many of the things I went through, she also went through on her path to achieve what she has achieved. Some of her advice may save me quite a bit of time. Or maybe everyone has to go through these things themselves. All I can say is I felt lost... and suddenly I feel like I just got the encouragement to find my way. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

How to hire a Calligrapher in Chinatown

Well after an Oddyssey going through various Chinatown shops, W.K. was able to hire a calligrapher through Gilbert Ho of Chinatown Mainstreet The Calligraphers name is Mr. Jiang.

And in a weird way, it seems like the best way to hire a calligrapher is to start off by doing exactly what W.K. did, and ask about in on the Boston Chinatown Blog Facebook page, get me to write about, which got Gilbert to respond.  

There is the digital media Chinatown, which Bisects with the physical Chinatown, but you sort of need both nowadays because Chinatown has changed so much. You can't go into every store and there is someone who knows how to do Calligraphy. But there are still people around, and Social Media is the quickest way to find  who you are looking for. 

We'll try to get a permanent ad on the blog fro Mr. Jiang... but because a lot of the older generation doesn't use Facebook, or maybe they have We Chat (which I actually don't understand) the connections still end up happening through this indirect way. A friend of a friend of a friend. 

But yes in terms of the blog, ideally you go on here click on a calligraphy box and you are connected to an artist who can do it for you.  We'll try to make that happen soon. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Recruiting for 1CAC Gallery

Had the opportunoty to look at some art with a friend on Newbury street tonight.

And it would definitely be cool to have an event like this in Chinatown with a Chinatown spin to it. 

In fact viewing some of the art gave me ideas for stuff I want to create myself. 

It's hard when you have the kids but I envision some large pieces like this with a Mah Jong theme

Perhaps an artistic rendition of my childhood experience of going into the gambling dens as a kid with my Dad too, and those craps games and having Dominoes and dice and chips all over the house, and juxtaposing that with Old women playing Mah Jong for hours on end sometimes forgetting to even eat, and what this means for the community and the psyche of all that.

But that's just in my head, where as this art is here and these artists are already producing work. Can't wait to connect with them and put those connections to good use in Chinatown and bring other neighborhoods together in one great meeting place.