Sunday in Chinatown

I was agog like a typical tourist

Chinatown was not exactly what I expected. I had seen pictures, of course, and so the sights were familiar. And yes, Grant Street, which runs straight up the middle from the iconic gate, is crowded with shops selling trinkets, jewelry, paper fans, tee-shirts, postcards, and chirping plastic birds (and yes, I bought some fun little things to bring home for my dog-sitters).

Another touristy one Coca Cola

For Jim So I went for a wok the other day

But it is also a real neighborhood with real people going about their daily business and their lives.

I’m glad I went on a Sunday morning, when the residents way outnumbered the tourists. And I’m really glad I wandered off the main drag, into the side streets and alleys, where people elbowed their way through the crowds to shop for their groceries or talked and laughed with friends and neighbors. Bins of mushrooms and other unidentifiable dried roots, vegetables, fruits, berries, fish, and meats. Strange window displays, wildly ornamented and brightly-colored architecture, and run-down buildings with grated windows covered over with newspapers. The smell of Chinese spices and cigarette smoke.

Modesty sash


And The clunk of sticks hitting the pavement as boys practiced their martial arts, playing at fighting with each other, serious expressions on their faces.

Sunday School

The women are busy, doing their shopping and walking their children to the playgound. The men are a different story. Everybody smokes. Nobody smiles. In fact they barely move. This was the perfect place to practice street photography.

At Portsmouth Square, a band of Chinese folk musicians were playing a concert. In the back of the park, beaneath the shade of a small stand of trees, groups of men stood around playing cards. They were so engrossed they didn't even seem to notice me taking photographs. Or if they did, the simply didn't care.

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Co. was not what I expected, either--I pictured a large, clean factory but it is actually a small, narrow, crowded shop on Ross Alley, off Washington Street. Women take turns sitting at a large machine on view for the tourists. A conveyor belt drops rounds of batter onto a griddle, and the women scoop them up while still warm and piable and fold them into the familiar shape.

Fortune Cookies

It costs 50 cents to take a picture. I gave them a dollar and also bought two bags of cookies. That's right, two.


Anonymous said...

Do we get cookies? I love your blog!!!

Gienna said...

I ate all the cookies. Well, I made Audrey eat some, too, to save me from them!

Glad you're having fun reading the entries. I was thinking that blogs are the modern-day equivalent of the long slide shows that people used to torture their friends and families with ... but this way you can skip over the boring parts!