Starbucks: insinuating corporate coffee into any environment or culture since 1971.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…
After getting our American history fix at Federal Hall, we descended a convenient subway entrance across the street from the front doors and took the J train a few blocks north to familiar Canal Street, where we loitered not once but twice at my son’s insistence on our 2011 trip. In the five years since, he just couldn’t let Chinatown go. We even felt compelled to check out Boston’s narrower version on our 2013 road trip. Curiously, we’ve been to Chicago several times but never seen theirs. The last time we asked someone about it, all we got was a disapproving look.
The Canal Street station exit once again welcomes us into a whole new world.
Once again we wandered the streets at random, though that wasn’t the intent, because I had a couple of specific sights I thought would be interesting to see, but kept losing my bearings. Two things I can assure you: there’s fascination to be had in every direction; and the place is crawling with PokeStops.
Art pops up everywhere possible, even on otherwise modern financial institutions.
Lion sculpture stands guard at a multipurpose salon.
To its residents, Chinatown isn’t a theme park for us bumpkins. It’s where they live and work. Our souvenir dollars are like our way of saying “Thank you for putting up with us. Sorry for staring.”
Chinatown restaurants are everywhere, and are one of the best reasons to visit. More about our generous lunch will be in a future chapter.
Also everywhere: tons upon tons of raw fish for sale in their ubiquitous markets. Prepare for olfactory overload.
Meanwhile next door, Little Italy bought themselves a new, more legible sign since our last visit. My son hates uncanned Italian food, but my wife and I vow to go hang out there someday.
A 15-foot Confucius stands before an eponymous apartment tower, a 1976 gift from a local organization in honor of the American bicentennial.
At the south end of Chinatown, several streets intersect at Chatham Square, whose points of interest include the Lieutenant B. R. Kimlau Chinese Memorial. This 1962 gift was in honor of Chinese-American WWII veterans and named after a bomber who died in an assault over New Guinea.
One of the more infamous spots is Doyers Street, a one-block stretch of businesses that was once known as “the Bloody Angle” or “Blood Alley” because it was a popular place for vicious gang fights throughout the early 20th century, racking up an unconscionable body count over the decades.
Today it’s just another stretch of local businesses, including their post office. It’s said the various buildings had networks of hallways and secret passages that let gang members sneak through and/or escape danger in a hurry. We opted not to investigate every shadowy doorway in search of those.
As a consumer marketplace at its heart, Chinatown sees outsider culture naturally infiltrating here and there…
Remember, Kung Fu Panda isn’t cultural appropriation if the end credits name more than just armies of white guys.
We didn’t revisit the ice cream shop, but the stores are good for it.
Homer Simpson hanging out at Vivi Bubble Tea. Why not.
Local businesses have thoughts about the 2016 election. Presumably they’re saying what all Chinatown is thinking.
To be continued!
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[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]