Saturday, February 4, 2017


There used to be
a Chinese toy store
right in the middle
of all that Chinatown
crossroads stuff.  
Crowded with 
items, a befuddling 
middle-aged Chinese 
guy running it, 
maybe he was 
40 then, a few 
little kids around. 
It was the very 
first Star Wars time, 
so whatever that 
was. 1980-82. 
What used to 
really annoy me 
was how slowly 
but sure enough 
all this American 
Star Wars crap  -  
the big white 
Millennium Falcon 
models and all that  
- began encroaching 
on this regular stock. 
Which regular stock 
is what kept bringing 
me there. It's hard 
to explain but, 
back then, there 
was still an overlap  
-  enough of one 
so that his version 
of 'toys' to be sold 
was still some 
Chinese idea of 
what American 
kids liked. The 
stuff was bizarre. 
Truly. And dirt 
cheap. And I still 
have a few things 
from then that I'd 
buy and just stuff 
away, because 
they were so 
obviously primitive, 
basic, foreign-weird, 
and unique. That 
was what drew 
me in, and here 
they go with their 
basic American crap
already, crowding
it out, I'd think.
There was another 
odd-imports store 
around the corner, 
not toys, but 
everything else  -  
in the same vein, 
everything was 
remarkable. Things 
like pencils to 
scissors to washcloths 
and soap. Combs 
and even locks and 
keys. All of the 
China stuff was 
totally remarkable. 
That distinction 
was important, 
because unlike 
today, Mainland 
China, the Mao 
one, was still almost 
a forbidden land. 
Millions of small, 
motivated, crazed 
people, communards 
going about their tasks 
-   cultural revolution, 
taking sides, killing 
each other off, 
settling scores. Mao 
Tse-Tung and Chou 
En-Lei, those were 
some serious dudes. 
Back then it was all 
still new to us 
Americans, with
 Nixon's opening 
to China and all 
a mere 8 or 9 years 
previous. Mainland 
China was what 
they called themselves, 
and they meant it. 
Taiwan, Formosa, 
all the Chiang Kai-Shek 
stuff meant nothing. 
That was bush-league. 
Chinatown itself 
was split, maybe 
not 50/50, but the 
local population 
went both ways. 
It was dependent 
on your viewpoint 
(and sometimes 
your safety) where 
you ate or hung 
out. There were 
Tongs around 
(gangs of alliance, 
pretty violent 
sometimes) and 
they had their 
ways of taking 
their measure. 
I'd have to guess 
that these two 
stores were on 
the mainland side 
for sure, based on 
what they imported 
and sold. But, no 
matter  -  the weird 
toys I'd get were 
strange metal 
things, ray-guns 
that sparked, 
made strange 
noises, model 
cars that looked 
like something 
from Mars in 
1940. Mao caps 
(hats, not noisemakers), 
model glue, unlike 
any American glue 
I'd ever seen, and 
models too  -  cars 
and animals and 
houses, and 
soldiers. It just 
went on. It was 
a paradise. Over 
the years it's all 
fallen back, 
melded into 
other things. 
That toy guy, 
last I saw, was 
about 70, and I 
guess his kids, 
I guess it was, 
were running the 
place while he
stared around, 
dazed. Last I 
saw, half a 
year ago, 
it's gone 
If you walked 
around with
the wrong attitude 
about it, all of 
this could get 
you pretty mad  
- both the Chinese 
and the Italians 
were fairly 
ridiculous, in 
the way they 
clustered, and 
held together, 
to all that 
old-world stuff, 
bizarre and 
ancient, and 
never modernized 
or wanted to get 
along with the 
new place they 
were in. Except, 
that's the way 
all of New York 
has always been  
-  all those enclaves 
and local populations 
of immigrants pouring 
in, remaining unsettled 
and mimicking their 
homeland. I don't 
know where any 
of that 'melting pot' 
crap ever got started 
from  -  probably just 
some dumb-ass politician's 
way of being glib and 
stealing votes, but the 
only real 'melting' that 
ever went on was in 
the mishap of 
communication as people 
crashed into each other. 
You can still here all that
'we're all together; we're 
one' garbage today, and 
it's all still false. The 
whole nation is based 
on the lies of corruption.
The same sorts of people,
just grinding away for
lucre. There were places, 
back then, in Manhattan, 
and Brooklyn, where 
you could go and get 
your head handed to 
you if you were from 
the wrong street in 
the Piedmont or Tuscan
or Sicilian or Szechuan
region of wherever  -
back in the old country   -
and showed up here 
on that same wrong 
street  -  same grudges, 
same vengeance, 
everywhere, every 
culture. It was a mess. 
The amalgamation 
that sometime was 
assumed to have 
occurred never really 
did occur  - which is 
why Mafia rub-outs, 
like Joey Gallo's, and
 the Anasatsio one, and
the Columbo one, and 
fifty more, plus the 
Chinese Tong wars 
and murders, occurred. 
It was all grudge-match 
stuff with a genesis in 
the other, far-off, 
places and just 
never put to rest. 
You could catch a 
bullet just for breathing. 
There was one Chinese 
Street, a twisty, curvy 
one, Pell or Doyers, I 
get them mixed up, 
where, close-packed, (a 
new Chinatown Post Office, 
new in the 60's anyway 
had now replaced a 
lot of this), there was 
a series of barber shops. 
One after the other, all 
redundant, and all 
stupid, with Chinamen 
staring out, or just 
sitting around. In 
my studies of the 
area, I found out 
some amazing facts 
in what I read. That 
Post Office, for 
instance  -  already
 a wreck and 
maybe ten-years 
after its Kennedy-era 
construction  -  was 
a cover to get rid of 
of some of the 
unwelcome and 
tawdry aspects of 
the past there. One 
hundred years before, 
this place made the 
old Barbary Coast 
of San Francisco, 
with all its intrigue, 
look like Sleepy-ville. 
Each of these barber 
shops sat over a maze 
of subterranean tunnels, 
all under Chinatown, 
and eventually leading 
to the East River and
to dungeons and caverns  
-  these tunnels were 
controlled by the 
overlord gangs and 
Chinese gang chieftans
 of the era. People would 
disappear. You could 
enter one of the barber 
shops for a trim, and 
within five minutes 
have your throat 
slit and be on your 
own way to Hell 
beneath the streets; 
or just maimed and 
wounded and never 
heard from again. 
These tunnels ran 
represented an 
entire secret 'economy' 
and a rule of their own 
law. There was so 
much, and constant, 
activity above the 
streets  -  hordes 
of Chinese, running, 
fast-paced, yapping  
-  that the normal 
person passing 
would never realize 
all that was taking 
place below them. 
It came as a surprise 
to me too.
Before that it was
'Mulberry Bend,' 
and 'Five Points,' the 
most deadly and 
dangerous part of 
original New York.
The ground there is 
filled with bones.  
The only solution to 
any of it, as order 
was finally established
and the new city formed 
a 'Government', was to 
tear it all down and 
cart everyone away  -  
which is why that 
entire area now is all
government buildings,
police headquarters, 
state and federal 
courthouses, and office 
and headquarters of 
things like Family 
Court of NYC, 
welfare and social 
security offices and 
state-medical clinics. 
It had to be 'disappeared'. 
That's what governments 
have always done  -  
break down and hide 
away the nasty past 
that no longer want 
you to see. They 
make up a new past, 
and hire goons to 
spiel it. If you don't
know about any of that,
it doesn't effect your
current view, obviously  -
but once things like this get
uncovered, you really
begin seeing things, and
understanding that here  -
like everywhere else - 
there's a lot more than
meets the eye.

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