Sunday, January 08, 2006


Happy New Year! On January 1st 2006 I decided to spend the day in New York City's Chinatown. Other cities have some version, I've been to Boston's and Montreal's, but east of the Mississipi, NYC's is perhaps the most comprehensive and interesting. One of many subculture outposts throughout New York.

Chinatown is one of the most visually interesting and diverse areas of NYC. I brought along a camera to document my adventure. Above is a shot of the subway stop at Canal and Lafayette Streets, on the edge of Chinatown. The next photo is the colorful visitor kiosk at Chinatown's entrance. Notice the chinese-style Western Union billboard behind it.

Consumer goods are modified to fit in with the local cultural context, including McDonalds.

Although the Chinese celebrate a new year, its not the same as the Times Square affair we're used to and not at the same time. Nevertheless there were tossed New Year's decorations and fragments of firecrackers all over the place, like this festive firehydrant.

Chinatown is next to Soho, which used to be a big time artist community, and is now home to a growning population of Baby Boomers, who in the search for eternal hipness, are slowly eliminating the artistic quirkiness of the place. However, I was still able to locate some unretouched graffiti, free from prepackaged hipness.

There's also ad graffiti, like this giant mural for the new Warriors PlayStaion game. "The Warriors" is of course, a late 70's movie which took place in a surreal version of NYC.

The streets are crammed with small shops selling everything from trinkets to food. Lots of food, and plenty of fish.

The fishmarkets of Chinatown are unbelievably cheap. If I had a cooler I'd have bought some to bring home.

Even the fishheads looked delicious in this cultural context.

I'm not a big fruit fan, but there's also plenty of sidewalk produce stands. These sell the usual assortment of fruit and vegetables, and also specialized Chinese favorites, like leeches, which a friend and frequent visitor to Chinatown made me try last summer. Leeches are strange looking, but quite delicious. Like a cross between grapes and plums.

All this street walking made me hungry, so I stopped in at my favorite restaurant, Hop Kee, on Mott Street for one of my favorite meals, Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce. Although New Jersey has a Chinese Take Out on every corner, they don't serve this dish across the river. It looks plain, but was very tasty. Hop Kee also has other great meals like Crispy Duck, and my friend's favorite, Little Snails, which someone at the next table was eating. Yuck. Cuisine is an excellent transmitter of culture and Chinatown's assortment of food choices are some of the best on the Eastern Seaboard. Definitely not your neighborhood Chinese restaurant.

After dinner I perused the street vendors. Here's some little buddhas.

Items range from little plastic things to unique furniture and statues. Here's some big buddhas. They were atleast 5 ft tall.

Color can also transmit culture. Bright red is not only the color of communism, but I think red and gold also suggest the beauty and mystery of China. Here's some tassle wall hangers.

After this I made my way over to Little Italy for some real cappuccino [makes Starbucks taste like mud] and a canoli. Then it was back on the subway to Port Authority for the ride home. A nice way to start 2006. Happy New Year!