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A Chinatown Tale For You

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2009.

Everyone one of us feels attached to the place(s) we grew up. Be it amongst the bustling city streets or acres of grassy farmland, a quiet ocean beach or a sandy desert stretch, the word “home” means more than simply a place to rest one’s head at night. For Wilson Wong, home is the Chinatown districts of Oakland and San Francisco.


Roy Chan and Wilson Wong

A happy fellow with an undying passion for baseball, specifically the Oakland A’s, one can almost imagine Wilson as a young boy running through the streets of Chinatown on his way to play Street Fighter 2 with his friends, stopping at his fathers barber shop to eat an after school snack. For him, Chinatown means more than it does to most people. It’s easy, Wilson describes, to get caught up in the tourist-oriented aspects of the area and forget that hard working families spend their lives struggling to keep their shops open just to make enough money to put their kids through school. The sights, the sounds, the smells; these aren’t novelties to be experienced and forgotten, they are the signs of real people doing real work. Wilson’s connection to Chinatown has grown as he has gotten older. He no longer runs through the streets on his way to ask his father for quarters for the arcade. As an employee at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center located in Chinatown, he has taken the opportunity to give back to the people and the area that were so fundamental to his upbringing. As a program assistant, he helps to perpetuate and grow the Asian cultural heritage of the greater Oakland area. A lover of music and a folk singer, Wilson points out the misconceptions and prejudices that people hold about the cultural so deeply embedded in Chinatown through song: A Chinatown Tale for You Washing dishes is my tradeFine chopsticks and fine plates All for minimum wage I work all day and I work all night Paid vacations out of sight Here’s a Chinatown tale for you, Lovely wife I can confess Makes her way as a seamstressWorks the same hours like me I wouldn’t have it any other way Love her to death Working for better days Here’s a Chinatown tale for you.

One Response to “A Chinatown Tale For You”

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  • Alex, your great post about home reminds me of the opening lines of Ed Abbey’s great book: Desert Solitaire…

    This is the most beautiful place on earth.

    There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome — there’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of intersteller space.

    For myself I’ll take Moab, Utah. I don’t mean the town itself, of course, but the country which surrounds it — the canyonlands. The slickrock desert. The red dust and the burnt cliffs and the lonely sky — all that which lies beyond the end of the roads.

    Comment from Andy on January 26, 2009 at 2:36 pm - Reply to this Comment

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